only one straight-up way to start this review, & we just don't care if
it blows our reputation for being on the downright picky edge of objective:
this thing now
the 256Kb BIOS of our MSI 694D Pro-A test-system waiting to get
screwed up. Candidates are: a virus - like CIH - or any of the
number of ways a BIOS-flash can go wrong: using the wrong file;
corruption during its download; the process being interrupted by
error or a power-failure; fiddling [like us] with experimental BIOS'
- or above all now, being fooled into using one of the crazy "Live Update" schemes in fashion with mobo-makers; where
they encourage you to flash your system-BIOS from inside the flaking
walls of Windows 9x . . . . .
most really neat ideas; the IOSS
BIOS-Saviour is simple: it is
a second, backup BIOS-chip packaged in a neat socket-adaptor which
rides piggy-back atop the existing BIOS-socket. The adaptor is thin
enough in height that full-length PCI cards can still be fitted
without being blocked - we've checked this. The paired wires in the
foreground lead to . . . . . .
. . a two-way switch which you can fix into the back of your
system; either in a spare D-sub housing or in the supplied
coverplate as here. You can then switch between the original & a
backup BIOS at will once you've flashed the backup.
testing the BIOS-saviour, we ignored the normal precautions for making this
critical process less dangerous: as I'm sure you all know, these are:
check the size of the BIOS-image file [262,144 in this case]
d/l twice, & run a bit-by-bit comparison.
scandisk the boot-floppy for any faults with the command: SCANDISK A:
/SURFACE - & put only minimal boot-files on this disk, either in DOS, or
from right-clicking the loaded floppy-drive in Windows Explorer, choosing
"format", then checking the "system files" radio-button
making absolutely sure you're using the right BIOS-file for your motherboard
& the right make & version flash-utility, & making a note of any switches you may
need to use - the truly paranoid also d/l the flash-utility twice & run
bit-by-bit checks to make sure the thing isn't corrupted.
tests ranged from the moderately dorky - using [yech] a BIOS-flashing utility
from inside Windows 9x - to the truly stupid: pulling the plug on our system
half-way through a BIOS-flash. We also made & tried out six experimental
BIOS' during the period of this test: in total we flashed the BIOS of this
mobo 16 times in ten days.
all blank-screen cases all we needed to do to recover our system was to turn
off, move the BIOS-saviour's switch to the "ORG" [original-BIOS]
position, reboot with a properly prepared BIOS-flashing boot-floppy in; then,
at the A:> prompt, to move the switch back to "RDI" [the
backup-BIOS we'd just screwed] & use the flash-utility to reflash this
BIOS to a working condition.
IOSS BIOS-saviour comes in various models to fit most motherboards: the model
we tested - the RD1-PL - fits those mobo's with a 32-pin 2Mbit PLCC [small
square package]; other models fit 1Mbit & 2Mbit 32-pin DIP's [large
rectangular chips] & the 4Mbit PLCC for motherboards using the Intel 810/815/820/840/850
chipset family. The BIOS-saviour comes in a pack with the necessary kit -
including a chip-puller & a fair manual: there's a list here of those
motherboards IOSS have tested to work with the appropriate RD1 model.
cannot emphasize enough how vital this clever little belt-'n-braces widget is
to users of every experience-level: a very few
modern motherboards [notably Gigabyte] have an inbuilt hardware BIOS-backup;
but most of us - if anything goes wrong - will completely lose that system
till we've gone through the expensive & time-consuming hassle of sourcing
& fitting a replacement BIOS-chip.
a test from one of the few reliable web-sites of the DIP-model [RD1-1M &
2M] at: www.overclockers.com -
& we'll be testing the model for the i8xx chipsets [the RD1-8x] as soon
as possible. There's no especial reason to be cautious about the i8xx model;
but it's a different & more complex "firmware hub" & it's
probably best to await a test from a trustworthy source before getting one.