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Welcome to the Inspiron & Latitude BIOS FAQ!


  1. What is a BIOS?
  2. When should I upgrade my computer's BIOS?
  3. Should I use the floppy or hard drive method to update my BIOS?
  4. How do I update my BIOS?
  5. How do I downgrade the BIOS?
  6. How can I change the AGP aperature size in my notebook?
  7. How do I get into the BIOS to make changes?
  8. I have lost/forgotten/don't-know my computer's BIOS password, what can I do?
  9. Which jumpers do I have to use to remove the power on password from an Inspiron Notebook?
  10. I just purchased a 2nd hard drive for the Media Bay. Do I have to upgrade my BIOS to use it?
  11. Does the BIOS allow you to set a password then remove it completely at a later date?
  12. What is I8kFanGUI?
  13. I lost my BIOS splash screen. How do I get it back?
  14. Does anyone know how to get rid of the start-up Dell Blue Screen so that I can see the POST information?
  15. How do I restore the default factory settings in the BIOS?
  16. Is there anyway to upgrade the BIOS to support USB 2.0?
  17. What is POST?
  18. Can something go wrong?
  19. My system cannot boot. All I hear are beeps. What do they mean?
  20. How can I update my BIOS if my battery is dead?
  21. I want to set the CPU clock (multiplier) by hand for my Dell notebook. How can I do this?
  22. When performing any task that uses a lot of processor power, the fan kicks on. Then the entire system slows to a crawl. Restarting doesn't help. When I turn off the computer, wait a minute and then turn it back on, the system is back to normal. What is causing this?
  23. I am not running the latest version of my BIOS. Do I have to update to each version first or can I just update to the latest one?
  24. Can I boot from my USB device?
  25. The fan on my notebook computer runs during the diagnostic test but stops when Windows XP boots up. How do I change the BIOS to fix this problem?
  26. After I upgraded to the newest BIOS version, the POST takes 4 seconds longer to boot than the older version. Is this related to the new BIOS? Should I flash back to a previous version of the BIOS to correct this?
  27. When I go to the BIOS, the computer doesnt respond to the left/right keys, but it does respond to the up and down keys. Because of that, I am not able to change any setting in the BIOS.
  28. My battery is dead and when I try to update the BIOS, it says that I need a battery. How can I flash the BIOS WITHOUT the battery in the system.
  29. There are passwords that you can set in the BIOS of a Dell Notebook. What are they for?
  30. How can I upgrade my BIOS when I do not have a floppy disk?
  31. I recently updated my 5100 from A06 to A26. Since doing so, The battery/power management indicator light, the one that flashes until the battery is recharged or stays solid green when using AC, does not work.
  32. I just had my motherboard replaced and the Service Tag is no longer listed in the BIOS. How do I correct this?
  33. I tried updating the BIOS on my Inspiron 1100, 5100, or 5150, and I got an error stating “You are running on an unsupported machine”, what is wrong and how do I fix it? 
  34. You are trying to update the BIOS and get this error: 
    An unexpected error occured while running the Flash application. Please reboot and try again.
    If the error continues, please contact technical help.
    Application Error Return: 0x00000610
    Windows Error Return: 0x00000002


1 Q: What is a BIOS?
A: BIOS is an acronym for Basic Input and Output System. This program is stored in a Read-Only Memory chip on the motherboard. Upon computer power-up, the BIOS is launched to perform various start-up functions.

Power-On Self Test (POST) - to test and initialize the hardware
Loads the operating system
Manage Setup for enhancing computer behavior
Helps operating systems and application programs to manage PC hardware via BIOS Run-Time Service routines

The following is a good description by Dell Community Member "Stonent"

The bios is the first program that the computer runs. It tells the cpu how to talk to the other chips, cards, ports, and other things. It also allocates resources via Plug and Play. Many devices need an IRQ (interrupt request). The IRQ is like a buzzer on a game show and the CPU is the host. If someone wants to say something, they push their buzzer, and the host turns to them and they can talk. There are 16 irqs in a PC. They are 0 through 15 many of which get used up immediately because older computers didn't have as many options as today. That is why now there is ACPI (Advanced Configuration and Power Integration). ACPI sits on IRQ9 and works as a proxy to the other devices that can't get their own IRQ. Now the game show is Family Feud. The different devices talk to the head of the family which then talks to the host of the show. The head of the family (ACPI controller) passes along the "answer" to the host (CPU).

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2 Q: When should I upgrade my computer's BIOS?
A: Typically you would only need to upgrade your system's BIOS when you make a significant change to your system (i.e. change motherboards, etc.) or when a new BIOS revision adds increased functionality to your system. Upgrading your BIOS unnecessarily, needlessly adds the possibility of a problem arising.
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3 Q: Should I use the floppy or hard drive method to update my BIOS?
A: Always use the floppy disk method! The floppy method is the least likely to be done incorrectly and there are too many ways the hard drive method could be performed incorrectly. If the BIOS flash doesn't complete correctly, you will be replacing a motherboard. For the AVERAGE user, the simplest and best solution is to use the floppy disk method. Click Here to see what version to download. If you do not have a floppy disk, see question 30.
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4 Q: How do I update my BIOS?

NOTE: When you upgrade your BIOS without Dell instructing you to, you are doing so at your OWN risk. I am not responsible for your decisions. Should something go wrong with the BIOS update, you may end up with a computer that will not operate.

A: Go to Dell's download section that pertains to your computer. Then follow the instructions. If required, select your OS, language and then select Flash BIOS Updates. This is a general set of instructions that will vary depending on if you are using the Premier site or not.

The BIOS updates are available in up to 3 different formats. These are the Floppy, Hard Drive and Non-Package format. The only one that I recommend to use is the Floppy version. But there seems to be a few people that are having a hard time determining what the FLOPPY version of the BIOS update is and they are downloading the Non-Packaged format and then trying to boot from that and it doesn't work. Click Here to see an example of what version to download. If you do not have a floppy disk, see question 30.

Follow the links and then make sure you download the FLOPPY disk version. It will be labeled as such. Download it to a directory on your hard drive. Once the file is downloaded, insert a floppy disk into Drive A. Go to the directory that you saved the BIOS file in using Windows Explorer. Double click on the file and just follow the instructions. It will create the disk for you.

Once this is done. Shut your computer off. Make sure that the AC adapter is plugged in and that you have a fully charge battery installed. Then power it back up with the floppy disk that you just created with the BIOS on it. Just follow the instructions on the screen. When you power the computer up, it will automatically load the program to flash your BIOS.

The program will flash your BIOS. Once it is done, it will reboot your computer. Don't worry, it is supposed to do this. Once it reboots, it should say that the update was successful. Remove the floppy disk and reboot.

You are all done.

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5 Q: How do I downgrade the BIOS?

When you downgrade your BIOS, you do so at your OWN risk. I am not responsible for your decisions. Should something go wrong with the BIOS downgrade, you may end up with a computer that will not operate.

The BIOS updates are available in up to 3 different formats. These are the Floppy, Hard Drive and Non-Package format. The only one that I recommend to use is the Floppy version. But there seems to be a few people that are having a hard time determining what the FLOPPY version of the BIOS update is and they are downloading the Non-Packaged format and then trying to boot from that and it doesn't work. Click Here to see an example of what version to download. If you do not have a floppy disk, see question 30.

A: To downgrade BIOS from A21 to A17 on an I8000, create a BIOS FLOPPY disk format with A17 on it. Then boot up with the disk in the floppy drive and let it try and install the BIOS as usual. It will be quick and say that the update is complete.

When it says it is done, type I8000A17.EXE /nvram and it will really downgrade. Use the /nvram switch so you don't loose your BIOS splash bitmap. There is a "feature" in the bootable routine that looks at the intended version and the existing version and chooses the higher version as better for you.

On some systems, such as the Inspiron 2500, the process is slightly different. These systems will have a file named phlash.exe and XXXXXXXX.ROM where XXXXXXXX.ROM is the actual BIOS image file. To downgrade the BIOS to an earlier version, create a floppy disk with the BIOS version you want. Then boot up with the disk that you just created in the floppy drive. Then at the A:\ prompt, type in plash.exe XXXXXXXX.ROM /nvram and it will then downgrade the BIOS.

UPDATE:

Known Issues/Problem: Unfortunately on the Inspiron 1100/5100/5150, because of the nature of the upgrade from A06 to A22 (A23 for the I5150), it is not possible downgrade back to A06. This is normal, and is not a glitch. The heart of the issue is that the A22 revision is a totally different format of BIOS than the previous version. So A22 was specially designed to make that change in the old BIOS and it is not currently a reversible process. As a note, the BIOS Version A06 is a Phoenix BIOS and A22 (A23 for the I5150) is a Dell BIOS.

This would hold true for any system that changes from a Phoenix BIOS to a Dell BIOS. You just can not down grade your BIOS back to a Phoenix version.

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6 Q: How can I change the AGP aperature size in my notebook?
A: You can't. Normally BIOS adjustment for AGP Aperture is easy. Just a click and you are done. Dell notebooks do not have this capability.
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7 Q: How do I get into the BIOS to make changes?
A: For the Inspiron notebooks, hit F2 at the Dell boot screen.
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8 Q: I have lost/forgotten/don't-know my computer's BIOS password, what can I do?
A: Unlike desktop computers, most laptops store the BIOS password in a chip that can not be erased simply by resetting the CMOS battery. Dell laptops have a "master password" unique to each machine that you can use if your forget your BIOS password. You must contact Dell via the telephone and after a complete verification of your ownership of the computer, they will provide you with the necessary password.
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9 Q: Which jumpers do I have to use to remove the power on password from an Inspiron Notebook?
A: You can not do this since this is a feature built in to protect from the theft of Dell notebooks.
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10 Q: I just purchased a 2nd hard drive for the Media Bay. Do I have to upgrade my BIOS to use it?
A: No BIOS changes are needed. BIOS for the 8x00 series is set to recognize and support modular HDD. The first time you put it in, the computer will recognize it. Note, if this is a new hard drive, you will have to format it before you can use it.
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11 Q: Does the BIOS allow you to set a password then remove it completely at a later date?
A: Yes. When you disable a Primary password, you enter your old password ( for access purposes) and then overwrite the existing one with empty strings. Press ENTER 3 times rather than entering and confirming a password. When the BIOS detects an empty string it resets to 'disabled' and you can boot without ANY password screen at all. The old password isn't stored anywhere, it is just erased.
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12 Q: What is I8kFanGUI?
A: I8kfanGUI is a Windows GUI application to control the fan operation on the Dell Inspiron 8x00 notebook line and many other Dell notebooks including the Latitude written by by Christian Diefer. You can read about it on his web site.
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13 Q: I lost my BIOS splash screen. How do I get it back?
A: You will need to download SPL-A02.EXE. Dell Portables POST Bitmap Update Utility version A02. This program allows you to replace the image that is displayed during the Power-On Self Test (POST) of your Dell Portable computer. Splash must be run from a DOS prompt, not a DOS box from within Windows.
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14 Q: Does anyone know how to get rid of the start-up Dell Blue Screen so that I can see the POST information?
A: Get the Splash program and run it with the OFF switch. (SPLASH off). Splash must be run from a DOS prompt, not a DOS box from within Windows. The program may not run unless a battery is inserted and AC power is attached to the computer. To accomplish this, do the following:
  1. Download the Splash program to a temporary folder and unzip it.
  2. Insert a formatted floppy disk into your A:\ Drive.
  3. Goto the folder that contains the SPL-A02.EXE program and run it. This will create a bootable floppy disk with the splash program on it.
  4. Boot from this diskette to a DOS prompt and type: "SPLASH off" at the A:\ prompt. Do not use the quotes. On some systems the program will restart the computer when it has completed execution.

This program can be used with the following systems:

Inspiron 4150, Inspiron 4100, Inspiron 600m, Inspiron 500m, Inspiron 8200, Inspiron 3700, Inspiron 4000, Inspiron 8000, Inspiron 8500, Inspiron 9100, Inspiron 8100, Inspiron 3800, Latitude C840, Latitude C640, Latitude D600, Latitude CPtS, Latitude CPxJ, Latitude C810, Latitude CPtV, Latitude CPxH, Latitude CPtC, Latitude CPiR, Latitude D500, Latitude C510 / C610, Latitude C500 / C600, Latitude D800, Latitude C800, Latitude CS, Latitude CSx, Latitude C400, Latitude D400, Latitude CPiA, Precision M60, Precision M40, Precision M50

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15 Q: How do I restore the default factory settings in the BIOS?

A: To restore the default settings on the Inspiron 1100, 2500, 2600, 2650, 3000, 3200, 3500, 5000, 5000e, 5100, 7000, or 7500 Latitude L Series Systems, hit <F2> when the BIOS splash screen appears and when the system setup screen appears, hit the <F9> key. Then press the <Enter> key to confirm that you would like to load the defaults. Press the <F10> key to save changes and exit.

To restore the defaults on the Inspiron 500m, 600m, 3700, 3800, 4000, 4100, 4150, 8000, 8100, 8200 or 8500 or Latitude C, CP, and CS Series Systems, hit <F2> when the BIOS splash screen appears and when the System Setup screen appears, press <Alt> + <F>. Then press the <Esc> key. The press the <Enter> key to save changes and exit.

To restore the defaults on Legacy Latitude Systems (XPI, XPI CD Series), at the first text on the screen, or the Dell logo, press the <Fn> + <F1> keys simultaneously every three seconds until the message Entering Setup appears. When the System Setup screen appears, press the <Alt> + <F> keys simultaneously to load the factory defaults.

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16 Q: Is there anyway to upgrade the BIOS to support USB 2.0?
A: No. This is a hardware constraint and not related to BIOS.
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17 Q: What is POST?
A: POST is short for Power-On Self Test. It consists of a series of diagnostic routines that automatically runs at start-up and tests / initializes the devices on the system. The POST tests the RAM, keyboard, and disk drives. If for some reason the tests are unsuccessful, the computer would emit a series of beeps with an error message and code.
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18 Q: Can something go wrong?
A: Yes! If you use the wrong Flash BIOS or perform the update incorrectly, there is chance that your computer won't boot anymore. So, do this at your own risk and be sure that you know what you are doing before you start.
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19 Q: My system cannot boot. All I hear are beeps. What do they mean?
A: Nothing good - BIOS beep codes indicate there is an error and what the error is. Refer to Dell's Web Site for the most common beep codes and how they are used to troubleshoot the system. For more Phoenix Basic Input-Output System (BIOS) Error (Beep) Codes, visit Dell's Knowledge Base.
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20 Q: How can I update my BIOS for my notebook if my battery is dead?
A: The simple answer is that you can not. The battery detection in the BIOS update is there for your protection. The BIOS update will also require that you have your computer plugged into your AC power. If the AC power should fail, the battery will be there for power. If the power failed without a battery backup, the BIOS update would fail and, unlike the desktop computers, you would probably have to buy a new motherboard.
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21 Q: I want to set the CPU clock (multiplier) by hand for my Dell notebook. How can I do this?
A: Unfortunately, with Dell notebooks, you will not have access to this section of the BIOS.
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22 Q: When performing any task that uses a lot of processor power, the fan kicks on. Then the entire system slows to a crawl. Restarting doesn't help. When I turn off the computer, wait a minute and then turn it back on, the system is back to normal. What is causing this?

A: Press Fn+Z together. If the cpu speed returns and the fans turn off or cycle, then it is a BIOS cpu temp reading routine failure. First try resetting the BIOS to factory defaults - Press F9 or Alt+F in the BIOS. If that doesn't stop it, then you will need to upgrade your BIOS. This is especially true for the I8000 and I8100 notebooks. If there is not an updated version of the BIOS, then you will need to downgrade your BIOS to a previous one until a version of the BIOS is released that corrects this problem.

If the problem really is a BIOS cpu temp reading routine failure, you can trigger the problem in the offending BIOS by either suspend or hibernate the notebook, then return. The fans will come on and cpu usage goes to 100% - things run VERY slow.

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23 Q: I am not running the latest version of my BIOS. Do I have to update to each version first or can I just update to the latest one?
A: Go ahead and flash your BIOS to the latest version. It will contain all of the updates from the previous versions.
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24 Q: Can I boot from my USB device?
A: It depends on what notebook you have. The Inspiron 600m and 8500 have the ability to boot from a USB external floppy drive, USB CD, USB hard drive or a USB memory key.
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25 Q: The fan on my notebook computer runs during the diagnostic test but stops when Windows XP boots up. How do I change the BIOS to fix this problem?
A: Since the fan runs under the diagnostic program, I suspect that there really is no problem at all. Under WinXP (and Win200), unless there is a need for cooling, the fans will not turn on. Under WinXP and Win200 if you are just letting the system idle, there will be very little load on the processor and it may not be generating enough heat to cause the fan to turn on. WinXP and Win2000 include a CPU halt routine to idle the processor for both power management and (implied) temperature control also. To see if the fans will turn on, run a program that puts a heavy load on the processor. To get the cpu to 100% usage, open the Windows Calculator and enter a large 15 digit number and then hit the n! key and it will stress the CPU. Note: To see this button, the calculator needs to be in the Scientific View. If the fans are functioning correctly, it should turn on.
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26 Q: After I upgraded to the newest BIOS version, the POST takes 4 seconds longer to boot than the older version. Is this related to the new BIOS? Should I flash back to a previous version of the BIOS to correct this?

A: The boot configuration allows you to specify what level of hardware checks are performed at Power On Self Test (POST). If it is set to minimal, which is the default setting, the POST performs few hardware checks unless:

  1. The BIOS has been updated
  2. The amount of memory has changed
  3. The previous POST did not complete

Therefore, it is totally normal for the POST to take slightly longer the first time you boot up your machine after updating you BIOS. You do not have to flash to a previous version to make the POST faster. Just reboot and you should be back to normal POST times.

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27 Q: When I go to the BIOS, the computer doesnt respond to the left/right keys, but it does respond to the up and down keys. Because of that, I am not able to change any setting in the BIOS.

A: You probably have an administrator password set in the BIOS which will prevent you from changing any of the BIOS settings. Disable the BIOS password to make your changes.

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28 Q: My battery is dead and when I try to update the BIOS, it says that I need a battery. How can I flash the BIOS WITHOUT the battery in the system.

When you flash your BIOS without a battery, you do so at your OWN risk. I am not responsible for your decisions. Should something go wrong with the BIOS flash, you may end up with a computer that will not operate.

A: Use the floppy disk version of the BIOS upgrade. Create the Bootable BIOS floppy disk with the program that you just downloaded from Dell's Download Site. Boot with the BIOS floppy disk in the A:\ drive. One way to do this is with the computer off, put the floppy disk in that you just created in the A:\ drive and then turn the computer on. The BIOS update will fail because you do not have a battery in. Then at the A:\ prompt (you are now in DOS), type in the BIOS upgrade EXE file name and just add the switchs /forceit and /nvram. The /forceit switch will force the BIOS to flash even when the battery is not present. The /nvram switch will make sure that you keep the Dell Splash Screen. For example, for the Inspiron 8000, the command would be A:\I8000A22.EXE /forceit /nvram. Note, there is a space between the E and the /. There is also a space between the t and the /.

But be forewarned - the reason that the BIOS update wants a battery is to prevent a flash failure due to a power interrupt.

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29 Q: There are passwords that you can set in the BIOS of a Dell Notebook. What are they for?

A: Depending on the model of the Notebook, there are either two or three passwords that you could enter.

Primary Password This is the power-on password that will prevent the system from booting (completing the POST) unless the correct password is entered.
Admin Password This password prevents changes from being made to the System Setup properties unless the correct password is entered.
Hard-Disk Drive Password / System Primary This password protects the hard drive to prevent it from booting unless the correct password is entered. The password stays with the hard drive if the drive is moved to another system.
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30 Q: How can I upgrade my BIOS when I do not have a floppy disk?

When you downgrade your BIOS, you do so at your OWN risk. I am not responsible for your decisions. Should something go wrong with the BIOS downgrade, you may end up with a computer that will not operate.

A: The recommended method is definately the floppy disk method. It is the safest. But with the newer notebooks from Dell, people are electing to NOT buy a floppy drive to save $49 or $59 depending on the notebook. I think that this is a mistake but all is not lost in updating the BIOS with the floppy disk method. Here are some methods that it can be accomplished.

  1. For those that have a CD burner, they can download a CD bootable image of their BIOS update from my BIOS update web page.
  2. If you have a CD burner and another computer that has a floppy disk, you can download the Floppy Disk version of the BIOS update and create your own bootable CD. To find out how to create a bootable CD, visit the How To Create a Bootable CD ISO image file web page.
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31 Q: I recently updated my 5100 from A06 to A26. Since doing so, The battery/power management indicator light, the one that flashes until the battery is recharged or stays solid green when using AC, does not work.

A: In BIOS Rev A22 for the Inspiron 1100, 5100 and 5150, the BIOS changed from Phoenix to Dell which causes the battery indicator to respond differently. The indicator should only come on when the battery is low. When charging, the battery charge indicator will stay solid and then start flashing when it nears the end of the charge cycle. When the battery is fully charged, it will turn off.

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32 Q: I just had my motherboard replaced and the Service Tag is no longer listed in the BIOS. How do I correct this?

A: If you show "not installed" in the Service Tag line on Page 1 of your F2 Bios Setup, you get one shot at putting in one. To enter the service tag, you will need to download asset.com from Dell and run it. Asset.com is part of the Dell Suspend to Disk Software. Use the floppy version.

You must disable all BIOS Passwords before starting, or you will not be able to do anything.

When you create the floppy disk, make sure you look at the readme.txt to find out how to use it. Remember, type in the Service Tag exactly how you want it the first time. You have only one shot to input it. If you make a mistake, you will not be able to correct it. At that point, you will need to set up a service call with Dell to change the service tag.

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33 Q: I tried updating the BIOS on my Inspiron 1100, 5100, or 5150, and I got an error stating “You are running on an unsupported machine”, what is wrong and how do I fix it?

A: The BIOS on these systems underwent a major reworking. Dell changed the BIOS of these systems from a Phoenix BIOS to a Dell BIOS.

If your system’s current BIOS revision is less than A22, follow these instructions:
If you have an Inspiron 1100 or 5100: update to A22 first and then to the higher revision.
If you have an Inspiron 5150: update to A23 first and then to the higher revision.

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34 Q: I am trying to update the BIOS and I keep getting this error

A: An unexpected error occured while running the Flash application.
     Please reboot and try again. If the error continues, please contact technical help.

     Application Error Return: 0x00000610
     Windows Error Return: 0x00000002

This solution came from Dell's Community Forum and has worked for other in situations like this. You will need to edit the registry but be very careful when you do this. Deleting the wrong item can create a lot of problems with your system.

What has happened is when you ran other Dell BIOS updates, some information has been left that is preventing the updated BIOS from running.

1. Click on start then run and type "regedit" in the box and press enter. (without the quotes)
2. Expand and Look for: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE -> SYSTEM -> ControlSet001 -> Services -> DELLBIOS
3. Delete DELLBIOS folder and exit Regedit
4. Restart the system
5. Re-flash BIOS

Make sure you are running the system with administrator priviledges.

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