Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

BIOS Updaters: The Forgotten 64-bit Incompatibility

I've been dealing with a Vista issue today that hasn't seen a lot of visibility (hopefully until now). Now that Vista's out, a lot of hardware vendors are rolling out their BIOS and driver updates. All of my Vista machines are 64-bit, and so far the experience has been pretty good.

Well, today I was alerted to Acer's new Vista package for the Ferrari 5000 on their Europe support site (it's not posted to the US support site yet for some reason), which includes a BIOS update (hopefully this update enables AMD's hardware virtualization, but I don't know).

The problem is that, though the package has 64-bit drivers for everything else, the BIOS updater is a 32-bit program, and it requires the temporary activation of a custom driver to execute, which is also 32-bit only.

But this isn't an Acer problem, and not just because my 64-bit Dell is having the exact same issue. The problem lies in BIOS vendors updating software (Like Phoenix Technologies, Award, etc.), because their software manages the BIOS updates.

Now, I spent over 2 hours today trying to make a bootable USB key that I could use to flash the BIOS in DOS mode. The BIOS update for my Dell worked fine, but it didn't have the proper flag for my Digital Cable Tuners, so I had to roll it back. After trying several different versions of Phlash16, I still couldn't get the BIOS update installed, so I gave up.

Acer apparently doesn't offer phone support in the US - they do, I just didn't see it - (at least it's not very apparent on their US website, which totally blows, BTW), so I put an e-mail in to see if they could fix the problem. The clock is ticking, so we'll see what happens.

So will BIOS manufacturers step up and provide Vista 64-bit compatible update clients? Time will tell. But I'm really surprised that no one saw this one coming. I certainly wish I had thought of it sooner.