User guide for MSI HQ Forum Flash Tool

Author on 5 April, 2011 | Print | Bookmark

HOW TO properly use the MSI Forum HQ USB Flashing Tool to update your BIOS

This user guide provides a step-by-step explanation for properly using the >>MSI Forum HQ USB Flashing Tool<< to prepare a USB Flash Drive for a safe BIOS-Flash in a pure DOS Environment. The tool itself will not perform the actual flashing operation.  It will "only" help you to get your USB Stick set up for an automated DOS flashing procedure which requires final confirmation.  (If you should run into any problems before you are prompted for final confirmation in DOS, no attempt to flash has been made yet and there is no danger of a bad flash.)

NOTE: If you are having problems getting your USB device to boot correctly, you may need to format it correctly as the geometry data may be incorrect. You can do that by pickup option "Fix My USB key" from the Tool or by using >>> THIS <<< tool here! For future usage you can skip this step, it need to be done only once if your stick need adjustment.

Symptoms that your USB key need a fix after booting from the USB key:

* Error: "No bootable partition in table"
* Blinking cursor in a top left corner and nothing happens
* "Error loading operating system"
* "Missing operating system"
* "Disk in drive is not a bootable"
* Booting from selected USB key is IGNORED, the other/typical OS continue to load as usual

If still no change after using "Fix My USB key" Tool's option or HP Formatter Tool as alternative.
Then try with different USB key, the issue is there.

Note: Those USB keys who support "U3 Smart", this "feature" must be removed before proceed.
Refer to followed link:

Read the three notes that follow first before you move on: 

1. Note: Before you even think about flashing a different BIOS, be sure that your system is stable. If it is not stable, make it stable first. (Read >>here<<.)
2. Note: Make sure your system meets the preconditions and system requirements mentioned below before you attempt to use the tool.
3. Note: Do know that flashing your BIOS, be it with the help of the tool or otherwise, is done at your own risk

Contents of the Guide:

0. Preconditions & System Requirements 
1. Basic Description of Functionality 
2. Installing/Starting the tool.
3. Choosing a Preparation Method
  3.1. Method 1: Processing a BIOS Archive Directly (ZIP/RAR)
  3.2. Method 2: Processing a BIOS File Directly 
  3.3. Method 3: SureHands Live Update
  3.4. Method 4: Geometry Change

4. Selecting the USB Flash Drive for preparation
5. BIOS Settings, Booting & Flashing
 5.1. BIOS Settings to Check
  5.2. Booting from USB Flash Drive
  5.3. Flashing Procedure/Running MemTest86+ & CMOS-Clear

6. FAQ: Common Problems & Solutions
7. Version History


0. Preconditions & System Requirements

The main precondition for using the tool is a working & healthy Windows installation on the system that needs the BIOS flash.  The Tool is designed to work with MSI Retail Boards & Laptops only.

Please note mainboards of other brands and OEM boards that are manufactured by MSI but sold by Medion, HP, NEC and others are not supported. If you have an OEM board that needs a BIOS update read this topic: >>OEM boards manufactured by MSI<<

Supported Operating Systems: All current Windows Versions (32bit & 64bit, any service pack (SP)): Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows 2003, Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7. 

The second requirement is that you have a fully functional USB Flash Drive that uses the FAT file system (FAT/FAT32).  NTFS is not supported. If your USB Flash Drive is using the NTFS File System, reformat it to FAT or FAT32.

As the tool also provides a Live Update Option ("SureHands"), you'll need a working internet connection if you want to choose this method. Not all boards are supported at this point.* 

* Check section 3.3 of this guide to see if your board is currently supported by the SureHands feature.

1. Basic Description of Functionality

The MSI Forum HQ USB Flashing Tool will help you to easily prepare an USB flash drive for an automated BIOS flash in a pure DOS environment, which is the safest way to perform such a procedure. The tool will also allow you to run MemTest86+ in a pure DOS environment. However, the preparation of your USB Stick is done in Windows and basically includes two steps: 

(1) The device will be made bootable.
(2) All necessary files (incl. BIOS file, actual flasher and MemTest86+ executable) and all DOS commands that are needed to flash/test memory will automatically be implemented.

Because the tool does not reformat your USB Flash Drive*, no files that may currently be on the stick will be lost during the procedure.  Just make sure that there is still some free drive space, otherwise there will not be enough room for the files that are needed for BIOS Flashing.

* Excluding the Geometry Change method which will destroy all data on the USB storage device.

2. Installing/Starting the tool

Treat the forum's USB Flashing Tool like a regular application.  Download it to and run it from your hard drive, there is no need to copy & start it from the USB Flash Drive that you want to use for flashing.  Both, the installer version and the stand-alone version, do precisely the same job.  Which of the two versions you use, is solely up to you and your preferences.  The stand-alone version can be started directly by clicking on the executable file.  The installer version will perform an installation and provide you with an entry in your start menu and a desktop shortcut to start the tool.

When you start the tool a DOS box should open up to provide you with status messages and prompts.  Do not close that box unless you want to abort the preparation procedure!

Please ensure that you connect the USB flash drive you wish to use before starting the Tool!

NOTE: If you do not connect your USB storage device before starting the tool, or the tool doesn't detect it. You can still insert the drive letter, as the tool will continue as normal.

The tool will first check, if an MSI mainboard is installed in your system and show you its model name and PCB Version in a message box. Click >OK< to continue to choose the tool's preparation method that you want to use to prepare your USB Flash Drive.

3. Choosing a Preparation Method

If your MSI Retail Board is properly detected and you have pressed the >OK< button in the message box, an option box will pop up that allows you to choose between three different operating modes.  The options you can choose from are more or less self-explanatory, however, read the detailed description if you are unsure how to proceed at this point:

3.1. Method 1: Processing a BIOS Archive Directly (ZIP/RAR)

Official MSI BIOS-Updates that can be downloaded from the product site of your board model do usually come as .ZIP or .RAR archives that contain the actual BIOS File and the corresponding AWARD or AMI flashing utility (depending on the BIOS Type of your board).  If you have downloaded such an archive, you should choose the first method from the option box.  

You do not need to extract the files from the BIOS archive.  The tool will ask you to point it to the archive you downloaded and automatically extract the BIOS File and the AMI or AWARD flashing utility and put it them on your USB Flash Drive.  You don't have to worry about anything else.  All you have to do is to remember where you saved the ZIP or RAR file you downloaded:

3.2. Method 2: Processing a BIOS File Directly

If you do not have a ZIP or RAR archive that already contains a BIOS File and the proper flashing utitility, but only the plain unpacked BIOS File, choose the second Method from the option box.  In most cases BETA BIOS Files supplied by MSI Support or shared here in the Forum do not come with the proper flashing utility.  If the MSI Forum HQ USB Flashing Tool is told to process a plain BIOS File, it will automatically check the type of BIOS File (AMI or AWARD) and then select the proper flashing utility that needs to be used.  All you need to do is point the tool to the BIOS-File that is supposed to be flashed:

3.3. Method 3: SureHands Live Update

"SureHands Live Update" is the third operation method you can choose from the option box.  It provides a much safer and more reliable alternative to MSI Live Update as the actual BIOS Flash is performed in a pure DOS environment as well.  If you decide to use this option, you do not to supply the tool with a BIOS-Archive or a BIOS-File.

Not all MSI Retail Boards are currently supported.  With every update of the USB Flashing Tool more boards will be added.  At present, you can use the "SureHands" Live Update method with the following boards only (the list will be updated regularly):

AMD based boards:
K8N Neo4-F (MS-7125, PCB 3.0)
K8NGM2-FID (MS-7207, PCB 2.0)
K8N Diamond Plus (MS-7220, PCB 1.0)
K8N Neo3 (MS-7135, PCB 1.0 & 2.0)
K9A Platinum (MS-7280, PCB 1.0)
K9A2 Platinum (MS-7376, PCB 1.0)
K9A2 CF-F (MS-7388, PCB 1.0)
K9N Neo-F (MS-7260, PCB 1.0 & 2.0)
K9VGM-V (MS-7253, PCB1.0)
K9N2GM-F V2 (MS-7509, PCB 1.0)
K9N Neo V2 / V3 (MS-7369, PCB 1.1)
K9N Platinum & K9N SLI Platinum (MS-7250, PCB1.0)
K9N2 Diamond (MS-7375, PCB 1.1)
K9N2 SLI Platinum (MS-7374, PCB 1.1)
K9N2 Zilent (MS-7374, PCB 1.1)
K9N2 Neo-F (MS-7511, PCB 1.1)
DKA790GX Platinum (MS-7550, PCB 1.1)
790FX-GD70 (MS-7577, PCB 1.0)
790GX-G65 (MS-7576, PCB 1.0)

Intel based boards
HydroGenX48C & X48C Platinum (MS-7353, PCB 3.0)
X48 Platinum (MS-7353, PCB 1.0)
X38 Diamond Plus
X38 Diamond (MS-7353, PCB 1.0)
X38 Platinum (MS-7353, PCB 1.0)
EFINITY-FP (MS-7395(E), PCB 1.0)
P35 Neo Combo-F (MS-7365, PCB 1.0)
P35 Neo2 Series (MS-7345, PCB 1.1)
P35 Platinum (MS-7345, PCB 1.1)
P35 Neo-F (MS-7360, PCB 1.0)
G33 Platinum (MS-7345, PCB 1.1 & PCB 1.2)
P965 Platinum (MS-7238, PCB 1.1)
975X Platinum PowerUp Edition (MS-7246, PCB 2.1)
865PE Neo2-P Platinum Edition (MS-6728, PCB 2.0C)
P7N SLI Platinum (MS-7380, PCB 1.0)
P7N2 Diamond (MS-7523 PCB 1.0)
P7N Diamond (MS-7510, PCB 1.0)
P7N SLI Platinum (MS-7380, PCB 1.0)
P6N Diamond (MS-7320, PCB 1.0)
P6N SLI Platinum (MS-7350, PCB 1.0)
P6N SLI-FI (MS-7350 PCB 2.0)
P6N SLI V2 (MS-7346 PCB 1.0)
ECLIPSE SLI (MS-7520, PCB 1.0)
ECLIPSE Plus (MS-7566, PCB 1.0)
P35 Neo3-F (MS-7395, PCB 1.0) 

After selecting "SureHands" from the option box, the tool will automatically check for all available official BIOS-Versions for your mainboard.  It will also look for the latest available BETA BIOS Version for you board and save that information in a TXT-File on your Desktop:

Note: The SureHands option will not provide you with the latest BETA BIOS, it will only provide the information.

When the tool is done scanning for official BIOS releases for your board, it will give you the possibility to manually choose the BIOS Version you want to flash.  SureHands Live Update will not automatically select the latest version and use it for flashing, it will give you the chance of choosing between all available official BIOS releases that are available:

Note that the "May not exist" comment that appears behind some versions does not mean that the BIOS does not exist.  If you know the latest BIOS for your board is e.g. v1.8, SureHands will retrieve it even though there may be such a comment.  That message is part of a prediction feature that tries to determine future BIOS Releases.  If a BIOS version that was predicted by the SureHands feature is not available yet, the tool will tell you if it cannot retrieve the files and ask you to select an earlier version.

3.4 Geometry Change

If the tool fails to make your USB storage device bootable then you will need to use this mode. It will make your drive bootable, select it:

Select your drive then let the tool do it's business.

Once the process is complete, run the tool again via method 1, 2 or 3, restart your computer and try booting from the USB storage device again.

NOTE: This method will destroy ALL data on the USB storage device!
NOTE: This method is available in v1.17 and beyond.

4. Selecting the USB Flash Drive for preparation

When you have chosen one of the three methods from the option list and pointed the tool at the corresponding archive, BIOS File or selected the desired BIOS Version from the list in case you chose to use SureHands Live Update, the MSI Forum HQ USB Flashing Tool will prompt you to enter the drive letter of the USB Flash Drive you want to use for flashing:

Note that certain drive letters are reserved and will therefore not be accepted by the tool (currently A:, B: and C:). If you are sure you have connected an USB Flash Drive to the system that works properly but it does not appear in the table that appears in the DOS box, enter the corresponding drive letter anyway and see if the tool accepts it.  This can happen in rare cases, but it is usually no problem.

The tool will check the selected drive and will provide you with status messages.  If everything is okay, the message should look like this:

The tool will attempt to make the device bootable and automatically write all files that are needed for flashing to the drive to prepare it for flashing.  If the procedure was successful, you will get the following message in the DOS box:

5. BIOS-Settings, Booting & Flashing 

If the Tool has prepared your drive for booting & flashing, no BIOS flash attempt has been made yet. Only the preparation process. In order to initiate the flashing procedure, you have to restart your system and make it boot from the USB Flash drive. Before you move on to do that, enter the BIOS Setup and check a few options:

5.1. BIOS Settings to Check

Check USB-related Options in BIOS:

- USB Controller
- USB 2.0 Controller
- USB Legacy Support
- USB Storage Support
- Boot from other devices
- etc.

Not all of these options may be found in BIOS and the precise name may vary as well.  Just make sure you checked for such options and that they are enabled (if present). 

Another option you should check for is "Boot Sector Protection".  If such an option is present in your BIOS, make sure it is disabled because it may make a BIOS Flash impossible.

@all Overclockers: In case your system is currently overclocked, make sure you roll back to default clock and voltage settings before you attempt to start the flashing procedure. Otherwise you increase the risk of an unsuccesful flash, and you most probably don't want something like that to happen.

5.2. Booting from USB Flash Drive

To boot from your USB drive you can either change the boot sequence in BIOS accordingly or just press F11 during POST* to get access to the BIOS Boot Menu.  From here, you can select you drive directly without having to adjust the boot sequence in BIOS.  Note that your USB Flash Drive may be listed as a hard drive (if you choose that entry you will get another list to choose from).

* Not all mainboards use F11, for the boot menu. If F11 fails for you, please consult your manual for the correct key.

Note: If you have problems booting from your drive, look at the FAQ-Section of this guide and see if any of the tips resolve the issue. 

5.3. Flashing Procedure/Running MemTest86+

As soon as the system boots from the drive, DOS will be loaded and you will be displayed with two options. One option will start MemTest86+, the other will begin the flashing procedure. If no choice is made, MemTest86+ will automatically start.

The flashing procedure will automatically be initiated from there.  You will see status messages on the screen that will supply you with information and also prompt you for final confirmation for the actual BIOS-Flash.  A backup of you current BIOS will automatically be saved to a file on the drive (backup.bin) before the flashing actually starts.  You do not need to enter any commands in DOS.  All you have to do is acknowledge the information on the screen by pressing a key.

The flash itself will only take a couple of seconds (20-30s at the most).  If the flashing is successfully completed, shutdown the system and clear CMOS with main A/C power cable removed from PSU.  Read the >>Clear CMOS Guide<< for further information.  

After clearing CMOS you have completed the BIOS-Flash.  biggthumbsup

Guide created by Jack The Newbie and the forum team Hat-tip

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Category: MSI HQ Forum USB Flasher

Last updated on 5 April, 2011 with 12704 views