Greetings fellow Tekku crew members!
Over the past couple of months, we've seen a lot of turnover in motherboards, specifically of the AMD kind. This is, of course, no big surprise, given that the AMD Zen 3 CPUs have seemingly seized the CPU crown from Intel's grasp. These lightning fast CPUs have given consumers multiple reasons to either upgrade from an older AMD chip, or else to switch altogether from Intel to AMD.
One of the more commonly asked questions we get is: how does one ensure that their new motherboard is "Zen 3 ready"?
In case you may have missed it, a lot of motherboard models do not automatically support Zen 3 "out of the box", so to speak. Some older models like the B450, X470 and (although unofficially) even the X370 chipsets are capable of supporting Zen 3 processors, but they require BIOS updates in order to achieve this. Newer models like the B550 and X570 also support the 5000 series CPUs, but depending on how up to date the BIOS is when the motherboard is purchased, these may or may not support Zen 3 out of the box.
To cut a long story short - we need to ensure that our BIOS is relatively up to date, at least post the various Zen 3 updates that each manufacturer provided for their models.
We love to help out our nakama in times of need, and so we provided a brief guide on how to update your BIOS below.
1. How to check your BIOS version
The first step is the easiest one. Before taking a risk and updating our BIOS (with the potential result of bricking the motherboard), we should first determine whether a BIOS update is even needed. It is also worth noting that generally speaking, it is usually worth updating your BIOS to the latest version anyway, because newer versions normally add support for various RAM modules, or else fix bugs.
Disclaimer: Unless you have an older AMD CPU (that goes in an AM4 socket of course), you won't be able to turn on your new motherboard and get to the POST screen to be able to determine the BIOS version. If you are purchasing a motherboard and CPU with no backup CPU to use, ask your retailer whether the motherboard is Zen 3 ready or not, as it is their responsibility to check this for you.
In general, you can check your BIOS version via System Information app on Windows 7, 8 or 10. Click on the Search bar in the taskbar and type "System Information". When you open this, you will see a field for "BIOS Version/Date" that contains the current BIOS version information on it.
Another way of doing this is to check within the actual BIOS itself. Turn your PC on and keep spamming the Delete key until you are taken to your BIOS screen.
On the main page, you will see the same information around the BIOS version and applicable update date.
Note that we performed this check on an MSI motherboard, but the process is identical for any other motherboard manufacturer.
Next, you'd need to check that this particular version you have found is the latest one, or else at least the most recent one that supports the new Zen 3 architecture. To do this, you can either search Google for your product name, or else go to these sites and find your motherboard there:
Find your model, click on the "Support" or "Downloads" tab, and then find the section on the BIOS. Here, the latest versions as well as some details on each will be listed. Make sure that your version is either as recent or more up to date than the particular version that included the Zen 3 update. The Zen 3 update will have specific mention of support for AMD 5000 series CPUs.
2. Updating the BIOS
If your BIOS version is not current, there are generally 3 ways to update the BIOS:
via the desktop (requires an older CPU)
via a USB and dedicated BIOS update button (requires no CPU or other components installed)
via the BIOS itself (requires an older CPU)
Clearly, if you don't have a spare older generation CPU lying around (for example a Ryzen 7 2700X), you will not be able to update via options 1 or 3. This is important to look out for when purchasing a motherboard, because you will essentially be stuck if your motherboard does not have a BIOS flash functionality built into it that merely uses a USB (Q-Flash for Gigabyte, EZ Flash for ASUS, and M-Flash BIOS for MSI).
It is important to note that you must not lose power to your system during any of these BIOS update procedures, as you would essentially brick the motherboard if you lost power during the update (all hail the mighty loadshedding!)
Via the desktop
Some motherboard manufacturers offer Windows based apps that can update the BIOS version on the fly, without needing to enter the BIOS itself. This can work for ASUS boards but won't be able to be used to MSI or Gigabyte equivalents.
For the ASUS Flash Utility app, you will find this on the same download area of the specific site for your board mentioned above. This is easy to do and merely requires following the on-screen instructions.
Via a USB drive and specialised Flash function on motherboard
For this method, you can update the BIOS without needing anything other than the board itself and a power supply. Again, make sure that your motherboard has a dedicated on-board BIOS update button, or else this method will not be possible.
Prepare the USB drive with the BIOS files
Prepare your USB drive by formatting it with a FAT32 file system. This is achieved by typing "disk management" in the search bar on the taskbar.
Locate your drive in the listing and right-click it.
Select "Format..." and make sure you select the FAT32 file system and a quick format. No other file system will work, including exFAT!
Download your latest BIOS update files for your motherboard as mentioned above, and copy them into the root folder of the USB drive. Do not clutter the USB drive with additional folders.
Some manufacturers require specific naming conventions when updating the BIOS. If you have a Gigabyte motherboard, be sure to name the BIOS update file to "GIGABYTE.bin". For an ASUS board, there is usually a renaming utility available when you download the BIOS files which you can run and it will rename the BIOS file appropriately. For an MSI board, you don't need to rename the file and can leave as is.
Perform the BIOS update with just your motherboard and PSU connected
Connect the power supply to the motherboard via the 24-pin motherboard connection and the 8-pin CPU connector. No other connections are required.
Ensure that the power supply is turned on.
Insert the USB drive into the appropriate USB slot specifically designated for quick flashing the BIOS. (Note: not all motherboards require specific slots to be used, but if they do, it is best that you follow the guidance in the motherboard manual to locate and use this slot rather than any other). Sometimes the USB slot is also coloured differently or labelled as the Quick Flash or EZ Flash slot.
Long press the appropriate quick-flash BIOS button on your board and a light should come on within or next to it.
The light will flash steadily for a few minutes while the update is performed. The system may reboot and the light would continue to flash thereafter.
Once the update is complete, the system will power off.
Remove the flash drive, connect all your components (including the new Ryzen 5000 CPU) and you will be good to go.
Via the BIOS itself
Updating the BIOS via the BIOS itself is a very similar process to that of updating via a USB drive. Follow the process above for preparing a flash drive and downloading the appropriate update files onto it before turning off your machine.
Upon restarting with the drive inserted, enter the BIOS and you should see a M-Flash, EZ-Flash or Q-Flash tab in your BIOS settings (sometimes kept under the Advanced Tab). Here, you will simply need to select the appropriate BIOS update file from the particular USB drive and follow the on-screen instructions. This is another simple
Finally, it is worth mentioning that when you update your BIOS, you generally lose any custom settings or profiles you had set in the BIOS before the update. This means your RAM speed may not be optimised or your fan curves may need tweaking. Thus, once you have updated the BIOS, be sure to return there straight afterwards and set your system up for maximum performance according to your preferences.