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DELL BIOS screenToday I spent half of my day trying to flash the BIOS of my homeserver which is a DELL Vostro 200 running Linux. The Vostro 200 system is not eqipped with a floppy drive. The problem is that DELL ships new BIOS files as a DOS/Windows hybrid which cannot be executed by Linux systems.

By following these steps you’ll get a bootable USB stick running FreeDOS capable of running DELL’s flash tool (Windows required):

  1. Download ODIN, which is a FreeDOS distribution: http://odin.fdos.org/odin2005/odin2880.img
  2. Download WinImage and extract the files from the image if you are on Windows. If you are on a Mac, just double-click the image.
  3. To create a bootable USB stick we need a Windows tool called HP’s USB Disk Storage Format Tool. I used it within a virtual machine running Windows 7.
  4. Start the Format Tool and insert your USB stick, then format it and set it to “create a DOS startup disk”. Make sure you format it as FAT and not FAT32. If the FAT option is not available, your stick is too big – try a <= 1GB stick.
  5. Now you have a bootable stick which is NOT compatible with your newer DELL system. Download http://fdos.org/kernel/latest/ke2039_86f16.zip and extract kernel.sys to your USB stick by overwriting the existing file.
  6. Now copy the contents of the extracted odin2880.img to your USB stick by hand as our tool just copied a few of them. Make sure you don’t overwrite command.com and kernel.sys.
  7. Copy your BIOS file as well. In my case its 200_1016.exe.
  8. Start your DELL system with your stick (hold F12 during startup and select USB HDD)
  9. In the FreeDOS menu select “286″ and NOT one the 386 entries.
  10. Type the name of the update tool at the command prompt.

If you get weird error messages before you see the FreeDOS menu, turn off your system and unplug the SATA cables from your harddrives, then try again.