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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.

16 Responses to “Flash DELL BIOS from USB stick”

  1. Robert says:

    What do you do with the winimage?

  2. Lelee says:

    sorry pliz.. what is the name of the update tool that i will put at the command prompt

  3. Walter says:

    PLEASE RESPOND!!! I cant format my flash drive as FAT and not FAT32!!! NTFS wont let me create a DOS startup disk. WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO???! PLEASE HELP!

  4. Pierre says:

    I did upgraded the bios of my DELL VOSTRO 2420 BTX with a preinstalled UBUNTU 11.10 by carefully following your procedure. DELL provided only a windows compatible executable file 2420A05. I’ve put that file on the USB stick I previously prepared, boot from it and it works perfectly.
    Thanks a lot for your support!

  5. Moshe says:

    @Robert – use the win image extract the files from ODIN. You will need these files to create the bootable USB drive.

  6. Ben says:

    Damn. It would’ve been nice if you had mentioned that the above file was going to give me a different language in the DOS!

  7. Andrei says:

    Thanks man! I’ve upgraded a BIOS for a 2004 170L using ke86f32.zip from http://www.fdos.org/kernel/release/LATEST/ for step 5.

  8. Sean Torres says:

    Thank you so much Kai you saved me! Also Andrei if it were not for you I would have been sol! My issue T3600 with a faulty HD out the box. This was a brand new machine ordered for a client. I was performing Windows and Dell updates. Upon a restart I could no longer boot into Windows. This was on a RAID 5. Dell replaced the primary drive as it showed up as foreign in RAID controller. After replacing drive and rebuilding the RAID I was still unable to boot into Windows (yuck!). I also could not reinstall windows! Blue screens every time. Using the above instructions to reinstall previous BIOS ver 7 and I am able to reinstall OS. Posting to help others…thanks so much!

  9. JR says:

    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.

    what do u mean by this one? how can i extract and image file? it is that possible?

  10. Manuel says:


    I followed your Instruction and want to update ehe Bios for an Studio 1537, ( http://www.dell.com/support/drivers/de/de/dedhs1/DriverDetails/Product/studio-1537?driverId=R302071&osCode=WLH&fileId=2731118151&languageCode=de&categoryId=BI ) but it say: “This Program cannot be run in DOS mode.”
    Can someone help?

  11. Sean says:

    Worked quite excellently.

    By the way, 7-Zip works quite well for opening up ISO disk image files such as odin2880.img

    WinImage not even needed.

  12. Gigih says:

    haii.. my leptop can’t load Bios, the screen blank but indicator lamp for power is normal… how can I flashing bios with problem it?

  13. Thanks… Finally I can flashing my bios with USB and now my laptop normal again 🙂

  14. redo kusuma says:

    your tag is vostro, can i use to inspiron?please help me

  15. redo kusuma says:

    i can’t format fdd to create dos start up disk, “using file system located at”…. where to browse file system, please sir???

  16. redo kusuma says:

    OK sir, solved…
    but what do you do with the winimage?

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