Back in the days when floppy disks were still being commonly used, flashing your motherboard’s BIOS could only be done by booting the computer into DOS. When DOS is booted up on the computer, you’d probably have to switch to the floppy disk that contains the BIOS update file. Unlike today where updating a modern BIOS is far easier and convenient and you can update the BIOS directly from Windows using the software provided by the manufacturer, or simply put the BIOS file onto a USB flash drive and the inbuilt flashing tool inside the BIOS will recognize it.
If for some reason the software provided by the motherboard manufacturer is broken and you’re not able to update the BIOS from Windows, or your BIOS doesn’t actually support flashing from any other medium apart from a floppy drive and DOS, you can still do it from DOS by booting up the computer with a USB flash drive instead of a floppy which is far easier. The most popular and easiest ways are to simply install MS-DOS or FreeDOS onto the USB drive, copy over the required BIOS file and flashing utility from the manufacturer’s website, boot to USB and flash the BIOS from there. Thankfully, there are tools around that can help you accomplish this with the minimum of effort, and not lead you through a huge multiple step process full of manual commands. Here are 5 such tools that will put either FreeDOS or MS-DOS onto a bootable USB flash drive allowing you to update the BIOS firmware from DOS but without a floppy drive.
Rufus is a small utility that helps format and create bootable USB flash drives, such as USB keys/pendrives, memory sticks, etc. It’s also a useful tool to help install different versions of Windows via USB and can also check USB devices for errors. It is a small, single and self contained portable executable file and the user interface resembles the Format tool in Windows.
Rufus has the added bonus of giving you the choice of installing either FreeDOS or MS-DOS onto USB for BIOS flashing. Simply plug the USB flash drive into your computer, run Rufus, select the device that you want to install DOS onto, make sure the file system is FAT32, check there’s a tick next to “Create a bootable disk using:” and select either FreeDOS or MS-DOS from the drop down menu. Finally click the Start button. Rufus used to come with a separate version for FreeDOS support, but it’s now integrated as standard
2. WinUSB Maker
WinUSB Maker is by Josh Cell Softwares who produce some very useful Windows tools such as Advanced Tokens Manager and WinOwnerShip, and this tool can install the setup files for Windows XP up to Windows 8 setup onto USB, install the GRUB loader onto USB, create a full backup and restore of USB devices, and also do what we’re looking for, install MS-DOS onto a USB stick.
Like the other tools, WinUSB Maker is a standalone tool (although it does require the .NET Framework version 4 to run), simply launch it after inserting the USB drive and select it from the drop down in the Welcome screen. Then click on MSDOS to USB down the left and click the “Make USB Bootable” button, and accept the data will be lost warning. After a few seconds, you’ll have a DOS USB ready for the BIOS files.
UNetbootin allows you to create bootable Live USB drives for Ubuntu, Fedora, and many other Linux distributions without burning a CD. It has been around for a very long time, probably one of the very first tools to easily create bootable USB flash drives. UNetbootin is also a standalone and portable tool with separate versions available for Windows, Linux and also Mac OSX.
The program will automatically download and install FreeDOS onto your device, just run it and select FreeDOS from the Distribution drop down menu. Follow that by selecting the USB drive in the Type and Drive drop down menus, and clicking the OK button. UNetbootin will start to download FreeDOS from SourceForge and then install it onto your USB flash drive.
YUMI is another easy to use and portable tool that is primarily designed for creating multiboot USB devices with several different distros on the same flash drive. Rather weirdly, Universal USB Installer which is basically the same tool without multiboot support, doesn’t include FreeDOS in its support list.
To get FreeDOS onto your USB flash drive, start the program and select the USB drive in step 1, then find “FreeDOS (Balder img)” in the list and click on “Download the img” which will open the download link directly in your browser. Then locate the downloaded img file with the Browse button and hit Create. YUMI will offer to add more distros to the USB once complete, just click No to only install FreeDOS.
5. HP Disk Storage Format Tool
Most users familiar with formatting USB flash drives will probably have heard of the HP format tool because it’s a useful tool and was THE program a few years back to format USB sticks. This method is slightly more manual than the 4 above because it requires you to find the DOS files yourself, although we have made things a bit easier by including the MS-DOS and FreeDOS files needed to create a bootable USB.
The program looks and behaves like the Windows format tool and you simply insert your flash drive, run the HPUSBDisk.exe, click on the “Create a DOS startup disk” tick box and browse for the chosen MS-DOS/FreeDOS folder which is alongside the executable in the zip file. Then click Start.
After installing FreeDOS or MS-DOS on your USB flash drive and making it bootable, all you need to do is copy all the files such as the BIOS firmware file, BIOS flashing tool and batch file provided by the motherboard manufacturer to the USB flash drive. Boot up the computer with the USB flash drive and then followed by running the batch file.