This page is meant to describe ways to update the BIOS on a ThinkPad that only runs Linux for users that don't have ready access to Windows. If you have Windows on your ThinkPad you can just boot into it and follow instructions on the Lenovo website.
Updating the BIOS in Linux (with few exceptions) is not officially supported by Lenovo. However there are work arounds.
Downloading New Firmware
Lenovo provides firmware upgrades in a variety of packages:
- Linux diskette
- BIOS Utility
- Bootable CD
Not every type of package is available for every model.
The BIOS Utility and Bootable CD packages combine the BIOS and ECP firmwares. For the other packages, there is one for each firmware.
The Linux diskette is just the Diskette package that runs on Linux instead of Windows/DOS. It's unknown if a boot image can be extracted from it.
You may need to try different packages to find the one from which you can extract a boot image.
Two Firmwares: BIOS and ECP
It is important to understand that Thinkpads from IBM have two separate firmwares: the BIOS, and the Embedded Controller Program (ECP).
A given BIOS version will require a certain version of the ECP. You must read the Lenovo website and/or .txt files to confirm which BIOS is compatible with which ECP, and the order in which to update them.
The IBM documentation is sometimes unclear about the order in which these two firmwares should be updated. When in doubt, update the ECP first, and then the BIOS. Also, make sure to do the two updates immediately one after the other.
Odd, I see IBM saying
- If you need to update Embedded Controller Program as well as the BIOS, update the BIOS first.
(Updaters for newer models do both the ECP and the BIOS at the same time, so you don't have to worry about it.)
You can check the current BIOS and ECP versions on your ThinkPad by using dmidecode. For example:
# dmidecode -s bios-version
1RETDRWW (3.23 )
# dmidecode -t 11
# dmidecode 2.9 SMBIOS 2.33 present. Handle 0x0029, DMI type 11, 5 bytes OEM Strings String 1: IBM ThinkPad Embedded Controller -[1RHT71WW-3.04 ]-
Showing BIOS version 3.23 (1RETDRWW) and ECP version 3.04 (1RHT71WW).
Please consider updating the List of DMI IDs before (and after) updating your BIOS.
There are two basic steps to updating the firmware (either the BIOS or the ECP) on a ThinkPad not running Windows:
- Extract a bootable update image
- Boot from that image
Extracting an update image
The various .exe installers from Lenovo all appear to be just a wrapper license program around Windows .cab files (see BIOS-Bootsplash). If you install the Linux program cabextract you can expand these .cab files directly. For example, if you downloaded 1iuj13us.exe from Lenovo:
$ cabextract 1iuj13us.exe
Extracting cabinet: 1iuj13us.exe extracting 1IUJ13US.IMG extracting BIOSUPTP.EXE extracting DOBOOT.EXE extracting DOSBOOT.COM extracting DOSBOOT.SYS extracting DOSBOOT.VXD extracting DOSBOOT2.COM extracting ECTLUPTP.EXE extracting EFLASHAS.SYS extracting HDFWUPTP.EXE extracting IBMTPI.XML All done, no errors.
The file we want is FILENAME.IMG, with "FILENAME" being the .exe. you downloaded. E.g., 1IUJ13US.IMG.
(If this does not work for the Non-diskette .exe, try it on the Diskette .exe. It's reported, for example, that the Non-diskette .exe for BIOS version 3.23 for the T41p was not extractable, but the Diskette .exe worked perfectly, with
$ cabextract delivering a .IMG file.)
Testing the Image
You can test that FILENAME.IMG is really a floppy image by running:
# mkdir /tmp/mntfloppy
# mount -o loop FILENAME.IMG /tmp/mntfloppy
If a ls command on the image returns what looks like a DOS floppy, and no read errors were displayed, you have a pretty good chance that the image is usable. For example:
# ls /tmp/mntfloppy
$0195000.FL1 069580.PAT 06d2.HSH IBMDOS.COM TPCHKS.EXE 0691.HSH 06D0.PAT 06d6.HSH LOGO.BAT UPDTFLSH.EXE 0691.PAT 06D1.PAT 06d8.HSH LOGO.SCR UPDTMN.EXE 0694.HSH 06D2.PAT CHKBMP.EXE PHLASH16.EXE USERINT.EXE 0694.PAT 06D6.PAT COMMAND.COM PREPARE.EXE UTILINFO.EXE 0695.HSH 06D8.PAT CONFIG.SYS PROD.dat lcreflsh.bat 0695.PAT 06d0.HSH FLASH2.EXE QKFLASH.EXE 069580.HSH 06d1.HSH IBMBIO.COM README.TXT
Unmount the image after you are done testing:
# umount /tmp/mntfloppy
Booting from update image
Now that you have a bootable image for the correct update for you hardware, you need to do is boot from that image to install the update.
There are different ways to do that:
Booting from a CD
If you are going to update the firmware by booting from a CD, you need to turn FILENAME.IMG that you extracted above into an .iso file.
The El Torito Bootable CD Specification is a wonderful thing. Thanks to it, a bootable CD can be made with a bootable floppy image in such as way that the CD believes that it is a 2.88 MB floppy drive. This allows you to replace a boot floppy by a boot CD in nearly all situations.
It is very easy to create such a bootable CD ISO image in Linux using the mkisofs tool1. Run a command as follows:
# mkisofs -b bootfloppy.img -o bootcd.iso FILENAME.IMG
Where FILENAME.IMG is the name of the image file extracted above, for example 1IUJ13US.IMG. This creates a CD with one file on it and marks that file as the boot image.
You can now burn the bootcd.iso to a CD in your favorite CD-burning program.
|Model||Tested by, and comments|
|Model||Tested by, and comments|
Booting using GRUB
Locate the memdisk file from the syslinux package. You can search for it with find:
# find /usr -name memdisk
If /usr/.../memdisk is not present, syslinux is not installed. You will need to install it to boot a .IMG from GRUB.
Copy both the FILENAME.IMG and memdisk files into /boot directory. For example:
# cp ./FILENAME.IMG /usr/share/syslinux/memdisk /boot/
Open /boot/grub/menu.lst in your favourite editor. Copy the active section into a new section, and edit the new section:
|title||Pick a name for the new section. This will show up in the GRUB boot menu.||title IBM ECP Update|
|root||Do not change. This is the partition containing the /boot directory||root (hd0,0)|
|kernel||/boot/memdisk will allow you to boot an image file.||kernel /boot/memdisk|
|initrd||This is the name of the firmware-updater image file, e.g., 1IUJ13US.IMG||initrd /boot/1IUJ13US.IMG|
Do not modify the original section in /boot/grub/menu.lst, or you might not be able to boot back to the operating system.
If you have two firmware updates to do, you will need a section for each firmware's FILENAME.IMG in /boot/grub/menu.lst.
Reboot your computer, entering the GRUB menu and selecting IBM BIOS Update, or whatever you named the new section in /boot/grub/menu.lst.
|R30 2656-64G||v.1.40||Yuri Spirin|
|R40 2723||1OHJ11WW.IMG||1PUJ25US.IMG||Qunying||memdisk from syslinux 3.70 (slackware 12.1)|
|T40 2373||1RUJ37US.IMG||1RHJ10U2.IMG||Euphoria||memdisk from syslinux 1:3.31-4 (Debian package version)|
|Morphics||cabextract and memdisk from syslinux 3:1.36-4ubuntu5|
|Deggel||cabextract and memdisk from syslinux 3.71 on gentoo|
|T41p 2373||James Lee|
|X31 2673-CBU||Jan Topinski|
|X31 2672-PG9||Starox||a big moment between starting update and the updating window|
|X40 2371||2.07 1uuj21us.exe||1.62 1uhj10us.exe||Jakob Truelsen||Worked on two X40-2371|
|X40 2386||2.08 1uuj22us.exe||1.62 1uhj10us.exe||Galen Seitz||memdisk from syslinux 3.61|
|T43 2668-F7G||1.29 1YUJ18US.IMG||Maus3273||I got into the bios program, but the machine never restarts after initiating the upgrade.|
|X41 2525-FAG||2.09 74UJ15US||Uwe Kleine-König||booted fine (Debian syslinux 2:3.71+dfsg-5), but didn't succeed to write, just hang at "Don't restart or remove diskette etc. pp" (not bricked). Worked fine via CD method.|
|X41 2525-F8G||2.06 74UJ12US.IMG
|Lauri Koponen||hangs while initializing the actual BIOS flashing process|
ECP: 1.02 74HJ03US.IMG works
Booting from a Floppy
This is how IBM/Lenovo intended it. Use their .exe files to create a bootable floppy with the flash update on it. Boot from the floppy and there you go.
So, why is it not recommended?
- If something goes wrong, your ThinkPad may be permanently damaged
- Floppy disk drives are not reliable
- Floppy disks are not reliable
- It only works with /dev/fd0, meaning it won't work with a USB floppy
So, even though Lenovo is now offering "Linux diskette" updaters, that will create a bootable floppy under Linux, using a floppy is still not recommended. Besides, many people don't even have a floppy drive on their ThinkPad.
If you really want to do it with a floppy, some tips:
- Use a clean (in the physical sense) floppy drive
- Use new floppies
- Test floppies for errors before starting update process
- Have multiple copies of the update disks ready--if one should fail, replace it with a copy
- Should DOS complain of a read error, only respond wth "Retry"
Booting from a USB Flash drive
Booting from a Network Boot Image
BIOS, ECP, CD/DVD and Harddisk firmware disks can be booted over the network with PXELINX as part of the SYSLINUX package. This requires that you have a DHCP and tftp server configured and setup properly on your network, and is probably not for the faint of heart.
Make sure the firmware bootdisk is in linux 'dd' format, as the self-extracting .exe disks from the IBM website cannot be booted directly as such.
Lenovo recommends reseting your BIOS settings to their factory defaults after a firmware update.
Please consider updating the List of DMI IDs after updating your BIOS.
- In one case, see (APM setup on a type 2379 ThinkPad T40), it was not possible to upgrade the BIOS from Windows XP; a downgrade to Windows 98 was required to successfully run the BIOS upgrade app. The symptoms in this case were that, once the files had been extracted to the hard disk, and the machine was to reboot into the upgrade app, it would beep and hang just before reboot, requiring a power cycle. Once the power was cycled, it would simply reboot back into XP without performing any BIOS upgrade actions. So even if you have Windows, you may still need to use the info on this page.
Updating Thinkpad X Series
The special update instructions for X1, X1 Carbon, X1 Carbon G2, X1 Carbon G3, X1 Carbon G4, X1 Carbon G5, X1 Carbon G6, X1 Carbon G7, X1 Carbon G8, X1 Extreme, X1 Extreme G2, X1 Hybrid, X13, X20, X21, X22, X23, X24, X30, X31, X32, X40, X41, X41 Tablet, X60, X60s, X60 Tablet, X61, X61s, X61Ls, X61 Tablet, X100e, X120e, X121e, X130e, X131e, X140e, X200, X200s, X200 Tablet, X201, X201i, X201s, X201si, X201 Tablet, X201i Tablet, X220, X220i, X220 Tablet, X220i Tablet, X230, X230i, X230s, X230 Tablet, X230i Tablet, X240, X240s, X250, X260, X270, X280, X300, X301, X390, X395 Thinkpads are quite long. You can find them at the page BIOS_Upgrade/X_Series.
- For lots of detail on making and burning .iso files, see The Linux Documentation Project (tldp.org): 3.1 Writing CD-ROMs (pure data).