Updating the BIOS on an Optiplex 740

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While updating the BIOS on an old PC (which I use for running old Windows XP programs), I ran into the issue where the update program, O740-227.exe, would just crash. It worked at first, giving me a warning about removing all USB devices. So I removed all non-essential USB devices, retried the program… and… crash. Nothing from that point on would convince the thing to run. Not a reboot, not run as administrator, not safe mode. Possible causes: Maybe this program creates some temp file, or puts something in the registry, and somehow it got into an unexpected state.

Anyway, here’s how I solved the problem:

  1. Download the FreeDOS ISO.
  2. Open it in PowerISO and drag-drop in the O740-227.exe file.
  3. Burn that image to a CD.
  4. Disconnect your hard drive, or disable it in the BIOS (you don’t want to accidentally overwrite your hard drive with FreeDOS do you?)
  5. Plug in a USB stick so FreeDOS thinks that there’s a valid install target available.
  6. Start installing FreeDOS to the USB stick, right up until the point where it asks you if you’re sure that you want to overwrite the contents of the drive.
  7. Choose “return to DOS” to get a DOS prompt, which is what I wanted in the first place. Why FreeDOS doesn’t have a clearly-defined “livecd mode” where it JUST runs DOS from a CD, I don’t understand. But that’s just how open-source goes sometimes.
  8. Type drive letters like ‘B:’, ‘C:’, ‘D:’, etc. and type ‘dir’ to get a directory listing. You’re looking for your BIOS install file…
  9. One you find it, just type in it’s name, remember that it starts with an O and not a zero.
  10. Aaaaand after all that work, you should have an Optiplex updated to the latest and greatest (2011 lol) BIOS.

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