While covering the diagnostic tool beat for RWT, I was recently given the opportunity to play with something called ‘the RD1 BIOS Savior’ from IOSS. I had seen this product mentioned on a few websites as an accessory sold along side motherboards and had wondered what the product was all about. In a nutshell, the BIOS Savior is a low cost way of protecting your motherboard’s main BIOS chip from disaster. Protection comes by having a secondary chip present that contains a backup of your main BIOS program. In case of a disaster that takes out your primary BIOS, you can easily switch over to the backup chip and still boot up.
The RD1 BIOS Savior is currently available in four different form factors as outlined below:
- RD1-1M 32 pin 1MB DIP Flash ROM System
- RD1-2M 32 pin 2MB DIP Flash ROM System
- RD1-PL 32 pin 2MB PLCC Flash ROM System
- RD1-8X 32 pin 4MB PLCC Firmware HUB System
I received two versions for my evaluation testing, the RD1-2M and the RD1-PL. The kit that makes up the BIOS Savior contains 1 adapter board/socket with EEPROM chip, an IC puller, a two position slide switch with cable and a PC card bracket on which to install the switch. See below for an example of what comes in the RD1-PL package:
Figure 1: RD1-PL BIOS Savior Kit
The BIOS Savior is really just an adapter board that houses an additional BIOS chip (EEPROM) and still has the capability of holding the regular BIOS chip. It’s kind of cool to see how IOSS was able to make a socket adapter that houses both chips in one neat little package. The adapter board has the backup chip soldered onto a PCB, and a socket is elevated overtop the backup chip to house the main chip. By throwing the slider switch back and forth on the attached cable, you can choose which BIOS chip will be active in your system upon bootup.
The idea of an auxillary BIOS is not new. Gigabyte has been shipping what they call their Diehard BIOS for a few years, which is similar in nature to this. AOpen has also started shipping a similar product. The need to constantly flash updated firmware to your motherboard to fix bugs or support new features has caused the need for such products in the marketplace. Also there are some malicious viruses out there with the potential to scramble the firmware in your BIOS and render your system unbootable. A product like the BIOS Savior would be most welcome if you were to experience such BIOS failures.
The first step in installing the BIOS Savior is to simply pull out the main BIOS chip with the supplied IC puller. For those confused users out there that need some help, the BIOS chip is usually socketed in most newer mainboards and has a sticker on it proclaiming something like AMIBIOS on top. Of course this operation can be tricky for someone not well versed in handling integrated circuit chips and care should be taken at every turn to minimize damage to chip leads. Anti-static precautions are also a good idea as it is possible to damage these types of parts when handling them. Grounding yourself by touching the case before handling the parts will help if you don’t have access to a regular anti-static wrist strap.
Figure 2: RD1-2M BIOS Savior Kit
Install the appropriate BIOS Savior adapter into the now empty socket and then reinstall your main BIOS chip into the adapter. It’s important to figure out where Pin 1 is on your adapter and BIOS chip and make sure these are aligned. Failure to get the Pin 1’s lined up correctly could damage the chip and/or adapter. Hook up the slider switch to the PC card bracket on one end and the other end to the cable coming out of the BIOS Savior. If you boot up the system at this point you’ll probably go into the main BIOS program if the slide switch is set to the default position of 1. If the system does not boot up or show activity, slide the switch to the other position and retry.
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