ALIX BIOS Update Procedure

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This article is part of the How-To series.

This procedure updates the BIOS for PC Engines ALIX systems with serial port consoles (alix3c3 and other boards with VGA ports require a different BIOS)

In order to boot NanoBSD-based pfSense images, a PC Engines ALIX needs to have at least BIOS version 0.99h and be set for CHS mode.

Update via FreeDOS image

  • Download the FreeDOS CF image which contains the ALIX 0.99h BIOS update.
    • Optional step, verify it with md5 from here.
  • Decompress (if needed) and write the image to CF
    • Instructions for writing this image are similar to those for writing a NanoBSD/Embedded image. See here.
  • Insert the CF into the ALIX and boot
  • At the prompt, type:
sb.com

That should update the BIOS to 0.99h. After the update finishes, power off the ALIX and remove the card.

The ALIX BIOS settings may need reste (Press the 's' key while the RAM test is running). Typically, the BIOS defaults to a serial speed of 38400. Adjust the serial client if needed. In particular, check that the BIOS is set for CHS mode. Setting the serial speed of the BIOS to match pfSense makes it easier to access the BIOS later.

Alternate Procedure - Update with PC Engines FreeDOS image+BIOS

If the FreeDOS image supplied does not work on a specific setup, the image from PC Engines may be used. It is the third image listed on their site, the first two are for special cards.

After writing the FreeDOS image from PC Engines to a card, download the 0.99h BIOS files separately and copy them onto the CF card. Then boot from the card and run sb.com as explained above.

Alternate Procedure #2 - Update with Xmodem

The BIOS can also be updated over the serial console with Xmodem.

  • Download the BIOS files to a PC and decompress
  • Connect to the ALIX with a null modem serial cable and a terminal program capable of Xmodem transfers
  • Power on the ALIX
  • Press the 's' key while the RAM test is running to enter setup
  • Press the 'x' key for Xmodem upload, follow the prompts to upload the ALIX BIOS binary