Guide to flash a Bios with a SPI CH341A mini programmer

If your computer restarts constantly, after trying to flash the Bios via M-Flash and no standard solution worked: reset the CMOS, unplug the hard drives, change the location of the memory modules, remove the motherboard battery, try to access Dos through a bootable USB key to reinstall the Bios, then you just have to reprogram the Bios with an external integrated circuit.

Necessary material :

SPI CH341A mini programmer (10 dollars),
SOIC8 SOP8 test clip for EEPROM 93CXX / 25CXX / 24CXX (13 dollars),
– a second computer (whether portable or desktop).

Alternative to the clip: female male jumper cables for the JSPI1 connection (7 dollars).

Software needed:

SPI mini programmer USB driver (free),
CH341A Programmer v1.30 (free).

Alternatives: CH341A Programmer v1.18, CH341A Programmer v1.29, CH341A Mini Programmer (Black Edition), AsProgrammer, Flashrom for Windows.

This hardware is the same used by the producers of motherboards, be it MSI, Asus, Asrock, Gigabyte … to unlock the cards when they are out of service, provided that they have not had a short circuit and that they did not burn. It will save you between 100 and 800 dollars, ie the price of an old motherboard, or a recent computer if you prefer to buy everything. It will cost you between 5 and 25 dollars depending on whether you buy it from USA or from China; of course with minimum 2 days transport time for USA and 1 month for China.

There are two versions of the mini SPI program: one black (the one I used, see image below), one blue. There is no difference except the voltage of the black which can be more powerful, from 3.3V to 5V against 3.3V for the blue version. It is indicated on the forums that the black has a voltage too strong and can burn the motherboard, it’s false; at least I did not see anything problematic in my case (desktop motherboard).

This guide is for use in case of last resort, at your own risk. Each configuration presenting its own problems, its own flaws.

Guide

Guide – Part 1: Prepare the motherboard.

– open the computer case, take a picture of the connections so you do not get lost later when you will have to reconnect everything.
– disconnect the power supply from the PC,
– disconnect all devices,
– remove the graphics card,
– remove the memory modules,
– remove the CPU cooler (you will need thermal paste later),
– remove the processor,
– disconnect all other connectors (USB, PS/2, SW Power, Reset SW, P Led +/-),
– take the motherboard out of the computer,
– put it near another working computer (whether it’s a laptop or a desktop computer),

Guide – Part 2: Prepare the CH341A SPI mini programmer.

– connect the SPI CH341A mini programmer to your backup computer,
– install the programmer’s drivers. If the installation does not work, do a manual installation: control panel > system > device manager > right click on unknown device > update the driver > choose the location of the drivers. If that doesn’t work, try other versions of the drivers on the net.
– start the software of the CH341A programmer,
– put the arm (which looks like an antenna) of the mini programmer upwards,
– insert the clip’s jumper into the mini programmer (with the numbers 1 2 3 4 on the left, 5 6 7 8 on the right) in the first part of the CH341A female connection (ie on the left, the part right being dedicated to EEPROM 24 chips),
– Engage the mini programmer’s arm by positioning it down.
– connect the SOIC8 clip to the Bios (8-pin SPI memory chip); it is near a JSPI1 connection (see image below). The program recognizes that the programmer is connected.

Example with my motherboard:

Guide – Part 3: Use the SPI CH341A mini programmer to read the SPI chip.

– press the Detect button of the software to recognize the Bios. The program should recognize the type, the brand and the model of the chip.
– if the Bios is not recognized with Detect, then check that the clip is well installed on the Bios. It is important that the contact is perfect.
– if the Bios is still not recognized with Detect, then reverse the jumper in the mini SPI programmer and reverse the clamp on the motherboard’s Bios. There is no risk of short circuit normally.
– if the Bios is still not recognized with Detect, then manually enter the type, the brand and the model.
– If the software announces that the programmer is connected, then press the Read button. Normally the buffer should fill on the interface and the solid lines of FF should be replaced in large part by codes in hexadecimal. If all the lines only have FF codes, then it means that the software could not read the Bios properly. It is unlikely that the chip is completely empty. Why didn’t it work ? because the programmer must be able to send enough energy in at least half of the motherboard to actually read the Bios. It will easily read the Bios in small motherboards, such as tablet, laptop, micro ATX. On the other hand in motherboards of desktop, it will have to power this last one. If the software could not read correctly the Bios, then disconnect the clamp. Reconnect the PC power supply to the motherboard (with both pins), reconnect the power supply to the mains. Reconnect the clamp. Press the Read button. This time the software should read the chip correctly. That’s what worked for me with a motherboard MSI Z77A-G43. If this is still not the case, refer to the help at the end of this article.

Guide – Part 4: Use the SPI CH341A mini programmer to write the Bios on the SPI chip.

– save the original Bios, file> Save, as Backup.bin for example. In case of problems, you can always put it back.
– press the Erase button to erase the Bios from the SPI chip.
– Press the Blank button to replace the SPI chip code with FFs.
– press the Open button, and select your Bios (ROM file). If your Bios has a weird extension, this is not a problem, select *. * In the choice of the format of the file to open. You can always rename it to Bios.bin if you want. You will find the latest Bios of your motherboard on the manufacturer’s website by indicating the model of your motherboard (written on its face, as well as on the back).
– press the Program button. The software will then write the Bios on the chip. It can take between 2 and 15 minutes.
– Then, press the Verify button to verify that the BIOS has been correctly programmed, that there are no errors. The software should indicate: that the memory buffer and the chip have the same code.
– press the Read button, the Open button, select the Bios to flash, click ok, press the Verify button to be really sure it has been well programmed.

– If so, that’s it you’re good at disconnecting the clip, the power supply and plugging everything back into your computer’s case.
– when everything is reconnected, start the computer, it should boot directly on Windows.
– otherwise, you will have to go back to the BIOS to put the priorities back on the bootable UEFI disk with Windows. But also to set the time in the Bios.

*** Help – if there is a reading problem. ***

– if you could not read the chip with the CH341A programmer v1.30, then try another version of the software. The most popular version is the CH341 programmer v1.18. Try other drivers. Try other software.
– if nothing works, then the procedure becomes more complex. If the software can not read the chip properly, it can not also reprogram it, on the contrary it will further corrupt it. It will be necessary to disassemble the BIOS of the motherboard and put it directly on the small integrated circuit (as in the image below).

Necessary material :

hot air welding station (75 dollars),
– a soldering kit with a fine head (25 dollars), including a desoldering wick, tin wire.

Here too, these techniques are to be used at your own risk. They are complex but not impossible.

– note the layout of the Bios on the motherboard, with the numbers 1 4 5 8.
– first use the hot air blower at 400°C for 3-4 minutes on the Bios to melt its solder. Look at integrated circuit soldering guides on Youtube to understand how to do it. The most important is not to melt the circuits with the soldering iron by coming into contact with them.
– Once unsoldered, it will be necessary to mount the small integrated circuit sold with the SPI CH341A mini programmer, and to weld the two small jumper on the center where the figures are indicated.
– then place the Bios on the appropriate connections in order (1 4 5 8, see on the motherboard). The dot on the chip must be on the 1. Weld the Bios to the circuit. It will be useful to use the desoldering wick to remove excess tin or remove a tin bridge between two welds.
– lift the arm of the programmer, insert the result in the mini programmer. The Bios should be on the left of the programmer if we look at it with the USB connection at the top). Enable the arm.

– Now, try to read the chip again with the software CH341A programmer v1.30 (see the 4th part of the guide, above). Chances that it works this time are the largest possible. There are no more problems of stories of insufficient or excessive tension.

If it does not work. Again try other versions of the software, other drivers. Other software.

If nothing works again, it means that the chip has been damaged after the wrong flash. You will need to order a new SPI chip with the same type of memory.

If after receiving a blank SPI chip bought on the Internet, after flashing it, nothing works. This means that the motherboard needs the MAC address (written on the back of the motherboard). It will then be necessary to find the way to add it in the Bios with a hexadecimal editor.

Default solutions

If in the end nothing works, the problem becomes even more insoluble. The motherboard may eventually be damaged. You are good at buying an old motherboard with the risk of having an obsolete card, or the same problem of corrupted Bios.

It will then be better to buy a motherboard of last generation with security to avoid reliving the same boredom, namely a second Bios (parallel Bios backup) or even better a Bios Flashback that allows to reinstall a Bios even if the computer crashes at startup, thanks to a button and a dedicated USB port.

That’s what the ASUS ROG MAXIMUS X APEX motherboard offers. You will also need a new processor, for example the Intel Core i7-8700K, the former one is no longer compatible due to a different socket. New DDR4 memory modules, the old DDR3 modules are not compatible either.


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