Branding the BIOS
"Surgery for Windows", yes....but this is a fun, low-level tweak, and well worth mentioning. When you switch on your computer, you've probably noticed the logo that appears in the top right hand corner on the very first screen, during the memory countup/hard disk detection. On many machines, it's an Energystar logo - nice, but a bit on the dull side. And we, the control freaks, want to alter it a little, right :) ?
Most information here is gleaned from other sites - links at the end, but most important is Doc's guide over at Virtual Hideout - read parts 1
before attempting this.
Before we start, a warning: this hack involves flashing your bios, a potentially dangerous process. If you aren't comfortable with this procedure, DON'T DO IT! A bad flash can make your computer unusable, and there are only a few, very inconvenient, ways to fix it. Plus, a mod like this may invalidate your warranty.
Now that's out the way...at the moment, this hack only works on Award or AMI bioses, with the AMI process being a lot easier. Fortunately, that covers most common brands of motherboard. Check your motherboard manual, or the startup screen to find out the BIOS brand.
bioses use the EPA format for their logo. Its a proprietary format, and so can't be edited in most standard graphics programs - so we'll need to make a BMP first, then convert it to EPA with another tool. There are two standards for EPA files, ver 1.0 and 2.0. Older motherboards have 1.0, newer ones 2.0, and there's no backwards compatibility, so make sure you use the right one! :) There's one crucial difference between them as far as we're concerned, but most of the programs we'll be using support both standards.
Award: Finding your EPA version
First, you need to find out which EPA standard your BIOS uses. Download cbrom
, and a BIOS file for your motherboard (check the manufacturer's website). We're going to hack this file, so make sure it's the version you want. Put them both in the same directory, and type:
cbrom (biosfile) /epa extract.
If the file has a BMP extension (usually AwardBmp.Bmp), it's probably a 2.0 EPA - otherwise, it's version 1.0. This isn't a firm rule, though - if you're not sure, grab AWBMREAD
, a tool developed by LinkIt (local link provided as their page seems to be down). Rename your extracted file to have an EPA extension, then type: AWBMREAD awardbmp.epa. You'll receive a few screens of information on the EPA, including its version number. EPACODER
does the same thing, and also handles conversion.
Award: Replacing the logo
Creating the BMP isn't too hard, use whatever program you like....only limitations are that for EPA 1.0 the file must be 136x84 pixels, and in black and white only - 2 colour mode, or 1bpp. If you have a EPA 2.0 BIOS, you can create an actual 16-color bitmap, same size, and just convert it without having to paint.
Now to convert to EPA and add color, you have three choices. One is BMP2EPA
, by Michael Rosenbaum, which is a Windows app (now freeware again). Alternatively, you could use Award's own utility, BMP2EPA for DOS
. Essentially, it's the same as the Windows version, only free - though I don't know if it supports EPA2 or not. The third choice is EPACODER
, which is freeware and does support EPA2. Unfortunately, it doesn't let you paint the logos, only converts them, and painting them in an ordinary graphics program can be a bit fiddly (see why below...).
Load your BMP into the whichever program you decide to use, convert to EPA (if you're using the Windows version), and then start painting! Only problem is that for EPA 1.0 files you can't paint individual pixels different colours. There's a grid you have to work to (visible in the Windows prog, invisible in the DOS one), and only one foreground colour is allowed per grid square. If you have a complex colour scheme in mind, you might want to go back and edit your original BMP, move elements around so they change grid squares. EPA 2.0 users don't need to worry about this.
Simplest step of all is to replace the EPA. At a DOS prompt, type:
cbrom (biosfile) /epa (epafile)
replacing (biosfile) and (epafile) with the filenames of your BIOS rom and finished EPA.
The final step - flash the new BIOS to the motherboard. Now, before you do this, make sure you write down your current BIOS settings, as a flash will probably set them back to the factory defaults. You're going to use awdflash, the Award flashing tool, but there are several different versions so check your motherboard manufacturer's site for the download. This program only really works under DOS, since flashing your BIOS under Windows is a *very* bad idea! Either use a bootdisk, or start up in MS-DOS mode (bootdisk is better, you want as few drivers loaded as possible), and with the awdflash program and your bios file in the same directory, type "awdflash (biosfile)" without quotes. The program itself is menu-based and fairly self-explanatory - read the documentation if you get stuck.
Doc's VH article also offers advice on making a backup floppy in case the flashing should go wrong, which is probably a good idea. Most newer Award-based motherboards include a failsafe mode - in the event of a bad flash the BIOS will run a chunk of code to just get your floppy drive working, so you can reflash your board. Grab a copy of your current, unhacked motherboard BIOS, either from the net or using awdflash (see the docs), and make a bootdisk that includes this file and awdflash. You won't need a config.sys, but the autoexec.bat should include a line reading:
awdflash (oldbiosname) /py /sn
Hopefully you won't need this disk. Once the flash is complete (follow the awdflash messages), restart your PC, and the new logo should be in place.
As a rough guide to the sort of image you can create, I've made a VP bios logo
. Just a quick illustration, so it's not especially good - but it does show the restrictions of the EPA 1.0 BIOS standard. The familiar block logo could only be made with one color, and the text had to be shuffled along to the right so that the turquoise didn't overlap the white. I'm sure many of you out there can do better - especially those of you with EPA 2.0 motherboards :)!
Hacking the BIOS seems much easier for AMI
users, and there's a lot more flexibility. The logo is in PCX format, which can be read by most good graphics programs, and there's no grid restriction - any 16 color image is fine. Even the size is flexible - the width has to be 132 pixels at most, but the height can be anything up to 480 pixels, so you could have a giant logo running down the right side of your screen.
I haven't carried out this procedure myself (no AMI bios), so the best thing to do is to read Doc's Virtual Hideout article
. He also provides a base PCX file to use, since AMI have their own, non-standard 16 color palette. Once you have your new 16 color logo, you need to use AMIBCP (a menu driven BIOS editor) to put it in the BIOS file. There's more room for mistakes than using CBROM, because you have access to the entire BIOS...however, follow the Doc's instructions and hopefully all should be well. The flashing process is much the same as for Award, just using 'Flash' instead of awdflash. I'd recommend that you go to your motherboard manufacturer's site first, to check if they have their own version for download, then visit the AMI
Bad news for you Phoenix
BIOS users, though - even though Phoenix and Award have merged, there's still no way to change a Phoenix board logo. But hopefully someone will find a way soon...
A few useful links for BIOS hackers:
- homepage of the VH article writer, contains a large boot logo gallery.
Binary's BIOS mods
- massive site, lots of information. Has a huge BIOS logo gallery, complete with already hacked BIOS files for the lazier souls among you :).
- has the best guide to BIOS logo replacement, and many other excellent articles. One for the hardware tweakers out there...
- another gallery, many logos that are available elsewhere, but a few unseen ones too.
FreePCTech BIOS Flashing Guide
- very informative. Before you flash your BIOS, you really should read this...