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Phoenix BIOS Crisis Recovery

Antonizoon edited this page Oct 9, 2014 · 7 revisions

Apparently the Phoenix BIOS has a secret feature that allows users to install BIOSes by putting the one from the Lenovo website on a memory stick.

The BIOS chip probably has a secret permanent section containing the necessary keys for injection, and secret permanent code that flashes the BIOS from the USB stick.

This might be a great way to recover the vendor BIOS on Coreboot systems, if the backup was accidentally deleted. This is useful for reviving bricked ATI boards, which depend on a unique VGABIOS for Coreboot to work. It's worth a shot.

Case Study - Restoring factory BIOS on ATI T60

While experimenting with SeaBIOS and Coreboot one of my ATI T60 boards, I accidentally deleted the factory BIOS. This is problematic, since the BIOS dump is unique to the machine, and I was planning to sell it immediately afterward.

But apparently, every Phoenix BIOS has a secret ability; The BIOS Crisis Recovery. Just load up a USB stick with the fresh Lenovo BIOS from the internet, and the program will not only install the BIOS; it will modify it with the machine's unique configuration IDs, effectively regenerating the original factory BIOS.

The Setup

  • The BIOS flasher will not run without a fully charged battery and power adapter plugged in.
  • A decent USB Drive or USB Floppy Disk should be used.
    • USB Floppy Drives are the only things that are guaranteed to work.
    • The BIOS just doesn't like certain USB drives. The general rule of thumb is that if you can boot to Linux with the USB stick, it should work. But sometimes it has issues with drives larger than 2GB, other times there's no issue. A few users have found more success with SDCards, but USB sticks are often a crapshoot.
  • A 32-bit version of Windows is required to run WinCrisis.
    • If you want to preserve your existing 64-bit OS, try using a Windows 8 liveCD (Windows 7 and XP liveCDs are not recommended due to their poor driver support).

Method 1: WinCrisis

The Phoenix BIOS Crisis Recovery can be used on all ThinkPads from T420 and before; and maybe even HP and Acer machines (though it has only been tested on T500, T43, and X200). However, some steps and keyboard combinations may differ, so YMMV.

The Tools

  • ThinkPad Factory BIOS Installer - You can get it from the Lenovo website. Just find the right one for your laptop.
  • e_bcpvpw.exe - Use this to extract a .FL1 BIOS archive to use with WinCrisis.
  • WinCrisis - The powerful tool itself, made by Phoenix for BIOS recovery by their technicians. This tool is used to create a USB flash drive, or floppy disk.

The Procedure

  1. Download the latest ThinkPad BIOS for your machine, from the Lenovo website.
  • Make sure to "Install" the files to an easily accessible folder, like the Desktop.
  1. Use e_bcpvpw.exe to unpack the .FL1 packed BIOS. Rename it to BIOS.WPH.
  • Unpacking might not be necessary, as described here. But on older machines, WinFlash16 requires uncompressed BIOS files, so YMMV.
  1. Use WinCrisis tool to make a bootable USB stick or floppy disk. Use your own machine's BIOS.WPH.
  • When creating the stick/floppy, select from Folder Options to view hidden files and delete the file config.sys if present; which may cause recognition issues.
  • On bootable floppies, if the BIOS file is too large for the floppy, use the option Compress the BIN File.
  1. Insert the stick/floppy and turn on the machine. It will start reflashing automatically, and the stick/floppy LED indicator will flash.
  • Generally, if the BIOS is bricked and beeping at boot, no key combos like Fn/Win + F/B/R/K/Esc are necessary. Though YMMV. The key combo might be necessary if the BIOS is still partially functional.
  1. Leave the machine alone, and wait at least 15 minutes after the stick/floppy LED stops flashing.
  2. Reboot the machine. Go straight into BIOS setup, and set the time. The BIOS has now been recovered.

Method 2: Petar's Manual Creation

If you prefer to make the USB stick/floppy without the WinCrisis tool, try this method. Obviously, there might be more issues along the way.

The Tools

The Procedure

  1. Download the latest ThinkPad BIOS for your machine, from the Lenovo website.
  • Make sure to "Install" the files to an easily accessible folder, like the Desktop.
  1. Use e_bcpvpw.exe to unpack the .FL1 packed BIOS. Rename it to BIOS.WPH.
  • Unpacking might not be necessary, as described here. But on older machines, WinFlash16 requires uncompressed BIOS files, so YMMV.
  1. Use the HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool to format the USB stick/floppy to FAT16.
  2. Copy the file BIOS.WPH to the root of the USB Stick/floppy.
  • When creating the stick/floppy, select from Folder Options to view hidden files and delete the file config.sys if present; which may cause recognition issues.
  1. Insert the stick/floppy and turn on the machine. It will start reflashing automatically, and the stick/floppy LED indicator will flash.
  • Generally, if the BIOS is bricked and beeping at boot, no key combos like Fn/Win + F/B/R/K/Esc are necessary. Though YMMV. The key combo might be necessary if the BIOS is still partially functional.
  1. Leave the machine alone, and wait at least 15 minutes after the stick/floppy LED stops flashing.
  2. Reboot the machine. Go straight into BIOS setup, and set the time. The BIOS has now been recovered.

Sources

BA Logo

Blog Posts

News

Misc

Personal Groundbreaking Projects

Useful Tools

Strange New Devices

Devices that Time Forgot

Refurb Log

Open-Source Hardware

  • Libreboot/Coreboot
  • HPLIP Printers - A massive family of common and cheap printers, that you can probably find from the junkyard. Most of them use open source drivers, and all work out of the box with Linux and HPLIP. Great for printing Bitcoin paper wallets.

Vintage Computing

Experimental Projects

Tips and Tricks

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