Photo credit: Étienne Beauregard-Riverin
The Linux Vendor Firmware Service (LVFS) and fwupd turned the troublesome and time consuming activities of updating all kinds of firmware for laptops, desktops, and servers into something much easier. Check your list of updated firmware, update it, and submit feedback for the vendors when something doesn’t work. You can even get notifications right inside GUI applications, such as GNOME Software, that notify you about updates and allow you to install them with one click.
However, not all vendors participate in LVFS and some vendors only participate in LVFS for some devices. I’ve had a small Supermicro server at home that’s been offline for quite some time. I decided to get it back online for some new projects and I discovered that the BIOS and BMC firmware were both extremely old.
This device isn’t included in LVFS, so we’re stuck with older methods.
Update the BMC⌗
The baseband management controller, or BMC, is an always-running component that provides out-of-band access to my server. I can control the server’s power, view a virtrual console, or control certain BIOS configurations from a web browser or IPMI client.
Luckily, Supermicro makes it easy to update the BMC directly from the web interface. Our first step is to identify which board is inside the machine:
$ sudo dmidecode -t 2 # dmidecode 3.3 Getting SMBIOS data from sysfs. SMBIOS 2.8 present. Handle 0x0002, DMI type 2, 15 bytes Base Board Information Manufacturer: Supermicro Product Name: X10SDV-TLN4F Version: 1.02 Serial Number: xxxxxxxxxxxx Asset Tag: To be filled by O.E.M. Features: Board is a hosting board Board is replaceable Location In Chassis: To be filled by O.E.M. Chassis Handle: 0x0003 Type: Motherboard Contained Object Handles: 0
dmidecode for type 2 DMI data should give you the motherboard model in the
Product Name field. In this case, mine is
X10SDV-TLN4F. I ran over to Supermicro’s
BMC List, typed in the motherboard model number, and downloaded the zip file. After
unpacking the zip, I had a bunch of items:
$ unzip -q REDFISH_X10_388_20200221_unsigned.zip $ ls *.bin REDFISH_X10_388_20200221_unsigned.bin
REDFISH_X10_388_20200221_unsigned.bin contains the firmware update for the BMC.
Now access your IPMI interface via a web browser and authenticate. Follow these steps:
- Click the Maintenance menu and select Firmware Update
- Click Enter Update Mode
- Select your
.binfile and update the BMC
The upload process took around a minute and the BMC update took four or five minutes. The BMC will respond to pings early after the update but it will take a while for the web interface to respond. Be patient!
Update the BIOS⌗
If you have the appropriate license for your BMC, you can update the BIOS right from the BMC interface. I don’t have that license. Let’s find another way!
Start by downloading Supermicro’s SUM utility. The software is available after the registration step (which is free). In my case, I needed the second download (not the UEFI one) since my server is a little older.
Now we need to download the BIOS firmware itself. One of the easiest methods I’ve seen
for this is to throw
supermicro X10SDV-TLN4F (replace with your motherboard model)
into Google and click the result. Then look for a Update your BIOS link under
Links & Resources on the right side. That takes you directly to a zip file to
Create a directory (perhaps
bios) and move the SUM zip as well as your firmware zip
file in that directory. Some of these zip files have no directory prefix included and
they will clobber your working directory. 🤦🏻♂️
Unpack both zip files and find the
$ find . -name sum ./sum_2.8.0_Linux_x86_64/sum
Great! Now we need to find the BIOS firmware file. In most cases, they start with a few characters from your motherboard and end in a numerical extension:
$ ls -1 AFUDOSU.smc BIOS_X10SDV-TLNF_20210604_2.3_STDsp.zip CHOICE.SMC FDT.smc FLASH.BAT 'Readme for AMI BIOS.txt' sum_2.8.0_Linux_x86_64 sum_2.8.0_Linux_x86_64_20220126.tar.gz X10SDVF1.604
The BIOS firmware is inside
X10SDVF1.604 in my case. But first:
💣 UPGRADING BIOS FIRMWARE IS SERIOUS BUSINESS. 😱 If an upgrade goes wrong, it may be challenging to get the system running properly again. I’ve recovered from some pretty awful BIOS update failures in the past on most x86 systems, but it was rarely an enjoyable process. Be sure you have stable power for the device, you are running the update inside tmux (especially if connected via ssh), and you have time to complete the operation.
You have been warned! 👀
🚨 Start with a
screen session, always. Seriously. Don’t skip this step.
screen session (which I’m sure you started because you were
paying attention), let’s update the firmware:
$ sudo ./sum -c UpdateBios --file /home/major/bios/X10SDVF1.604 Supermicro Update Manager (for UEFI BIOS) 2.8.0 (2022/01/26) (x86_64) Copyright(C) 2013-2022 Super Micro Computer, Inc. All rights reserved. WARNING: BIOS setting will be reset without option --preserve_setting Reading BIOS flash ..................... (100%) Writing BIOS flash ..................... (100%) Verifying BIOS flash ................... (100%) Checking ME Firmware ... Putting ME data to BIOS ................ (100%) Writing ME region in BIOS flash ... - FDT won't be updated when ME is not in Manufacturing mode!! BIOS upgrade continues... - Updated Recovery Loader to OPRx - Updated FPT, MFSB, FTPR and MFS - ME Entire Image done WARNING:Must power cycle or restart the system for the changes to take effect!
Awesome! My preference here is to power down, wait a few seconds, and power it back up. I’ve had issues in the past with soft restarts after BIOS upgrades on non-laptop systems and I’m ultra cautious.
$ sudo poweroff
Once it’s fully powered down, power it back up using the BMC/IPMI or via the button on the device. If all goes well, you should see a new firmware version after boot:
$ sudo dmidecode -t 0 # dmidecode 3.3 Getting SMBIOS data from sysfs. SMBIOS 2.8 present. Handle 0x0000, DMI type 0, 24 bytes BIOS Information Vendor: American Megatrends Inc. Version: 2.3 Release Date: 06/04/2021 Address: 0xF0000 Runtime Size: 64 kB ROM Size: 16 MB
Perfect! 🎉 I downloaded version 2.3 from Supermicro’s site and it’s now running on my server!
You may want to do some additional (optional) steps depending on your configuration.
I rebooted into the BIOS and chose to load the optimized defaults in case something important was changed in the latest BIOS firmware. This may revert a few of your settings if you had some customizations, so be sure to roll through the BIOS menu and look for any of those issues.