Should I update my laptop's BIOS?

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Should I update my laptop's BIOS?

Postby MrFlibble » 2019-6-05 @ 18:39

Hello guys, I wonder if someone here would advise me on the following issue.

I have this Acer V3 laptop which has been in use for some five years already. A month ago it froze while running a Linux x64 distro, and had to be forcibly shut down by holding the power button. After that, it stopped shutting down properly.

Here's what happens: it doesn't matter if the laptop is shut down from Windows or Linux, it always goes into this odd state that looks like it's powered down but the battery/power indicator stays on even if the power cable is not attached. Normally the battery indicator light goes off when there's no power, and changes its colour from blue to red if the battery is low; now, it's always blue no matter what. (and the battery will slowly go down if the PC is left in this state)

To make matters worse, pressing the power button alone now does not turn the laptop on as it should, nor does holding it for any time result in completely turning it off (see below). Neither does it awake if a keyboard key is pressed. However if several keys are sucessively pressed before pushing the power button, it will boot as normal. I have not figured the exact keys, I usually press Ctrl+F12 several times; random key combinations also seem to do the trick, but what is certain is that pressing any key once does not suffice.

I have Googled the issue and found two topics that describe similar symptoms:
https://forums.tomsguide.com/threads/my-acer-aspire-e-15-wont-shut-down-completely.121975/
https://community.acer.com/en/discussion/456452/laptop-wont-shutdown-or-sleep
The difference is though that in both cases the users report being able to shut down the PC entirely by long holding the power button, which is not the case with me. Both topics suggest updating the laptop's BIOS may be a solution.

For reference, I have already tried the following methods:
  • remove laptop battery and hold down the power button for 20-30 seconds; it starts up fine the next time I turn it on but shuts down in the same incorrect way nonetheless
  • reset BIOS settings: in the F2 BIOS menu, I restored default settings, to no noticeable effect
  • I tried restoring the laptop to factory defaults (the PC came with an OEM copy of Windows 8) but it reported being unable to find the restore partition; I had the recovery USB I had made from Win8 which I used but it reported an unspecified error after going about halfway through the restore process. So I downloaded the Win8.1 ISO from Microsoft and did a clean install of that (Win8 being discontinued), but so far it has not affected the issue at all
  • I also tried, as per some suggestions, to disable fast boot and hybrid shutdown in Windows, similarly to no effect
  • finally I booted a live session of the same Linux distro that had when the freeze happened from a USB stick, set the power button to shutdown and then pressed it during the session; no effect except Windows didn't like something at startup and auto-fixed that next time I booted it
Acer has a BIOS update for my model at their website and the version number is indeed higher than what is reported by my BIOS. However both the download and some other sources that I Googled strongly warn that a BIOS firmware update is not to be joked with, so I'm kinda in doubts about applying this patch.

I gather than if the problem indeed lies in some BIOS error, then BIOS itself may be reset to correct it. However my model does not appear to have any easy way to do that (like that hole where you need to insert a pin into), and I don't trust myself to actually open the laptop's case and mess with its internals.

Any suggestions? Maybe there is another way to fix that which I did not try (save for taking it to a service centre)?
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Re: Should I update my laptop's BIOS?

Postby AlaricD » 2019-6-05 @ 19:12

The BIOS update package, or the website you get the update from, should have notes on what the BIOS fixes. The BIOS update routine will usually have a mechanism for saving the old BIOS should you wish to roll back.
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Re: Should I update my laptop's BIOS?

Postby BushLin » 2019-6-05 @ 20:32

If the Windows and Linux installations used to shut down fine on your current setup, I don't see how a BIOS update will cure the issue. Seems more likely you have a hardware problem. If the system isn't regularly crashing then updating the BIOS isn't super dangerous but worth doing. Did you try switching from UEFI to legacy boot or checking the boot order as suggested by those threads?
Holding down the power button isn't shutting down, it's forcing a power off; if the drive is writing when you do this then you risk file corruption issues.
Try the manufacturer provided diagnostics. Some laptop glitches are cured by removing all power for 30secs (battery and AC adapter). Try to isolate the issue, e.g. running without the battery. Re-seating RAM and wi-fi card is often done by opening a little cover on the bottom with little danger of messing up. Try running with one RAM stick in the opposite slot to determine if slot or module is faulty... Sometimes the contacts need cleaning.
Screw period correct, I wanted a faster system back then. I choose no dropped frames, super fast loading, fully compatible and quiet operation.
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Re: Should I update my laptop's BIOS?

Postby MrFlibble » 2019-6-11 @ 10:10

BushLin wrote: Some laptop glitches are cured by removing all power for 30secs (battery and AC adapter). Try to isolate the issue, e.g. running without the battery.

Tried both methods several times, to no effect. Switching to legacy mode BIOS caused some additional trouble because it reported no boot device and I couldn't switch back to UEFI because BIOS ignored any keyboard input in this mode except for F keys. I could press F9 to request reset to defaults but it didn't react to my pressing Enter to confirm.

I had to borrow a USB keyboard which worked fine and switched back to UEFI.

In the meantime I realised that I had interpreted the glitchy shutdown behaviour wrong:

When I choose to shut down the laptop via any menu in Windows, Windows recovery USB or Linux, it goes into this state when the battery indicator is on but otherwise it acts the same as being unpowered. Pushing the power button does not turn it on.

Previously I thought that to turn on the laptop, I need to press some random keyboard keys first. That turns out to be not exactly correct. In fact, if I press some keys (maybe one key suffices, haven't determined that yet) and then leave it alone, the battery indicator shortly thereafter goes off, apparently because the laptop itself powers down. After which it can be turned on as usual.

So it's basically kinda like sleep mode or something, except pressing a keyboard key does not wake the laptop up but shuts it down completely instead. Any idea what that could be?

I read somewhere being mentioned briefly that pressing a certain keyboard key on a laptop before pushing the power button selects some special mode of turning it on, is that so? Could this be related to my problem?
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Re: Should I update my laptop's BIOS?

Postby MrFlibble » 2019-6-26 @ 13:54

Okay, here's another thing. It appears that I'm now unable to install a Linux version as a second OS because it invariably fails to install GRUB in UEFI mode. This even applies to that distro I had and had previously installed and then reinstalled on that laptop without any issue.

Any idea what that may be causing? I wanted to check the HDD for errors but chkdsk seems like a very limited tool for that purpose.
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