Thinkpad x61s: updating BIOS

The Lenovo Thinkpad x61s is an excellent laptop. I have done several things to improve performance: reapplied thermal paste to the cooling fan, installed an SSD… It’s currently running Lubuntu 20.10 and working quite well.

While looking for information on the X61s I found out that the BIOS actually limits the speed of hard disks. There is also a limitation in BIOS on what kind of WiFi cards can be installed. I decided to update the BIOS, and after several attempts, here are the steps.

Tested on Thinkpad X61s.

  1. Format a USB stik to FAT32 (use Gparted)
  2. Use Unetbootin the USB stick bootable, with the FreeDOS distribution
  3. Create a directory called bios/ on the USB stick.
  4. Download the correct ISO image from ThinkWiki: Middleton’s BIOS
  5. Extract the contents of the .rar file
    1. There are 2 directories. I used the ISO in the directory called BIOS update/
  6. Extract the contents of the ISO file in BIOS update/
    1. Right click in File Manager and choose extract
  7. Copy the contents fro the extracted ISO file into the bios/ directory on the USB stick
  8. Restart the laptop and boot from the USB stick.
  9. Select the option: FreeDOS Live CD with HIMEM + EMM386
  10. Enter the following commands at the prompt:
    cd bios
    flash2.exe \u

    (use the dir command to check the contents of the directory)

    At this point I thought I was done, but I received the following error:
    Error 98: Not enough memory

    The following steps resolve the issue:
  11. Restart the laptop, enter the BIOS and disable the setting for memory protection:
    Security -> Memory Protection -> Execution Prevention: Disabled
  12. Save settings, restart and boot from the USB stick.
  13. Repeat steps 8-10.
  14. The process takes a couple of minutes and then the system gives a ‘beep’.
  15. After the beep, there is an error message over the entire screen
    Invalid opcode
    At this point I thought that everything was lost. However:
  16. Restart the laptop, boot from the hard disk, and everything is working fine!

The results are excellent!

  • SSD read rate before BIOS update: 142 MB/s
  • SSD read rate after BIOS update: 277 MB/s

Here are screenshots from gnome-disks, comparing the results before and after update.

SSD performance before BIOS update: 142 MB/s

SSD performance after BIOS update: 277 MB/s

Useful links:

3 thoughts on “Thinkpad x61s: updating BIOS

  1. Hey hello, i am getting error “Error code = 98” on my x61 and Ex. Prevention are disabled in bios. What should I do?

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