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Dell and Alienware BIOS updates break PCs, get recalled

Alienware and Inspiron desktop owners beware

A recent round of BIOS updates for Dell and Alienware systems has turned out to be something of a bad batch. As first spotted by Bleeding Computer, multiple owners of Dell-made PCs – including the Alienware Aurora R8 and Inspiron 5680 gaming desktops, as well as the Latitude 5320 and 5520 business laptops – started developing big problems after installing the new BIOS versions. Failed boots, mainly, which of course makes it harder to apply potential fixes.

One Aurora R8 owner, for instance, reportedly got stuck in an infinite crash loop after what initially appeared to be a routine BIOS update. At least one Inspiron 5680 also failed to boot correctly almost immediately after the update was downloaded. Yikes.

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The problem children appear to the 2.8.0 BIOS version for Inspiron desktops and version 1.0.18 for Alienware systems, with version 1.14.3 causing similar issues for Latitude laptops. If you have a potentially vulnerable Dell system, and have already downloaded the “critical updates” that include one of these latest BIOS versions, you should probably roll back to an older version ASAP. Rolling back also seems to fix any issues once they show up, provided you can access the BIOS amid all the failed boots.

Dell haven’t given an official explanation for the spate of problems, which do sound like new bugs rather than long-standing issues with the hardware, though they have pulled the Alienware 1.0.18 update and the Latitude 1.14.3 update so they can’t fudge up anyone else’s rigs. At the time of writing, the most recent BIOS versions available to download are the 1.0.17 and 1.13.0 versions respectively. The 2.8.0 BIOS for Inspiron PCs is still listed on Dell’s support site, however – lucky the previous one are also available by clicking “Older versions”.

It’s easy to dunk on prebuilt PCs when the DIY building route tends to offer more value (and, frankly, is more fun). Manufacturer updates that put the entire system temporarily out of commission probably won’t help with that kind of perception. Even so, prebuilds can have their uses: with it being so difficult to find GPU stock at the moment, buying an entire system is one of the more reliable ways to secure yourself one of the best graphics cards.

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