Unable to apply BIOS update to DELL PowerEdge 2950 III

This week myself and @richardjgreen lost two days to reclaiming retired HW for the company Exchange 2013 Proof of Concept lab. We were very fortunate to find a pair of retired virtualization hosts fit for the purpose, specifically a pair of DELL PowerEdge 2950 III’s, loaded with 2 quad core Xeons and ~ 24GB RAM per server.


One man's trash is another man's treasure

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure



That took all of 20 minutes (to be fair, I was at an advantage here as I’d retired said hosts). Racking the servers and plumbing in power and Ethernet killed another hour. The other 1.8 days were lost to trying to force one of the hosts up to the latest revision of BIOS. We could upgrade the SAS controller, backplane and DRAC BMC firmware, but the BIOS firmware wouldn’t stick…


DELL BIOS updates will not apply from any OS. The LINUX & Windows updater application(s) will launch and stage the BIOS update, but upon the reboot necessary to attempt BIOS update installation, one is presented with the error “BIOS update failed”, or words to that effect.

If one attempts to update the BIOS from floppy drive, one is presented with the error: Cannot use a “Dell System PowerEdge 2950″ BIOS in a ” – “.

When the BIOS posts, the revision is listed but no DELL logo presents.


The server has been flashed with a custom BIOS. This server was pretty common for appliance manufacturers (by example IronPort) to customise and utilise as their platform. Often, said manufacturers flashed the BIOS with a custom firmware which may restrict available features or more often just removed the DELL corporation logo from the BIOS post screen (yay Marketing). When the BIOS update runs it’s safety checks to ensure it is being applied to the correct HW, it does not see expected identifiers.


Dig into the tomb of Tutankhamun, and dig out a USB floppy drive and 3.5″ floppy disk. Use said relic to create a BIOS update floppy based using the SW available on the DELL site. Revel in the mechanical crunching noises, and wait. A long time…

Boot from this disk, but expect failure as you will see the error: Cannot use a “Dell System PowerEdge 2950″ BIOS in a ” – “

When you are dropped back into the command shell, launch the .exe on root of the drive with the /FORCETYPE switch, forcing the updater to ignore the absent flags

e.g. 2.7.0 BIOS is applied using 020700.exe, so the command would be :

020700.exe /FORCETYPE

Enjoy your re-OEMed BIOS with sparkly blue DELL logo and whatever revision of BIOS you chose to apply.

Of course, you could make your own bootable DOS USB key if you cant find the legacy hardware in your office.

I’m guessing we fell afoul of this one, as this server was purchased refurbished, so was probably an appliance in an earlier life unbeknownst to us. Such is the joys of second-hand kit and credit to DELL for making such a versatile 2U pizza box at an attractive price point.

I only found this guidance on the DELL community forum (thanks Thaq) when we’d gone through a ridiculous number of pointless intervening steps (removing BIOS jumpers, popping CMOS batteries, trying different LINUX distros), so hopefully this blog post distilling said forum thread will put the resolution up the Bing/Google/Bingle rankings a bit.

Of course, I’m very excited about our all reclaimed DELL PoC lab for Exchange 2013/Windows Server 2012 and you will definitely see more posts from me on that over the coming weeks too 😉

There are 11 comments left Go To Comment

  1. KS /

    Thanks, just hit the problem with a used R200 we got in as a replacement backup.

    1. lupoloopy /

      No problem. I had a feeling it would be possible to use the solution on other DELL HW, so the feedback/confirmation is much appreciated.

  2. astrogiblet /

    Thanks! Was trying to figure out how to update the BIOS on the Google Search Appliance I’ve got. This method worked great with a Win98 Bootable USB flash drive.

    1. lupoloopy /

      Awesome! Another HW ‘victim’ confirmed :)

  3. seotuners /

    This is the magic of Refurbished Dell Servers purchases. You can enjoy great device for a fraction of the price, with assurance of top quality.

    1. lupoloopy /

      I’d argue that’s the magic of the proliferation of the x86 server standard The residual value of the kit, irrespective of manufacturer, is pretty poor yet it is functionally near-identical once the vendors pre-launch ‘stuff’ has passed (e.g. HP Intelligent Provisioning). Used HP, Fujitsu & SuperMicro kit doesn’t fare much better in holding its value. I agree with the thrust of your point though – DELL is a great balance between price & quality.

  4. Juice 2 /

    took a usb drive, formatted w/ fat32, put this on it http://goebelmeier.de/bootstick/ (opensource), copied my firmware to flash dir.. rebooted, used /FORCETYPE as recommended, done!

  5. Tim /

    I am having the same issue as you had, however, when i try to load the bios via floppy, i get this error, regardless if i use the /FORCETYPE command or not: I/O error reading drive A. Any suggestions on what to do?

  6. Tim /

    Is there a way to do this without floppy? Iam still having issues with a couple of our servers. i have tried with a floppy but with no luck. any advice would be great

  7. Shawn /

    Me2 in the same situation. My used Dell PowerEdge 2950 III system won’t see a USB thumb drive while booting and also the BIOS boot sequence don’t have an option for USB (thats why trying to upgrade the BIOS hoping to get that feature). Wondering how then it recognize the USB Floppy drive, probably the USB Floppy is much like the USB Keyboard and USB mouse to the system? Can you please recommend what USB Floppy drive that you used and is it available in eBAY to buy?

    1. Shawn /

      Hi I am here replying to my own post. Well I am able to boot using the Dell USBKeyPrepF6 utility and upgrade the BIOS from 2.5 to 2.6.1 and then after from 2.6.1 to 2.7.0. During this BIOS Flash I realized that the server recognize only the USB Created Using the USBKeyPrepF6 software anything else it ignores and also the BIOS Boot sequence option gets automatically populated and only you have to move the USB to over and disable booting from C Drive.
      Hope this helps someone looking for such information.

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