Upgrading the DELL 5100 Inspiron laptop BIOS to fix known issues

Summary: Following these instructions will allow you to update your DELL 5100 Inspiron laptop BIOS from Phoenix to DELL, re-enable F2 and F12 keys at boot, allow boot from CD, fix battery charging issues when the 5100 is running, solve overheating problems, and permit installation of an Operating System from CD/DVD.

About: I have a DELL Inspiron 5100 laptop on which I wished to re-install Windows XP. The first problem I encountered however was that I could not boot from the DELL Windows OEM CD that came with the laptop because I could not press the F12 key at the DELL boot screen. This is because I was using the original Phoenix flash BIOS that came with the 5100, a BIOS version that has many faults of which the following were affecting me:

  1. The F2 and F12 keys are not detected during boot
  2. With the AC connected and Windows running, the battery would not charge
  3. The 5100 would not boot from CD (preventing OS installation and BIOS flashing)
  4. The laptop would crash if it got too hot

To solve these problems you have to upgrade from the Phoenix BIOS to the DELL A22 baseline BIOS, then you need to upgrade to the latest DELL BIOS version (A32 at the time of writing).

The following procedure is the one that I followed and that worked fine for me. Please be careful when following these instructions as I accept no responsibility for any loss or damage caused.


  1. Download the DELL BIOS A22 ISO image and burn it to a bootable CD. (I recommend using Infra Recorder. Start Infra Recorder, select the Actions menu, then Burn Image, select the downloaded ISO image, click Open, then OK.)
  2. Next download the latest DELL BIOS executable from here.
  3. Leave the CD you just burned in your CD drive and power off your 5100 and unplug the AC power supply cable.
  4. Close up the laptop and turn it over and unscrew the two screws holding the hard drive and PCMIA card enclosure in place (looks like a credit card slot with a little push button)
  5. Extract the hard drive enclosure and put it safely to one side.
  6. Connect the AC to the 5100 again and open it up and turn it on.
  7. Follow the instructions provided by the DELL BIOS A22 MSDOS menu.
  8. When your BIOS has successfully been flashed, remove the CD from the CD drive and power off the laptop, remove the AC cable again.
  9. Insert the hard drive enclosure and replace the two retaining screws.
  10. Plug in the AC and power up the 5100, note that your BIOS version has now changed and you now have the F2 and F12 options in the top right corner.
  11. Once Windows has booted, run the DELL BIOS executable program that you downloaded in step 2 in order to flash your BIOS to the latest version from DELL for the 5100.
  12. On your next boot, insert your OS installation CD and press F12 at the boot screen. Select boot from CD.

Your 5100 should now have an updated BIOS and you should be able to press F2 and F12 at boot, plus your power light should now flash showing that it is recharging the battery when the laptop is running, your 5100 should not suffer from heat/fan control problems, and you should be able to (re)install your Operating System.

Notes: Feel free to use a second computer to download the BIOS updates and to burn the ISO to CD .

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Article updated: 12-May-2008

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