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Wyse Dx0/Zx0 BIOS Update 


 


 

 



Firmware Updates

This site is for those of us who are repurposing thin clients and, as such, have little interest in firmware updates from the manufacturer's site. However the exception to this rule are updates to the BIOS. With some manufacturers (such as HP) the BIOS update is a stand-alone process and relatively simple to carry out. Unfortunately it isn't with Dell/Wyse.

Background

As with all system providers Dell/Wyse have a management infrastructure for their thin clients that includes a mechanism for the deployment of upgrades and/or re-installation of system firmware. The firmware updates (and the installation tools) are packaged in a format particular to the management firmware and, in some instances, to the existing firmware that is running on the thin clients.

Those of us who are who are just repurposing a thin client have no interest in implementing such an infrastructure, and anyway there may also the requirement that the thin client itself is already running a standard build of Dell/Wyse firmware.

As of March 2019 Dell shutdown the old Wyse support site and moved support to a new site. Unfortunately they instituted a policy of limiting the support files to those products that are current. All the files for products that have passed the EOSL landmark have vanished. This can include early releases of the firmware for the current product line. For example, at the time of writing (July 2019), checking the offerings for my Z90D7 I find two possibilities:

  1. Windows Embedded Standard 7 Unified Build for Wyse 7010 Extended Chassis thin client and Wyse 7010 thin client - Build Number 7092
  2. Windows Embedded Standard 7P Build for Wyse 7010 thin client - Build number 0896

Both are for a Z90D7 fitted with 16GB of flash (mine came with 4GB) and one is 10GB download whilst the other is an 8GB download. Somewhere in the download package will be the latest BIOS, but a 10GB download to get hold of a 2MB BIOS file? You must be joking!

However, when looking at support for the ThinOS variant, life is much better as there is an option to download a binary image of the BIOS - a 2MB download, but then again there is no stand-alone tool to write it into the BIOS chip - that seems to be built into the ThinOS client firmware.

Update Mechanism

Having found and downloaded the update file for a Windows based thin client there is then the problem of extracting the BIOS file and getting it installed in the thin client. Here we have a number of options:

  1. Use the standard Wyse thin client management infrastructure. A no-go as far as I'm concerned - why build/install the necessary server to support a one-off eBay purchase running a non-standard operating system?

  2. Use the stand-alone USB firmware update tool, various versions of which can be found on Dell's support pages. The tool will let you pull an image (and/or BIOS) from one thin client and push it onto another, or push a new firmware update. The former depends on you having an existing thin client with the required firmware installed whilst for the latter you need a properly packaged update file.

    In practice I have had limited success with this approach. The last time I used it to update the BIOS on a Z90D7 I did have to follow a specific upgrade path in order to get to the point where I could install the latest firmware. The necessary interim downloads are no longer on the support site.

  3. One way of avoiding the above is to extract just the relevant BIOS programming files and the BIOS from the USB image and run the update directly. This skips the checks that force you to take the intermediate steps.

    One correspondent took this approach but others have had difficulty duplicating his approach.

  4. Finally, if you have a direct image of the BIOS, use a programming tool to program the BIOS.

BIOS programming tools

An obvious approach is to extract the relevant programs from the Dell Wyse software. These tools have the advantage that they are already configured to access/read/write the onboard BIOS chip. However their actual use is undocumented and, in the case of the USB Firmware Tool, the BIOS image files appear to be signed in some way which makes further work if you've obtained the BIOS image from another source.

A software alternative is the Linux program flashrom which, as the name implies, has been written to read/write the plethora of BIOS chips fitted to PCs. Originally, when experimenting with a Z90D7 and a D10D I found that, whilst it recognises the CPU and support chips fitted and it does support the BIOS chip (a MX25L1606E), it just hung whilst trying to find it. This was using a flashrom binary that I had built under Tiny Core 10.1. I subsequently went back and tried again with a version that I had built under Tiny Core 8.2.1. This worked perfectly. Why the 10.1 build doesn't work I don't know - and kind-of don't care as I do have a working version with 8.2.1.

When I was having difficulty with flashrom and its internal programmer that just left some form of hardware programmer. A quick search of the Internet revealed that there was a cheap USB programmer available that supported the MX25L1606E BIOS chip - the CH341A. By cheap I mean only a few $$ if buying from the far east, maybe £5-£10 if buying locally.

Approach

Whereas, after my last look at the situation, my approach to BIOS updates on the Wyse D and Z series was to download the ThinOS BIOS images and to use flashrom along with the (cheap) CH341A USB programmer, it is now to use flashrom without the need for additional hardware.

 


Any comments? email me. Added July 2019    Last update October 2019