Firmware basics

Can anyone suggest a reference for firmware basics? What it is, how to flash it (and what “flash” means), why it is needed, etc etc.
I run dual operating systems (XP and Linux). Is firmware OS independant?
It seems buying a burner and installing it is just the start of DVD burning procedures.

Firmware is like the BIOS for your computer. It holds all the information a device needs to function. Firmware is not only used for DVD burners but is used on a wide variety of devices. But, we’re talking about firmware for optical drives here so I will concentrate on answering that :wink:

To flash a drive means to upgrade its firmware. The term flash comes from the chips in the drive on which the firmware is stored. This memory is called flash memory because new information can be stored on it, overwriting the old information. How one flashes an optical drive depends on the manufacturer of the drive. For most optical drives you can download an executable file which you can start in Windows and will upgrade the firmware of your drive. Sometimes though you can only download binary flash files and you need an extra application that actually loads the binary firmware file and transfers it to your optical drive. Flashing firmware is not OS dependant but I can imagine not all manufacturers have flash software that supports, let’s say Linux.

Why should one flash a drive? Generally speaking, newer firmware versions add more support to the drive. In case of a DVD burner, a newer firmware version may add more media support or better media support. Sometimes newer firmware versions also add new features (such as the ability to burn Double Layer discs). Generally speaking, the newer your firmware version, the better your drive will perform. Sadly, this is not always the case and some people will say “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Personally, I always install a new firmware version when it’s released and I haven’t had any bad experiences with that… so far :wink:

Hope that answers your question!

Thanks for such a detailed reply. I have a BenQ DW 1640 and have burnt DVDs via WinXP and Linux with success.
If I flash the burner’s firmware via WindowsXP (probably the only possible method) I’m guessing the burner’s firmware will be upgraded for use by WinXP AND Linux, WinXP being used as a means of getting the new firmware to the burner’s chips. Once there, the firmware is ready for use by any application using the burner. How it got there is not an issue. Is this correct?
Can new firmware affect the way software interacts with the burner? For example could flashing the burner cause burning software that worked OK before flashing to no longer work properly? To use a car analogy, does tweaking the engine (flashing the drive) change the way you must send a message to the engine to increase power (software used), or do you just push the same old accelerator pedal as you always did (use same software and still get benefits of new firmware)?

Completely correct. Firmware is stored on the flash chips in the drive itself, so it’s not dependant on the operating system or application you use.

Hmm yes and no. Software will not interact any differently with a drive when its firmware is upgraded but the drive may answer differently. For example: a new firmware may add a higher write speed for DVDR brand A. The software will say to the drive: write at maximum speed. With an old firmware the drive would respong, OK, I’ll use 8X. With the new firmware it may respons, OK, I’ll use 12X. This is of course an example but in short, software will not have a problem with a drive that has a newer firmware version.

Thanks. One more question. If you flash the firmware and then experience unexpected and unwanted problems, can you “unflash” the firmware to get back to where you started? If so, how do you do this?

I’m not sure that I can compare with G@M3FR3@K 's expert answers, but some drives support flashing backwards (to an older firmware), and some do not. When I mean that they do not support it, I mean that thier oem windows flashers will not flash backwards. In most cases you can flash back but it may involve finding a bin file (or extracting it from the executable) and using a flash program in dos to load the older firmware, and or use a hacked windows installer. I know that you can flash back and forth on the benq1620, so I would guess that you could on the 1640.
Look here for more specific info on your drive.
This forum is dedicated to benq users and has lots of info.

Feature of unflashing back to it’s original fw will always depend on drive developer or fw archetecture…in most of the case it will do. Definitely the intention of new released fw is to improve and solved bug problem not to ruin your drives or make it bad. If you encounter any abnormal behaviour on your drive after flashing then something went wrong on your flashing procedure. That’ why extra precaution needed during process of fw update. So it’s better to read the instruction carefully first and information before dealing with and examine thoroughly all changes and benefit.