The Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook is a fantastic Linux netbook, but the fan has seemed to grow increasingly louder during the past few months. Thinking that a BIOS update might help resolve the issue and produce a quieter fan, the Ultrabook was updated to the latest 2.17 BIOS, but this turned out to be an adventure in itself. Here is the story…
First of all, did the BIOS update make the Ultrabook’s fan quieter? No. The fan is just as noisy as it was before. In fact, the BIOS update, while no doubt a good thing, did not produce any noticeable differences or performance enhancements. The Ultrabook performance appears the same as before, only now, it has an updated BIOS.
Upon the Ultrabook’s original aquisition, the BIOS was immediately updated to the latest version at the time. For most of its life, the S3 Ultrabook’s fan was almost whisper quiet, and it was much more quiet than the fan in the Acer Aspire AO722 netbook. Now, the Ultrabook’s fan is louder than the AO722 netbook.
Updating the Ultrabook BIOS is not as straightforward as it appears. For other motherboard BIOS updates, you normally download a .bin file to a USB, and then update the BIOS from within the BIOS interface. Not so with the S3 Ultrabook because the BIOS update is a Windows executable that must be executed from within Windows 7 or Windows 8.
The astute Linux user will recognize at once what this entails. If you are already running Windows on the Ultrabook, no problem. But if you are using Linux, you had better devote a spare afternoon to updating the BIOS because you will need to completely uninstall Linux, reinstall Windows, run the update, and then reinstall Linux.
Here are the steps:
1. Download the updated BIOS from the Acer web site and save it to a USB 2.0 device.
2. Backup all of your essential data from your Linux Ultrabook.
3. Install Windows 7 or Windows 8.
4. In Windows, run the update from the USB 2.0 device.
5. Reboot to confirm everything worked.
6. Reinstall Linux and restore your system.
Yes, this takes time, so get comfortable!
1. Down the Correct BIOS
Go to http://us.acer.com/ac/en/US/content/drivers and answer the questions to find the BIOS for your particular Ultrabook. There are different Ultrabook models available, so make sure you choose the correct model number for the Ultrabook you have, which is printed on the barcode underneath the Ultrabook.
The latest version 2.71 works. The description that reads “BIOS – UEFI for Windows 8 (Not for Upgrades)” had no effect on Linux. Linux will still install and run after the 2.17 BIOS update.
Save the file to a USB 2.0 device, not a USB 3.0 device.
2. Backup the Current System
Better safe than sorry. Backup your home directory and any files you wish to keep. Windows will stomp all over them in the next step.
3. Install Windows
Windows XP will not work because the Windows XP installation CD-ROM is too old to recognize the newer Ultrabook internals. Windows 7 worked.
The Ultrabook ships with a recovery partition, but that had been removed long ago to make extra space for Linux. It was a good decision.
4 and 5. Install the BIOS Update
Windows 7 did not recognize USB 3.0 devices. Plugging one into the Ultrabook did nothing. Probably because the Windows 7 lacked the proper Ultrabook USB 3.0 drivers. However, USB 2.0 worked fine.
The update is quick. The system will reboot into a DOS-like screen that takes about one minute to update, and then the system reboots back into Windows.
6. Install Linux
With the update confirmed successful, reboot to the BIOS (Press F2 at boot) and verify that the BIOS is set to Legacy Mode. (Go to Boot > Boot Mode.)
You can also double check that the newer BIOS is present in Information > System BIOS Version. It should read V2.17.
There are BIOS modes: UEFI and Legacy BIOS. Legacy BIOS is guaranteed to work with Linux, so set the BIOS to that. Save the changes, reboot, and reinstall Linux from scratch. UEFI is not essential to Linux and might cause issues.
A Few Extra Notes
- The Ultrabook performs the same as it did before.
- The touchpad is the same.
- The fan still runs at full blast most of the time.
- The screen is the same.
- The Fn key combination still does not adjust the screen brightness in Linux, so xbindkeys, xdotool, and custom keyboard shortcuts must still be used.
- The fan was loud even when running Windows 7 before and after the BIOS update.
- Other than a newer BIOS version with bug fixes, there are no noticeable improvements on the surface, so why bother updating?
- It could be that the fan itself needs replacement, and if this is the case, then no software update will help. On the other hand, maybe this is normal for the Ultrabook?
Overall, the fan is issue is not that bad, but it would be pleasant to make it quieter. The Ultrabook is still a good-performing Linux system that is sleek, portable, and light-weight, so it is still worth recommending.
There are several tweaks possible that can increase the S3 Ultrabook’s performance, so please have a look at the the Aspire S3 Guide for more information and ideas. Even thought he model number is different, most of the tips should work. Give it a try!