How to Update Firmware for Your Electronics
Computers are not the only electronic devices that can be updated. Televisions, Blu-ray players, cameras, printers, phones and gaming consoles can all benefit from a firmware update, a typically small data program that adds new features and functionality to the device. Even today's automotive electronics can be updated with firmware. Best of all, these updates are usually free.
Knowing when a firmware update for your device is available can be a challenge. An owner may not be aware of the availability of an update until a new component like a printer or Blu-ray player is added to a system and does not work as expected. If you're faced with what could be a compatibility problem, check for a firmware update on the older components that are connected to the new device.
Firmware is delivered through an Internet connection. Some manufacturers release firmware updates on a regular schedule, but others do it on an "as needed" basis. It's best to take the initiative and determine whether upgrades are available for each of your devices.
First, determine the version of firmware running on your device. This information may be contained in the device's settings menu that may be on the device or displayed on a TV or computer monitor connected to the device.
For example, for the Nintendo Wii , click on "Wii options" on the menu screen on your TV, then click "Settings" indicated by the wrench icon, and the firmware version number will appear in the upper right corner. Compare your device's version number with the most recent version by doing a quick online search using the device name with "current firmware" or visit the manufacturer's Web site.
Sometimes updates are delivered directly to your device. The firmware may be automatically installed or may require your approval. Samsung offers LiveUpdates for computers with Samsung optical drives. Once the LiveUpdate program is installed, firmware updates will be installed automatically.
Updates may be found within the device menu itself. Sony Bravia TVs provide access to support from the menu screen called the TV Home Menu/XMB, which stands for Xcross Media Bar. Select the suitcase icon for product support where you will find a listing of available updates and instructions for download.
Frequently, it may be up to you to find them. Go to the device manufacturer's Web site. Updates are usually found under the support section in a product category.
It's a good idea to research updates before you install them. You may discover firmware benefits that were not publicized by the manufacturer. On April 22, Sony issued a firmware update that provides real 3-D functionality for the PS3 gaming console , but must be used with a Sony 3-D TV, scheduled for release this June. The update also enabled the PS3 to be played on future compatible Sony Vaio computers, a feature that won't be announced until next month.
Firmware and related upgrades have occasionally been known to create more problems than they solve. For instance, last fall BlackBerry simultaneously updated its servers and issued new firmware to customer devices. The two actions were incompatible and disrupted email for all customers in North America. Within 24 hours, BlackBerry issued a new update that fixed the problem. But some "buggy" updates can linger in the marketplace for longer periods of time.
You can avoid this problem by doing a search for the manufacturer, product and firmware update under consideration before you start the download. Owners are quick to post problems and manufacturers are usually responsive.
Even the most current updates may not solve some problems. There is no firmware update for older Profile 1.0 Blu-ray models to upgrade them to BD Live, also known as Profile 2.0 Blu-ray players. If you have recently bought a new computer with Windows 7, older peripherals like some printers and digital cameras may not be compatible, and there simply may not be a firmware fix. In these cases, the only solution is to buy a newer, compatible device.