Configuring Your Dell BIOS Remotely

9 April, 2011 filed under bios, remote, windows

This past weekend I wanted to experiment with setting up Team Foundation Build on a VM, and I figured I’d do it at my leisure from the comfort of my home.

After connecting via RDP to my office computer, I realized that I had forgotten to turn on Hardware-Assisted Virtualization (HAV) before leaving on Friday. Not a big deal, but annoying to think that my VM could be working 10-30% faster, and that all I’d had to do was change a setting in the BIOS.

I started to wonder if there was some way I could configure my office computer’s BIOS remotely. I looked into a variety of tools, all claiming to give you hundreds of configuration/management options (hardly any of them free, of course). I just wanted a simple tool to do one thing and do it well.

Then I stumbled across the Dell Client Configuration Utility:

Dell® Client Configuration Utility lets you create a stand-alone package that you can manually run on a Dell client computer to configure a BIOS, update a BIOS, or capture BIOS settings inventory data.

Granted, it didn’t let me configure the BIOS remotely, but I could certainly use this tool via RDP.

Some stipulations:

  • The website lists compatibility as Vista x32 and x64, Server 2003, XP x32 and x64. My office computer is running Windows 7 Pro x64, and I encountered no issues, but YMMV.
  • The DCCU webpage lists the Dell models that are compatible with this tool. My model was not on this list, but I took a risk. Again, YMMV.

After installation, it seems that the utility is basically a local ASP.NET website running on port 1000. The interface is completely web-based, and didn’t work properly for me in Google Chrome, so I switched to Internet Explorer:

Dell Client Configuration Utility Overview

The steps to configure your BIOS are rather simple:

  1. Click the Create BIOS Inventory Package button.
  2. A file named inventory.exe will be generated. Run this file. (You may need to run it as an administrator)
  3. A file named TaskResult.xml will be created in the same directory as the inventory.exe. This is your computer’s BIOS configuration, in XML format.
  4. Now, back in the web interface, under the BIOS Settings heading, browse for the TaskResult.xml file and then click the import button to import the settings.

Importing Collected BIOS Inventory

  1. Now the settings should all load in the grid below. Go ahead and scroll or search for the setting you wanted to change (so in my case, Virtualization).

Enabling CPU Virtualization in BIOS

  1. Make the change(s), and then click Create BIOS Settings Package at the very bottom of the screen.
  2. A file named settings.exe will be generated. Run this file. (You may need to run it as an administrator)
  3. Restart your computer.
  4. Your BIOS settings should now be configured appropriately!

Running the HAV Detection Tool, I was able to confirm the change:

Hardware Virtualization Enabled

I just thought this was awesome; I was able to reconfigure my BIOS completely through remote desktop! You can even use this tool to configure a bunch of BIOS settings on several client machines — of course, they should probably all be running the same BIOS version, and you’ll have to run the settings.exe file manually on each machine (perhaps through a logon script).

I doubt I’ll ever need to use this tool again, but I think it is handy to know that it exists. I wonder if other computer manufacturers offer similar utilities?

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