Skylake NUC BIOS 44 Unleashes NVME SSDs But BIOS Recovery Is Needed


Yesterday I wrote an update regarding BIOS 44 for Skylake i3 and i5 NUCs and how the recent version is supposed to unlock the NVME SSD drive performance, which has been previously limited to 1600 MB/s. This morning I installed the BIOS in my Skylake i3 NUC (NUC6i3SYH) and confirmed that it is indeed true.

I have a Samsung SM-951 NVME SSD drive and it does now reach almost 2 gigabytes per second read speeds and 650 megabytes per second write speed. Note that the 128-gigabyte version has write speed of only 650 MB/s whereas the 256-gigabyte version is much faster. In general I recommend Samsung 950 Pro instead of SM-951.

atto_nuc6i3syh

However, it is not enough to perform a normal BIOS update if you want to unlock the NVME SSD performance! You will need to perform a BIOS update through the recovery process. Here’s how to do it:

1. Take a USB memory stick. Preferably an empty one and formatted to FAT32 format.

2. Download the SY0044.BIO BIOS file from Intel and place it directly on the root of the USB stick.

3. Safely eject the USB stick.

4. Power off your NUC and disconnect the power cable.

5. Remove the bottom cover of your NUC and locate the yellow BIOS security jumper next to the memory modules. See the picture below.

The BIOS security jumper in its normal position.

The BIOS security jumper in its normal position.

6. Note the exact position of the yellow jumper on the pins before removing it. Once you have removed the jumper from the pins, close the bottom cover.

7. Insert the USB stick into one of the USB ports (I used one of the front ports, but it should not matter).

8. Start the NUC.

9. Wait patiently! You should get a notice on the screen about BIOS recovery starting in a while. You don’t need to touch anything, just wait. When the BIOS recovery is in progress, the power LED will blink. It is extremely important you do not interrupt this process, otherwise you might brick your NUC.

10. When the BIOS recovery has finished, the power LED stop blinking and it is indicated on the screen that the BIOS update is complete. Press power button now to power off.

11. Open the bottom cover, and replace it on the same two pins it was linking prior to being removed in step 6 above (see photo). Then replace the cover.

12. Power up the NUC, press F2 to enter BIOS and then restore the default settings (F9). Save and exit.

You’re done! If you don’t want to take my word for it, here’s Intel’s BIOS update instructions still.

36 Responses

  1. Paweł says:

    We’ve seen it first on nucblog.net!
    🙂
    THANK YOU

  2. evangelos says:

    I would never have guessed that different methods of BIOS update lead to different results.
    What is the logic here?

  3. Schraubenzieher says:

    There are at least 3 methods to do a BIOS recovery. 1) Via jumper as shown 2) Recovery menu (press and hold the power button for about 3 secs until the power led flashes yellow, release) 3) F4 on BIOS splash screen
    You have chosen the most complicated of the three. Why?

    • Olli says:

      Well, this was the only method that Intel calls “BIOS Recovery” in their document linked. The one you mention is called “Power Button Menu Update” and the Internet discussions I read indicated that the jumper method should be used. Maybe the alternative methods work as well – would be great if someone can confirm! No need to do things more difficult than need to be…

      • Schraubenzieher says:

        The power button menu and the BIOS splash screen both have options for “BIOS update” as well as for “BIOS recovery”. IIRC recovery is F4 in both. I would guess that the recovery is just that. The jumper method, I think, is only there in case the system doesn’t start up at all anymore. My guess it the jumper forces a different flash boot partition.
        In any case all the methods to do a recovery flash *should* do the same. Other wise Intel should really explain the differences between the several methods to flash an update.

        • Olli says:

          There’s no F4 recovery option in the splash screen for me, but holding the power button brings up the power button menu, where you can enter the recovery by pressing F4.

          But yes, if anyone can try out that method of upgrade and report back, I can then update this instruction if that way brings the desired result. I don’t want to try to downgrade my BIOS, as Intel specifically warns against it and the Skylake NUC BIOS track record is not the cleanest…

          • Pantsless says:

            That’s because the F4 prompt line is disabled by default, you can reenable it in the BIOS, and regardless of that, pressing F4 takes you to the BIOS upgrade screen. Doing the jumper song and dance is ONLY necessary if you screw up you normal BIOS flash, and can’t boot at all.

          • kix says:

            For me the recovery through “3 seconds power button” worked perfectly. selected F4″recovery” instead of F7″update”, got 2.2GBps from 950pro.

            In the recovery-update screen there was a new “configuration block” entry, which weren’t there in regular update.

  4. Mark says:

    Intel clearly say there’s a problem with update to BIOS 44 using normal methods, that’s why they recommend doing the full song and dance. After trying the easy way anyway then the full jumper method, I can tell you that the later is the only way to achieve full 2GB/s read speads from my Samsung 950Pro NVMe SSD. Finally!! 🙂

  5. Alex says:

    I, however, am waiting on my Skull Canyon and have a 950 pro sat waiting to go in it so I had nothing to lose.
    I can confirm that the on/off push button method of recovery works too! I tried letting it do an F7 update first which made no difference at all. I then followed up by doing the F4 recovery and my SM951 512GB NVME in my Skylake 6i5 is now giving me healthy 2000/1400 scores in Samsung Magician.
    Bizarrely mine would let me update from a front USB with my SanDisk Pro so I dug out an old USB 2 stick and went for a rear port.
    But everything is fine and dandy. No jumpers needed here.

  6. Robin St.Clair says:

    Might I suggest a couple of small modifications to the instructions. ;-[]

    6. Note the exact position of the yellow jumper on the pins before removing it. Once you have removed the jumper from the pins, close the bottom cover.

    11. Open the bottom cover, and replace it on the same two pins it was linking prior to being removed in step 6 above. Then replace the cover.

    I surmise that Intel has a reason for doing this the most difficult way. I wonder what happens if the jumper is replaced on the wrong pins?

    • Olli says:

      Thanks for the feedback Robin,

      I took a photo of the jumper in its normal position so you can go back and look where it was! But your suggestions are very good, I’ll modify the instruction accordingly.

      However, putting the jumper in the incorrect position does not cause anything critical: according to the technical product specification page 49 it activates the lockdown mode. In this mode you cannot enter BIOS or use any of the F-keys during the POST process.

  7. Brian says:

    Any chance of a YouTube video on the correct process?

  8. Brett Schechter says:

    Directions and the update went well. I have the 256GB 950 Pro, and read speeds did increase to 1900 or so, although IOPS were down slightly. Write speeds have dropped in Samsung Magician, since I last ran the test on April 29th, using BIOS 42. About 10%. Not a big deal, and overall the little box feels snappy!

  9. Made Surya Kumara says:

    I already updated to BIOS 44, but still my keyboard and mouse still freeze randomnly…any solution?

  10. Tom says:

    I already updated to BIOS 44 before reading this article. The only way I get into BIOS recovery is by using the jumper method (nuc6i5syk). There I can start BIOS recovery by hitting F4, but nothing really happens afterwards…maybe this doesn’t work with BIOS 44 already installed?

  11. Patrick Kincaid says:

    Ollie I notice that Intel does not recommend the default settings restore(F9) while you do. Can you tell us your thoughts on that?

    • nucblognet says:

      Hi Patrick,

      It’s a good practice in general to reset the default settings after a BIOS update. It’s not 100% necessary, but sometimes there are new settings added to the BIOS and they don’t always get the default value after an upgrade (there was one episode with BIOS 33 where people lost their M.2 drive due to a certain parameter – F9 helped for that one as well). Sometimes Intel comes up with a “better” set of default parameters that they’ve updated in the new BIOS. F9 will take those into use.

      Of course, if you have modified your system settings heavily, this will reset those settings and you’ll need to go back and change them again. But if you’ve modified the settings that much, I trust you can also make your own call whether to reset to the defaults or not. 🙂

  12. Gordon says:

    I tried a flash from 033 to 044 yesterday using the power button method (then F4) – the new bios was adopted but the drive speed has not changed in the bench marks. I did use F9 to reset, but I have a feeling that the reset did not work because some of my boot settings were carried over…I guess I need to try the jumpers…

    • Gordon says:

      The jumper method of bios recovery didn’t seem to have any effect on the benchmark – I am using a windows NVM express controller – I wonder if this could be the wrong software – can anyone let me know what controller they are using – its mentioned in the Samsung Magician utility. Thanks.

  13. Chip says:

    Performed BIOS update via recovery method and reset values to default via F9. Here’s my ATTO benchmark results with a Samsung 950 Pro 256 GB M.2 SSD. https://db.tt/HRoXMTzM

  14. Robin St.Clair says:

    On the issue of how noisy is the Skull Canyon NUC, I went searching online, as I am still waiting for mine, not wishing to be too far ahead of the curve. I did find a helpful description of how loud it is.

    When playing games or running benchmarks, it was less noisy than a mid-2015 i7 MBP running benchmarks, at other times it was described as silent. Which I foundd encouraging, but whilst the reviewer appeared to know what he was rtalking about, I have not encountered him before.
    The url is – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSG2BxYfGzA
    his unboxng report – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZbmeMFg9ZM
    I found having the noise compared to a “known” existing device helpful, although who knows…..

  15. Erik says:

    I just got my NUC6i5SYK. It had BIOS 28 on it. I performed a normal F7 update, and it seemed to work.

    Am I missing something? Can the update go through and not unlock the full speed of my 950 Pro?

    I’ll be running Kubuntu on it, and, if I can find a benchmarking tool, report back here.

    • Tom says:

      I also have the NUC6i5SYK. Tested the speed with Ubutunu/Xubuntu 16.04 and only get 1.7 GB/s sequential read with my Samsung 950 Pro. As mentioned earlier, BIOS update in recovery mode didn’t work for me…
      Btw, can you report if you also experience wifi problems (occasionally) as reported here:
      https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/linux/+bug/1558252

      • Erik says:

        I reran the update via the recovery/F4 method. Afterwards, I ran some benchmarks using Ubuntu’s “Disks” s/w. I had read spikes above 2 GB/s. Prior read speeds maxed out at around 1.6 GB/s.

        Yes, I have noticed the wireless network connection lost after a reboot with Kubuntu 16.04. This is with only a couple of restarts under my belt.

        It’s funny that the wireless connection randomly fails on the NUC. On my old PC, where the Intel e1000e driver is used, the wired network doesn’t work on any initial boot. I have to suspend/resume to get it working. The is the opposite of what happened with <= 14.04, where it would work on initial boot, but (often) fail after suspend/resume.

        • Tom says:

          I have tested the last days with kernel 4.5 and 4.6. For me only kernel 4.6 seems to fix this problem so far.

  16. Theo says:

    So after two months of Nuc6i5syk, i have only one issues and I’d like to discuss it with you guys here, maybe I don’t know enough so…
    I have my nuc connected to my LG TV via hdmi cable. I run win 10 pro 24/7, setup up screen always on and Bios updated to 44 version.
    With balance mode on power setting with cpu max setting at 99%, Cpu at idle (10 – 13%) stay up to 1.8 Ghz. If i put maximum to 100 % it always run at turbo mode >2,5 Ghz
    Is it that normal? In idle mode how is your cpus?

    I can run CPU at minimum speed (around 400 – 800 Mhz) at idle only with low power mode on.
    But with this profile when I turn on tv I always found no audio and I have to reboot or disable/enable audio device to make audio hdmi works again.
    I read all the threads into Intel forum, I installed beta graphic driver, but the issue persist.

    I tried to change some advance settings into the low power mode without any luck.

    So if I put low power profile to reduce cpu speed and consumption, I have to fight with audio issues when I turn on tv.
    I tried different hdmi port into my TV, and also some program founded around like kdmiyo to restore hdmi connection, but this doesn’t always work.

    Bios energy profiles seems have no influence under windows, so I don’t know to resolve something into bios settings.

    Anyway, please share you experience and thoughts too, thanks

    Theo

  17. Luke H says:

    I’m on BIOS 45 now (NUC 6i5SYK) – using 950 Pro M.2. I did the yellow jumper recovery. How can we tell for sure that I am in the right GT4 link speed? I don’t have Windows on this thing – it’s running KVM (debian).

  18. I was already on BIOS 54, performed the “Power Button Menu Update” (press and hold the power button for about 3 secs until the power led flashes yellow, release, then select F4 for recovery on BIOS splash screen) in order to flash BIOS 54 again. Success, now have reading speed > 2GB/s peaking at 2.5GB/s

    • Luke H says:

      How are you guys testing the speed? Is there somewhere in the BIOS or in Windows or Linux (command we can run?) that we can see if the Link speed is at the highest level?

  1. May 25, 2016

    […] (05/25/16): Intel has just released BIOS v44 which fully enables unleashes the power of your NVMe devices. One thing to note from the article […]

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