Preparing Your System for Zen 3 Processors


On October 8, 2020, AMD formally announced their new 7nm Zen 3 desktop processor family. These are known as the AMD Ryzen 5000 Series Desktop Processors. These processors will be available for purchase on November 5, 2020. If you are going to build a new system or upgrade an existing system with one of these processors, you need to do some work beforehand. This post will discuss preparing your system for Zen 3 processors. I have more information about these processors here.

Nov 5th Update: I have Amazon Affiliate links for the entire Ryzen 5000 series here. I can’t promise they are all in stock.

Can Your System Use These New Processors?

That depends on what motherboard chipset you have. If you have an A520, B550 or X570 chipset, you will be fine with a BIOS update. Depending on when your actual motherboard was manufactured, it might already have a new enough BIOS version so that you won’t even need a BIOS update. This is very unlikely at the time of writing (October, 2020), but will be more likely as time goes on.

If you have an older B450 or X470 chipset motherboard, it will probably be supported by a beta BIOS by January 2021. You should check with your motherboard vendor to verify which models will have Zen 3 support and when it is available.

Preparing Your System for Zen 3 Processors

Here is what you have to do, depending on your situation.

BIOS Updates for Ryzen 5000 Series Processors

Upgrading An Existing System

If your motherboard chipset supports Zen 3 processors, then you need to check the current version of your BIOS. You can easily do this with CPU-Z, where it will show up on the Mainboard tab.

ASRock X570 Creator BIOS Version in CPU-Z

In my case, I have BIOS version 3.00 from August 27, 2020. You need AGESA version to POST, and AGESA version to get full functionality and performance. Depending on your motherboard vendor and model, you may see the AGESA version in CPU-Z Mainboard tab.

In my case, I don’t see that information, so the next step is the motherboard support site. Here I see that version 3.00 includes AGESA, so I know my existing system will at least POST with a Zen 3 processor. On or after November 5, I will want to get version 3.10 (or newer) installed in order to have full support.

ASRock X570 Creator BIOS Versions
ASRock X570 Creator BIOS Versions

Building A New System

Imagine you are planning on building a brand new system from parts, using a shiny new Zen 3, AMD Ryzen 5000 Series desktop processor. You buy all of your parts, including a brand new B550 motherboard and a Ryzen 9 5900X processor. After putting everything together, you eagerly turn it on. The fans spin up, some lights blink, but it doesn’t complete the POST sequence… Oh no!!!

Here is what probably happened. Your brand new B550 motherboard was actually built in Taiwan in early August 2020. The motherboard has been making its way through the supply chain, and sitting in a warehouse or in a store shelf for a while. It has an older BIOS version that does not support your brand new Zen 3 processor. If this happens, what can you do?

You have several choices, depending on your exact motherboard model and where you bought it.

  • If your motherboard has a BIOS flashback feature, you can update the BIOS with no CPU installed
    • This is the easiest and quickest solution
  • If you bought the motherboard from somewhere like Micro Center, they can probably update the BIOS for you (using an older CPU)
    • They will probably do this for free, especially if you threaten to return everything
  • If you have an older AMD AM4 CPU available, you can temporarily install that CPU and then update the BIOS
    • This is pretty easy, but a little tedious
  • AMD may have a BIOS update program where they send you an old CPU (that you have to return) that you can install in order to update the BIOS
    • AMD has done this in the past. There no word yet on whether they are going to do it again
  • You can just get mad and return all of your parts
    • Hopefully we can avoid that!

The best insurance against this happening to you is to make sure your new motherboard has some sort of BIOS flashback feature. Most mid-range B550 and X570 motherboards will have that feature, but double-check before you buy the motherboard.

This feature is also extremely useful in case you ever have a BIOS update failure at some point in the future. This pretty rare, but it does happen once in a while. The BIOS flashback feature uses a different method to update the BIOS, so it will usually work even if your BIOS is corrupted.

I have a YouTube video that walks you through the entire process of using the BIOS flashback feature on an MSI MAG B550 Tomahawk motherboard. Other makes and models will have a similar process.

Final Words

This may sound scary, but there are multiple ways to avoid or overcome this problem, depending on your situation. This is one small drawback from having the long-lived AM4 socket that has supported four generations of Zen processors.

This post is also very relevant if you are building a new AMD desktop system.

BTW, Zen 3 is the end of the line for AM4 socket motherboards. The AMD Zen 4 processors will absolutely require new motherboards.

If you have any questions about this post, please ask me here in the comments or on Twitter. I am pretty active on Twitter as GlennAlanBerryThanks for reading!

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