Question MSI B450M Mortar - Bricked, or is there still hope?

Jan 1, 2022
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Hi folks,

This may be a long post so bear with me. I was out shopping the other day and had an impulse buy moment, so I purchased the Ryzen 5 5600x to upgrade from my Ryzen 5 3600. I had previously looked into this and knew this wasn't a massive upgrade, but I guess I was greedy and wanted to treat myself for new year since I had the budget. I will include my full specs further below.

When I got home, I proceeded to swap out my 3600 for the 5600x straight away. After swapping it out, the EZ Debug Light for the CPU came on, and that was the point when I realised I should have checked for my motherboard (MSI B450M Mortar) for compatibility and updated my BIOS and I felt like a complete idiot. After a bit of research, I found out on the MSI forums that the latest BIOS version of this board did indeed provide support for the 5600x, even though the BIOS was a beta version.

The B450M Mortar has a BIOS Flashback option, so I figured I can update the BIOS this way and everything would be fine. Initially, I tried this with all components installed, but I had issues updating the BIOS as I got three red flashes and nothing further, however after formatting and trying several USBs with MBR and FAT32 as recommended by a number of folks I eventually seemed to have the BIOS updated with flashing red lights for ~10 minutes, followed by the system restarting.

Despite this, the EZ Debug red light remained steady and indicated an issue with the CPU, and I could not get the system to POST whatsoever. So I tried several troubleshooting steps (which I will list below), however, I have nothing but a black screen and the EZ Debug light. What's even worse is that I have tried to pop back my 3600 which I had been using for 2+ years, and I encountered the same issue with that one. I was hoping I could post with the old CPU and try updating from within the BIOS, but nope. I highly doubt that I have damaged either of the CPUs, as I checked for bent/broken pins but everything looks good to me, and I was very careful in terms of preventing static discharge while working on the desktop.

At this stage, I am wondering if my motherboard is bricked and whether or not there is anything else I can try, or if I will need to get a new motherboard. The fact that neither CPU works as of now makes me think this is the case, but I'd love to hear your thoughts. Please let me know if anything isn't clear!

Specs

Mobo: MSI B450M Mortar
CPU: Ryzen 5 3600 (as mentioned in the post, I got the Ryzen 5 5600x to upgrade to)
GPU: MSI RTX 2070 Super Ventus OC 8GB GDDR6
RAM: HyperX Predator DDR4 3200MHz CL16 16GB Kit (2x8GB) - XMP Profile 1
PSU: Corsair RM 850 W 80+ Gold Fully Modular ATX PSU
Storage: WD SN750 1TB NVMe SSD with Heatsink

What I've Tried So Far
  • Updating BIOS using MSI BIOS Flashback+, both with and without all components installed
  • Trying 4 different USB drives, both old and new
  • Using BOOTICE to format/repartition USBs after each BIOS Update attempt
  • Clearing CMOS both by shorting JBAT1 and by removing the CMOS Battery, both before and after BIOS updates
  • Ensuring USBs used for BIOS Flashback were all formatted as FAT32, MBR partitions, with all BIOS files renamed to MSI.ROM (extension changed) as instructed on the motherboard manual
  • Ensuring both the old and new CPUs were seated correctly
  • Ensuring there are no loose cables
  • Trying to roll back BIOS to the older, stable version that I was using with my R5 3600
  • Trying to revert to older BIOS versions (seemingly successful, but still didn't POST)
  • Trying to boot with only 1 RAM stick
  • Allowing the system to stay up and running for a bit in case the BIOS/RAM needs training to recognise change in components etc
  • Checked both old and new CPU for broken/bent pins etc, both look pretty good to me and I highly doubt I'd damage both CPUs to such a degree that I can't post on either, but could be wrong?
As mentioned above I feel like I've tried pretty much everything and I feel like there are no options left but to get a new motherboard and assume this one is bricked, but I may be missing something, and I really hope someone can help. At this stage I wish I hadn't gone for the greedy impulse buy, and I'd be happy if I can just use my 3600 as I was before...

Thanks so much if you've read all of this!
 

DRagor

Illustrious
Technically it is impossible to brick board with flashback - because even if BIOS becomes corrupted you just use flashback to overwrite it again with healthy image. Since you tried it and it still fails, the conclusion would be something else failed during your update attempts.
What's left? Final attempt: disconnect everything. Flash last non-beta BIOS. Install 3600, cooler, 1 stick of RAM and GPU. Pray. Start the PC. If that fails your best shot is to take mobo to repair shop and let them try to run it. While I agree the problem most likely lies in motherboard it CAN be something else, and going straight for new mobo only to find out it still does not work would be huge pain in you know where.
 
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Technically it is impossible to brick board with flashback - because even if BIOS becomes corrupted you just use flashback to overwrite it again with healthy image. Since you tried it and it still fails, the conclusion would be something else failed during your update attempts.
What's left? Final attempt: disconnect everything. Flash last non-beta BIOS. Install 3600, cooler, 1 stick of RAM and GPU. Pray. Start the PC. If that fails your best shot is to take mobo to repair shop and let them try to run it. While I agree the problem most likely lies in motherboard it CAN be something else, and going straight for new mobo only to find out it still does not work would be huge pain in you know where.
Thanks, in a way it's relieving to know that it's not possible to brick the board with flashback, but at the same time that makes me wonder what else could go wrong, unless I've somehow managed to ruin both CPUs or something.

I will try once again to flash the last non-beta BIOS and use 1 stick of RAM with the 3600.

Just a few questions: when you say disconnect everything, do you mean, literally everything including all cables etc or just the main components and then pop them back on? Does it normally make a huge difference to have all components disconnected while using flashback? Also, shall I reconnect M.2 after the flash and before I start PC again?

Lastly, when I flash BIOS using flashback, once the red flashing lights are done, the PC turns off and back on again - is it safe to assume update is complete once red lights are gone and PC has restarted? I was wondering if perhaps the restart is also a part of the update process and maybe it needs more time to complete everything and should shut itself off once bios update is done?
 
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This motherboard?

https://download.msi.com/archive/mnu_exe/mb/E7B89v1.4-GSE-LITE.pdf

[Do confirm that I identified the correct motherboard.]

Review and read through the User Manual before doing anything else.

Double check all connections and configurations.

Pay close attention to all fine print and caveats.

However, note on physically numbered Page 28:

"Always insert memory modules in the DIMMA2 slot first "
Hi, yes that is the correct motherboard. I have gone through the manual and followed it as is. I'm pretty sure I always inserted the DIMMA2 slot first, but will pay more close attention to this as I follow DRagor's advice above.
 

DRagor

Illustrious
Just a few questions: when you say disconnect everything, do you mean, literally everything including all cables etc or just the main components and then pop them back on?
Absolutely everything. It's to make sure no other component messes up with the startup (even a single failed case fan could stop the board from posting). After the flashback, connect only devices I listed plus cables necessary to run them.
is it safe to assume update is complete once red lights are gone and PC has restarted?
All the manual has to say on the matter is: The LED will be turned off when the process is completed. So don't pay attention to restart(s), pay attention to LED.
 
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Absolutely everything. It's to make sure no other component messes up with the startup (even a single failed case fan could stop the board from posting). After the flashback, connect only devices I listed plus cables necessary to run them.

All the manual has to say on the matter is: The LED will be turned off when the process is completed. So don't pay attention to restart(s), pay attention to LED.
Thanks for the tips so far. Sadly, I've just followed the above and I still have the EZ Debug LED for the CPU as a solid red light :/

I guess I am out of options at this stage? Would it be worth trying a different RAM stick, even though the debug light indicates an issue with the CPU?
 
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Thanks so much if you've read all of this!
I agree it can't really be bricked if you can flash it with the flashback, the only problem is the flashback process is so darn picky. Rather than go through the steps...here's probably the best video on using MSI's flashback process. It's a different board, but it works the same. Seeing him do it may clue you into something you might have missed. Rather than assume it can't matter, try to replicate his setup (things that are installed on the board) as closely as possible.
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwyQ0Sfz_aw


I've also got a B450m Mortar (not the MAX). It's worked well for me, but I can confirm it can be really dicey when it comes to the BIOS Flashback. Runs all the way from being super picky about the USB drive used to how you prepare the file. Even if you've already tried 4...you may just not have the right type. I use an old 512MB USB1.5 stick I had laying around, formated in FAT32 of course. It always works for me.
 
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I agree it can't really be bricked if you can flash it with the flashback, the only problem is the flashback process is so darn picky. Rather than go through the steps...here's probably the best video on using MSI's flashback process. It's a different board, but it works the same. Seeing him do it may clue you into something you might have missed. Rather than assume it can't matter, try to replicate his setup (things that are installed on the board) as closely as possible.
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwyQ0Sfz_aw


I've also got a B450m Mortar (not the MAX). It's worked well for me, but I can confirm it can be really dicey when it comes to the BIOS Flashback. Runs all the way from being super picky about the USB drive used to how you prepare the file. Even if you've already tried 4...you may just not have the right type. I use an old 512MB USB1.5 stick I had laying around, formated in FAT32 of course. It always works for me.
Thanks Drea, this was actually one of the videos I followed but I just watched it again to make sure I wasn't missing anything. I will try and see if I can find any other USBs to try. It does in the video state that the motherboard could be bricked if you use flashback with components installed, so I am wondering if this might have happened to me to be honest. Because the very first flashback I did I ran with components installed rather than on the barebone motherboard - any thoughts on that?

At this point I've tried the flashback so many times, both with and without components. I am open to trying it again with a different USB etc if I can find one, but if the previous flashback attempts didn't work with the USBs I had, would I get the whole red light flashing sequence with the USB exactly as in the video you shared? It seemed to be updating with the latest USBs I tried...

I am also wondering if it is really worth removing every single component and cable each time I try the flashback feature as it is starting to feel like quite tedious at this stage. I'm kinda losing hope. It just seems so silly though, I have two CPUs and both seem fine, one was in use for over 2 years up until I popped in the new 5600x and tried flashback... I just don't see what could have gone so wrong and how it seems to be something that I can't recover from in any way.
 
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the very first flashback I did I ran with components installed rather than on the barebone motherboard - any thoughts on that?
...
I thought that to be a sort of absolute worst case scenario. All I know is the three times I've flashed back with it I had the GPU and drives installed...it worked each time. I know duplicating his setup may be best though, but I'm more inclined to blame the USB drive since I know it's so picky about that.

Oh yes, and also impatience. It can take a long time sometimes, so be patient. I've seen where some people had to wait up to 10 minutes before it finishes.

You might also contact MSI's tech support. If you can't get it to update they may take it back and do it under warranty...if your warranty is still in effect.
 
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I thought that to be a sort of absolute worst case scenario. All I know is the three times I've flashed back with it I had the GPU and drives installed...it worked each time. I know duplicating his setup may be best though, but I'm more inclined to blame the USB drive since I know it's so picky about that.

Oh yes, and also impatience. It can take a long time sometimes, so be patient. I've seen where some people had to wait up to 10 minutes before it finishes.

You might also contact MSI's tech support. If you can't get it to update they may take it back and do it under warranty...if your warranty is still in effect.
So I just tried with a 5th USB, this time one which I know is older and is actually 1GB only. I've basically tried 3 different brands with different capacities including 1GB, 8GB, 16GB, 32GB and 64GB. Still no luck. I guess at this point the best option will be to try and RMA the board, the issue is that there is no service center where I am and I'm guessing it will take a long time for this to be serviced, but I'll try and find out more.

That being said, if I could know for sure the issue is with the motherboard I might just upgrade while I'm at it as I'd like to use the R5 5600x, but as DRagor pointed out it'd be huge pain if I still can't post with a new motherboard... Ugh.

Either way, I really appreciate the help so far!
 

DRagor

Illustrious
At this point after all tests you made the most likely outcome is motherboard fault. That does not mean we can rule out anything else, but then again without more spare parts to test you are unable to narrow the suspects. Plus there is always the chance it's more then one component that failed which complicates things a lot.
Anyway if you contact MSI and tell them what happened I'm pretty sure they will tell you to RMA the board, and I think you should do that. If you need the PC working asap (otherwise there is no real reason for board upgrade) then you can buy new board but only you can decide if that gamble is worth it. I suppose if you buy it at shop that accepts returns it may be worth it - worst case scenario if new board will not solve the problem you just return it.
 
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At this point after all tests you made the most likely outcome is motherboard fault. That does not mean we can rule out anything else, but then again without more spare parts to test you are unable to narrow the suspects. Plus there is always the chance it's more then one component that failed which complicates things a lot.
Anyway if you contact MSI and tell them what happened I'm pretty sure they will tell you to RMA the board, and I think you should do that. If you need the PC working asap (otherwise there is no real reason for board upgrade) then you can buy new board but only you can decide if that gamble is worth it. I suppose if you buy it at shop that accepts returns it may be worth it - worst case scenario if new board will not solve the problem you just return it.
Thanks for the tips, I'm trying one last time to flash with everything disconnected, after which I plan to take out CMOS battery for ~30 mins, and then I will also test with an older stick of RAM to boot once its done. If that fails, I will look into RMA but with where I am located, I think this process will take months which I don't think I can do.

I will look into the possibility of getting a new board with the option to return if needed - do you have any recommendations in terms of good mATX gaming motherboards? Right now I'm thinking of the MSI MAG B550M Mortar, ASUS tuf Gaming B550M Plus or Gigabyte B550m Aorus Pro-p. I do think the MSI MAG might be a good option in terms of having less issues booting back after swapping the motherboard without formatting windows, and also the fact that I didn't have any issues with MSI before this one where I feel like it was kinda my fault for not thinking of updating BIOS before swapping CPUs, but could be wrong?
 

DRagor

Illustrious
do you have any recommendations in terms of good mATX gaming motherboards?
Can't really help you with choice (maybe others can) but overall if you were happy with what you had sticking to same model but 550 sounds like solid plan. Just make sure 550 has all the connections you need as the manufacturers quite often change some of the board specs between generations.
I feel like it was kinda my fault for not thinking of updating BIOS before swapping CPUs
Maybe, maybe not. If the board died because of failed BIOS update then the only thing that would be different is that you would know exactly what happened if you did the update before removing 3600. When working with DIY machines long enough something like this has to happen. Accept the loss, learn form it and move on.
 
... Right now I'm thinking of the MSI MAG B550M Mortar, ASUS tuf Gaming B550M Plus or Gigabyte B550m Aorus Pro-p. I do think the MSI MAG might be a good option in terms of having less issues booting back after swapping the motherboard without formatting windows, and also the fact that I didn't have any issues with MSI before this one where I feel like it was kinda my fault for not thinking of updating BIOS before swapping CPUs, but could be wrong?
In addition to the B450m Mortar with a 3700X on it I also have a TUF B550m Gaming Plus. I like them both, but the Asus TUF board has cheap-outs that are pretty typical of Asus. One is there's no VRM temperature exposed for monitoring in utilities, two is you can't monitor DIMM voltage in utilities. And number three is while there are four fan headers they're unnecessarily limited in functioning. Really cheap of Asus at this price point, IMO. Otherwise it is excellent for my 5800X...and I'm sure even a 5950X would be just as comfortable on it with an optimized PBO setup.

Whatever board you get won't matter as far as the need to re-install windows goes. It will either work for you or not...but you'll have to futz with issues in either case. The features chipsets are different...in addition to the main chipset there's things like LAN, audio in addition to CPU VRM and other circuits. The way devices initialize and connect to motherboard resources will be different.

Windows will have to deal with those changes and while it's remarkably resilient and can try hard often times stable advanced functioning gets left behind. Things like power management and sleep settings are frequently messed up so it just locks up instead of recovering from sleep or hibernation as you'd want, forcing a reboot. A clean install is always best if you want smooth operation, but if you're tenacious and don't mind chasing down errors that pop up in the event log you might get along OK.

There's also the repair install with in-place upgrade you could do...not too time consuming and leaves all apps and files installed and in their place. It never worked for me to get sleep and hibernate functions, in particular, to work right though.
 
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Thanks for the feedback and help so far to you both!

Great news though - after my last attempt to flash again with everything disconnected, clear CMOS for 30 mins and change to an older RAM stick, I was able to post. I then swapped out to the newer CPU and was able to boot up with that too. As a last step, I switched back to my newer RAM sticks which I had been using in my system for the last 2 years, and I now have an EZ Debug light for the RAM lit up. I will try posting with only one stick from the newer RAM, but it's very strange because the EZ Debug CPU light has now switched to the RAM light. I'm just happy to see that the motherboard is all good and both CPUs are working fine!
 
Reactions: DRagor
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Your new 5600 might not like the RAM that worked with 3600 lately. Happens with Ryzen. Just don't do any more flashbacks for a while ;)
Yeah, now that I know the BIOS is the latest version and I was able to post with it on both the 3600 and the 5600x, I won't flashback anymore. I seem to be getting issues with one stick of the newer RAM too. Turned off the power supply and unplugged completely and will try again in 10-15 mins. Might also try another clear of CMOS. Any other tips on how this might be resolved? The newer RAM is for sure supported by my motherboard so I'm guessing it's just a matter of retraining the RAM somehow?
 
Yeah, now that I know the BIOS is the latest version and I was able to post with it on both the 3600 and the 5600x, I won't flashback anymore. I seem to be getting issues with one stick of the newer RAM too. Turned off the power supply and unplugged completely and will try again in 10-15 mins. Might also try another clear of CMOS. Any other tips on how this might be resolved? The newer RAM is for sure supported by my motherboard so I'm guessing it's just a matter of retraining the RAM somehow?
Great to hear of your success!

Definitely clear CMOS again. ANY TIME you change CPU or memory, or add or remove sticks, clear CMOS. That forces the IMC to retrain memory and also forces default settings even in locations not exposed for you to make changes.

I've had best success manually setting the DIMM voltage before setting XMP.
 
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The RAM was running base speed or you already enabled XMP? If it's giving you troubles at base speed that it will be a problem.
It had XMP enabled, but that was before this whole extravaganza of replacing CPU, clearing CMOS and flashing BIOS multiple times. At the moment I'm not able to POST with one stick, but on my last attempt the EZ Debug light was off, I just had no picture whatsoever (checked all cables).

Great to hear of your success!

Definitely clear CMOS again. ANY TIME you change CPU or memory, or add or remove sticks, clear CMOS. That forces the IMC to retrain memory and also forces default settings even in locations not exposed for you to make changes.

I've had best success manually setting the DIMM voltage before setting XMP.
I've now just removed the CMOS battery and going to give it around 15-20 mins before popping it back in and replacing the RAM sticks again. Fingers crossed! I'll report back once it's done.
 

DRagor

Illustrious
It had XMP enabled, but that was before this whole extravaganza of replacing CPU, clearing CMOS and flashing BIOS multiple times. At the moment I'm not able to POST with one stick, but on my last attempt the EZ Debug light was off, I just had no picture whatsoever (checked all cables).
That's not good at all. Maybe the RAM is failing and the whole story was caused by it? You do have some other set just in case, right?
 
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That's not good at all. Maybe the RAM is failing and the whole story was caused by it? You do have some other set just in case, right?
Yeah so I have an older set and the newer set which I've been using for a while. I've done some testing, and it's very strange. It seems like the older set of 2x16GB works but only with one stick on DIMMA2, not with two sticks on A2 and B2. The newer set doesn't work either way, regardless of whether it's a single stick on A2 or both A2 and B2. I was wondering if the B2 slot may be damaged or something, so I tried on A1 and B1, but no luck with those slots either. Very strange, but for now I'm running the older 8GB stick on A2 only.
 

DRagor

Illustrious
So looks like only one out of four slots is working, and not even with all sticks, though it did work with newer one few hours ago. And that all with 5600, right? The board has 1H BIOS version now? It is beta version after all, maybe that's the problem. Or it could be your shiny new 5600 has problem. Hate to ask for it after all that you have done before, but to know for sure you'll need to drop the 3600 back there again.
 

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