Copup and others -- thanks so much for the help here. Coup, do you think you could walk me through this process just a little bit more. I'm kind of confused about how the bio updating works. Are you saying that once my OS is running, I should use an internet browser to navigate to that link and download everything on the page instead of using the CD? Or am I downloading that stuff to a thumb drive or something and then accessing it through BIOS? Sorry for such a basic question.
Second, my motherboard manual says that in order to optimize win7, I need to download a "hotfix" from the microsoft website. I can see it online, but again, I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do. Do I just navigate there and download it? And do I do this before or after I install the new BIOS and MB drivers?
1. Inside your BIOS there is an option to "Upgrade the BIOS". If you select it it will scan for any attached devices: usb memory stick, cd/dvd etc and if it finds the upgraded BIOS file, it will offer to upgrade the Bios.
This doesn't even require you have installed an OS or anything, it works off code built into the motherboard, and while you're inside the BIOS setup, you're working from firmware code, no OS has been loaded at all.
You can do this without any hard drive or SSD connected.
2. Yes, the CD shipped with any mb almost never get changed/upgraded so the drivers and utilities on them are always the initial releases that always get upgraded as real world experience corrects issues etc. You should always go to the mb site and download the latest versions and use them. Don't worry about ASRock's suggestions about Windows 7, after you install it, when you go to update it, it will do everything necessary, ASRock's suggestions are as out-of-date as everything else that gets packaged with any makers motherboard (and most other computer hardware....everyone needs to get used to the concept that pretty much all the software that is bundled with computer hardware is out-of-date in the box...even before you get the hardware...go to the product site and grab the latest drivers...)
The usual order is: First update the BIOS or firmware on hardware you buy (motherboard, video card etc., if possible. Then install your OS. Next connect to the Internet and allow your OS to update and, at the very least, if it's Win 7/8 make sure Windows Defender is turned on and updated so you have minimal AV protection. Then, if you had no other way to already have the updated drivers for your mb, grab them and install them. (Windows without any drivers installed will use generic drivers that let your keyboard/mouse, and video operate...more than enough to get to your mb site. After you install all the specific drivers you will have better video and controls, better control of other inputs, sophisticated audio outputs, better ethernet performance, etc.)
Things you can ignore: Many mb include utilities to moderately overclock/ "tune" the mb. If you didn't buy a "k" processor, these are irrelevant. Utilities that say they can speed up booting by setting up quasi-hibernate and other tricks so you can boot back to where you were in 9 seconds. These may turn out to be incompatible with some programs and hardware. I'm old school and prefer stability, I can wait a whole 20 secs every time I reboot, hell on desktops I never hibernate or sleep...period. Utilities that try to help gamers by adding 'tricks' to the standard ethernet driver to "speed things up". Some times these work, and then at best make a tiny difference, often they cause more problems than they solve.