The following will explain what BIOS is and answers some of the most commonly asked questions about

it. It decsribes some things you can do to fix problems that may occur from time to time with your computer system. It also makes suggestions on how to secure your computer system from unauthorized access and what to do to keep your vital information secure and safe. What is BIOS? An acronym for Basic Input/Output System, BIOS refers to the central configuration instructions stored in a computer's ROM. These instructions enable and initiate communication between various hardware components, such as motherboard, monitor, keyboard, and disk drives. BIOS setup screens can typically be entered during a limited window of opportunity after the computer is switched on. Depending on the type and version of BIOS on a computer, these screens offer varying levels of configurability. CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor, pronounced sea-moss) is another term that has come to be used interchangeably with BIOS, even though there are technical differences between the two. Where are the BIOS settings? Because BIOS instructions execute immediately after power-up, it's during this window of time that most computers offer access to their BIOS configuration screens. The most common way to access BIOS is via a certain keystroke entered soon after you switch the computer's power on. The keystroke varies by manufacturer, but F2 and the DELETE key are the most common. If you need to access your BIOS settings, be sure your monitor is already on and ready and then power up the computer and watch the screen for instructions, such as Press DEL To Enter Setup or Hit F2 To Enter Setup. I need to make a BIOS adjustment, but my screen doesn't offer any instructions about how to enter setup. How do I do this? Some of today's computers show only a branded logo screen during the boot process. Although the same startup processes take place, they do so behind the screen in what the manufacturers consider a more user-friendly interface. Look in the computer's manual or on the manufacturer's Web site to find out how to access the BIOS setup screens. Once you're into the BIOS, some of these machines will allow you to choose the type of display you see during the boot process. Look for a setting screen related to boot options. Many manufacturers refer to the configuration that hides the startup commands as Quiet Mode. Disable this mode to see what's going on as your machine comes to life. Why would I need to adjust my BIOS settings, and how do I do it? Because the BIOS configuration defines a computer's core operating parameters, certain changes can be made only in BIOS. Common examples are security settings, instructions that tell the computer how to interact with the installed hard drive(s), and power management modes. BIOS environments, of course, differ by manufacturer, but the vast majority work on similar principles of navigation and adjustment. First, don't expect a graphical environment that you're accustomed to seeing in Windows. BIOS screens interact more directly with the computer's various hardware components without passing through an operating system like Windows that "polishes" the interface for a more visually pleasing experience. The screens are text-based (very reminiscent of the DOS days of old) in a system of nested menus. The main screen will offer access to various submenus, which then

offer a list of parameters that can be adjusted. Virtually all the different BIOS interfaces have easy-to-follow navigation instructions on every screen. The most common arrangement is: F1 displays help. The arrow keys move the selection from item to item. The ENTER key either takes you deeper into the menu system or pops up a list of choices for that parameter. If a pop-up menu of choices appears, the arrow keys will usually allow you to select the desired choice, and pressing ENTER will accept that choice. If a certain parameter is selected and the ENTER key has no effect, that parameter is usually adjustable via the PAGE UP and PAGE DOWN keys or other keys that are identified in the on-screen navigation help. Just as the ENTER key takes you deeper, the ESC key backs you out of menus and pop-ups. F10 is the most common key to save your changes and exit the BIOS system. Again, read the on-screen instructions to understand how to move about in your BIOS screens. Proceed carefully and in an organized fashion. It's also a great idea to only make one or two changes at a time. That way, if a change renders the computer unable to start, it's easier to know which change to reverse. Finally, keep a notepad handy and jot down changes as you make them. This too will make it easier to reverse any changes that don't work out. Can I mess up my computer if I make a mistake in the BIOS settings? In most cases, the answer is no. Changes you make in BIOS can be undone by rebooting the machine and re-entering BIOS. All BIOS sets also offer on-screen instructions on how to return all settings to their factory defaults, usually with a single keystroke followed by a yes-or-no confirmation screen. You can change the boot sequence of your drives with your BIOS settings. There are, however, a few exceptions. The configurability of BIOS settings varies widely by manufacturer and model. Some offer only minimal adjustability. Others offer deep menus of complex choices that can radically affect a computer's performance. The latter is highly favored among serious gamers and other power users because the settings can be finely tweaked to maximize performance. A notable example is the popularity of overclocking. In this adjustment, BIOS settings are configured to pump voltages to certain components higher than the factory standard, thereby driving these components at a faster speed. Increasing speed also increases operating temperatures, however, which shortens the life of electronic components. Many motherboards have temperature-monitoring and alarm capabilities built in as protection against thermal damage, but in the most configurable BIOS sets, these protections can be ignored or even bypassed. Thus, it is possible to make BIOS changes that can lead to physical damage. We recommend extreme caution at this depth of BIOS configuration. Factory standards and recommendations exist for a reason, and a manufacturer is unlikely to repair or replace a product that fails because of such user adjustments. Other deep-level settings found in the most configurable BIOS screens include

IRQ (interrupt request line) assignments, memory settings, and other highly technical parameters. As explained above, you can simply reverse most changes, and the resulting problem goes away. In addition to the thermal issues already discussed, however, it is possible to make adjustments that corrupt hard drives or possibly even other hardware. The safest approach is this: If you don't understand what an adjustment is for and what the results of a change are likely to be, don't make the adjustment. A what-could-it-hurt moment can evolve into a nightmarish mess that could take a professional technician hours to undo. My computer forgets its BIOS settings. What's wrong? BIOS settings are not volatile, meaning you should only have to set them once, after which they're maintained even when the computer is switched off. This is made possible by a battery that supplies the trickle of energy necessary to remember the BIOS configuration, clock settings, etc. If your computer is losing BIOS settings, or if you have to reset the computer's clock every time you reboot, the problem is almost certainly a weak or dead battery. In all modern machines, the battery will be of the flat "button" variety, located on the motherboard, and it should be easy to replace once the computer's cover is removed and the battery located. If you don't see it, check the motherboard's manual for a location. The battery is secured in its holder by a small, springy clip apparatus on top of the battery. Pay close attention to the orientation of the battery in the holder and make a note as to whether the positive side (marked by a plus sign [+]) is facing up or down. Using a fingernail or something small and nonconductive, push the clip outward until it clears the outer edge of the battery and lift the battery from the holder. To install the new battery, be sure it's oriented with the positive side in the right direction, slide the clip back toward the outer edge, insert the battery in the holder, and release the clip. Be sure the battery is secure. Always completely disconnect the main power cord to the computer before attempting this or any other procedure that involves removal of the case cover. How can I make my computer boot from a floppy or a CD-ROM drive instead of the hard drive? The boot sequence is always set in BIOS. Enter the BIOS setup and look for a submenu that references the word "boot." If there is no such menu, you will have to look through other menus to find the setting. When located in other menus, the boot sequence setting is most often found in either the first or second submenu.

Microsoft provides a list of BIOS manufacturers at its Web site, www.microsoft.com. Refer to this list if you need to update your BIOS to a new version. Once you locate the setting, set the sequence as needed. You can usually specify a boot sequence of three different devices. By setting the sequence to Floppy, CDROM, Hard Drive, the computer will look first for a bootable floppy disk. If it finds one, it will boot from the floppy. If it does not find a bootable floppy disk, it moves on to the next entry in the list, continuing the process until it finds a bootable device. If you rarely need to boot to anything other than the hard drive, setting the

hard drive as the first device in the boot sequence will make for a quicker boot because the machine need not waste time checking for the presence of a bootable floppy or CD-ROM drive. Some BIOS sets also have a setting for Enable Floppy Seek On Boot, or something similar. If this setting is enabled, the computer will check for the presence of a floppy drive every time it boots, even if the boot sequence doesn't need the floppy disk. Disabling this setting will shave several seconds off your boot time. How do I enable or disable an onboard device? Today's motherboards often come with a host of components built in that, in years past, had to be installed via add-on cards. Some examples are network interfaces, sound cards, and graphics cards. There are also the standard components that have come standard on motherboards for years, such as serial ports and parallel printer ports. Occasionally, you may find a need to either enable or disable such a device. An add-on modem may require use of the serial port, for example, and may require the onboard serial port to be disabled. Once you enter BIOS setup, use the on-screen navigation instructions to move through the menus until you locate the device's listing and then select the item and make the appropriate adjustment. My hard drive isn't working properly. Can I fix it through BIOS? You will not be able to repair a damaged or defective hard drive in BIOS, but you may be able to correct problems that prevent a hard drive from working properly in your computer. Today's hard drives have capacities that were almost unimaginable a decade ago. With this rapid expansion in storage real estate, a few problems have tagged along, as well. If you have an older motherboard and, thus, an older set of BIOS instructions, you may encounter difficulty using today's monster drives. They can fail to work at all, or they may work but generate errors, or they may work but report an incorrect size in Windows or other operating systems. Here are some troubleshooting steps to follow when encountering hard drive woes:

Go into BIOS and find the autodetect hard drive feature. Run the procedure. If autodetect fails to properly identify the hard drive, find the hard drive's BIOS entry, set its type to Manual, and manually enter the CHS (Cylinder-HeadsSectors) settings from the hard drive's label or the hard drive manufacturer's Web site. Set the LBA (Logical Block Addressing) setting to Auto. Most retail hard drives come with an installation disk. If the other steps have failed, use the disk. Update your BIOS to a newer version. (See instructions below.) Install a third-party hard drive controller that is compatible with the hard drive. Some hard drives come with a free controller card as part of a package deal. Look for a bundle like this to save cash and to ensure compatibility between hard drive and controller.

How can I update my BIOS to a newer version? As operating systems and hardware evolve, BIOS manufacturers often update their BIOS routines to operate more efficiently with these newer components, but BIOS updates are rarely publicized, and consumers often don't realize that such a simple, free procedure can eliminate problems and make a computer run more smoothly and efficiently. If your BIOS "forgets" its settings, you might want to change the battery on the motherboard. It's tiny (the one pictured here is about the size of a watch battery at scale), but use caution when replacing it. Watch your monitor screen as your computer starts up (provided your computer is not set to boot in Quiet Mode) and write down the version of your BIOS when it appears on the screen. If it doesn't display, enter BIOS setup, where the BIOS manufacturer and version number (and in many cases the build date, as well) will appear on the first BIOS screen you encounter. Go to the motherboard manufacturer's Web site and check for an updated version of the BIOS. Do note that motherboard manufacturers often use BIOS chips and instructions from another manufacturer, but the motherboard manufacturer's site should contain either the BIOS update or a link to the site where it can be found. While on the site, also be sure to download any utility program that you will need to install the new BIOS routines along with detailed instructions for the procedure. The process is usually as simple as using the provided utility to create a bootable floppy that contains the BIOS update and then booting to that floppy, but you should be absolutely certain that you read and understand these instructions. Then follow them exactly. While simple, making a mistake during a BIOS update has the potential to render your motherboard inoperable. I made some changes in my BIOS settings, and now my computer won't boot up. Help! First, whenever you're making changes, make them in small doses and write them down so you can re-enter BIOS setup and quickly reverse the changes that caused the problem. In an emergency, however, you should be able to enter BIOS setup and simply restore all settings to their factory defaults. Every modern BIOS provides an option to return to these defaults, with instructions on the main BIOS setup screen. My computer goes to sleep if it sits idle for a certain amount of time. How can I make it stop this? Today's computers often have power management features that operate within the ACPI (Advanced Configuration And Power Interface) specification, a system of operating protocols jointly developed by Microsoft, Toshiba, and Intel. Windows operating systems contain settings that automatically suspend, or in some cases switch off, hard drives, computers, and/or monitor output after a defined period of inactivity. If you don't want these features to be available, look for the power management settings in BIOS, where you can often disable them completely. Conversely, if you'd like to use such features and they are enabled in Windows but not working, you may need to enable the power management features in your BIOS. My computer has a logon password for Windows, but I'd like to make it so that my computer cannot run at all without a password. How do I do that? Within BIOS setup, you can strengthen your computer's security by setting a

password requirement for any operation. This prevents an unauthorized user from booting to a floppy disk or CD-ROM, from which they may be able to reconstruct your Windows password. Enter BIOS and follow the on-screen navigation instructions to locate the screen that contains security settings. Most of today's BIOS sets will allow you to specify passwords at two different levels: User: Typing a user password causes the computer to request a password in order to boot. Once the proper user password is entered, the startup procedure continues as normal. Supervisor: Use a supervisor password to prevent an unauthorized user from making BIOS changes. If you want to protect the computer, I recommend setting both passwords (and using two different passwords). In addition to passwords, some newer motherboards come with a smart card reader and a smart card. Once this feature is enabled, the smart card must be present in the reader's slot in order for the computer to boot. Also be sure to write the passwords down and store them in a secure location (meaning someplace other than posted on or near you computer system. The ideal place would be locked in a location that a theif will not be able to access or find) but a location you can remember. It is also important to keep all your computer files encrypted and not keep vital information, such as social security number, bank account information, phone numbers, addresses, etc stored on your computer system or in a notebook laying around where someone could find it, especially now days with all the identiy theif problems becoming more and more of a problem. created by BobbyR1234 on 4/7/08 and uploaded to http://www.scribd.com

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