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    BIOS:All The Things You Need To Know

    In IBM PC Compatible computers, the basic input/output system (BIOS), also known as the System BIOS, is a de facto standard defining a firmware interface.

    The BIOS is boot firmware, designed to be the first code run by a PC when powered on. The initial function of the BIOS is to identify, test, and initialize system devices such as the video display card, hard disk, floppy disk and other hardware. The BIOS prepares the machine for a known state, so that software stored on compatible media can be loaded, executed, and given control of the PC. This process is known as booting, or booting up, which is short for bootstrapping.

    BIOS programs are stored on a chip and are built to work with various devices that make up the complementary chipset of the system. They provide a small library of basic input/output functions that can be called to operate and control the peripherals such as the keyboard, text display functions and so forth. In the IBM PC and AT, certain peripheral cards such as hard-drive controllers and video display adapters carried their own BIOS extension ROM, which provided additional functionality. Operating systems and executive software, designed to supersede this basic firmware functionality, will provide replacement software interfaces to applications.



    THE BIOS
    The BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) is a program held on a small ROM chip on your motherboard. It provides the instructions for what your PC should do as soon as it turns on. Your BIOS is independent of your Operating System, which means it is not directly affected by the operating system you use, or which driver version you've installed, or what your settings are in Windows for example. The BIOS supersedes all of that, and your drivers and operating system will load after the BIOS has loaded up. The BIOS controls a range of hardware-related features and is the middle-man between your CPU and other devices.



    If there is an incorrect setting in your BIOS - that is a setting which is not optimal or correct for your hardware configuration - then you will have problems regardless of what you change in Windows, or which driver versions you install. Importantly, the BIOS is best configured correctly before installing Windows, as
    this reduces the number of unnecessary services and drivers which Windows may install, and helps reduce the potential for IRQ conflicts which is discussed further below.

    Name Of Some Common BIOS Manufacturers
    American Megatrends
    Insyde Software
    Phoenix Technologies
    Byosoft
    VIA



    POST SCREEN
    As your BIOS starts to load, the first thing it does is the Power-On Self Test (POST), a diagnostic program which quickly checks your components and makes sure everything is present and working OK. The POST sequence is usually extremely fast; you will only really notice it if it stops when encountering an error. POST error messages can be a bit obscure, but usually give you a lead as to where to look in your BIOS settings. A quick general guide to what the startup error beeps may mean is this POST Error Codes, but a more accurate description specific to your hardware is usually found in your motherboard's manual.

    If you have no POST errors you will then see your PC's startup screen, which shows such information as your BIOS type (e.g. Award BIOS), the key to press to access your BIOS settings (e.g. DEL or ESC), the type of processor and its speed, RAM amount and RAM test results, drive information, etc. Note that if any of this
    information is incorrect, it may be that your hardware is extremely new and hence not recognized correctly by the current BIOS version; you've overclocked your PC too far; or you have bad hardware or incorrect BIOS settings.


    BIOS SETTINGS
    To access the detailed settings in your BIOS, you typically need to press a particular key (the Delete key for example) repeatedly as your system is booting up. If your BIOS has a password then you'll need to enter it first to access your BIOS settings; if you've forgotten the password, then try this BIOS Password Site. Once in
    your BIOS screen you will see a multitude of settings. The layout of the BIOS, and the names of the various settings vary greatly depending on the particular motherboard brand and model you own, so It cannot
    possibly cover them all here. It may take some time and some research, but it ensures maximum performance and stability. No amount of software tweaking can overcome a badly set up BIOS or resolve BIOS-related problems.

    BIOS UPDATES
    The BIOS is written on a rewriteable ROM chip, which means that it can be updated (or 'flashed') with new information. Motherboard manufa cturers often release new BIOS versions that can improve performance, stability and compatibility, add new features or modify existing features, and fix known bugs. These new BIOS versions are available for download on the manufacturer's website.

    I can't list all the manufacturer websites here, as there are far too many however if you have a look through your motherboard manual you should see a relevant link to the appropriate website. Download the latest BIOS for your exact motherboard brand and model number and follow the instructions on the site to Flash (reprogram) the BIOS chip on your motherboard with this new BIOS version. A word of warning: flashing the BIOS is not to be ta ken lightly. If something does go wrong then your PC may not boot up and you may have to take your motherboard to a dealer to have the memory chip replaced. While this is rare, when updating your BIOS make sure you follow the instructions provided to the letter.

    FIRMWARE UPDATES
    Your motherboard is not the only device which has a BIOS. Many components, indeed most major electronic equipment like TVs and DVD players have their own inbuilt BIOS chips. The software on these chips is typically referred to as Firmware, and all firmware can be updated using the correct equipment and
    software. For consumer electronic equipment this is usually done by a qualified technician, but for PC components, it can be upgraded in much the same way as flashing your BIOS. You will need to check your manufacturer's website for more recent versions of the BIOS/firmware you require, and any specific
    instructions or software necessary. The most common firmware updates are for CD/DVD drives. If you want to find out more about these updates, see this Firmware Page. A firmware upgrade can help resolve problems like difficulties reading from a particular disk type, 'disk not detected' errors, and other issues. Just
    like BIOS flashing it involves an element of risk, so please read any instructions carefully before proceeding.

    The motherboard BIOS is a critical component of the PC which is often overlooked, so I urge you to take the time to become more familiar with your own BIOS, and to configure it correctly. Of course if you are not sure what a setting in the BIOS does, do not change it from its default. If necessary, contact your hardware
    manufacturer for more details.



    Complete List of BIOS Manufacturer Web Sites


    2TheMax http://www.2themax.com/

    Abit http://www.uabit.com/

    Acer http://www.acer.com/

    ALI (Acer Laboratories) http://www.ali.com.tw/eng/about/index.htm

    AME Group http://www.amegroup.com.au/

    American Megatrends http://www.megatrends.com/ http://www.ami.com/support/

    Antec http://www.antec.com/

    Aopen http://www.aopen.com.tw/

    ARI Service http://www.ari-service.com/

    ASUS http://www.asus.com.tw/

    Award http://www.award.com/

    Bare-Bone http://www.bare-bone.com/

    Biostar http://www.biostar-usa.com/

    Commate http://www.tcommate.com.tw/

    Compaq Computer http://www.compaq.com/
    Computer Technology http://www.ctlcorp.com/

    Computex http://www.computex.com.tw/

    Data Expert (Expert Media) http://www.dataexpert.com.tw/

    Dell Computer http://support.dell.com/

    DFI (Diamond Flower Electric Instrument) http://www.dfi-acp.com.tw/

    Diamond Multimedia http://www.diamondmm.com/

    Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) http://www.compaq.com/

    Elitegroup Computer Systems http://www.ecsusa.com/

    Famous Technology http://www.magic-pro.com/

    FIC http://www.fic.com.tw/

    Flexus http://www.flexus.nl/

    Fujitsu http://www.fujitsu.com/

    Gateway http://www.gateway.com/

    Gemlight http://www.genicom.com/

    IBM http://www.ibm.com/products/us/

    Intel http://www.intel.com/

    Jamicon http://www.jamicon.com/

    Jetway http://www.jetway.com.tw/

    J-Mark http://www.jmark.com/

    Koutech http://www.koutech.com/

    Matsonic http://www.matsonic.com/

    Micron http://www.micron.com/

    MicroStar http://www.msi.com.tw/

    Mylex http://www.mylex.com/

    NEC http://www.nec-computers.com/

    NCR http://www.ncr.com/

    Packard Bell http://www.packardbell.com/

    PC Partner http://www.pcpartner.com/

    PC Chips http://www.pcchipsusa.com/

    Phoenix http://www.phoenix.com/

    Pine Group http://www.pinegroup.com/

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