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The BIOS is a program stored in a read-only memory (ROM) chip that the CPU automatically loads and executes when it receives power. The BIOS program controls the startup process, identifies and configures hardware, and loads the operating system into memory.

  • Configuration settings for the CPU, memory, hard disk, and other hardware components are stored in a RAM chip called the CMOS.
    • The CMOS chip requires a battery to remember the settings when the computer is turned off.
    • You can clear the CMOS settings by temporarily removing the battery or by moving a special jumper on the motherboard.
  • During the computer's startup procedure, you can press one or more keys to open an editor so you can change the data stored in CMOS memory. The key or keys you press to open the CMOS editor depend on the BIOS manufacturer.
    • The easiest way to find out which key to press is to read the screen as it boots or to consult the motherboard documentation.
    • The most common keys are Delete, Insert, F1, and F2.
  • Common reasons for editing the CMOS settings are:
    • To change the boot device order.
    • To enable or disable motherboard devices.
    • To add a password to the setup program to prevent unauthorized access. Note: If you set a BIOS password and then forget it, you will be unable to edit CMOS settings. Clear the CMOS settings to clear the password (along with other settings).
    • To configure processor or memory settings (such as when the correct settings were not automatically detected).
  • Updates to the BIOS program are done by flashing the code stored on the chip. Update the BIOS to fix errors, or to add support for newer hardware (such as to support a new CPU that uses a different frequency setting but the same socket and other settings).
    • Always follow the instructions when performing firmware updates.
    • Many updates are performed through a browser; some updates can only be performed by booting to special startup disks while outside of Windows.
    • Turning off the device or interrupting the update process could permanently damage the device.