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A BIOS Troubleshooting Guide

Both Intel PCs and AMD PCs have something called BIOS that decides the boot configuration of the system. BIOS stands for 'Basic Input Output System'. It takes care of the initialization of the CPU, memory system, installed hardware, and the Operating System of the computer. In this article, you will find all you need to know about taking care of your PC's BIOS, assuming you are using an Intel PC. AMD systems may have slightly different configurations, which go beyond the scope of this article.

See Your BIOS

BIOS is a piece of firmware, which is hardwired into a CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) chip on the motherboard. When the PC is switched on, it is this chip that starts first. This will initialize the CPU and all other hardware components and will thus create an environment for the OS to run.

You can view and change the BIOS settings of your PC, though technically inexperienced users are better off not changing anything. You can view the BIOS settings by pressing F2 key immediately after switching on the system. Some systems display BIOS at the press of Delete key as well.

To reset BIOS settings, use F9 key to set the defaults, followed by F10 to save and exit.
The settings you can change on the BIOS of your PC depend on the make of the motherboard you are using and the version of the BIOS program. Most of the settings are highly technical and not meant for average PC users. They include processor frequency ratios, boot sector settings, boot device order settings, default boot device, power management settings, system time, graphics memory, CPU fan settings, and many others.

BIOS is configured in factory for the most optimum performance.

BIOS Updates

All Intel motherboards have their respective web pages, where the BIOS updates appear. However, an update should be done only if needed. If problems appear to the PC in booting or working fine, a BIOS update usually solves them. Besides at Intel website, you can find the BIOS update at your PC manufacturer's website as well.

Here are the things you need to take care of before initiating the update:

· Update BIOS only if necessary. You needn't update the BIOS every time its new version is released. Update only if your current BIOS version creates any troubles.
· Print out the BIOS update instructions.
· Write down all the current BIOS settings before updating.
· Back up your BIOS. Specific instructions on backing it up are be available at the website of the specific motherboard used.
· Check your power supply. While doing update, you need an uninterruptible power supply, as broken installations can cause boot problems.
· Check and make sure the model and version of the motherboard before initiating update; updating a board's BIOS with another board's update package can cause troubles.

BIOS update is done by various means. Some require running a normal executable file, while others may require booting from a floppy disk or CD. Intel provides specific instructions to update the BIOS at the website of the motherboard model used.

Troubleshooting Your BIOS

If the BIOS update hasn't gone well, there may be errors in the way the system operates. The system may not start at all, if the update has corrupted the BIOS. Here are the steps to take to troubleshoot the BIOS.

A: Boot problem after BIOS update


If the system doesn't start after you have updated the BIOS, the reason may be that the BIOS was corrupted when you updated it. A power failure in the middle of the process can cause this. What you need to do is clearing the CMOS chip.

Here is the procedure.

1. Turn off the system and disconnect all hardware. Also, remove the power cable.
2. Remove the cabinet cover and locate the CMOS battery on the motherboard; the motherboard manual will show the position of the battery. The battery is a small metallic disc of about an inch in diameter, with, as you know, the plus sign on the top.
3. With a pointed object like the prong of a fork, remove the battery.
4. Leave the battery out for about fifteen minutes.
5. In this time, the CMOS chip will lose all the saved (now corrupted) settings and will get back to the factory settings.
6. Replace the battery, the cabinet cover, and switch on the system.

B: BIOS date and time change

If your system frequently shows wrong date and time, it may be because the CMOS battery has run out. The battery powers the system clock (which can be set within BIOS) all the time (even while the system is switched off and UPS is not connected). To correct this problem, the battery has to be replaced with a new one of the same type. In order to remove and replace the battery, follow the instructions as above.

C: Resetting BIOS password

You can set a user and administrator password on BIOS, from the BIOS settings menu. If you forget this password, the system may not start. In such cases, you have to reset the password. Here's the procedure.
1. Power off the computer.
2. Remove the power cable and the cabinet cover.
3. Locate the configuration jumper on the motherboard; the motherboard manual can help you in this. The jumper will be connected to the 1st and 2nd pins by default; remove it and connect the 2nd and 3rd pins with it.
4. Reconnect the power cable and switch on the system. You will find a special maintenance screen with the option to reset passwords.
5. Select the option 'clear passwords', and confirm the choice.
6. Press F10 key to save the settings and exit.
7. Remove the power cable, and put the configuration jumper back to pins 1 and 2.
8. Replace the cover and power cable, and start the system.

BIOS updates and troubleshooting depend on the brand and model of the system board used. So, in order to get the most specific instructions, you need to refer to the BIOS website of the board. Most of the PC manufacturers, HP, Dell, and others, also have their own pages dedicated for motherboards of their respective system models; these pages can help you in BIOS update and troubleshooting.

Conclusion

Working with BIOS is strictly the privilege of a technician. An untrained PC user is not supposed even to open the cover of the system for any changes. If your PC is still in warranty, opening the cover and working inside the board can void it. So, have an authorized technician work on the PCs still under warranty.

 

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