Updating Your PC BIOS

What is BIOS?

BIOS, an acronym for Basic Input/Output System, is the very basic software built into your computer when the motherboard is manufactured. It is powered by a small, black read-only memory (ROM) BIOS chip soldered to the motherboard. The BIOS controls how each of your computer’s hardware devices communicate with your computer’s operating system. This means the BIOS includes code that controls your keyboard, mouse, hard drive, optical drive, processor, RAM modules and graphics card.

While many PCs vary widely in design, BIOS chips are fairly standardized among almost any type of computer system. The main distinction among BIOS chips is that most chips use different BIOS versions. Also, many modern PC motherboards use a flash BIOS, which means that the BIOS is stored on a flash ROM chip. This allows you to download new BIOS versions and update your system manually.

How to Access Your PC’s BIOS

While BIOS setup menus are similar among a wide range of desktop computers and laptops, accessing the BIOS menu varies from computer to computer. Fortunately, your BIOS menu is easy to access. Simply power on your computer and press and hold the BIOS access key. In most newer computers, the access key will either be F1, F2, DEL, ESC, or F10. Hold the access key for about five seconds, or until the BIOS menu appears. This gives you access to all the settings for all hardware (keyboard, drives, processor and RAM modules) installed into your computer.

You also may need to access the BIOS chip from time to time. This involves partially dismantling your computer casing. In some laptop computers, the BIOS chip can be accessed through the battery and RAM compartments, usually located on the bottom side of the laptop. As for desktop computers, you must completely remove the case’s side access panel. This is done by removing a securing latch or retaining thumb screw on the back panel on the computer’s casing. The BIOS chip is usually located near the RAM modules or processor chip on the motherboard.

Standard Problems with BIOS

One of the most common issues with PC BIOS comes in the form of boot-up problems. Most BIOS ROM chips are powered by a small, coin-cell battery. When this battery dies, the BIOS system will not work, which means that none of your computer’s hardware can adequately communicate with your computer system. Additionally, if your BIOS version is out of date, it can cause your system and individual hardware modules to behave erratically. For instance, your keyboard may not input correctly, and your hard drive or CD/DVD drive may sporadically stop working at random intervals.

How to Flash the BIOS

Flashing your computer’s BIOS is the process of updating your BIOS version. This can be a complex and confusing procedure if you’re not sure what you’re doing. This involves downloading and installing the most up-to-date BIOS version for your computer’s motherboard.

Step 1: Identify Your BIOS Version

The fastest way to identify your BIOS version is to open the system information application in Windows, or your can simply type “msinfo32” into the search bar in either Windows Vista or 7. Write down the BIOS version on a single sheet of paper for your own reference.

Step 2: Check Your PC Manufacturer’s Support Page for BIOS Updates

Navigate to your computer manufacturer’s support website via your preferred web browser. Match your computer’s model number to the latest BIOS update. Download the update and any included documentation. Review the documentation carefully. It includes specific information on how to install the BIOS update.

Step 3: Update Your BIOS Version

Most newer BIOS updates are easy to install. You simply download the BIOS .exe file, close all running programs and run the .exe file, and let Windows unpack the file and install the update. However, in older PCs you must create a boot disk or install the update from an external hard drive or USB thumb drive.

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