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What Exactly is a BIOS?BIOS stands for Basic Input Output System – but what is it exactly? BIOS is a critical component of your computer that helps all of the chips, hardware, ports, drives, and CPU work together. For example, the CPU starts with a microprocessor which is a piece of hardware. This microprocessor executes instructions from software such as the operating system or a computer program. Before this can happen, BIOS must first be up and running so that it can launch the operating system. For example, the microprocessor can't start loading programs because programs are located on a hard drive and it doesn't know how to access the hard drive unless it has received instructions from the BIOS. So, the BIOS must load first, before loading the operating system and providing relevant instructions to the microprocessor about the computer's configuration.
Think of BIOS as a type of software stored on a flash memory chip (usually on the motherboard) that is used to interface the computer's operating system with its hardware components. In addition to providing the operating system with basic information about the components, the BIOS has other functions including the POST test (a Power On Self-Test that checks the different hardware devices to be sure that they are working properly), activating other BIOS chips such as those found on graphics cards, managing settings for different devices, and providing basic routines for managing the input and output devices when the computer boots up.
When a computer boots up, the BIOS goes through a sequence of events including checking the CMOS chip for detailed information about your computer, loading device drivers and interrupt handlers, initializing registers and power management, POST testing, displaying system settings, determining bootable devices, and starting the bootstrap sequence. Want to see the BIOS in action? Simply reboot the computer and watch as BIOS goes through its boot up sequence. Most computers display text as BIOS progresses through its routines. For example, information about the computer's memory, processor, hard drive, display, BIOS version, and other details are typically displayed at some point.
Once BIOS goes through and prepares your computer for start up, it searches the various attached storage devices in search of a bootable drive. When it finds your primary bootable drive, it launches the operating system. Sometimes, the BIOS is interrupted such as when a disk has been left in a floppy drive. When BIOS discovers the disk but can't find the system instructions, it halts. Simply remove the disk and allow BIOS to continue.
BIOS can be configured to reflect custom settings as well as updated periodically as new hardware standards evolve. Both of these processes require great care and should only be attempted after careful consideration and research.
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