Troubleshooting in Build: BIOS

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BIOS Troubleshooting


Notes and Detailed Instructions

Finding BIOS

When you power on a system, the first thing that happens is the system POSTs (Power-OSelf Test). When POSTing, the graphics and text should flash onto the monitor and indicate what key(s) are required in order to access the BIOS (Basic Input Output System). While all computers use the keyboard to access and navigate BIOS, each computers may have different keys to get you into BIOS. Fortunately, most systems use the following keys:

Del, F1, F2, F8, F10.

If the system doesn't display which keys to press to enter into the BIOS, sometimes you can get by running your finger across all 12 F-keys and hitting Del. A list of a common keystrokes can be found here: Entering BIOS

Unfortunately, you only have a few seconds to press the key in order to enter BIOS. The POSTing screen will only be up for a few seconds (then the system will load Ubuntu), so don't feel bad about rebooting the system (by pressing "Ctrl+Alt+Del" or holding the power button down for several seconds) a few times in order to access BIOS. If the computer doesn't seem to respond to keystrokes, ensure that the keyboard plug is plugged into the correct port, and try switching PS2/USB keyboards if the system supports both. Otherwise, reach out to a build instructor or perform an Internet search for further troubleshooting.

Note: Some systems will not recognize a USB keyboard in BIOS, so please use a PS2 keyboard if available

When you can't figure out the keystroke, you can also Google a term like "Gateway BIOS key" to find pages that might tell you (It might help to include the computer's model number, usually found on the front of the case). 

"There's this Password Protected thing?!" Occasionally, you'll find that the BIOS is protected with a password. If this happens to be the case, simply power down the system (by pressing "Ctrl+Alt+Del" or holding the power button down for several seconds), remove the power cord from the system, locate the button battery (CMOS) and remove it. Look on the motherboard for a two pin jumper the says something like "Clear CMOS" or "Clear Password" (Often times, it'll abbreviate to something like “Clr Pwd”), and place a jumper onto the pins. If you can't locate these pins, just remove the battery. Get some coffee or go to the bathroom, (i.e. wait for two or so minutes with the battery out and the jumper on its pins). Put the button battery back in the system, plug in the power cord, and power on the system. You should have access to BIOS now.

If this doesn't work, try to "power cycle" the computer with the battery gone and jumper set, and power down the system (if it powered on) before putting the battery back in the computer.

On Dells, there is usually a green jumper right around the main power on the motherboard that will be labeled "PSWD". Pull that jumper, and boot it up once, and you will get rid of the password. There is absolutely no way, other than this jumper, to get rid of the password on Dells.

Navigating BIOS

While each system may have different key(s) to access BIOS, BIOS is only accessed through your keyboard (no mouse necessary). There are several different ways that BIOS is organized and navigated. Below are examples of most BIOS environments that Free Geek handles:

Tab screen format

When you see the BIOS screen you may see horizontal tabs near the top that should resemble the following options:

Main | Advanced | Power | Boot 

You can navigate these tabs by simply using the ← and → on your keyboard. Collapsing/Expanding Menu format

Generally, on the Left hand side of the screen, you will see a + sign beside the list of menu items that looks something like this:

+ System
+ Onboard Devices 

If you highlight the item by using your ↓ & ↑ keys and press "Enter", you will see the menu item as a heading for an expanded list of sub-menu items. The + sign will become a - sign, and the menu will look something like this:

- System
    System Info
    Processor Info
    Memory Info
    Boot Sequence
+ Onboard Devices

General Navigation

Most BIOS environments have common keys in order to navigate the program. These are some common commands:

  • ← and → to move from one menu screen (or section) to another
  • ↓ and ↑ to select a different field within a menu of options
  • + / - in order to change a value in the field of a menu item
  • "Tab" / "Enter" key to select a field
  • "F10" key to save and exit
  • "ESC" key to exit

In general, every BIOS is at least a little bit different. The above commands are not universal! However, almost all BIOSes that you will encounter will usually include a key or legend somewhere on the screen that indicates what commands are available. It's important that you spend some time analyzing a BIOS screen to look for hints on how to navigate!

"Is there any more info on desired BIOS settings?"

Yes! Go to Testing Standard Documentation in Advanced Testing and go to the "BIOS Choices" portion on the left hand side of the page. This will not tell you what BIOS settings every computer's BIOS should have, but its a good list of generally desirable settings.