Sometimes, we need to get into the BIOS Setup Utility that’s built into our computers.
The BIOS, the Basic Input-Output System, is the chip that controls how your computer talks to many peripheral devices, like keyboards. It controls which drive attempts to boot first, second, and so forth. It even enables some users to do a lot of fine tuning to their computers (most computer manufacturers allow some on-or-off choices, but many motherboard manufacturers have extensive customization options available for their users.
BIOS settings are stored in a special type of memory called the CMOS, which has power from the battery on the motherboard. This power enables the CMOS to remember settings, even if you turn unplug your computer!
Old, AT-style computers actually had a functional power switch that actually cut the power to the computer. Today’s computers actually have the motherboard energized all the time — the power button is just a “wake up” momentary-contact switch.
For most people, there are three times when we want to get into the BIOS to change some of the settings in the computer.
If you replace the battery on your motherboard, you’ll have to get into the BIOS Settings Utility to set the date, time and reset any other settings that you might have changed. Some motherboards have multiple remembered settings, such as a default, a safe set of settings (one that should work), an aggressive set of settings (one that may not work, depending on how good your individual CPU and memory chips are).
Another time we need to access the BIOS settings utility is when we want to change the order of the drives when booting. Many people like to leave a CDROM for a game or program in their CDROM drive or DVD drive. But, by default, the computer will try to boot from that CDROM, find that it can’t, and then will boot the hard drive. By using the BIOS setting utility, we can make the cmputer boot faster by telling it to boot from the hard drive before trying the CDROM.
Of course, the other main time we need to access the BIOS setting utility is when we want to change the boot order so we can boot from a CDROM again.
So, the big question is: If I’ve forgotten how to get into the BIOS Setup Utility (or if I never knew), how do I find out which key is the right one?
A quick Google search for “BIOS key”, without the quotation marks, turned up this fantastic page How to access/enter Motherboard BIOS. This page will tell you the BIOS setup keys for many different computer manufacturers.