Even if a little intimidating for most, the setting of the BIOS it is a must for those who are hungry for knowledge and want to learn how to use the computer at 360 degrees. The BIOS (acronym for Basic Input-Output System) is a set of software instructions stored on a non-volatile memory located inside the computer. It provides all the basic information to make hardware and software interact correctly and start the operating system: for this reason, it is important to know it in order to have at least a general "smattering" of its operation.
If you agree, I would like to explain today how to set up the BIOS, analyzing in detail some of the main functions and options present in this computer configuration panel which, logically, puts a bit of "fear" to those who do not consider themselves a technology expert. So: are you ready to start? Yup? Perfect: take a few minutes of free time and read carefully the instructions I am about to give you. I hope they can help you grow your technology skills.
Just a couple of caveats before we get started: first of all, it must be said that the BIOS setup menu can vary from computer to computer, so the indications and items mentioned in this guide may not adhere 100% to your PC's BIOS menu. . Another important thing to know is that, improperly modifying the BIOS, you risk seriously compromising the correct functioning of your computer. In this regard, I do not take any responsibility for any problems you may encounter by modifying the BIOS parameters of your PC in a careless way. We understood each other? Perfect, then ban the chatter and let's get to work!
Preliminary Information (BIOS Vs UEFI)
Before getting to the heart of this tutorial, it seems necessary to clarify the fact that in the most recent computers (almost all those marketed with Windows 8.x or later), there is no longer the classic BIOS, but theUEFI.
UEFI (acronym for Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) is a firmware interface that replaces the BIOS and - to simplify the speech as much as possible - integrates a small operating system through which you can act on the configuration of your computer in a very simple way. Unlike the BIOS, which has a textual interface, it has a graphic interface that can be controlled via mouse.
Furthermore, it offers a wide range of additional functions compared to the classic BIOS: it makes the system boot faster; supports booting from drives larger than 2.2 TB (limit that cannot be crossed by the classic BIOS); supports network connectivity and uses very advanced security systems, including the Secure Boot, which prevents the execution of systems that do not have an adequate digital signature (thus prevents potential malware from starting when the computer is booted).
Having said that, for today's tutorial I will focus on a computer equipped with UEFI but with a textual interface, in BIOS style, explaining how to access it and how to manage some of its main parameters: happy reading and have fun!
How to Enter the BIOS
Having made all the premises and clarifications of the case, I would say start this guide on how to set up the BIOS from the very beginning, that is how do you access the BIOS configuration panel.
To enter the BIOS, you need to turn on the computer (or restart it, if it was already running) and quickly press a key on the keyboard between F10, F2, Canc o Esc while the very first PC start-up screen is shown (the one with the manufacturer's logo, generally). You should find an indication on which key to press right on this screen (ex. Press F10 to enter setup). On laptops, you may need to hold down the key Fn to access the BIOS via function keys (eg F10 or F2).
If no key has allowed you to enter the BIOS and you don't see any instructions about it on your PC's power-up screen, you most likely have a UEFI-equipped computer. This means that, to access the "BIOS" configuration panel, you have to act through the Windows settings panel.
Click, then on the button Start (the flag icon located in the lower left corner of the screen) select thegear icon present in the menu that opens (on the left) and, in the next window, click on the icon Update and security.
At this point, select the voice Restoration from the left sidebar, press the button Restart now related to the section Avvio Avanzato and click in sequence on the items Troubleshooting, Advanced options, UEFI firmware settings e Restart.
The computer will restart and you will finally enter the BIOS setup panel.
How to Configure the BIOS
Once you enter the BIOS, you will find yourself in front of the main configuration screen (Main) with basic information about your PC and its components (processor, RAM, BIOS version, etc.) and options to modify system timee system date, i.e. the time and date which will then be reported in Windows as well. To change these values, you must use the keys indicated at the bottom of the BIOS screen (usually they are directional arrows, the button Submit to select the value to be modified and the keys + e - to adjust the various digits / options).
Sometimes, in the main BIOS screen there are also settings related to boot, i.e. the devices supported for booting the computer and the priority they must have at boot time. In other cases, however, these settings have a tab reserved for them, which is typically called their own Boot.
If you see any entries like Primary master, Primary slave, Secondary master e Secondary slave, you should know that these are the options related to hard disks and optical drives (eg DVD burner) connected to the internal cables of the computer; each of these cables can be connected to two different peripherals (a primary called “master” and a secondary called “slave”) and these settings allow you to configure / order them in detail.
Other options available in the boot settings might be Quiet Boot e Fast Boot: the first refers to the possibility to activate or deactivate the "silent" boot, which shows a splash screen (eg the manufacturer's logo) on the computer's power-on screen instead of the classic written on the computer's power-on status. Fast Boot, on the other hand, can make your computer boot faster by skipping some of the memory tests that the BIOS performs in the power-on self-test (POST) phase when the computer is turned on. Under the option relating to Fast Boot, you can also choose the media on which to activate or deactivate the function, based on their connection interface to the computer (eg. SATA, VGA o USB).
Finally, there are the options related to the boot priority (Boot option priorities), which allow you to choose the order in which to run the Windows boot manager or the UEFI configuration shell when starting the computer (normally, there should be the Windows boot manager first and then the UEFI shell) .
In the tab Security (o Safety) of the BIOS, you can find all the options to protect the BIOS itself and the computer peripherals. By setting the Administrator Password (o Administrator password), for example, you can protect access to the BIOS and changes to its settings with a password, while with the User Password (o Power-on password) you can completely block the PC from turning on (including access to Windows).
Also, in UEFI systems, you can find the setting related to Secure Boot: the function that blocks the execution of software without an adequate digital signature during boot. Disabling this feature is highly discouraged. However, in some cases, for example when you want to install Linux distros or old versions of Windows (prior to Windows 7) on your PC, you need to disable it. I've told you more about this procedure in some of my past tutorials, like the one on how to install Ubuntu.
The board Advanced (o Advanced ) of the BIOS is the one in which geeks can customize every deeper aspect of their computer and, consequently, it is also the one to which you have to pay more attention when you are not particularly good with the computer.
The settings available on this screen include those related to CPU (i.e. to the computer processor), toACPI (the system that allows the BIOS to control the energy saving functions of the PC components), the temperature management (Thermal) and al TPM (the Trusted Platform Module, which allows you to take advantage of advanced encryption systems, such as BitLocker on Windows).
As mentioned above, all the above settings should only be touched in very particular situations and, above all, only if you know where you put your hands. If you are reading this tutorial - which is dedicated to those who are new to the computer world and want to gain a little more confidence with systems like the BIOS -, it seems clear to me that you are not yet an expert on the subject and therefore I strongly recommend that you leave all settings in their default state.
The same goes for the card chipset, within which you can find the settings related to the North Bridge and the South Bridge: the first is a component that manages the communication between the processor and other components, such as RAM and PCI Express slots. The second, on the other hand, is the component responsible for managing input and output communications (eg it connects the USB ports with the CPU, RAM and North Bridge for the transfer of data to and from USB devices).
After making all the changes you need in the BIOS configuration panel, go to the tab Save & Exit (o Save and exit), select the voice Save Changes and Exit (o Save changes and exit) and confirm to restart the computer saving the changes made to the BIOS configuration. Alternatively, press the key indicated by the BIOS for Save changes and exit (Eg. F10), confirm by typing Y and the computer will restart with the new BIOS settings.
If you want to exit the BIOS setup menu without saving the settings, go to the tab Save & Exit and select the option Discard changes and Exit.
How to Update the BIOS
Even the BIOS, from time to time, needs to be updated, for example to "plug" some security flaw or correct some malfunction detected in them.
Updating the BIOS is a very delicate procedure (you have to be sure to download the right update for your PC, otherwise you risk seriously compromising its operation), but simple to complete. Generally, just download a small program to detect the motherboard installed in the PC (eg CPU-Z). Then you have to go to the motherboard manufacturer's website and download the update, which can be installed as a normal program in Windows.
For more information on the whole procedure, you can read my generic tutorial on how to update the BIOS or, if you have an ASUS PC, my specific tutorial on how to update an ASUS BIOS.
How to Set the BIOS on Mac
You have a Poppy? I'm sorry, but you can't freely change the BIOS parameters like you can on Windows PCs. This is because Apple, on its most recent computers, has decided to inhibit access to the EFI configuration menu.
If you have a problem with your computer, the only things you can do are reset the NVRAM (the non-volatile memory where information about the startup disk, screen resolution, double-click speed, and more is stored), reset the 'SMC (a chip dedicated to energy management and control of some components of the Mac) and format the Mac. Consult all the tutorials I have just listed for you to know in detail how to proceed.