If you’re an average computer user, you may have never accessed your computer’s BIOS (Basic Input/Output System).
Still, you may know it’s a critical PC component that shouldn’t be messed with.
Given its vital role, you may wonder where it’s stored and how you can access it.
If it’s on the SSD or HDD, can you access it through File Explorer?
Is it stored somewhere else?
Where Is The BIOS Stored?
The BIOS is stored on the computer’s ROM (Read-Only Memory), a storage chip on the motherboard.
ROM is a type of non-volatile storage that users can’t write onto, making them unable to change or delete its contents.
As opposed to RAM, which is volatile, the information stored on the ROM remains unchanged even after you turn off your computer.
This data is essential in starting and running a computer, making it a vital component.
It’s separate from all other storage types to store the BIOS exclusively.
As a result, the BIOS will remain intact if anything happens to your storage devices or you lose your files.
Plus, the BIOS has its own storage chip because of its vital role in the startup process.
The BIOS chip is near the CPU to start the PC fast.
If it were on an SSD or HDD, it would take longer for the CPU to locate the BIOS chip, making the startup faster.
What Does The BIOS Do?
The Basic Input/Output System is low-level firmware that stores essential information for your computer startup.
When you turn on your computer, the first software that runs is the BIOS, which tests your hardware through the POST and prepares it to run your computer software.
The POST (Power-On Self-Test) is a series of diagnostic tests conducted by the BIOS to ensure all basic hardware, including the RAM, GPU, CPU, and display, are working properly.
As the first thing the BIOS does, the POST is essential and occurs after a cold boot or a restart.
After the POST, the BIOS identifies other hardware, including peripherals, input, output, and boot devices.
This process is complex, involving many steps, but it takes only a few seconds.
After making sure the hardware is okay, it allows the CPU to take over and start the computer from the boot device.
The BIOS is also responsible for loading the bootstrap, which involves locating the operating system, ensuring it’s operational, and passing control to it.
It enables the connection between the operating system and the hardware, making your computer run.
It also contains low-level drivers that teach your hardware how to operate.
All of these processes happen in a few seconds between the time you press the power button and see the Windows logo.
In addition to these automatic functions, the BIOS lets you change many settings to configure your hardware through its interface.
Here are some of the other things that you can do through BIOS settings:
- Change hardware (such as hard drives and optical drives) settings.
- Change boot sequence.
- Enable visualization.
- Tweak CPU, memory, or Power-on settings.
- Change and view fan speeds.
- Change and monitor system voltages.
- Enable or disable many features like the CPU’s internal cache, quick POST, RAID, and onboard audio.
- Change and monitor CPU temps.
- Monitor newly added hardware.
There are many more.
BIOS Vs. UEFI
If you have a recent computer, it most likely has a UEFI instead of a BIOS.
If you want to change your BIOS settings, you may wonder how different these two systems are.
UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) appeared in 2007, was built into modern computers, and will eventually replace the traditional BIOS.
It performs the same things that the traditional BIOS does but in a more advanced way.
As BIOS has been around since the 1980s, it can’t handle the requirements of today’s computers with giant storage capacities and lightning-fast speeds.
Both work at the most basic level to ensure your computer hardware can run and prepare the operating system to start the computer.
However, the UEFI doesn’t have size restrictions, allowing it to control high-capacity boot devices and initialize more hardware components simultaneously.
As a result, your computer can have more advanced features while booting up faster.
As an end user, you don’t need to worry about the technical differences between the two because they give you the same functions, although in different ways.
Can You Change The BIOS Data?
The BIOS is firmware stored on a non-volatile memory chip on the motherboard.
As the name suggests, this read-only memory doesn’t allow you to overwrite data on it, meaning you shouldn’t be able to change the BIOS settings.
However, as mentioned above, you can change many settings, like display settings and boot order, on the BIOS.
Now you may wonder how you can overwrite the BIOS although it’s stored on the ROM.
Different factors in this aspect of the BIOS allow you to change certain things.
For starters, you can’t change the BIOS settings the same way you overwrite data on other forms of memory and storage.
For example, the hard drive is a permanent memory that allows you to modify, delete, or add to your files as many times as required.
ROM is primarily compared to RAM, which is volatile and loses its data when the computer loses its power.
You write data over RAM as you make changes to your files.
It’s not the same with ROM.
The only things you can change with the BIOS are the settings already determined by the manufacturer.
You can’t add anything to these settings or delete the ones you don’t need.
Another great consideration is the type of ROM that stores the BIOS.
Different types of ROM are used on different computer systems depending on their age and technology.
Here are the main ones:
Masked Read Only Memory is the oldest type of ROM preprogrammed by the manufacturer by burning a software mask directly onto the ROM chip.
You can’t overwrite or reprogram an MROM, so users of old computers had to send the MROM to the manufacturer if they wanted to change its settings.
Programmable Read Only Memory permanently stores data and doesn’t allow rewriting, changing, or erasing.
The difference between PROM and MROM is that the former is programmed after manufacturing while the latter is programmed during manufacturing.
So users can program it for their specific uses.
It’s used in video game consoles, RFID tags, and medical devices.
Erasable and Programmable Read Only Memory can be programmed, altered, or erased many times.
You can use ultraviolet light at a specific frequency and for a certain time to erase the data on an EPROM.
Electrically Erasable and Programmable Read Only Memory is the most advanced type of ROM and can be reprogrammed hundreds of times.
Since it uses flash technology, you don’t need ultraviolet light to program it.
Instead, the programming and erasing processes are done electronically, performed by the computer on a software level.
That’s the type of ROM used to store the BIOS, indicating why you can change the settings in your BIOS.
5. Flash BIOS
If you have a modern computer, your BIOS is probably stored on a flash ROM.
It’s a form of EEPROM, only more advanced and faster.
Since it stores data on memory cells and transistors, it can rewrite or delete 512 bytes at a time, while this number is one byte for the EEPROM.
In addition to the BIOS chip, you can see flash ROM in SSDs, modems, USB flash drives, and digital cameras.
As you can see, the ROM that stores the BIOS is reprogrammable, rewritable, and erasable.
That’s why you can change the settings in your BIOS, though you should do it inside the BIOS menu.
The read-only nature of the ROM may not hold anymore, and the main feature that distinguishes it from the RAM is its non-volatile nature.
How To Enter The BIOS Menu
In addition to the long list of things the BIOS monitors, it allows you to adjust different settings to customize your computer manually.
However, since the BIOS is on the ROM, it has its own access methods.
Accessing the menu is easy and possible in two different ways.
However, you should only change the BIOs settings if you know what you’re doing.
Otherwise, you’ll make your system unstable.
Here’s how you can access the BIOS menu:
1. Startup Window
If your computer doesn’t boot up to the windows interface, you can access the BIOS menu upon bootup.
To do so, restart your computer and press the hotkey assigned by your motherboard manufacturer before you see the Windows logo during bootup.
It may be F2, Del, F1, F10, F3, or ESC, so do a quick search on the internet to get your model’s BIOS hotkey if you don’t know it.
Simply pressing this hotkey will lead you to the BIOS menu.
2. Advanced Startup Menu
If you have access to the Windows interface, you can use an easier method because the bootup method can be challenging as it requires pressing the hotkey at the exact time of bootup.
To access the Advanced Startup menu, right-click the Start menu and select Settings.
Go to Update & Security > Recovery > Restart now under Advanced startup.
After selecting Restart now, the PC will restart and boot up to a menu from which you should select Troubleshoot.
Under Advanced Options, select UEFI Firmware Settings to enter the BIOS menu.
Once in the BIOS menu, you may see different interfaces depending on your motherboard make and model.
Legacy BIOS interfaces are text-form, not allowing you to use the mouse to navigate the menu.
You can only use the keyboard and buttons like the arrow keys and Enter, as instructed at the bottom of the BIOS menu window.
New models that use UEFI have a graphical interface and allow you to use the mouse.
Another point is that each manufacturer may have different words to refer to the same thing and make it accessible under different headings.
You may need to dig deep and access different submenus to find your parameter.
Updating The BIOS
BIOS is a kind of software, although different from other consumer software that you download from the manufacturer’s website or app stores.
Most average computer users will never need to know if their BIOS has to be updated or whether there’s a new version of the software.
Plus, updating the BIOS is highly sensitive because you deal with firmware instead of a simple program.
If anything goes wrong during the update process, like the power going off or an unknown error, your BIOS becomes unusable.
A firmware update differs from a software update, which can get fixed if it goes wrong.
If you’re not technologically savvy or don’t have a reasonably good reason, you shouldn’t update your BIOS.
The main reasons for a BIOS update include fixing bugs and errors, experiencing performance issues or vulnerabilities that don’t go away through regular troubleshooting methods, adding new hardware not supported by the current BIOS, or adding new features.
How To Update BIOS
If you choose to update your BIOS knowing all the risks and after trying every troubleshooting method, you should ensure an updated version is available.
Before installing the updates, it’s recommended to back up your important files to avoid losing them if anything goes wrong.
Check your current BIOS version and compare it with the latest version released on the manufacturer’s website.
To get your BIOS version, open a Run box by pressing the Windows key + R and type in msinfo32.
It will open System Information listing all the information you need about your PC.
Find the BIOS version and date, head to the manufacturer’s website, and check the latest BIOS version released.
If it’s different from your current version, download it, unzip the file, and save it on a FAT32 USB flash drive.
Enter the BIOS menu and look for the Update option.
After clicking the Update button, you’ll be prompted to select the update file from the flash drive.
The update process will start and complete automatically.
Wait until it’s finished, then restart your computer.
After restarting, enter the BIOS menu and check its settings, like date, time, and boot order, to ensure they haven’t changed.
Upgrading The BIOS Chip
The BIOS is a highly sensitive and critical component in every PC.
Problems with the BIOS can make your entire device unusable because it affects different parts of your system.
In addition, when you want to add new hardware to your computer, the BIOS must support it.
Otherwise, it can’t recognize, check, and monitor it upon bootup, rendering the new component unusable.
These situations may call for a new BIOS chip, especially if updating the BIOS software doesn’t work.
Many BIOS chip manufacturers allow you to upgrade the chip to a more advanced version to get better features and components.
However, it’s not something an average user can accomplish because not every chip is replaceable due to different socket designs.
As a result, you should use a BIOS replacement service offered by some companies, which evaluate your system features and requirements and offer you possible solutions.