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[ The PC Guide | Procedure Guide | Setup and Inspection Procedures ]

Post-Assembly Initial Boot Procedure

This procedure provides descriptions to help you handle the initial turn-on and boot-up of a system. The only time you will need to use this procedure is right after you complete significant assembly procedures, such as a new PC build or a motherboard upgrade. The reason that a special procedure in these situations makes sense is that there is a much greater chance of a problem with a newly-completed system, and you want to maximize your chances of detecting such problems if at all possible. You also want to be in a position to quickly shut the system off if problems become apparent. You also want to be ready to enter the BIOS setup program as soon as possible on the first bootup of a new system.

Procedure Overview:

  • Difficulty Level: 2-4 (Low to High). The procedure is quite simple and if the system works you will not have much to do here, however troubleshooting boot problems on a new system can be quite difficult sometimes.
  • Risk Factor: 2 (Low).
  • Hardware Required: None.
  • Software Required: Bootable floppy disk.
  • Time to Perform: Less than five minutes if there are no problems, otherwise this will vary greatly.
  • Preparation / Warnings:
    • I assume that you have already completed assembling the system, have checked for common problems, and have connected your external peripherals.
    • If you are going to be powering up the system with its cover off (and usually you will, the first few times) make sure that you keep objects away from the case at all times while the power is on to the system.
    • I would strongly recommend that you read and understand the page describing the system boot process before you turn on the system for the first time.
    • Your floppy boot disk should contain the necessary disk tools for setting up your hard disk. In particular, for a DOS/Windows machine you generally will need "FDISK" and "FORMAT" on the disk at a bare minimum. See this section for details on boot disks.
    • In general, it is not good to turn the system power off while the hard disk is in use or immediately after turning on the PC. However, with a brand-new setup you should be prepared to turn the system off immediately if any of the following happen: smoke or sparks come from any of the hardware; the lights in the room dim when the power turns on; or loud grinding, scraping or whining sounds come from any piece of hardware. These are signs of a short circuit, serious electrical connection problem, or mechanical interference. Go over the entire machine with a fine-toothed comb and find out what is causing the problem before turning the machine on again.
    • Make sure you know what the correct key or key combination is to enter the BIOS setup program on your motherboard before you start. On most modern systems this is either {Del} or {F2}.
    • If your system has a keylock switch, make sure that the case is not locked or the keyboard won't work and you need it for this procedure.

Procedure Steps:

  1. Turn On Monitor: Turn on the system monitor and let it warm up a bit. You want to make sure you can see any messages that show up on the screen. Note that some newer monitors take several seconds to "sync" to the signal coming from the PC, so you may end up "flying blind" at first regardless.
  2. Insert Boot Floppy: Put your operating system boot floppy disk into your A: floppy drive.
  3. Press Power Switch: The moment of truth: hit the power switch and be ready for action. You are looking to see what happens, to make sure the system is booting properly. If it boots properly you will want to be ready to hit the appropriate key(s) to immediately enter the system BIOS program. Assuming that the system boots properly, here is what you should be checking for; bear in mind that all of this will happen very quickly:
    • The power LED will light up on the case, and depending on the system, the turbo LED may as well.
    • The fans in the power supply and on the CPU will start to spin up.
    • The hard disk will spin up.
    • You may hear a single beep when the system completes its power-on test; this is normal.
    • The first thing on the screen will probably be a message from the video card's on-board BIOS; then the motherboard will display its BIOS startup screen and begin counting the system memory.
    • You may receive an error message such as "CMOS options not set", "Date/time not set" or "CMOS checksum error". This is not uncommon when powering up a new system for the first time.
  4. Enter BIOS Setup: As soon as the BIOS splash screen appears, press the appropriate key(s) to enter the BIOS setup. The right key combination will normally be displayed at the bottom of the screen.
  5. Troubleshoot the System, If Necessary: You may find that the system does not boot, or that there is some sort of error message or problem at boot time. Experiencing problems when booting up a new system for the first time is certainly not uncommon, so don't let it get you down. I do not go into the details of troubleshooting here, because there is a whole Troubleshooting Guide that covers this. In particular, you may want to refer to the Boot Process Troubleshooter, which will walk you through the most common parts of the boot process step by step and will help you isolate the problem with your new system in most cases. This section was specifically developed to help debug problems with booting new systems, so do use it if you need it.

Next: Safe BIOS Setup Procedure

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