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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | Motherboard and System Devices | System BIOS ]

BIOS Settings

This section describes most of the BIOS settings that you will find in a typical Pentium-class or higher PC. Some BIOS settings are quite universal, while others can be found on only the systems made with one type of BIOS or made by one manufacturer. This section lists the most common settings that are used in modern PCs, with full explanations as to what they are and how to set them. This includes the more common advanced settings, but does not attempt a "shotgun" coverage of every setting I've ever seen on a machine. Some are very atypical and usually not something you need to worry about. The less common a setting is, the more often it is the case that you really will want to leave it on its default setting anyway. Not always, but usually.

By the nature of how I designed this section, it should cover 95%+ of the settings in your BIOS that you will ever want to change. If you find a setting in your BIOS that isn't covered here, you may find it in the BIOS Survival Guide, which has a more complete list of the settings found on various types of PCs.

For each setting I describe the most common options and what they mean. In addition, I indicate which options are usually the default. I also describe what the implications are of using the different settings, and provide general recommendations on how to configure most of the parameters. The settings themselves are organized based on the names of the settings groups you will find in a typical BIOS setup program.

Tip: It is a good idea to "back up" (record on paper) all of your BIOS settings once your PC is running and stable, and especially before you make any changes to them.

Tip: Reference this procedure for specific instructions on configuring the most important BIOS settings to safe values, to maximize the chances of booting a new or problematic system.

Note: Every setup program is slightly different from every other one. Even if two BIOSes are both on Pentium motherboards and are made by Award, they may have different settings. The commands as shown here might be different on your PC, or they might be in a different place. Use care when modifying these parameters, and refer to your motherboard manual if it is accurate.

Warning: The highly prudent will have a backup of their hard disk before fiddling with their BIOS settings.

Warning: Changing advanced parameters can lead to system instability and data loss. It is recommended that only users who really understand what they are doing change these settings. Proceed at your own risk.

Warning: If your BIOS contains a "hard disk utility" that includes items like setting interleave ratios, low level formatting, or "media analysis", do not use it on an IDE/ATA or SCSI drive (which includes virtually every PC hard drive made in at least the last 5 years). These old utilities are designed for the MFM and RLL drives from the 1980s and can in theory damage a modern drive, for which they are unnecessary. I wish they'd just take them out of the setup program entirely (and on many newer PCs they have).

Next: Standard Settings

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