Intro to the BIOS Setup Utility

As mentioned in the introduction, the BIOS is the core to the operation of your PC. It is the framework for your computer to be able to run the rest of its software. It performs the POST, or Power On Self Test. This is the sequence of system checks the BIOS goes through every time your turn on your system.

The BIOS is what underlies the operating system. In a way, the operating system is a simplified user-interface to the BIOS. This is of course rather exaggerated, since the OS is also very core to your system. But, without the BIOS, the operating system does not do anything. For instance, when you hit a key on your keyboard, the processor performs an interrupt to read that key. This interrupt is handled by the BIOS, which assigns and manages the interrupts. This is similar for other components on the system, which also operate by interrupts. By using this method, the processor is able to conduct many jobs at once in regards to other hardware.

BIOS is often confused with CMOS. The two are often, and mistakenly, thought of to be one and the same. Actually, CMOS, which stands for Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor, is the little 64 byte piece of RAM which stores the settings for the BIOS to work off of. It is because of the CMOS that the BIOS remembers your PC’s configuration and is able to load it properly upon each boot-up. The CMOS resides in a small integrated circuit, or IC, found on your motherboard. The memory is maintained by a small current generated by a battery which also resides on your motherboard. Newer board use a NiCad battery which recharges whenever the PC is on, but the older ones use a standard battery, which when it runs out of juice, must be replaced. In a similar fashion, if you wish, for some reason, to clear your CMOS and start fresh, simply disconnect the battery. Of course, on newer boards, there is a CMOS-clear jumper, usually located near the battery, which performs the same function.

BIOS Setup

The other articles in this section will give you a rundown of the settings in each screen of the BIOS. But, let’s start with the basics and how you actually operate in the BIOS Setup area.

First, in order to enter the BIOS setup utility, you have to hit a particular key or key combination on boot-up. The key combination itself it usually displayed immediately after you turn the system on. You may see some video BIOS screen, then you will see the processor type and memory count. At this point, at the bottom of the screen, it will say “Press XXX to enter Setup”. In many BIOS versions, XXX is the DEL button. So, in this case, you must press DEL at this point to enter BIOS setup. You have to hit it at the right time, too, because the system will just continue on booting if it does not sense the DEL button on time. Pressing the button later in the process will not get you into the setup utility, forcing you to reset the system again to try getting it at the right time.

Once you are in the BIOS setup utility, you will see a variety of meny options, arranged in a two column format. At the top of the screen will be a title which tells you you are in the setup utility. It will also indicate the brand of BIOS you have, whether it be Award, Phoenix, AMI BIOS, etc. At the bottom of the screen will be the key legend that tells you how to navigate around your BIOS with your keyboard. While there are BIOS editions out there that allow you to use a mouse, most do not and you have to navigate with your keyboard only. Here is a typical mapping of keys and their functions:

F1General HelpGives the list of options available for each item
F5Previous ValuesRestores the values that were in place at the time the user entered the BIOS. Useful if you can’t remember what you changed, but is only valid if you have not yet rebooted.
F6Load Fail-Safe DefaultsLoads all options with pre-set conservative values that the system whoudl be able to run with with no conflict.
F7Load Optimized DefaultsLoads all options with pre-set values that are more optimized, for better performance.
F10SaveSaves changes and reboots the system
ESCExitReturns for any sub-screen to the Main Menu.
ENTERSelectUsed to enter into a sub-screen which provides options for an item on a higher level menu
+/-.PU/PDValueUsed to toggle up and down the available options for a particular item

The up and down arrow keys are used to move up and down, side to side on the menu options on the screen. Some of the functions in the table above also have corresponding entries in the main menu. F10 does the same thing as the “Save & Exit Setup” option, for example. You can also exit BIOS without saving.

Special Sections

Some of the menu options in the CMOS do not have settings, or at least many settings, to worry about, so they do not have a corresponding article in this section of the site. Nonetheless, these sections can be useful.

  • PC Health Status
    This page has not settings, but basically displays information based on some of the sensors on the motherboard. This information includes the CPU core temperature, the case interior temperature, the RPM speeds of the chassis fan and CPU fan, as well as voltage readouts for the processor, AGP, DDR-DRAM, etc. This information can be useful for monitoring information in high-speed situations such as overclocking. Overclockers run their hardware past the normal lists, so monitoring temperatures is important information. Monitoring voltages is also important, as it can help track down whether a piece of hardware is acting up because it has too little voltage. It should be noted that the information from these sensors should nto be taken as gospel. They have been known to be inaccurate at times.

  • Set Supervisor/User Password
    These are ways to set BIOS-level password security for your system. When a supervisor password is enabled, a password will be required before the CMOS setup can again be entered and changed. If a user password is specified, then a user who tries to enter setup will only be able to change his own password, nothing else. When setting a supervisor password, you also set the level of security, whether you want it to only protect the BIOS Setup or if you want a password required in order to even use the system.


With that, hopefully I’ve provided an orientation to the BIOS Setup Utility. consult the other articles of this section for settings in each section of the setup utility.


  1. Hung Pham says:

    I can’t get into the BIOS setup. My laptop is Toshiba Satellite Pro 470CDT, Win2K. I could not see any key or icon on boot up. Someone can help me?? Thanks

  2. Erns Cristobal says:

    My laptop computer has an o/s windowxp, when i entered the bios it freezes. also if i press F8 to enter the safe mode, the window which ask to select the boot device 1) cd/dvd 2) HDD 3) Network freezes also. Pls let me know the cause and the solution to this.



  3. the cmos of my computer is password and i dont kmown the password the bios name is phoenix award bios cmos setup utility.the pc is made by tongfangpc pls tell me what to do and how to get my pc fix

  4. hi i have a dell d610 laptop. I purchase a new hard drive but when i tried installing the hard drive it fail because my configure setup in boot is disable.

    How can I enable my configure setup in boot?

  5. my laptop is a toshiba satellite A 135 and its cmos is phoenix bios setup utility and is asking for an admin password…but i dont remember giving it any..i dont know what to do and how to get it fixed..please help me..pls? thank you…

  6. ihave a gateway with a phoenixBios Utility setup. Is there a way i can retrieve my password if i were to forget it?

    thanks for your expertise…

  7. Asare Bediako Asabere Kofi says:

    My toshiba A135 Satellite is asking me to enter a password which I didn’t administer. What do I do?

    • Toshiba will fix it for free even if you are out of your warranty. I found this on Toshiba’s website –
      The computer models listed above may display a “Password =” prompt when the computer is turned on, even though no power-on password has been set. If this happens, there is no password that will satisfy the password request. If the computer is turned off and back on again, it is very likely that the same password prompt will appear. The computer will be unusable until this problem is fixed.
      If the problem has already occurred on your computer, then please make arrangements with a Toshiba Authorized Service Provider to have this problem fixed at no charge. To locate a Toshiba Authorized Service Provider (ASP), please visit Toshiba’s Global ASP Locator at

      I hope this helps you

  8. Hi, my automatic update started downloading windows xp service pack 3 an my dell vostro 1000 laptop froze.. since then my laptop is not functioning properly. i am seeing a Warning about the OPTION ROM placement feature and that i must change this feature in Setup Utility or remove some PCI Cards! i am unsure what to do since i enter boot menu an am being asked for passwords that i never even knew about! please help me .. thank u

  9. Brad Russell says:

    How do I set my Bios to boot the cd rom drive I can not get it to boot the cd drive so I can fix some files that were updated poorly with missing files I can not seem to get the right Bios configuration to make it work. Thanks

  10. my daughter sat on the laptop keyboard and when i put it off and back on i got tthis problem to enter password .now i have done ctrl alt del to get back to phoenixbios setup utility screen but dont know which password to use my laptop is accer travelmate 230xc

  11. Kevinnguyen says:

    My Laptop is HP.and it just turned off on i went to the phoenixbios setup utility.and i couldn’t find the load fail-safe can i find it?

  12. LeandroABS says:

    To those who are having password problem:

    As mentioned above “The memory is maintained by a small current generated by a battery which also resides on your motherboard. Newer board use a NiCad battery which recharges whenever the PC is on, but the older ones use a standard battery, which when it runs out of juice, must be replaced. In a similar fashion, if you wish, for some reason, to clear your CMOS and start fresh, simply disconnect the battery. Of course, on newer boards, there is a CMOS-clear jumper, usually located near the battery, which performs the same function.”

    That’s how you clear CMOS and start fresh WITH NO PASSWORD.

  13. Hugh Walsh says:

    Bios setup utility does anyone have the advanced settings please my notebook says Warning: Setting wrong values in below sections may cause system to malfunction

  14. Hello . I’m stuck in the bios utility setup screens ,and cannot get back to the windows xp pro screen , any way of fixing this…is there a set of keys ( order ) in whick to type in ? I have an IBM thinkpad T-30 and when I got into bios I errored and hit the password and some random keys ,!! I was locked out foe weeks and managed to hack thru the password ( IBM ) it does not matter if you disconnect the battery ,still keeps password,it is the only laptop that does !!Now I just want to get back to the main windows screen and can’t find a disk ….ended up buying new computer but still want to get this one working again….thanks ….TS

  15. once i restart the machine after failed attempt to install XP it says “setup is being restored” after windows loading window aper and get black window with cursor, and stop booting there

  16. wazalac18 says:

    my friend gave me an old laptop (Panasonic CF-27) with hard disk not found problem, and it has bios password that she cant remember. since i don’t have a floppy dive on my desktop i tried to disconnect the cmos battery for about 3 hours, the bios settings was reset but the password remains still, and got “CMOS Time and Date Not Set”

    prior to that i tried an empty and brand new floppy disk and got a message that somewhat saying “insert system boot disk and press any key when ready.

    after resetting (1st paragraph)it seems that it wont boot on the floppy drive now coz i didnt get the same message when i tried the floppy disk again.

    what should i do?
    help would be very much appreciated.


  17. Gina Marie Gordon says:

    I have a HP Invent Intell Mac Notebook Laptop that uses Phoenixbios set up utility, On it it states that the Netbios revision is KH.F.20 . I am not sure what this even is, because I have looked up and it keeps saying bios6 higher one or lower or higher, I got the notebook completely restored, I think it has windows 7 on it, My things is I need help setting it up. I am using my other laptop.

    Other question is: Is there a file on my dell laptop that I can use the windows from there to install on my mac? any help would be appreciated,

  18. I have recently replaced my power supply after about 8 months of my PC being dead. I have 2 hard drives, one with win7 and one with xp. Before, it wood boot up win7, but now it boots xp, is this a Bios setting problem?

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