BIOS 101: A 5-Minute Guide To Firmware’s Basic Features

It’s common to think that, in order to improve your PC hardware, you’ll have to get a newer computer model or change system components. However, advanced users can tweak the hardware performance from the inside thanks to BIOS.

According to Wikipedia, BIOS is non-volatile firmware used to perform the hardware initialization during the booting process and to provide runtime services for programs and operating systems. 

If you want to know more about the term itself, there are a few decent guides to answer the question of ‘What does BIOS stand for’?​

Practically, knowing how to operate BIOS provides PC users with more control over the system. You will be able to adjust the CPU frequency multiplier as well as voltage. BIOS can come in handy in case of system crashes – you might need the firmware access to fix major issues.

Navigating BIOS is a challenging task for the first-time firmware user. There is a wide range of features – sometimes, it’s hard to determine the system impact of each one. This guide will help PC users get a better grasp on basic BIOS features, you’ll learn how to manage the hardware settings, and access the firmware in the first place.

How to Open BIOS?

In order to enter the Basic Input/Output System, press the default key (in most computers, F2) during the system boot. The ‘Setup’ tab will open allowing you to tweak hardware settings.

Basic BIOS Features

The BIOS interface is the same for most motherboard – a blue-colored tab with all the system specs. By choosing ‘Cell Menu’ tab on the screen, a user will be able to see the list of all features. It includes CPU frequency settings, Ai Tweaker, Frequency Control, and so on. We’ll analyze these basic features one by one below.

CPU settings

The ‘CPU settings’ block is normally used by system admins in case they want to slow down or speed up the processor The block stores the data on the clock speed of the system (measured in GHz) as well as that of the bus speed (determines how much data is moving simultaneously across the system, is measured in MHz).

Apart from storing speed data, the ‘CPU settings’ block allows the developer to either speed up or slow down the processor. Keep in mind that increasing the speed of the CPU can come with its consequences. It may lead to overclocking and cause a computer to heat too fast. However, there’s no harm in increasing the speed of a processor for a short period of time in order to make the most out of the system.

How to increase the processor speed using BIOS: ●      Open the ‘CPU settings’ tab;

Increase the multiplier to match the clock speed. As you increase the value in the ‘Clock Speed’ tab, be sure to procedurally increase the value of the multiplier. This way, in order to match the speed of 3.4GHz, set the multiplier to 34, and so on.

  • Exit the BIOS and restart the computer. Test the performance of the hardware, ensure it doesn’t overheat.

Apart from adjusting the CPU clock speed and the multiplier, you’ll be able to tweak C-States and SpeedSteps by accessing the ‘CPU settings’ window.

Memory timings

Memory timings are next up on the list of the most basic BIOS features. It allows PC users to improve RAM performance. Unlike ‘CPU settings’ – a tab with a fairly straightforward set of features, memory timings are a complex matter.

While it’s recommended that you do more research before messing around the tab, here’s a brief rundown of all the lists a PC user will be able to adjust.

  • P1 -​ a setting that improves MCH latencies. In case you plan to send an FSB with a frequency greater than 475 MHz, it’s recommended to enable P1. For lower frequencies, the setting will hardly have any system impact.
  • P2. You can leave the setting at an ‘Auto’ mode unless the clocking is above​ In order to keep both P1 and P2 enabled, you will need powerful hardware – otherwise, a system will be unstable. As a rule, however, when both options are on, a PC user will be able to improve the memory reader tremendously.

tCL. This feature allows PC users to manage CAS Latency. The feature has an​ impressive impact on memory voltage and can ensure The range of possible values is from 5 to 18. The basics of tCL settings go as follow – up to DDR3-1600, the value is 6, for DDR3-1600 – DDR3-1830 – 7, DDR3-1830 – DRR3-2000, set it to 8, all that goes above requires a 9.

  • tRCD. As a rule of thumb, it’s better to keep a tRCD value equal to that of tCL. This​ setting, however, doesn’t have a noticeable impact on memory bandwidth.
  • tRP (​Row Precharge). The tRP value is also recommended to match tCL and tRCD. However, you can test setting a -1 value and decrease the value in order to get the lowest one possible. By keeping the tRP low, you’ll be able to avoid high memory voltages.
  • tRAS. This value should be adjusted in case you were changing tCL or tRCD. Active​ Precharge delay is set by the formula of tCL + tRDC + 2. In case you decide to go with lower values, the stability of the system can take a noticeable hit.
  • tWR. This feature allows users to adjust the write recovery time. It’s recommended to​ put the value at 10. In case your hardware can’t keep up with such a high value, try lowering it to 8.

Boot Order

This feature allows PC users to change the order in which system components are booted. A standard order would be: disk drives, then hard, floppy, and optical drives. Sometimes, however, a PC user has to change the boot order – when launching bootable data destructions or antivirus clients – for instance.

Here’s a short guide on changing the boot order in BIOS:

  1. Open the BIOS tab;
  2. Choose the ‘Boot’ tab;
  3. Change the boot order;
  4. Press ‘Exit saving changes’.
  5. Restart a computer to activate a new boot order.

Apart from simply changing the order in which drives and devices will be booted, one will be able to tweak the Fast Boot feature, change the keyboard and the trusted platform settings.

Peripheral settings

This section of BIOS allows users to manage peripherals connected to the motherboard. The system impact of this tab is crucial as it allows you to disable ports that are no longer in use thus preventing system drain.

The range of settings for customization includes:

  • Primary VGA. The setting is useful for PCs that have two video cards. Normally, the​ system chooses one of the two cards as main by default. By accessing the “‘primary VGA’ setting, a user will be able to set a default video card to match his own preferences.

USB Controllers. This feature allows users to disable/enable USB ports to not waste​      system resources;

  • USB Legacy support is used to manage the way USB keyboards are connected to​ the PC. Keep the Legacy Support enabled to connect a USB keyboard with the regular connector to a PC. In case you have a keyboard with a round connector, disable the feature.
  • USB Mouse Support -​ is, as the name implies, in charge of connecting a USB mouse to the computer.
  • Onboard AC97 Audio Controller. This feature is enabled for most PCs that do not​ have an added sound card and are equipped with speakers. In case your PC has an added sound card or no speakers, be sure to disable the Onboard Audio Controller feature.
  • Onboard LAN – a feature that, when enabled, allows users to use a PC as a router​ to get a high-speed Internet connection. By activating the Onboard LAN, you would be activating network interface cards. In case you only use one out of a few NIC cards, disable the rest in order to limit the usage of system resources.

USB Settings

In the ‘USB Settings’ tab, a user will be able to tweak a few additional settings and improve the connection of USB devices to the motherboard. Now that most operating systems are fully integrated for USB 3.0 support, PC users rarely access BIOS to tweak the settings.

However, there are a few BIOS exclusive features, such as:

  • Adjusting support legacy; ● Manage USB port chips; ●      Tweak peripheral USB ports.

Display settings

Display settings allow PC users to manage graphics cards, disable and enable their usage, change the one chosen by default. You’ll also be able to add a graphics card to the boot process.

Power management

In this tab, you’ll be able to adjust all the power-related settings – as a result, you can decrease the amount of electricity consumed by a PC, prevent the system itself from rolling blackouts, and improve the overall system performance.

Here is the list of features you’ll be able to tweak:

  • Power manager allows you to divide the power consumption across the different facets of the system;
  • Instant-on support. This one allows PC users to turn the system off and on partly, instead of booting it completely. This way, one is able to use a computer without charging it for a fairly long while.

Inactivity timer. A user will be able to shut-down selected parts of the system in case they have not been active for a while.


Virtualization is a handy feature for software developers, testers, or any PC user that have to deal with emulation. Essentially, it allows your CPU to act as if you have several computers. This way, one will be able to comfortably run several systems on a single device.

If your processor supports virtualization, you can go to BIOS and enable it manually.


BIOS allows PC users to get more control over the hardware, improve the performance of the processor as well as the motherboard. While the features are fairly advanced, there are guides all over the web to help you master the firmware.

Keep in mind that, if you are a beginning PC user, it’s best to keep all the values in the default mode in order to not harm the hardware itself. In case you want to change the values in tabs, it’s best to increase/decrease the value procedurally. Every system change should be carefully tested.

Altogether, BIOS has a useful set of features that PC users shouldn’t ignore. Be sure to spend more time exploring the system and make the most out of your hardware.

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