ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

What are those clunky characters on my monitor at bootup?

Updated on July 13, 2008
A typical BIOS screen for a zoomy Intel CPU.
A typical BIOS screen for a zoomy Intel CPU.
 

Every computer user has seen that antiquated 1960s type ASCII character screen that pops up as your PC starts up, but only a fairly small percentage of us have ever understood what all that stuff is, let alone delve into its mysterious functions. When your computer is first turned on, it literally doesn't know what it is. It could boot into a Windows environment or maybe a Linux one, or a Unix server or one of an almost infinite number of proprietary business or technical variants. The Basic Input Output System (BIOS) is how your computer knows how to start the process of launching into the Operating System you have chosen for it.

The BIOS is a tiny chunk of software that your PC utilizes to configure and test its various systems, including disk drives, memory, video, and all its various subsystems. The BIOS information is held in an Electrically Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory (EEPROM) that holds the current version of the program. Almost all BIOS chips on the market today are manufactured by either AMI or Phoenix. Even if your BIOS shows your PC manufacturer's name instead of AMI or Phoenix, it is most likely that you're running one of those same BIOSes but your manufacturer has licensed to use it under its own name.

The BIOS checks the information on the Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) which contain the PC's current settings. A tiny battery on the motherboard maintains electricity to the CMOS to ensure that data does not get erased even if the PC is unplugged for months or years. With the CMOS info, the BIOS now proceeds to configure the various computer subsystems to all work in harmony. Some of the functions that the BIOS controls is the order the disk drives will be polled for boot information, the loading of various interrupt handlers and device drivers to make the subsystems and attached peripherals work properly. After that's all taken care of, the BIOS turns its attention to the video subsystem and will either start its own onboard graphics controller or trigger a separate BIOS which resides inside a third party video card. Once video output is determined to be available, the BIOS runs the Power On Self Test (POST) where it confirms that the power supply voltages, checksums, onboard memory, input/output and video controllers are operating according to specification. This is why you'll often hear distraught computer enthusiast crying "My PC won't POST!"

Once the POST routine is completed and the graphics controller is enabled to show the amount of onboard RAM memory on the monitor, everything is A-OK and the boot sequence of the loaded Operating System can begin. That's when you start getting the Windows logos and in many cases go out for lunch, take in a movie, go for a stroll in the park and come back to wait for your Windows to load. If there is anyone to blame for that it's Bill Gates, it is most certainly not the fault of your BIOS which will usually perform all its duties in a matter of a few seconds!

 

Check out hundreds of Hal's PC Technology articles in these categories:

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)