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Wed 31 Aug 2005 04:00 AM

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Bios Cafe

If you've followed our recent guide and built your own PC, you're probably excited about the idea of installing a fresh OS.Then consider visiting the bountiful BIOS Café; a wondrous place that offers a virtual smorgasboard of tasty tweaking treats. Don't know where to start? Windows is here with an exclusive menu just for you …

|~|HPIM0062.jpg|~||~|In order to install a fresh operating system (OS) on your newly built machine, you need to first set-up your BIOS (a.k.a Basic Input Output System). Simply put, this is the nerve centre of your PC and allows communication between various hardware components.

BIOS Basics
Although the BIOS has many functions, there are two key ones. The first function is to test hardware functionality before loading the OS. This is also known as the Power On Self Test (POST). The second is to provide an interface that allows you to configure your hardware and system settings. Although there are different BIOS types, for the purpose of this workshop we shall focus on the Phoenix-Award BIOS. If you happen to be using a different BIOS type, don't fret just yet. Although the layout and labels may be different, all the features and functions are basically the same.

Before you begin, we recommend reading the BIOS section of your motherboard manual. Also note, we will be focusing mostly on those options that are crucial for a newly built PC to perform at its best.

Accessing the BIOS
To enter the BIOS set-up screen, first boot up your PC and wait for it to display the following message: ‘Press F1 to enter BIOS’ (in most cases it's 'F1 or 'DELETE'). Hit this key after the (POST signal) beep for the BIOS screen to appear.

Standard CMOS Features
Once the main BIOS screen appears, highlight 'Standard CMOS Features' and hit Enter. Now, set the date and time, and make sure all the drives you've connected to your PC are shown here. The location of the drives on each channel depends solely on how you configured the jumpers on them.

Advanced BIOS Features
First, select the drive you'd like to boot from first. If you want to boot from a Windows XP installation CD for example, select your optical drive as your first boot drive. You can then prioritise your remaining drives. Next, enabling 'Anti-virus Protection' will prevent viruses from attacking your boot sector or partition table. (However, we don’t recommend enabling this option if you're installing a fresh OS on your newly built PC, as it may cause some problems when installing certain versions of Windows).

Enable SMART (Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology), as this constantly monitors the health of your hard drive and sends out system warnings when too many errors are recorded. If you want to protect your PC from unauthorised access you can also set-up a password. Go to the 'Security Option' and enable a 'System' or 'BIOS' password. If you select the 'System' option you will need to use the password you assigned to boot your PC. Using the ‘BIOS’ option only prevents users from entering the BIOS and making changes.

Depending on the motherboard and graphics card you've chosen, use the 'Display Priority' option to set which type of video card you'd like to use as your primary graphics card (e.g. AGP, PCI-E or PCI).

Advanced Chipset Features
If your software is graphics-intensive, we suggest you set your 'Aperture size' to 128MB, as this will satisfy most graphical requirements. If you still find your graphics performance sluggish, increase this amount to suit your needs.

Also, if you've picked up an AGP 8x or PCI-E x16 card, double-check to see if your BIOS is allowing it to function at full speed. For example, the BIOS may set your AGP 8x card to function at 4x instead of 8x, which will restrict performance.

Next, set your 'DDR Settings' to either 'SPD' (Serial Presence Detect) or 'Auto'(both are the same). This will automatically configure your memory timings according to the module you have installed. Please note that some BIOS types refer to SPD as Auto. Also, make sure the 'Memory Clock' (or 'MemClock') option is set according to the speed of your memory module. For instance, DDR400 modules should be set to a speed of 200MHz, as in DDR terms 200MHz translates to 400MHz (i.e. 200MHz x 2).

Integrated Peripherals
Depending on the interface of your storage drives (hard disks and optical drives), enable the corresponding controller. For example, if you have built your PC using an IDE drive, enable the IDE controller. Also, if your motherboard supports
RAID and you intend to use this feature, enable
this controller.

Next, set the transfer speed of each controller.
In most cases, the BIOS is preset to 'Auto' mode.
If not, we recommend you set it to 'Auto' as this will save you the trouble of having to determine the speed of each drive yourself.

If you plan to use your motherboard's on-board components (audio, network, VGA, USB controller, serial ports and parallel ports) enable these. If you decide to use an external network or VGA card though, make sure you disable the on-board components first.

Power Management
This section lets you start your PC via a keyboard or mouse. It also lets you set an automatic timer, which means you can schedule your PC to turn on at a specific time.

The 'Keyboard on password' feature allows you to assign a password to power on your PC. Not only is this a good security feature but it's also a good way to make your PC kid-proof. Additionally, you can set your PC to stay off or come on automatically in the event that you lose power while you are working on it.

PC Health Set-up
To check the overall health of your PC, enter this section to get detailed information on your CPU's temperature, fan speeds and voltage levels.

If you want to monitor your processor’s fan speed
or the internal cooling fan, enable 'CPU Fan Fail Warning' and 'System Fan Fail Warning' to receive alerts when your fan speed slows considerably. Make sure your CPU fan speed is at a minimum of 1,500rpm, as anything lower could lead to your CPU over-heating and thus becoming unstable.

Once you're happy with all your changes, scroll over to the 'Save & Exit' option, hit Enter followed by 'Y'. You're now ready to move to the last part of setting up your new PC. To find out what to do next, be sure to read our next workshop on partitioning. ||**||

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