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BIOS

Stands for "Basic Input/Output System." Most people don't need to ever mess with the BIOS on a computer, but it can be helpful to know what it is. The BIOS is a program pre-installed on Windows-based computers (not on Macs) that the computer uses to start up. The CPU accesses the BIOS even before the operating system is loaded. The BIOS then checks all your hardware connections and locates all your devices. If everything is OK, the BIOS loads the operating system into the computer's memory and finishes the boot-up process.

Since the BIOS manages the hard drives, it can't reside on one, and since it is available before the computer boots up, it can't live in the RAM. So where can this amazing, yet elusive BIOS be found? It is actually located in the ROM (Read-Only Memory) of the computer. More specifically, it resides in an eraseable programmable read-only memory (EPROM) chip. So, as soon as you turn your computer on, the CPU accesses the EPROM and gives control to the BIOS.

The BIOS also is used after the computer has booted up. It acts as an intermediary between the CPU and the I/O (input/output) devices. Because of the BIOS, your programs and your operating system don't have to know exact details (like hardware addresses) about the I/O devices attached to your PC. When device details change, only the BIOS needs to be updated. You can make these changes by entering the BIOS when your system starts up. To access the BIOS, hold down the key as soon as your computer begins to start up.

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