Ultimate BIOS guide


Paul Townsendshows there s more to improving performance than ...

UltimateBIOS guidePaul Townsend shows theres more to improving performance thansimply tweaking Windows. Its time you got your hands on the BIOSAs a PC owner, its your duty tosqueeze every last drop ofperformance out of yourmachine. Changes to theregistry, defragmenting the hard diskand other Windows tweaks can all beemployed to make the computer runthat little bit faster. However, youroperating system isnt the only placewhere things can be sped up.The fun can start way beforeWindows gets a chance to boot. TheBIOS or Setup utility as its sometimesknown contains a number of settingswhich can be tweaked to youradvantage. Here youll be able to adjustvalues and in some cases disable itemscompletely to make your system workfaster and more efficiently.Press the Delete key the momentafter you switch your PC on to accessthe BIOS. The information youre able toaccess via the BIOS varies between PCs.The settings control the behaviour ofmotherboard features and thecomponents that are attached to it. Forexample, hard disks, memory and CPU.Before you make any changes its a goodidea to make a note of your originalBIOS settings. If you make any changesyoure not happy with you can quicklyreturn to the original configuration. ¤4 October 2007PCF205.h_main_proj 47/8/07 5:51:58 pm

Ultimate BIOS guide1Left Pressingthe Delete keywill (probably)get you in to theBIOS screen23The hard disk shouldalways be your firstport of callStill using a floppy drive?Stop your PC from tryingto boot from it4Make surethat old diskgets detected“Its not just XP settings thatcan be tweaked to cut boottimes – pay attention tohard drives too”The basicsIf youre trying to get into the BIOS youll have to be quick.Youll only have a few seconds before its too late and Windowsstarts to boot. If the Delete key doesnt work and no other keyis indicated, youll need to check your motherboard manual tofind out which one gives you access (1). Its not just Windowssettings that can be tweaked to cut boot times. Theresanother way to speed up startup. Take a look in your BIOS andyou may have a separate option that will disable attempts byyour system to find a floppy drive. Theyre more or lessredundant now and youll be able to live without one (2). Aswell as this floppy setting, take a look at your entire bootsequence. Along with your hard disk you can boot from CD/DVD drive and even boot up through a network card. Changethe sequence so that its your IDE drive thats at the top of thelist (3). The BIOS of some PCs contains a setting called DelayIDE Initial. This option enables you to force your system todelay the detection of IDE devices. This doesnt apply to newhardware but might come in useful if you still have an old harddisk attached to your system (4).October 2007 5PCF205.h_main_proj 57/8/07 5:52:05 pm

StabilityWindows has its own password and so does your BIOS.Activate this setting and your PC wont even boot unless thecorrect password has been entered. Just remember, forgettingthe password may cause you a few headaches. Resetting thisoften involves changing a jumper setting on the mother. Letshope youve got your motherboard manual handy (1). Whenyour PC starts youll see it count up your RAM along withdisplaying details of other hardware. This is called the PowerOn Self Test. Its for information purposes only. It can be safelydisabled which will enable your PC to start that tiny bit faster(2). Hard disk failure is more than a tad inconvenient. Manysystems have an option called HDD SMART (Self MonitoringAnalysis and Reporting). When enabled, it can alert you toproblems with your hard disk. This option needs to beactivated in your BIOS and used alongside a disk monitoringutility such as DiskCheckup. Its a free download from www.passmark.com/products/diskcheckup.htm and will run in thebackground (3). Category names vary between each BIOS. Youmay need to search through each section to find the settingyou want to alter. Most motherboards come with a HardwareMonitor. This enables you to keep an eye on the temperatureof your CPU and motherboard. If your PC keeps locking up orrestarts unexpectedly then check the temperature thatsbeing displayed. Anything higher than 85ºC for your CPUshould be cause for concern (4).1Above You can neverhave enoughpasswords, eh?23Left Shave evenmore seconds offyour boot timeAbove A nice littlefreebie disk tool4Dont let yourCPU get over-excited,make sure it stays cool“Forgetting your BIOSpassword will cause you noend of headaches down theline, so keep it safe”6 October 2007PCF205.h_main_proj 67/8/07 5:52:14 pm

Ultimate BIOS guide1“The Hibernate settingsaves system resources andallows you to restart yourPC much faster”Left If youve gotSpeedStep youllhave an Intel icon inControl Panel23More noisemeans more speed4Left Tweak that RAMand improve systemperformanceBelow Hibernatecould solve all yourslow boot problemsPerformanceIf youre using a laptop that has an Intel CPU you may have aBIOS setting called SpeedStep. This enables the clock speedof the processor to be changed dynamically by software.When the laptop is connected to the mains it runs at the samespeed as a comparable desktop PC. However, when yourlaptop is on battery power the CPU will drop to a lowerfrequency and voltage. This helps extend battery life but atthe same time theres a slight drop in performance. TheSpeedStep setting enables you to overcome this bycustomising the configuration (1). Look out for HDD AcousticMode. Youll find that its disabled by default on most systemsbut can speed things up when activated. Switch this setting onand your hard disk will run faster. The only trouble is that allthis increased activity means the disk will become noisier.Give it a try and see if its worth all the extra crunching (2). Youwill have a setting in your BIOS which enables you to overclock your RAM. Look out for the CAS Latency option which isthe one youll be able to tweak. The lower the CAS latency thebetter your system will perform. Try a setting of 2 (3). InWindows XP click on Start > Turn Off Computer to see optionsfor shutting down your PC. Hold down the Shift key and theStand By option should change to Hibernate. This state savespower and enables you to resume and start your system upagain much faster. If youre not able to see the Hibernateoption, ensure that Advanced Power Management/Savingsettings have been enabled in the BIOS (4).October 2007 7PCF205.h_main_proj 77/8/07 5:52:24 pm

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