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Accessing the BIOS Setup Programs

The BIOS is configured in one of several ways. Early computers, such as the IBM PC and PC/XT, used DIP switches on the motherboard to set a limited range of BIOS options, including memory size and the number of floppy disk drives. The IBM PC/AT introduced a disk-based configuration utility to cope with the many additional options on 286-based CPUs. Since the late 1980s, most computers have had their BIOS Setup programs incorporated into the BIOS chip itself. The Setup program is accessed on these systems by pressing a key or key combination early in the system startup procedure. Most recent computers display the correct keystroke(s) to use during the system startup. If not, use Table 3.8 to learn the keystrokes used to start common BIOS types.

Table 3.8 Common Keystrokes Used to Access the BIOS Setup Program




Phoenix BIOS

Ctrl+Alt+Esc Ctrl+Alt+F1 Ctrl+Alt+S Ctrl+Alt+Enter Ctrl+Alt+F11 Ctrl+Alt+Ins


Award BIOS

Ctrl+Alt+Esc Esc







*—Early notebook models; press when cursor is in upper-right corner of screen

Compaq BIOS


Keystroke actually loads Compaq Setup program from hard disk partition; press when cursor is in upper-right corner of screen


See Chapter 5 of Upgrading and Repairing PCs, 12th Edition to see how a typical BIOS Setup program operates.

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