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Reading BIOS Error Codes

Because beep codes can indicate only some of the problems in a system at startup, most BIOSes also output a series of status codes during the boot procedure. These codes are sent to an I/O port address that can be read by specialized diagnostic cards, which you can purchase from many different vendors. These POST cards (so named from the power on self test) feature a two-digit LED panel that displays the status codes output by the BIOS. The simpler POST cards are hard-wired to pick up signals from the most commonly used I/O port address 80hex, but more expensive models can be adjusted with jumper blocks to use other addresses used by certain BIOSes (such as Compaq).

These cards are normally sold with manuals that list the error/status codes. While the cards are durable, the codes can become outdated. To get an updated list of codes, contact the system or BIOS vendor's Web site.

Most POST cards have been based on the ISA bus, but the latest models are now being made to fit into PCI slots because ISA is becoming obsolete. For diagnosing portable systems, and to avoid the need to open a system to insert a POST card, Ultra-X offers a MicroPOST display unit that attaches to the parallel port. Contact Ultra-X at http://www.uxd.com/ for more information.

Onscreen Error Messages

An onscreen error message is often the easiest of the error methods to understand, because you don't need to count beeps or open the system to install a POST card. However, because some systems use numeric error codes, and even "plain English" codes need interpretation, these messages can still be a challenge to interpret. Because the video circuits are tested after components such as the motherboard, CPU, and BIOS, an onscreen error message is usually indicative of a less-serious error than one that is reported with beep codes.

Interpreting Error Codes and Messages

Because beep codes, error/status codes, and onscreen messages vary a great deal by BIOS vendor (and sometimes BIOS model), you must know what BIOS a system has before you can choose the correct table. With major-brand systems (and some others), you'll typically find a list of error codes and messages in the system documentation. You can also contact the BIOS or system vendors' Web sites for this information, or check on the CD included with Upgrading and Repairing PCs, 12th Edition.

BIOS Configuration Worksheet

BIOS configuration options vary a great deal, and incorrect settings can cause a system to fail, lose data, or not work correctly with PnP-compatible operating systems, such as Windows 9x/2000/Me. The following worksheet can be used to record the most critical BIOS configuration information. Use it when you are unable to print out the actual configuration screens.

System ID_____________________Brand & Model # ____________

Date Recorded_________________Operating System____________

Hard Disk Partitions______________________________________

Notes_____________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________

Standard CMOS/BIOS Configuration

(Configuration Option)

(Setting—circle or write down setting used)

Drive A

1.44MB

 

2.88MB

 

Other__________

 

None

Drive B

1.44MB

 

2.88MB

 

Other__________

 

None

1st IDE Drive

Drive Type:

 

Hard Disk

 

CD-ROM

 

Other (specify)

 

_____________

 

Hard disk Geometry

 

Cyl:_________

 

Sectors/Track: ____

 

Heads: ________

 

LBA Y/N:

2nd IDE Drive

Drive Type:

 

Hard Disk

 

CD-ROM

 

Other (specify)

 

_____________

 

Hard disk Geometry

 

Cyl:_________

Standard CMOS/BIOS Configuration

 

 

Sectors/Track: ____

 

Heads: ________

 

LBA Y/N:

3rd IDE Drive

Drive Type:

 

Hard Disk

 

CD-ROM

 

Other (specify)

 

_____________

 

Hard disk Geometry

 

Cyl:_________

 

Sectors/Track: ____

 

Heads: ________

 

LBA Y/N:

4th IDE Drive

Drive Type:

 

Hard Disk

 

CD-ROM

 

Other (specify)

 

_____________

 

Hard disk Geometry

 

Cyl:_________

 

Sectors/Track: ____

 

Heads: ________

 

LBA Y/N:

Other BIOS Configuration Screens

 

Boot Sequence

1st drive: _____

 

2nd drive:______

 

3rd drive:______

 

4th drive:______

Anti-Virus or Write-Protect

Enable / Disable Boot Sector

PS/2 Mouse

Enable / Disable

Password

Power On

 

Password: ________

 

Setup

 

Password: ________

External Memory Cache

Enable / Disable (Level 2)

Internal Memory Cache

Enable / Disable (Level 1)

Shadow RAM / ROM Shadowing

Specify Range(s) In Use:

 

_____________

 

_____________

 

_____________

 

_____________

USB Ports

Enable / Disable

USB Legacy Support

Enable / Disable (keyboard & mouse)

Memory Timing Configuration

Auto / Manual

 

If Manual, specify changes from system default below:

 

_______________

 

_______________

 

_______________

 

_______________

 

_______________

Power Management

Enable / Disable

 

If Enabled, specify changes from system default below:

 

_______________

 

_______________

 

_______________

 

_______________

 

_______________

Plug and Play (PnP)

Enable / Disable

 

If Enabled, specify changes from system default below:

 

_______________

 

_______________

 

_______________

 

_______________

 

_______________

LPT Port

Mode Selected:

 

Standard EPP ECP Bi-Di

 

Disabled

 

EPP Version # _______

 

IRQ: 7 5 _______

 

DMA for ECP Mode: _____

 

I/O Port Address:

 

378H

LPT Port

Mode Selected:

 

278H

 

3BCH

 

Disabled

Serial (COM) Port 1

I/O Port Address:

 

3FH (COM1)

 

2FH (COM2)

 

3EH (COM3)

 

2EH (COM4)

 

Disabled

 

Notes: ___________________

Serial (COM) Port 2

I/O Port Address:

 

3FH (COM1)

 

2FH (COM2)

 

3EH (COM3)

 

2EH (COM4)

 

Disabled

 

Notes: ___________________

IDE Hard Disk Interface #1

Interface:

 

Enable / Disable

 

32-bit Mode: Enable / Disable

 

PIO Mode: 0 1 2 3 4

 

UDMA Mode: 33MHz 66MHz 100MHz

 

Block Mode: Enable / Disable

 

# of Blocks: ____________

IDE Hard Disk Interface #2

Interface:

 

Enable / Disable

 

32-bit Mode: Enable / Disable

 

PIO Mode: 0 1 2 3 4

 

UDMA Mode: 33MHz 66MHz 100MHz

 

Block Mode: Enable / Disable


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