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OOPS !! a newbie makes a blunder

By gbrownlee ·
Earlier today I posted my first question on TR's site. It was in the Tech. Q&A section and was titled CMOS BIOS in simple terms. I received a very clear and concise answer from Chas and awarded the points to him. I realized an instant after clicking the button to close the question, that the rest of you wouldn't see the answer and comments I received. I saved a htm file of the answer and am attempting to copy it for all to see. Hope it works!!!!

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CMOS BIOS in simple terms
As I understand it, a bios is neither software or hardware, but I thought this section to be the best to get a reply.

From circa Windows 95 to the present day, has the relationship between the two changed? Why is/was it bad news if you lost your cmos settings. Can't you just enter the bios and use defaults. Do the cmos batterys in newer motherboards recieve a trickle charge when the pc is in use and changing the cmos every 2 years be a non issue now. Why are there such dire warnings about entering the bios and making changes. What kind of changes would make the system un-bootable, if any.

I read, in a city newspaper an advertisement for instant on pc's. Does this mean a change in which the bios functions, and what has happened to the POST?


ps. answers to this question WILL BE RATED!!

From: ruralgeezer Date: 05/14/2004 Status: Answered Points: 300

Comment from ruralgeezer on 05/14/04 :
This question was closed by the author

Answer 1:

BIOS stands for Basic Input Output System.

The system BIOS IS software.
This software is stored in a special type of memory called Flash ROM.
The advantage of flash ROM is that the software code stored in the ROM can be changed. (BIOS update)

The CMOS RAM on a PC is used to store the customization settings that configure the BIOS to properly function with your hardware.

CMOS stands for Complementary Metal Oxide Semi-conductor.
CMOS is the "technology" of the RAM chip that stores the BIOS settings.
The advantage of CMOS technology is that it requires very little power to save the settings, and can be easily powered for years by a battery.

For most PCs, it will result in less than optimum performance if you simply use the BIOS default settings.
The CPU, memory, and drives may not transfer data as fast as they are capable.
The USB ports may not be enabled.
The printer port is usually not set to the ECP/EPP mode required by scanners and many printers.
The POST part of the boot process can also take longer using default settings. As time will be spent looking for drives that do not exist.

Nearly all "modern" motherboards use Lithium coin cell batteries. These are NOT rechargeable.

However, for nearly all ATX style motherboards, the computer is never completely off.

As long as power is applied to the power supply, a low current 5 volt supply is always present on the motherboard.
This low current supply provides power for the power control circuit, the real time clock, and the CMOS RAM.
So, the battery only is used when power is turned off. Like in a power outage. Or if you use a power strip and switch it off after the computer shuts down.

Yes, there are settings in BIOS setup that can cause the PC to not boot, and could cause data loose on the hard drive.


TheChas Date: 05/14/04 Status: Accepted

Comment from TheChas on 05/14/04:
On the newest systems that use AMD socket A, or Intel Pentium 4 processors, there are settings that could burn up the CPU.

Things like:
CPU Core voltage.
CPU speed.
RAM speed and timing settings.
Hard drive parameters.
Power management options.
Can all be set in ways that could cause a system to not boot, or even cause some damage.

As to instant on PCs, there are 2 ways to handle this:

1. The PC never fully shuts down and sits in a standby mode when it appears to be off.

2. Fixed hardware configuration. If you build the PC with a specific set of hardware, and do not allow for the hardware to be changed, you can use a smaller BIOS program with all of the settings pre-set.
That way, when you power on the PC it does not need to verify what hardware is present. Therefore, it can skip the POST tests and go straight to loading the operating system.

Hope this helps.


Comment from ruralgeezer on 05/14/04:
Poster rated this answer.
A very clear and concise answer. My apologies for the measly points award, but I blew just about half of my tech points on my first question posted at TR.

Answer 2:

you ought to give Chas more points than 300 for this acurate, highly definitive explanation of CMOS and BIOS.

D.R. The Corporate Groups Date: 05/14/04 Status: Rejected

Comment from ruralgeezer on 05/14/04:
Poster rated this answer.
I think Chas's answer deserves more too. If you could see your way clear as too lending me, say.....10,000 points, I will gladly spread them around! As for now, I have to save some incase an "emergency " situation occurs.

Answer 3:

hear hear!

sgt_shultz Date: 05/14/04 Status: Rejected

Comment from ruralgeezer on 05/14/04:
Poster rated this answer.
Hey Sarge...If you want, I'll lay down and then you can kick me while I'm down; on tech points that is. When you are relatively new to the IT world and TR, it is really tough trying to get the amount of points necessary to be able to spend freely.

I am left with a question though...Is it still good preventative maintenance to replace a CMOS battery every 2 years.

Thanks to Chas for clearing up a part of my education that was a little fuzzy.

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Not to worry

by maxwell edison In reply to OOPS !! a newbie makes a ...

I would venture to guess that most members would prefer that a question be closed after a satisfactory answer is given. We're all familiar with Chas, as he's one of the best Q&A participants around. He always gives great answers, and he'd even do it for zero points.

Welcome to TR.

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Not a blunder

by TheChas In reply to OOPS !! a newbie makes a ...

My friend.

Closing a question after getting a satisfactory answer is NOT a blunder.

All questions are stored on the site.
The only problem is that the search function on the site does a poor job of finding specific information in the Q&A forum.

From time to time, the TR staff looks through the questions and has created articles from questions and answers that they believe would have a wider appeal.

Spend a little time browsing the site and it's features.

If you have not done so already, I recommend that you subscribe to a few of the email newsletters.


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by TheChas In reply to Not a blunder

Hello again.

I forgot that you said you were low on points.

I posted a question in the Support Republic Other section to give you 1000 points.

Welcome to TR and enjoy.


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Chas excellent as always

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to Points

You put in a very concise reply to the question that fully explained or at least should have to almost anyone but my mother who just refuses to understand anything about computers or anything microprocessor controlled.

While you are correct in calling BIOS software I prefer to make a distinction and constantly refer to it as "Firmware" as I think this is a more correct title. Other wise I'm in full agreement with you explanation and only wish I could write as well.


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Code Types

by TheChas In reply to Chas excellent as always


I though about referring to the BIOS as Firm-Ware and decided not to.

All executable code is software.

I was trying to show ruralgeezer that the BIOS was software stored in a piece of the PC hardware.

We have gotten to the point where we classify code by how it is used and stored.

In it's original incarnation, Firm-Ware was fixed code that could not be changed or updated after it was installed. (burned)

The majority of our appliances, cars, and entertainment electronics have ROM based firm-ware in them.
For the most part, this code cannot be updated or changed because it actually is in the ROM section of the embedded processor.

Now, we refer to this type of code as embedded rather than firm-ware.

The definition of firm-ware has morphed to describe device specific software that can be updated.

However, unlike the firm-ware in a drive or plug-in card, the BIOS code can be easily interacted with by the user.
One could make a case that BIOS code is somewhere between software and firm-ware.


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Chas Point Taken

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to Code Types

It's just that most of the time I keep my users away from the BIOS and talking that way tends to make them think it's all a bit too hard particularly after one of them insisted on Flashing the BIOS with the wrong version of the program. At least it was on a Dual BIOS Gigabyte M'Board so it was easily fixed but it was "Panic Stations when the thing just wouldn't start up once the update had been applied.


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If that is the biggest mistake you ever make

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to OOPS !! a newbie makes a ...

Consider your self lucky as I think we have all had our stuff ups. Most of the people here are great and only too willing to help out when required and most never expect anything in return.

When the next person starts a discussion on what's your biggest stuff up have a look in as you'll at the very least get a good laugh while at the same time being able to see your self doing exactly the same thing, but the real advantage of things like this they do teach you what not to do when you are confronted by a seemly unsurmountable problem.


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Closing the question was the right thing to do.

by Oz_Media In reply to OOPS !! a newbie makes a ...

By all means close the question when you have a satisfactory answer. A pet peeve of mine is people who get a whole bunch of answers and never rate them or close a question. How does one know what helped? How does one nkow if their advice is correct or not? Plus it's plain rude to ignore people you've asked for help.

As a bonus, when you closed your question, you should have been awarded 1000 points yourself. So closing helps the respondent nkow that he helped, AND it helps you solve a problem while USUALL giving back more points than you offer. That's why I always offer 1000 points now when posting a question, I get 1000 when I close so I may as well be goving them to someone who helped.

Oh yeah, welcome to TR, unlike in the Army we can actually say 'WHAT A GREAT PLACE TO BE!' and mean it.

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