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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | Motherboard and System Devices | System BIOS | BIOS System Boot Operations ]

System Configuration Summary

Just before the BIOS begins booting the operating system from disk, it will display an ASCII-graphics box on the screen containing summary information about your system's configuration. What is in this box depends on your BIOS and system, of course, but typically you will find the following:

  • Processor (CPU) Type: This is usually the general family of processor, like "Pentium" or "Pentium Pro" etc. Newer BIOSes will recognize the Intel-compatibles directly; older ones may display "Pentium" when the chip really isn't one. You may see this displayed as "Pentium-S" on a system with Award BIOS; this just means that the processor incorporates SMM, enhanced power management features that were introduced in the 486SL and incorporated into almost all current processor.
  • Coprocessor: This used to be used to indicate if the machine had a separate coprocessor or floating point unit (FPU) in it. Modern processors have this built-in so this will almost always say "Installed" or "Integrated".
  • Clock Speed: The speed of the processor in MHz. Some BIOSes put the speed of the processor together with the processor type display (the first line).
  • Floppy Drive A: The size and capacity of the first detected floppy disk, A:
  • Floppy Drive B: The size and capacity of the second detected floppy disk, B:
  • IDE/ATA Drives: Most BIOSes will show an entry for each of the four devices on an IDE system: the primary slave and master, and the secondary slave and master. Older machines only support two IDE drives and will often just call these "Drive C" and "Drive D", which is misleading (since each drive can actually contain more than one drive letter). For each drive installed in the system, the screen will show its size and what sort of modes it is using for access (PIO modes, whether or not it is using LBA, etc.). Some BIOSes will also display the drive's manufacturer. Most modern BIOSes will also detect and show IDE (ATAPI) CD-ROMs.
  • Base Memory Size: This will (almost?) always be 640K. This is also called conventional memory.
  • Extended Memory Size: How much extended memory your system has. If you add this to the base memory you will usually find that 128K, 256K or 384K of memory is "missing" from the number that it should be (see the "powers of 2" table for usual byte totals for 16MB, 32MB etc.) The BIOS usually will not report the upper memory area that is reserved for the BIOS ROM and other hardware adapters.
  • Cache Size: The amount of cache memory in the system.
  • Memory Type and Configuration: Most newer systems will display how many banks of memory have been found, and what memory technology is in use; for example, you may see "EDO DRAM at Bank 1" or "FP: 0" (FPM DRAM) or something similar.
  • Display Type: This will normally say "VGA/EGA". It doesn't really tell you anything at all about the video adapter since this describes generically every video adapter produced for the last ten or so years (why do they even bother?)
  • Serial Port(s): The I/O port addresses of your serial or COM ports. Normally there are two, with addresses 3F8h and 2F8h, but there can be three or four as well.
  • Parallel Port(s): The I/O port addresses of your parallel or LPT ports. Normally there is one, with the address 378h, but you may see 278h or 3BCh here.
  • Plug and Play Devices: Some BIOSes will report the descriptions of any Plug and Play expansion cards they identify during the boot process.

Next: BIOS Components and Features


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