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What is a BIOS Chip?

A BIOS chip is the essential gateway of a computer, storing the firmware that initiates hardware operations. It's the unsung hero that breathes life into a PC, ensuring that your operating system and hardware communicate effectively from the moment you power on. Intrigued by how this critical component shapes your computing experience? Let's explore its pivotal role further.
G. Wiesen
G. Wiesen

The basic input/output system (BIOS) on a computer is typically stored on a non-volatile microchip called a BIOS chip, which is placed on the motherboard of the computer. This chip is integral to the proper operation of the computer, and if it is corrupted or damaged, the computer will likely no longer be able to start up. There are several ways to try to repair or otherwise deal with a corrupted or damaged chip, though these can be quite complicated. The chip on a motherboard is usually placed by the manufacturer, and documentation with the board will often indicate what type of BIOS program is on the chip.

A BIOS chip uses non-volatile memory, which means that even when power is not supplied to the system, the data on the chip remains. This type of memory is also used for hard drives, but is not used for random access memory (RAM) and is integral to how the chip operates. When a computer first starts up, the chip runs the BIOS in order to properly initialize the computer startup process.

A BIOS chip enables a computer to properly initialize the startup process.
A BIOS chip enables a computer to properly initialize the startup process.

The BIOS allows the hardware inside the computer to properly communicate and work together during startup. This means that, when a computer is started, the BIOS allows information to be displayed on the monitor, allows the computer to recognize the keyboard for input or changes to the BIOS settings, and properly communicates with the hard drive in the computer. Once this happens, the program hands control of all these systems over to the operating system (OS) on the hard drive and full start up of the computer occurs.

A computer motherboard.
A computer motherboard.

If the BIOS chip on a computer’s motherboard is damaged or corrupted, then this initial program cannot be run properly and the computer will not be able to start. There are two basic ways to deal with this type of situation: replace the BIOS program or replace the chip. To replace or repair the program involves a process called “flashing” the BIOS on the chip. This basically reinstalls the BIOS, which can be somewhat complex, and if a mistake occurs, it may render the chip useless.

A screenshot of a BIOS configuration screen.
A screenshot of a BIOS configuration screen.

Replacing the chip can be done by either switching it out with a new one or by replacing the motherboard. A new chip can usually be acquired from the motherboard manufacturer, but attaching the chip to the board does require some basic knowledge of computer engineering. It can often be easier to simply replace the motherboard within the computer, and this can be used as an opportunity to upgrade the hardware itself to a more powerful board.

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Discussion Comments

wiesen

Only if you have an issue that is causing you problems -- and then you should make sure you really know what you are doing before you update your BIOS. Improper updating can really mess up a computer.

Sequoia

@Engelbert - BIOS updates are usually released to fix bugs or add support for software or hardware. Generally speaking if your computer is running fine there shouldn't really be a need to have to update it. It's not an easy process and you could risk damaging your chip, so unless it's really necessary you shouldn't have to worry about it.

If you're having problems with your computer and you suspect it might be the BIOS chip, it's definitely far easier to just replace the motherboard. If you think you know computers pretty well, then by all means give it a shot though. You can buy BIOS chips online pretty easily.

Engelbert

Is it important to update your BIOS chip?

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    • A BIOS chip enables a computer to properly initialize the startup process.
      By: Ruslan Kudrin
      A BIOS chip enables a computer to properly initialize the startup process.
    • A computer motherboard.
      By: VIA Gallery
      A computer motherboard.
    • A screenshot of a BIOS configuration screen.
      By: Aaron Parecki
      A screenshot of a BIOS configuration screen.