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Uefi and Bios: How to solve typical problems

Peter-Uwe Lechner & Friedrich Stiemer

If the computer does not want to start at all, the cause may be in the BIOS. We show you which settings you absolutely need to know and how you can update the BIOS without any risk.

EnlargeThe Secure Boot is only possible from Windows 8 and with a UEFI BIOS.

For example, if Windows can no longer find the correct hard drive when booting or if the USB and network ports are no longer available, you should first have the settings in the BIOS or, on newer PCs, in the UEFI.

Security with Secure Boot

Since Windows 8, the UEFI BIOS has mastered a function that the old firmware did not offer - the so-called Secure Boot. This technology ensures that no malware can latch into the boot process after it is switched on in order to subsequently manipulate the start of the operating system. A boot virus is particularly dangerous because many antivirus programs don't work if the virtual villain has been on board since the system was started.

Problem 1: The PC won't boot from DVD

In practice, Secure Boot works as follows: Applications must have suitable digital keys that are checked by the UEFI. If there is no key or if a key is incorrectly signed, the system will not start. This is why it can sometimes happen that older Windows versions or even Linux distributions cannot start from external storage media. However, Secure Boot can also be deactivated.

Solution: To switch off the technology, proceed as follows: Immediately after switching on the PC, press F2, Del or F12 several times on the keyboard. The correct key is displayed when the system is started - for example, “Press F2 to enter BIOS settings” appears briefly on the screen. Alternatively, refer to the manual for your mainboard. Once in the menu, look for the option "Advanced Settings". In our example we are using the MSI H97 Gaming 3 mainboard, which is why we use the Secure Boot as follows: "Settings -> Advanced -> Windows 8 / 8.1 Configuration". The feature can be switched off under this entry.

Problem 2: someone changed the BIOS settings

The options you set in the BIOS have different values. Most likely a family member or colleague made changes that are now causing problems.

Solution: If you don't want anyone tampering with your BIOS settings, access to the firmware can be protected with a password. Passwords can be assigned under "Security", which can be divided into administrators and users. For example, critical BIOS areas can be locked that only the administrator can access. In addition or instead, a start password can be assigned, which appears immediately after switching on the computer and does not continue the system start until it has been entered correctly.

Tuning - more power for the hardware

EnlargeA password protects the firmware from unauthorized access. But that is not 100 percent certain.

A modern UEFI BIOS offers numerous possibilities to tickle a few percentage points more performance out of the hardware. However, the tuning is not always crowned with success.

Problem 1: The PC starts slowly

One of the tasks of the UEFI BIOS is to check that all system components are ready for operation at startup. Only when this initialization is successful does the firmware start loading the operating system. However, this hardware check costs valuable time, especially for systems with many interfaces and built-in expansion cards or attached peripherals such as printers or webcams.

Solution: Fortunately, this process can be prevented by activating the "Fast Boot" function - also known as "Quick Boot". You can find this setting in the advanced settings or in the boot section of the UEFI. The firmware then provides the Windows system with special UEFI drivers that can be loaded more quickly. However, the connected hardware must also support this function. The time savings with the UEFI fast boot option can be up to 70 percent.

Another way to speed up the PC startup is to rearrange the boot order. For example, the firmware checks the USB ports and the optical drive to see if the PC should boot from them. If several hard disks are installed, these are also searched for the operating system. So put the system hard drive first in order to prevent the search for further start options. To do this, navigate to the “Boot” menu in the BIOS and set the appropriate medium to “Boot Option # 1”. If the disk on which the operating system is installed cannot be selected there, you must first change the “UEFI Hard Disk Drive BBS Priorities” and set the system memory to the first place. Note that you have to change this order again if you want to start from a USB stick. For example if you want to use an emergency system.

EnlargeChange the boot order so that the UEFI does not have to check all other boot options first.

Tip:Bios update in 8 steps - safe and fast

Problem 2: The PC is supposed to be overclocked

You can get a little more performance out of a PC. This does not work on all PCs.

Solution: To increase the performance of your PC, it can be overclocked in the UEFI. Mainly there is an increase in the clock frequencies of the processor and main memory. But this overclocking only works with certain CPUs and mainboard chipsets. At Intel, it's the processors with a “K” or “X” in the model name. These have a free multiplier: Its value times the basic system clock gives the clock frequency of the CPU. If you increase the multiplier, the processor speed and thus the computing power also increase. But the chipset also has to play along, because particularly inexpensive Intel chipsets do not have this function. As a rule, overclocking is only possible with Z or X chipsets, but there are exceptions that can be researched on the Internet.

At AMD, the processors can be overclocked with the addition of "Black Edition" using the multiplier. Incidentally, with the Ryzen processors, the multiplier is basically unlocked for all models. Here you just have to pay attention to the correct chipset. When overclocking, you should definitely pay attention to sufficient cooling - because a higher clock also means increased power consumption. However, you should always overclock with caution and only increase the multiplier gradually: Incorrect settings can quickly lead to damaged components. With some boards, you can therefore leave it to the UEFI to overclock the system. The manufacturers provide appropriate wizards for this purpose, which overclock the hardware fully automatically. At MSI this function is called “OC Genie”, Asus calls the assistant “EZ Tuning Wizard”. The way these tools work is basically always the same: The manufacturer has checked the system with various components in internal tests and saved the best-functioning overclocking values. The wizard compares these results with the built-in hardware and applies them accordingly. He also takes voltage and temperature values ​​into account. Overclocking is not limited to increasing the multiplier, but also adjusts voltage values, memory timings and the rotation speed of fans.

If the overclocking goes wrong, you don't have to worry: the wizards automatically restore the default values ​​in the event of a crash. With some OC tools it is even possible to select the degree of overclocking, depending on the built-in cooling, among other things. Nevertheless, you shouldn't be too brash here either and first select the lowest overclocking level. Then play and work with the system for a few hours to be completely sure that the overclocked computer is running stable. If this is the case, you can consider whether you want to switch to the next higher level.

EnlargeCurrent mainboards with UEFI BIOS provide extensive overclocking options.

Problem 3: The settings made cause trouble

You have experimented with the various options in the UEFI BIOS and now the computer no longer wants to boot.

Solution: Settings that you make in the UEFI BIOS are saved by the system in a chip that listens for the abbreviation CMOS. This is a volatile SRAM memory chip that the manufacturer integrates on the motherboard. Ephemeral means that all settings of the UEFI are deleted and reset to the factory settings as soon as there is no longer any operating voltage on the component. This is why the CMOS has its own battery at its side, which provides the necessary voltage, even when the PC is completely disconnected from the power. A button battery of the type CR2032 is usually used as standard.

However, sometimes you may need to reset the UEFI. The reason for this can be incorrect settings, after which the system no longer starts, or the installation of new hardware. If you use a new processor or RAM, for example, you should actually reset the firmware so that there are no conflicts between the old BIOS settings and the new component.

More expensive mainboards make it easy for you, because often just a push of a button is enough. Check the manual. If you have a cheap mainboard in your computer, you have to do a little more. Because then you usually have to move a jumper. How this works can be found in the manual for the PC or the motherboard.

See also:Mainboard purchase advice - that's what counts