When you run into hardware problems, it’s common to ask whether you can solve them by updating your BIOS.
In this article, we’ll walk through what a BIOS is, how to access it, and how to make changes.
There’s one thing to know up front: Unlike updating Windows or graphics drivers, a BIOS update isn’t routine. It’s recommended only when your PC or motherboard manufacturer advises it, or when you’ve diagnosed a problem that a BIOS update is known to fix.
If you already know you need to update your BIOS and aren’t interested in other information, skip straight to the “How to Update Your BIOS” section below via the jumplink at the top of the page.
What does BIOS mean?
BIOS stands for Basic Input/Output System. It’s firmware that loads before your operating system. The BIOS performs start-up procedures that check system devices (ranging from your RAM to your hard drive to your keyboard) and load your operating system.
The Power-On Self Test, or POST, is the part of this process that determines whether hardware is operating correctly. If an error occurs at this stage, the PC may shut down before providing a video display. Motherboards will make a series of beeping sounds, use color-changing LEDs, or show an error code on a built-in display to help you diagnose the issue.
During the POST, users can use a hotkey to enter the BIOS menu and change many low-level PC settings. The BIOS interface lets you tune CPU overclocking settings, enable Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (Intel® XMP) to get more out of your RAM, set a new boot drive (outside of Windows), and more.
How to access the BIOS using the Settings menu in Windows
Accessing the BIOS from Windows 10 or 11 can be an easy solution if your PC boots up too quickly to use keyboard commands on startup.
From Windows 10 or 11, you can access the BIOS by opening the Settings menu and navigating to the Recovery tab.
On the Recovery screen, find the “Advanced Startup” heading and click “Restart Now.”
From the following blue restart options screen, click “Troubleshoot,” then “Advanced Options.” Now you can select “UEFI Firmware Settings.” After a short delay, your PC will restart directly into the BIOS menus.
How to access the BIOS during the pre-boot sequence
You can also access the BIOS menu by using hotkeys during the start-up process. These hotkeys — such as F2, F10, DEL, or ENTER — vary by manufacturer, but will be displayed on the screen before the operating system loads.
If your operating system loads before you have time to enter the hotkey, try the Windows 10 and 11 method above to restart directly into the BIOS.
What does UEFI mean?
Often, when people refer to accessing the BIOS, they’re really talking about a newer interface called UEFI.
UEFI stands for Unified Extensible Firmware Interface. It looks similar to old BIOS menus, but allows you to use the mouse and navigate between submenus more easily. Behind the scenes, it enables faster boot times, easier updates, and better security.
You’ll notice that when you access the BIOS, the menus say “UEFI BIOS Utility” at the top. Legacy BIOS menus can still be accessed, but most users don’t have a reason to go there.
Unless you’re using an older PC, you’ll likely see UEFI instead of BIOS menus when adjusting overclocking settings and making other low-level tweaks. But for simplicity’s sake, we’ll continue to use “BIOS” to refer to UEFI.
When should you update your BIOS?
BIOS updates generally don’t boost performance, but they can fix bugs related to specific hardware or add compatibility for new devices.
Motherboard manufacturers warn against updating your motherboard if your PC is working normally. Risks of updating your BIOS include corruption if power is lost during the minutes-long update or if a crash occurs. Updating also resets BIOS settings to their default values, which could impact system stability.
Here are a few reasons to perform a BIOS update:
- Compatibility. An update expands compatibility and allows you to use new hardware like recently-released memory, storage drives, or CPUs.
- Stability. An update improves stability. This is appropriate if you’re experiencing system crashes that you’ve traced back to your motherboard.
- Optional features. An update enables optional functions of new hardware, such as Resizable BAR on graphics cards.
- Security. An update addresses newly-discovered security flaws.
How to update your BIOS
The method for updating your BIOS varies between motherboard manufacturers.
If you don’t remember what motherboard you’re using, the information is easy to find using Windows. In Windows 10, hit the Windows key and type “Sys” or “msinfo” to find System Information:
Click into the System Information app and find the lines reading “Baseboard Manufacturer” and “Baseboard Product”:
Note: Before proceeding further, back up your personal files and research recovery options for your PC and motherboard in the case of BIOS corruption. Recovery might require a prepared USB stick or CD as well as keyboard activation of a recovery tool built into a prebuilt PC.
Once you have the product model, navigate to the manufacturer’s product support page and look for the product manual. A BIOS or UEFI chapter should explain several ways to “flash” — or update — the BIOS. There may also be a guide on the BIOS tab of the product page.
It’s helpful to keep the manual or guide open on a second device, such as a laptop or smartphone. Your browser won’t be accessible on your primary PC when you’re in the BIOS environment.
One common method is to:
- Download new driver files from the BIOS tab on your product’s support page.
- Extract them using a utility like WinRAR.
- Transfer them onto a properly-formatted USB drive.
- Restart the PC and access the BIOS menu during POST.
The tools for installing the BIOS update from here will vary by manufacturer, but step-by-step instructions can be found either in the manual or the manufacturer’s website.
Depending on the manufacturer, a simple update method may also be provided, such as a USB stick included with your motherboard that updates the BIOS from within Windows. Similar utilities may also be available for download and installation onto a USB drive. Some motherboards even have specific ports and LEDs dedicated to this update process.
Regardless of the installation method, a BIOS update can take around five minutes. It’s important not to power down or restart your PC until the process is complete. Check the manufacturer’s instructions to see if an LED on the motherboard will signal the end of the update.
What to remember about BIOS updates
BIOS update methods vary, and you should always closely follow your motherboard manufacturer’s guidance. You should also do research beforehand to identify recovery options for a corrupted BIOS and keep that information at hand on a second device.
The other thing to remember is that a BIOS update usually won’t unlock any extra performance and isn’t recommended for systems that are already operating normally. The best reasons to go ahead with an update are to expand compatibility or to fix bugs with your existing hardware.
If you’re looking for better performance in games, a BIOS update isn’t the way to go. Check out our list of tips for increasing your FPS or consider upgrading to the latest Intel® Core™ processor with advanced overclocking support.