Do It Yourself Computer Kits - BIOS Configuration

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Step 10: Configuring your BIOS

<< Step 1: Parts List
>> Step 3: CPU/Processor

If i were limited in the advice I could give you regarding your system BIOS, it would be Read the Manual. And if you don't know what a setting does, don't change it until you perform a little research and educate yourself.

The motherboard BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) provides an interface to the basic hardware components of your PC. Most BIOS settings will not need to be changed unless you are running a system with custom, or non-standard settings. If you've ever worked with older BIOS versions on motherboards of about 10-15 years ago, you may remember that the BIOS wasn't able to detect most hardware changes and would often require the user to change settings to match the new or changed hardware. The modern-day BIOS (in most cases) can detect such changes automatically. You will normally not need to access the BIOS unless you wish to perform tasks such as changing the boot order--the order in which the BIOS searches for a bootable operating system (e.g., A normal boot order might be; Floppy Drive, CD/DVD drive, Hard Disk). Another common reason for accessing the BIOS may be to set up a disk RAID prior to installing an operating system. You may also wish to access the BIOS to overclock your CPU--just be sure to do your research before attempting this!

After successfully installing your operating system, you should check the motherboard manufacturer's support web site to determine if any BIOS updates have been released. If so, I recommend installing them. Follow the installatiob instructions carefully--the installation instructions will vary by manufacturer, so I can't predict how your particular BIOS update will function. Also, if you're updating your BIOS on a computer containing important data, be sure to perform a complete backup beforehand!

Below are a couple of screen snaps for the BIOS of the ASUS F1A75-V Pro motherboard that I use in my base configuration.

ASUS BIOS Utility in "Easy Mode"


ASUS BIOS Utility in "Advanced Mode"

The motherboard is the heart of your new PC. It is the main component to which all other PC components connect. Motherboard configurations vary greatly, so you must pay very close attention to the details when you choose yours. Some motherboards come equipped with capabilities such as sound, Firewire, and USB connectors.

When building your own computer, the primary consideration when selecting your motherboard is the processor type. Motherboards must be paired with the proper type of CPU and connector. This is referred to as the "socket type." Look for a motherboard/cpu combination with a matching socket type--just picking up a motherboard that's designed for an AMD processor, for example, doesn't guarantee that it will work with the AMD processor you've chosen.

See my CPU page for a list and description of different socket types.

Quality makes a good motherboard. It is critical to choose a motherboard that is stable and reliable in any configuration of processor speed, with any number of compatible RAM modules, and with any number of supported add-on cards. Check the online reviews of each product--you can learn a lot about a particular motherboard from the experiences of others.

Look for a motherboard that has plenty of room for expansion and includes all of the "standard" motherboard features such as USB 3.0 ports, eSATA ports, IEEE 1394 (Firewire) ports, onboard audio, Ethernet port(s), and plenty of internal SATA connections for Hard Drives and CD/DVD drives.

If disk performance is important for your particular needs, then you may also want to search for a motherboard that supports RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks). Using motherboard RAID (RAID Level 0, to be exact) will allow you to combine multiple disks into a single logical volume which will appear as a single "disk" to your operating system. RAID 0 improves performance by allowing hardware to read and write data from more than one disk at a time--decreasing the amount of time it takes to read and write data. This would prove very useful for applications such as video editing where the hard disk must read and write very large files.

Another common RAID implementation supported by motherboards is RAID Level 1. RAID 1 doesn't improve performance, but it does help guard your data in the event of a single hard disk failure. RAID 1 is commonly referred to as "Disk Mirroring." The controller embedded with the motherboard takes 2 disks and configures them for RAID 1. After the disks have synchronized, the controller maintains an exact copy of disk 1's data on disk 2.

What you gain is peace of mind that if one disk fails, you'll likely not lose all of your data. What do you lose? well... protection has a price. In this case, you only get to use half of the storage you've purchased. For example, to establish a 1TB RAID 1 volume, you'll need two 1TB hard drives configured as a mirrored pair. So, you'll have purchased 2TB of storage, but only have 1TB available for use.

It's up to you whether you think it's worth the extra motherboard cost. But remember, RAID 1 is NOT a substitute for regularly backing up your data. User error and data corruption can still cause problems--remember, whatever the operating system writes/deletes from one disk will be automatically (and instantly!) written/deleted from the second.

In summary, here's an example of a motherboard with what I would consider a very nice list of features:

Motherboard: ASUS F1A75-V Pro icon
(Click to view actual product at TigerDirect)

icon icon icon icon

CPU Supported:
AMD Socket FM1 A- Series/E2- Series Accelerated Processors
Supports CPU up to 4 cores
Supports AMD Turbo Core 2 Technology

Memory:
Motherboard supports up to 64GB of DDR3 2250(Overclocked)/1866/1600/1333/1066.
Note: 64-bit Operating system required to utilize more than 4GB of RAM

Motherboard Expansion Slots:
2 x PCIe 2.0 x16 ( x16, x4) *2 slots
2 x PCIe 2.0 x1 *2 slots
3 x PCI slots

Motherboard Audio:
Realtek ALC892 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
- Supports : Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retasking
- Optical S/PDIF out port(s) at back panel

Storage:
6 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), gray
-Support Raid 0, 1, 10, JBOD
ASMedia PCIe SATA controller:
-1 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), navy blue
-1 x eSATA 6Gb/s port(s), red

USB:
4 x USB 3.0 (Back panel)
-support for 2 more external USB 3.0 connectors
2 x USB 2.0 (Back Panel)
-support for 8 more external USB 2.0 connectors

Motherboard Video/Graphics:
Integrated AMD Radeon HD 6000 Series Graphics in Llano APU
Multi-VGA output support : HDMI/DVI/RGB/DisplayPort ports
Crossfire compatible



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