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The BIOS, or UEFI, is a powerful tool for configuring your PC’s hardware such as your RAM, CPU, motherboard, and more. It also has options that can increase the security of your PC. Here are a few different ways to access the BIOS.

What Is the BIOS?

The Basic Input-Output System (BIOS) is low-level software that is programmed onto your computer’s motherboard. When you turn on your computer, the BIOS initializes and tests all of the hardware in your PC to ensure it is functioning correctly. By accessing the BIOS, you can customize how your PC’s hardware functions.

Warning: Be careful though — some of the options available in the BIOS can physically damage your computer.

If you’re going to try overclocking components, be sure you understand what overclocking is, and take the necessary precautions to do it safely. You can also do things like enable XMP profiles to change your RAM speed, or boot your computer from a disk or USB drive.

The BIOS has been replaced by the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) on modern computers, but the term BIOS is commonly used to refer to UEFI. UEFI adds a number of new features that make it different from BIOS.

Accessing the BIOS/UEFI at Startup

When you start your PC, there will usually be a splash screen that displays the manufacturer’s name or logo. To access your BIOS, you can hit a key while the manufacturer’s splash screen is visible. The keys you can press to access the BIOS will typically be displayed near the bottom. Usually, the key will be either F2 or Delete, but not always. The manual for your computer or motherboard will also contain this information.

If you don’t see anything because the screen flashes by too quickly, or hitting the correct key doesn’t bring you into the BIOS, it is possible that Fast Boot is enabled in the BIOS, or you have Fast Startup mode enabled in Windows 10.

Fortunately, there are other ways to access the BIOS.

Accessing the BIOS From Within Windows 10

There are a handful of ways to access the BIOS from Windows 10.

The simplest way to access the BIOS is with the Start button. Click the Start button, hit the power icon, and then hold Shift while you click “Restart.”

Alternatively, you can hit the Start button, in the search bar type “Change Advanced Startup Options” and then hit Enter. Go to the Advanced startup section of the window that pops up, and click the “Restart now” button.

If you used either of the two preceding methods, you’ll be sent to a blue screen with multiple options. Go to Troubleshooting > Advanced Options > UEFI Firmware Settings. You should then be at the BIOS.

If you don’t see “UEFI Firmware Settings” there are two likely explanations. The first is that the computer you’re using doesn’t have UEFI at all — this is especially likely if your PC is older, and actually has BIOS rather than UEFI. The second possibility is that your motherboard does have UEFI, but Windows 10 is booting from a drive that was partitioned using MBR and not GPT. If your boot drive was partitioned using MBR, it’ll force UEFI to use a BIOS Legacy mode that disables access from within Windows 10.

If you’d rather use Command Prompt to access the BIOS, click the Start button, type “cmd” in the search bar, and then select “Run as administrator.”

Then, type shutdown /r /fw into the Command Prompt window and press Enter.

If it worked, a window will pop up informing you that your PC will shut down in less than a minute.

Windows restart warning

You can type shutdown /r /fw /t 0 into the Command Prompt to remove the waiting period and restart instantly.

If you see the message “Boot to firmware UI is not supported by this system’s firmware” when you try to run the shutdown command, it probably means that your motherboard doesn’t have UEFI. It could also mean that Windows 10 is installed on a disk that was partitioned with MBR.

Command Prompt message indicating /fw argument not accepted

If you can’t access the BIOS/UEFI from within Windows 10, and your PC has Fast Boot enabled in the BIOS/UEFI, you’ll have to do some troubleshooting.

Creating a Shortcut to Access the BIOS

The command to shut down and go into the BIOS can easily be made into a shortcut for faster and more convenient access. Right-click empty space on your desktop and select New > Shortcut.

In the window that appears, type shutdown /r /fw where it says to type the location of the item, and then hit next. Name the shortcut something appropriate, then click “Finish.”

Shortcut creation guide, prompt for location of item

Once the icon is on your desktop, right-click it, and hit “Properties.” In the Properties window, click “Advanced.”

On this window, tick “Run as administrator”, then hit “OK.”

Enable "Run as Administrator."

Back on the Properties window, click “Apply” and then “OK” to finish creating the shortcut.

If you’d like, you can customize the icon of the shortcut by hitting the “Change Icon” button in the properties window. You can then select an icon from a number of default options, or you can make your own high-resolution icons out of any image.

What to Do If You Can’t Access the BIOS

If you can’t access your BIOS during startup, Fast Boot or Fast Startup could be the culprit. The terms Fast Boot and Fast Startup are often used interchangeably but are actually distinct.

Fast Boot usually refers to a setting in the BIOS or UEFI that changes the initial startup process of the computer. Fast Boot skips some of the hardware checks and initializations that normally occur when your PC is first turned on so that your operating system, like Windows 10, loads more quickly. There is an additional setting (sometimes called Ultrafast Boot) that is even faster because it doesn’t initialize things like USB controllers or disk drives. When that setting is enabled, USB devices like your mouse and keyboard won’t be usable until the operating system loads. It also prevents booting from DVDs or USB drives.

If that is the case for you, your best option is to try clearing your PC’s CMOS to reset your BIOS settings. Some newer or higher-end motherboards include buttons to clear the CMOS — check on the back of your PC, near the USB ports. If it is there, press and hold it for at least 10 seconds. By default, Fast Boot and Ultrafast Boot are disabled, so clearing your CMOS should enable you to hit the appropriate button to get into the BIOS during startup.

Fast Startup is a Windows feature that enables your computer to start more quickly after it was shut down. Windows 10’s Fast Startup mode can interfere with your ability to reach the BIOS if your computer had been shut off with Fast Startup mode enabled. Fast Startup mode doesn’t affect restarts though, so you should be able to reach your BIOS after a restart even with Fast Startup enabled.

If none of that works, you should check the documentation that came with your computer or motherboard. There may be more specific instructions for your machine that can help.

 

Profile Photo for Nick Lewis Nick Lewis
Nick Lewis is a staff writer for How-To Geek. He has been using computers for 20 years --- tinkering with everything from the UI to the Windows registry to device firmware. Before How-To Geek, he used Python and C++ as a freelance programmer. In college, Nick made extensive use of Fortran while pursuing a physics degree.
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