Geek Trivia

What Song Meant Hardware Failure on Some Older Motherboards?

The 1812 Overture
The Ride of the Valkyries
Für Elise
In The Hall of the Mountain King
Despite Popular Belief, Which Of These Animals Rarely Carries Rabies?

Answer: Für Elise

Although these days we rarely hear from it, buried deep inside your PC, located on the motherboard, is a tiny speaker. This PC speaker once featured prominently into the soundscapes and soundtracks of early PC games. Theses days the speaker is nearly completely silent, save for the old BIOS here or there that lets off a simple beep to indicate all is well during the boot sequence.

A noisy PC speaker on the other hand, is an indicator things are malfunctioning in your PC. While most BIOS makers stick to a Morse-code-like sequence of beeps to indicate there is a problem (such as a series of 7 beeps to indicate a CPU failure) a variety of BIOS versions over the years have spiced things up and taken advantage of the simple polyphonic abilities of the humble PC speaker. Award brand BIOSes from 1997 onwards will play, on some hardware, the opening of Beethoven’s Für Elise to indicate the CPU fan has failed and the CPU is on its way to overheating.

Für Elise isn’t the only tune BIOSes have been heard to sing however. Other Award BIOSes would play It’s a Small, Small World, and some Phoenix BIOSes will play Eye of the Tiger upon a catastrophic hardware failure–perhaps not as informative as a specific beep-for-error-code setup but it certainly grabs your attention.