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Tweaking Your PC: Getting the Last Mile Out of Your Hardware Part 1 of 4 (Page 2/4)

Posted: September 21, 1999
Written by: Keith "Farrel" McClellan

Originally Printed in PC Gamer's Ultimate Hardware Bible, an Imagine Media Publication. All rights reserved. Reprinted with Permission.

BIOS Tweaking

The BIOS has a huge effect on your overall system performance. It can be a helping hand, raising a system up to a near heavenly speed; but other times it can turn your speed-daemon into a snail. Tweaking the BIOS is the most important step towards a more responsive system.

Begin by checking your motherboard manufacturer's web site for an update to your BIOS. If you're not sure of the make and model of your board, open your case and take a look at it. Most name brand motherboards are clearly marked. If the system is a pre-built system (such as Dell or Gateway), check their corporate web site for BIOS updates.

To make these changes, you will need to enter your computer's BIOS/CMOS setup program. In most cases, hit the DEL key right after power up to start the setup program. Watch closely for a prompt that reads something like, "Press <key> to enter setup."

Speeding up boot time is one of the easiest tweaks that can be done in the BIOS. It's a good idea to make note of any settings before you change them, though, so that if you run into problems, you can change them back. If all else fails, most CMOS programs have a "restore defaults" option.

Begin by finding the QuickBoot setting in the CMOS setup program (sometimes it's called QuickPOST or Quick Power-on Self Test). Enabling this setting should speed up boot times up to a minute on some older systems. Also, disable Boot up Disk to shave off a few seconds.

Some other tweaks that can be performed within the BIOS will change the overall speed of the computer. If the BIOS has a Turbo frequency setting, enabling it should give the system a performance boost of up to 5%. Also, any setting that refers to the computers L1 (internal) or L2 (external) cache should be enabled. It is also recommended to enable Video BIOS and System BIOS shadowing. Shadowing refers to copying BIOS information from the slower BIOS chip to faster system RAM. If the computer's BIOS has the option, caching the Video RAM should also give a performance increase. Make sure to read the manual that was included with your video card because this can cause problems with certain systems.

The AGP aperture setting is very important for AGP graphics cards because it determines how the video card accesses system RAM. These settings depend heavily on your system configuration and, in particular, the video card's BIOS and drivers. A video card BIOS, much like a computer's BIOS, translates instructions for the video processor, and each revision will translate the information differently for a specific system configuration. Try setting the AGP aperture to 25%, 50%, and 75% of the system's total RAM (ex: if the system has 64 Mb of RAM, try 16 Mb, 32 Mb, and 48 Mb). Also, trying one of the default settings (usually 64 Mb or 256 Mb) may also produce a speed increase. Many BIOS's also have other settings that may increase performance. Experiment with the settings and see which ones give the best results.

Many systems come with a less customizable BIOS. A program called TweakBIOS does a good job of solving this problem for most users. This program gives the user access to settings that the BIOS doesn't normally allow the user to change. The only downfall of this program is that it is very difficult to use, so it is only for the most serious of tweakers.

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