When I hit DEL during start up, am I entering CMOS or BIOS?



For the longest time I assumed I was entering the BIOS setup and CMOS is a chip that holds the settings I set in BIOS in its memory.

I recently read somewhere that when I am configuring the boot order and etc, that that's actually CMOS setup.

I'm a little confused now, could someone explain this to me?

Space Ghost

Posted 2015-05-03T21:30:50.470

Reputation: 993

You were right. – Lightness Races with Monica – 2015-05-04T22:49:09.073

5CMOS is hardware, BIOS is code – Ron – 2015-05-05T05:46:40.193

Now which piece of software is actually already running and reads the keyboard and decides to enter CMOS setup? :) – Hagen von Eitzen – 2015-05-05T18:32:15.623

Technically nobody uses BIOS anymore, it has been superseded by [tag:UEFI]. – None – 2015-05-06T01:34:19.933

like: when I start my pc, am I entering to windows(or any other os) or hard disk? – RogUE – 2015-05-06T09:30:00.357

@RogUE, you are entering a firmware program (BIOS or UEFI or Whatever) that initiates boot on a specific harddisk by locating and the boot sector (MBR or whatever), which, when executed, boots the OS. – Frank Thomas – 2015-05-06T11:31:10.547



Both. CMOS stores BIOS configuration information. When you "enter setup", you are running the BIOS's configuration program, which loads the settings defined in CMOS. You are "setting up" the CMOS, by providing configuration information the BIOS will use as it runs.

The BIOS is a program written as Firmware onto a ROM, so it cannot be written to (except by an all-or-nothing flash operation, which is dangerous, so not an everyday operation). The BIOS ROM stores its configuration info on to the CMOS when you hit F10. That's why clearing the CMOS restores your BIOS settings to default, and is why it doesn't delete the BIOS iteslf, leaving you with an expensive paperweight.

In example, the BIOS has a subroutine that will load the OS per the boot order. the boot order information however, (eg use first CD-ROM as first device) is stored in the CMOS. If you clear the CMOS, the BIOS will use a default, usually the first disk on the first disk controller that is populated.

Frank Thomas

Posted 2015-05-03T21:30:50.470

Reputation: 29 039

6If it can be "flashed" it's an EEPROM. – Andrew – 2015-05-05T06:37:37.480


BIOS stands for Basic Input Output System and CMOS stands for Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor. The BIOS system is written onto the CMOS microchip. You can't have a BIOS without a CMOS to hold it, so it's not uncommon for the two terms to be used interchangeably.

William Russell

Posted 2015-05-03T21:30:50.470

Reputation: 39

1'Complementary' ;) – Space Ghost – 2015-05-05T06:28:35.840

Aww, that's right! Thanks for catching me on that. – William Russell – 2015-05-05T06:31:30.020

3Actually BIOS is written in *ROM, not in CMOS. BIOS write in CMOS to store some parameters. Sorry, you loose my upvote :( – Romeo Ninov – 2015-05-05T06:34:59.417

@RomeoNinov CMOS is the semiconductor technology used to build EEPROM chips – Richie Frame – 2015-05-05T10:22:18.740

1In this case by CMOS is used in sense of realtime clock where are stored BIOS settings. ANd it is not the same place as where BIOS code reside – Romeo Ninov – 2015-05-05T10:23:38.340

@RomeoNinov CMOS technology is used in the RTC, the BIOS memory chip, and even the CPU and RAM. Technically the transistors floating gate holds the BIOS program data, but it is still CMOS based technology – Richie Frame – 2015-05-05T10:25:41.210


@RichieFrame: Technically you are right but many years ago the CMOS RAM backed up by a battery began to be called simply "CMOS". So nowadays, stupidly, the additional meaning of the term CMOS is the integrated circuit containing the non-volatile RAM with BIOS settings (and the RTC circuits). Certainly a better term is NVRAM (non-volatile RAM). --- Anyway, as Romeo Ninov wrote, the BIOS is not stored in this CMOS. Only the settings of BIOS are there.

– pabouk – 2015-05-05T11:38:49.493