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Windows 8 is may be a few years old now, but it’s still commonly used. And one change that you might not be aware of on newer Windows machines is a different method for accessing a computer’s BIOS. No longer do you press a certain key during the boot process to reveal the BIOS—instead, an option to access the BIOS is located in Windows 8’s boot options menu.
How Accessing BIOS Changed in Windows 8
Traditionally, computers displayed a message like “Press F2 to enter setup” at the beginning of the boot process. Pressing this key entered the computer’s BIOS.
However, machines that come with Windows 8 preinstalled use a modern update to BIOS called UEFI.
On some machines, especially those with solid state hard drives, the boot process can be so fast that you might not have time to see the message about entering BIOS. In these cases, you can opt to enter the BIOS from Windows itself.
Microsoft’s blog post about this on the Building Windows 8 blog describes how this new system came to be. With the increased boot speed, some systems had a less than a 200-millisecond window of opportunity to press a key. Even the best key-tappers at Microsoft could only press a key once every 250ms.
That meant to access the BIOS, frantic tapping, luck, and several computer reboots were all necessary.
The new system does away with this problem. It also brings some much-needed consistency to Windows 8 computers—they’ll all have a consistent way of accessing the BIOS.
Windows 8 Hardware vs. Old Computers With Windows 8
Note that this new method only applies if you purchased a new computer with Windows 8 preinstalled. If, on the other hand, you’ve installed Windows 8 on an existing computer that uses the legacy BIOS system, you’ll access the BIOS in the same way as always by pressing the key that appears during your boot process.
This key is often F2 or Delete, but it can also be other keys.
The exact key depends on your computer—if you don’t see the appropriate key displayed on your screen during the boot-up process, consult your computer’s manual.
How to Enter Windows 8 BIOS
In order to access the BIOS on Windows 8, you need to restart your computer into the boot options menu. There are several ways to do this.
The easiest one to find is in the PC Settings application. Press Windows key + C to reveal the Charms bar, click Settings, and select Change PC settings to access it.
In the PC Settings application, select the General category and click the Restart now button under Advanced startup. Your computer will restart and you’ll enter the Windows 8’s boot options menu. From here you can access the UEFI BIOS and change other settings.
You can also hold Shift while clicking Restart in the Shut Down menu to restart your computer into the boot options menu. This is a quick way to restart into the boot options menu, as you can access the Shut Down button from the Charms anywhere on your system.
Those who prefer to use the Windows command line to access the BIOS in Windows 8 can do so. There’s a shutdown command that’s one of the essential Windows command prompts you should know.
Here’s the command you need to use:
Shutdown.exe /r /o
Accessing UEFI BIOS
Once you’ve restarted and accessed the boot options menu, you can enter UEFI BIOS. To do this, click the Troubleshoot tile.
This will reveal an Advanced Options screen with a variety of tools. The UEFI Firmware Settings tile will take you to your computer’s BIOS.
If you don’t see the UEFI Firmware Settings tile here, your computer doesn’t use UEFI. That means you’ll need to access the BIOS in the traditional way, by pressing a specific key during the boot-up process. See the earlier section above for more information.
If there’s an error booting Windows, you won’t be locked out of the BIOS. The boot options screen will appear when you start your computer. From here, you can repair Windows or enter your BIOS.
Once you’ve entered the BIOS, you can perform the tasks you want. These could include tasks such as changing the boot device order, setting fan curves, overclocking your processor, or performing troubleshooting by detecting what hardware is being picked up by your system.
How to Access the BIOS on Windows 10
If you have updated your operating system recently, you might wonder how to access BIOS from Windows 10. Once again, if you have installed Windows 10 onto older hardware, then you’ll access BIOS by pressing a designated key during the boot process. This is the same as older hardware running Windows 8.
However, if you bought a computer with Windows 10 preinstalled, you’ll need a different method to access BIOS. To do this, start by going to Windows settings. You can access this by pressing Windows key + I.
From the settings menu, choose Update & Security, then choose Recovery from the menu on the left. You’ll see a list of options on the right, including a title saying Advanced startup. Beneath this header is a button saying Restart now.
When you hit this button, your computer will restart. During the startup, you’ll see the boot options menu. Like the Windows 8 instructions, go to Troubleshooting and then to UEFI Firmware Settings, then click Restart. This will restart your computer once again, and it will boot into UEFI BIOS.
UEFI Vs. BIOS
UEFI is rather different from traditional BIOS, even though they perform similar functions. BIOS tends to be in a limited color scheme and does not support the use of a mouse, so you need to navigate using your keyboard. The functions are somewhat limited too, with the ability to perform tasks like changing the boot device order or changing the system time and date.
UEFI is a more up to date version of BIOS. It is in full color, and you can navigate using a keyboard and mouse. It’s more like Windows, so it’s not so intimidating to new users. You can also do a lot more with UEFI. For example, you can set fan curves to adjust how fast the fans in your system spin at given temperatures. Or you can overclock your processor, using automatic overclocking wizards which set everything up for you based on your cooling solution.
Technically UEFI is a replacement for BIOS. But in practice, people use the terms interchangeably.
It’s Important to Secure Your BIOS
This shows you how to access BIOS from Windows 8, in case you need to make any changes to your system.
While you’re working on BIOS, it’s a good idea to set a password to keep your system more secure. If you have any problems with this process, then see our article on how to reset the BIOS password.
Spend some time on its screen and understand how the BIOS works and how it can help you optimize your computer.