The Basic Input/Output System is the built-in software – sometimes called firmware – that enables your computer to check its hardware connections and launch the operating system when you turn it on. Many users choose to password-protect their BIOS, as this can be a highly effective way of protecting your computer from unauthorized use. However, a misplaced or incorrectly set BIOS password can leave your business unable to use its own computers.
Setting a BIOS password effectively password-protects your whole computer system. BIOS passwords prevent your computer from undergoing its startup procedure until the password is entered, as your computer needs to access its BIOS before it can run any programs. The actual process used to set up a BIOS password depends on the firmware that your computer is running. In general, you will need to hold down a given key when turning on your machine to be given access to the BIOS options menu.
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A BIOS password increases your computer's security levels. By prompting users for a password before the system has even booted up, BIOS passwords limit the options available to individuals looking to gain unauthorized access to a computer. For example, there is no way to crack a BIOS password online, as a computer will not have activated its network services by the time the password is asked for. In addition, BIOS passwords offer protection to an entire system, rather than just individual applications or user areas.
The security offered by a BIOS password can cause problems in its own right. If a user forgets the BIOS password set on a computer, gaining access to that machine can become very difficult. One of the most common ways of bypassing a BIOS password is to remove the CMOS battery from the motherboard of your computer, causing the password to be dropped from memory. However, this is a skilled process and involves a real risk of damaging some of your computer's most fragile components.
Setting a BIOS password means that access to the whole computer system is governed by a single password. While this may not be an issue for home users, it does make for an inflexible security solution in a workplace or multi-user environment. When a password is set, everyone who needs to use that computer has to know that specific password, and must be informed if the password is changed. This contrasts with network or user area passwords, which can generally be managed by users themselves.