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Workshop 02 - BIOS to OS by our Bootstraps

This workshop re-enforces hardware skills developed in workshop 01.

We introduce the next stage of self-reliance; understanding what happens in the few seconds between pressing the power button and seeing your computer is ‘alive’.

The key to understanding this mysterious process is the concept of bootstrapping or ‘booting'. Starting with the power button, your computer follows a series of steps, each more complex than the last, until you have a working Operating System.

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Now your PC is back together we will:

By the end of this workshop you will be able to locate and identify all the hardware you’ve installed in the first workshop without opening the case.

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  • Make sure your case is closed, and fits tightly.
  • Plug in your USB keyboard and mouse.
  • Set-up your monitor, plug in the VGA cable.
  • Plug the power cables into the monitor and case last.
  • Then try the power button!

If you have assembled your computer correctly you should see:

  • The green power and hard drive LEDs flash
  • Then the power LED stays on and
  • The fans start up (quietly)
  • The BIOS screen flash up
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If your computer is working correctly, congratulations! Now it's time to give someone else a hand.

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If your computer won't turn on, don't panic. There are a few simple steps to use to troubleshoot:

  • Do you have an 'air gap'? This is a polite way of saying is your computer plugged in?

    Check the power cables are properly connected.

  • Does the front panel power switch click?

    If not, take off the front panel and press the power button directly.

  • The power switch connection to the motherboard is the next thing to check.

    Unplug the power lead then open your case and check the front panel power header is connected.

  • Next check the power cables from the PSU to the motherboard.

    The plugs only fit in one direction, just jamming them in won't work. Trust us. We've tried.

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Getting Past the POST

The Power On Self Test (POST) is a check your computer runs through every time it turns on. Most of the time we never notice the POST process. It takes a few seconds and only stops on errors.

If your computer turns on but doesn't pass POST, it will let you know through flashing lights and beeps.

The table below is adapted from the 8100 service manual and should give you an idea of what to try next. Most errors can be fixed using the things you learned in workshop 01.

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  • Have you plugged the fan cable back in? Is the air guide installed correctly? Are the heatsink screws tight?
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  • This usually means your processor is not sitting in the socket firmly, or the heatsink screws are not firmly tightened.
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  • Have you plugged in the CPU power connector?
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  • This is an easy one, make sure your RAM is in the black slots and firmly clicked into place.
  • Try testing the RAM one slot at a time.
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  • All these errors are difficult to fix. Ask your facilitator for a hand.
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Check your PSU cable headers on the motherboard.

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  • This won't usually apply unless you have installed a PCI expansion card. If you have installed a PCI card, take it out and reboot.
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Powered on and got through POST? Great - your computer will now continue the booting process by activating the BIOS. So what is the BIOS?

  • The BIOS is firmware, and works between the hardware and software of your computer.
  • It is an embedded program, meaning it is permanently attached to your computer's hardware.
  • A battery is used to keep BIOS settings for up to 10 years.
  • The BIOS settings are accessed in the System Configuration.

The BIOS will now attempt to boot your computer, running a few further checks. As you have taken your computer apart it may be confused and ask for some information.

It may ask you to confirm hardware changes.

Confirm hardward changes screen

or warn you to set the date and time

Set date and time by pressing F1 screen

before trying the operating system from the internal hard drive.

Hard drive empty screen

But remember, the hard drive in your computer has been wiped.

There is no way for the computer to continue to boot and so the boot process ends as soon as the BIOS discovers the hard drive is empty.

Now we need to access the System Configuration and set the BIOS to make your computer boot off a USB stick, where we will install our operating system.

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To get into your computers System Configuration, we have to 'catch' your computer just at the right moment with a well-timed key press.

The exact keys to press are shown in a 'splash' screen, which displays the manufacturer's logo and a list of keys to press to interrupt the booting process. This splash usually goes by very quickly, so we'll show the screen here.

Splash screen

This may take a couple of attempts to catch, so it's time to learn the three-fingered salute to force your computer to reboot. Press and hold the Ctrl and Alt keys, then press the Delete key. You can keep doing this as many times as you like, there is no way to harm your computer by rebooting at this early stage of the boot process.


Lets step through the screens one by one before we choose an option. Reboot your computer and press F9 continuously….

* F9 will bring up the boot menu where you choose a device to boot from, instead of going with what is stored in the BIOS.

F9 screen

Now reboot and press F12…..

F12 forces the computer to boot from the network card. Network booting is an advanced option, your computer will look at the ethernet port for a connected network device to boot from.

F12 screen

Now reboot and press F10…

F10 starts the BIOS set-up page where we customise how we want the computer to start and check on the hardware. If you miss the BIOS key set-up then just keep rebooting till you get it.

Press and hold F10 when you see this screen

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The first screen you'll get is for language selection. You move around by using the arrow keys, and press enter to select.

Select English

Select English

This is the main set-up utility menu. The first screen we want is System Information in the File menu. Select this option.

Main set-up utility menu

System Information displays information about the components in our computer, without having to open the case.

System information screen

You should recognise the Processor Type and Processor speed from Workshop 01. Also the Memory Size will be familiar. Press any key to exit System Information.

System information screen

Now go to Set Time and Date and make sure your system clock is correct. This is important for your computer to function correctly and be able to 'talk' on the internet.

No other computers will trust yours if your system clock is set to 2001…

Set time and date screen

Now select the Storage menu, then Device Configuration.

You should recognise your hard disk and DVD drive. Once again you can identify the type of component without opening your case.

Device configuration screen

Exit device configuration and select Storage Options. Make sure Removable Media Boot is enabled. We need this to boot your computer from the USB stick later in this workshop.

Storage options screen

Exit Storage Options and Select Boot Order. Here you will see a list of devices your computer can use to boot.

Boot order screen

We will be booting from a USB stick, so let's move the USB device to the top by pressing Enter, then the up arrow.

Select USB device

We can also disable network booting if you don't need it.

Disable network controller

Press F10 to confirm and exit Boot Order.

Go back to File menu, then down to Save Changes and Exit.

Press F10 for Save Changes and Exit

Press F10 to confirm, and your computer will restart and begin the boot process again, looking for a USB device. Will it find one?

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For this series of workshops we will being using an Operating System (OS) called Xubuntu. Your facilitator has a USB stick for you which contains a Xubuntu Live System and Installer.

We will learn all about your OS in the next workshop, all you need to know right now is:

  • A Live System means that we can boot and use your computer from just the USB stick with no need to use the internal hard drive.
  • The installer is used to install the Xubuntu onto your hard drive.

In later workshops you will use the live system process to make your own custom version of Xubuntu. Right now we will go straight to installing the OS.

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Take a USB stick from your facilitator and plug it into any USB port and restart your computer using ctrl-alt-delete.

Plug in the USB stick

If you see a small logo down the bottom,

small logo at the bottom of the screen

then a Xubuntu flash screen,

Xubuntu flash screen

you are booting from USB.

If not, you'll need to double check your BIOS settings. Ask your facilitator for help.

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You can use your mouse or keyboard to select options here. Select English, then select Install Xubuntu.

Install Xubuntu screen

The next menu suggests the amount of hard disk space Xubuntu should use and the installer recommends connecting to the internet while installing. We usually don't have internet access for this workshop. Finally, check the box 'install this third-party software' - this will let us use MP3s.

Install this third-party software screen

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This menu lets you select how you to treat the hard disk you are installing onto. As you are starting from scratch with a new system you select 'Erase and install', then click 'Install now'.

Erase disc and install Xubuntu screen

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Now you need to tell your computer where in the world you are. The installer will recognise all standard timezones and Australian State Capitals.

In this case we are in Queensland, so begin typing Brisbane in the text box, then select Brisbane time. Or use your mouse to click on the map, then continue.

'Where are you?' screen

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Please keep the default keyboard layout as English (US). This is the most compatible layout for us. Then click continue.

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Fill in your personal details and create a password. Please do not forget your password, you will need it regularly! Select log in automatically, and then click continue. Your system will begin installing.

'Who are you?' screen

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When the install is completed you will be prompted to 'Remove the installation media' - this is your USB stick - and restart your computer. At this point you should go into the BIOS again and change your first boot device to your internal hard disk.

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Before we go any further, it's time to setup our local CCC network. We will use this network for updating and installing software, without having to use an internet connection.

The CCC facilitator laptop will act as a server, and store all the files you need. You'll also be able to access this wiki and our version of simple wikipedia. Your facilitator will show you where to find the network cables and explain what to do next.

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Well done! You've made it through Workshop 02. Your facilitator will have workshop 03 printed out for you to read as homework.


  • hp8x00/workshop_02
  • by Andrei Maberley