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36. Deactivate Unneeded Ports

BIOS from A to Z
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The bottom line: Only old PDAs or serial-attached modems need the old COM1 and COM2 ports. Deactivating them saves two IRQs, and lowers the number of active interrupts the CPU must check. The parallel LPT interface is often superfluous today, too. If you attach your printer or scanner to a USB port instead, you won't need this old interface any more.

From the "Integrated Peripherals" menu deactivate the COM1 and COM2 interfaces through the "IO Devices, Com-Port" option, which may sometimes appear as "Serial Port 1/2". Turn the LPT interface off by setting the value for the "Parallel Port" option to "Disabled".

37. Deactivate Firewire

You only need Firewire if you plan to editing video from a camcorder, or use other Firewire peripherals. Otherwise, turn it off.

From the "Integrated Peripherals" menu, set the value for the "Onboard 1394 device" option to "Disabled".

BIOS Update

From time to time, motherboard manufacturers release new BIOS versions. An updated BIOS optimizes existing hardware and may also introduce new functions, such as overclocking features. We recommend that you update your BIOS whenever a new commercial version is released (but you can usually skip interim alpha or beta releases).

The BIOS program uses resides in a special kind of flash memory module. It's rewritable, which enables an old BIOS to be overwritten completely by a new version. Updating the BIOS requires special software tools, which the motherboard or system manufacturer will supply for each model. Because of the memory technology used, updating the BIOS is also known as "flashing the BIOS."

When it comes to performing a BIOS update, users face two alternative methods to complete this task. First, they may use a Windows tool, which usually comes with the driver CD for the motherboard, or may be downloaded from the motherboard or system vendor's Web site. At regular intervals, this tool checks to see if new versions of the BIOS are available, downloads them automatically when they're detected, and installs them at the user's behest. This method is easy, but weighs your PC down with yet another program that consumes system resources running in the background.

The Windows option is by no means bad, as long as your system remains stable. If your Windows installation gets messed up, however, avoid this method. In that case, you'll want to employ the following DOS method instead.

Normally, you'll download this tool from your manufacturer's Web site. Next, you'll start your system from a DOS boot disk, and invoke the flash program from the command line; many such utilities come in the form of a ZIP file which, when extracted to a floppy disk, copies all the necessary files - including DOS boot files - to a floppy for you. This approach is more reliable because it requires no device drivers to load before it goes to work.

Warning: When you flash the BIOS on a notebook computer, it shouldn't be running on battery - it's essential that it be plugged into a wall socket or you risk a shutdown during the update, which can wreak havoc on your system.

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