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BIOS Beep Codes

Contents

Annoying isn't it? You have built your computer you switch it on and then nothing happens except a few beeps from the PC speaker. Frustration sets in as you try to figure out what is wrong with it. If you didn't already know the computer has already told you the problem. It can't speak of course but it can direct you to the problem. Its all in the beeps. The BIOS can recognise when the problem occurs and sends a signal out to send a certain amount of beeps through the speaker. These beeps then tell you the location of the problem. 

Unfortunately not all the BIOS' use the same codes as each other. Two of the main BIOS manufactures AMI and Award (now Phoenix) have different codes for there errors. 

AMI BIOS

# of Beeps Error Description
1 Refresh Failure The memory refresh Circuitry is faulty
2 Parity Error Parity error in the Base (1st 64K) of memory
3 64K Base Memory Error Memory error in the base memory (1st 64K)
4 Timer Not Operational Timer 1 is not functioning (also caused by error in base memory)
5 Processor Error CPU error
6 8042 Gate A20 Failure Unable to switch to protected mode
7 Processor Exception Interrupt error The CPU on the CPU card generated an interrupt error
8 Display Memory Read/Write Error Video adapter is missing, incorrectly seated or has faulty memory
9 ROM checksum error The ROM checksum does not match that of the BIOS
10 Coms Shutdown Register Read/Write The shutdown register for coms RAM has failed
11 Cache Memory Bad The cache memory test has failed. Cache memory will be disabled. *** DO NOT enable it ***

With the first 3 beep codes, its well worth re-seating the memory just to make sure that it's in correctly. 8 Beeps is probably the most common in my experience. Can be caused by a badly seated Graphics card. If you have re-seated it then check with another Graphics card in the board.

Always check for loose components before sending the board back as this is the main cause of errors on the POST.

Award BIOS

Award states that they now only use one beep from there BIOS. This beep is one long beep and then two short beeps. This indicates a graphics card problem. Any other beeps should be treated as a RAM problem first and then the board sent in to be inspected.

The reason that the Award BIOS only uses the beep code for display problems is that it tries to display the error on-screen if at all possible. If the BIOS cannot initiate the display adapter then this causes the BIOS to make the beep code for a display error, which must be corrected before any other errors can be determined. Memory Test fails and hard disk failures etc will all be displayed on screen.

However people do say that they know what some codes mean some codes that I believe can be trusted are some while in operation. Consult the table below.

Beep Code Error
1 Long 2 Short Video Card Error - Either re-seat or replace video card
Repeating beeps Memory Error - Memory is either damaged or badly seated
Repeating Hi/Low Beeps Damaged or Overheating CPU
Hi Frequency Beeps Overheating CPU

In the case of a overheating CPU, shut down the computer immediately and let the CPU cool. Then check the CPU heatsink and fan to make sure its working properly and then check that the airflow in the case is adequate. If the problem persists then consider purchasing a new and more powerful fan for your CPU.

IBM BIOS

The IBM BIOS works with Short and Long beeps as well as the Award BIOS. However the IBM one does still have codes to work from.

Beep Code Error
1 Short Beep Normal POST, System booted OK
2 Short Beeps POST Error - Code on Display
No Beep Power supply or Motherboard error
Continuous Beep Power supply or Motherboard error
Repeating short beeps Power supply or Motherboard error
1 short, 1 long beep System board error
1 long, 2 short beeps Display adapter error (MDA/CGA)
1 long, 3 short beeps Display adapter error (EGA/VGA)
3 long beeps 3270 keyboard card

Phoenix BIOS

The Phoenix BIOS works on a slightly more complicated manor than the others. It does display an error code for you and produce a series of beeps. This BIOS produces its beeps according to the hexadecimal code the error produces. The Phoenix BIOS has many different codes for its possible errors and so many different beep codes. Rather than list the entire section here, I have provided a link to the official PDF file containing the codes and how they are derived.

Phoenix BIOS Post Codes

System board errors should be looked at by a specialist, Again always try to re-seat components to ensure they are in correctly. If necessary take all components out except for the RAM CPU and graphics card, then try the system. Re-seating components is the number one fix for getting past the POST screen. One badly seated components can cause the entire system not to function. 

Looking for Post codes?

Not all BIOS's have beep codes some of them like the Phoenix BIOS (above) used Post Codes to help you identify problems. There are links to some of these below.

ACER BIOS Post Codes
AT&T BIOS Post Codes
AWARD BIOS Post Codes
Compaq BIOS Post Codes
Dell BIOS Post Codes
Olivetti BIOS Post Codes
Phillips BIOS Post Codes

 

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