The BIOS is built into the PC, and is the first code run by a PC when powered on. The primary function is to load and start an operating system.

The fundamental purposes of the BIOS in modern PCs are to initialize and test the system hardware components, and to load a boot loader or an operating system from a mass memory device. The BIOS additionally provides an abstraction layer for the hardware, i.e., a consistent way for application programs and operating systems to interact with the keyboard, display, and other input/output (I/O) devices.

Most BIOS implementations are specifically designed to work with a particular computer or motherboard model, by interfacing with various devices that make up the complementary system chipset. Originally, BIOS firmware was stored in a ROM chip on the PC motherboard; in modern computer systems, the BIOS contents are stored on flash memory so it can be rewritten without removing the chip from the motherboard. This allows easy updates to the BIOS firmware so new features can be added or bugs can be fixed, but it also creates a possibility for the computer to become infected with BIOS rootkits.

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