Booting a Computer: Definition & Process

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  • 0:00 What Is Booting a Computer?
  • 0:48 Boot Process
  • 1:52 Troubleshooting
  • 2:38 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lucinda Stanley

Lucinda has taught business and information technology and has a PhD in Education.

In this lesson, we will learn what 'booting' a computer means, where the term comes from, and what happens exactly during the boot process. We will also explore why you may need to start your computer in safe mode.

What Is Booting a Computer?

Are you intrigued by the mystery of what happens when you turn your computer on? Does it all seem like magic to you when the start screen appears on your monitor? Actually, the term booting comes from that little tab on the back a boot, called a bootstrap, that helps you pull your boot on.

Booting a computer refers to the process of powering on the computer and starting the operating system. The operating system is the program that makes all your software applications and hardware work together, so you can do the work you want to do. Once you hit the power button, it's all automatic from there. The boot process loads the operating system into main memory or the random access memory (RAM) installed on your computer. Now let's learn a little more about the boot process.

Boot Process

When you push the power button, power is sent to a small bootloader program, which loads the computer's operating system. The bootloader is located in the cache memory. The cache memory is a portion of your RAM that is directly attached to the central processing unit (CPU), which is the brains of your computer.

Once the bootloader program gets power, it starts the process of activating the operating system. If you were to see this happening, it would show a black screen with the text of the boot up processes.

During the boot process, the first thing that happens is the POST or Power on Self Test. When the POST is running, you will typically see lights flashing and hear a series of beeps. Basically the computer is performing a test to make sure all the attached hardware is communicating clearly with the CPU.

Once the POST is complete, the BIOS, or Basic Input/Output System, is activated. The BIOS is actually stored in read only memory (ROM). So, the bootloader program opens or wakes up the BIOS, which then finds the complete loading instructions on a bootable device, typically the hard disk.

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