BIOS – An acronym for Basic Input/Output System and also known as the System BIOS, ROM BIOS or PC BIOS) is a type of firmware used to perform hardware initialization during the booting process (power-on startup) on IBM PC compatible computers, and to provide runtime services for operating systems and programs. The BIOS firmware is built into personal computers (PCs), and it is the first software they run when powered on. The name itself originates from the Basic Input/Output System used in the CP/M operating system in 1975. Originally proprietary to the IBM PC, the BIOS has been reverse engineered by companies looking to create compatible systems and the interface of that original system serves as a de facto standard.
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. Variations in the system hardware are hidden by the BIOS from programs that use BIOS services instead of directly accessing the hardware. MS-DOS (PC DOS), which was the dominant PC operating system from the early 1980s until the mid 1990s, relied on BIOS services for disk, keyboard, and text display functions. MS Windows NT, Linux, and other protected mode operating systems in general ignore the abstraction layer provided by the BIOS and do not use it after loading, instead accessing the hardware components directly.
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.
Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) was designed as a successor to BIOS, aiming to address its technical shortcomings. As of 2014, new PC hardware predominantly ships with UEFI firmware.