The booting process refers to starting a computer by pushing the power button or opening a laptop lid. Encrypted or more secure computers typically ask you to provide a password to continue the booting process.

Once the booting process starts, your computer starts all the programs you indicated in your startup options. These are the applications you typically use every day. They may include your email and chat software.

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The booting process requires a computer to have an operating system (OS). Newly purchased computers need more time to boot up because you must input personal settings like choosing your time zone and booting password. Some of the software that comes with the system have yet to be wholly installed as well.

For instance, you will need to choose a wallpaper on a Windows computer, enter your personal information, and set up Microsoft Office. That’s what you see on your screen. What happens behind the scenes is much different. Here’s a video that shows what happens during the booting process inside a computer.

What Are the Types of Booting?

Booting can be done in two ways.

  • Cold booting: Also known as “hard booting,” it occurs when you start a computer or turn the power switch on. The computer does the rest—read instructions from the read-only memory (ROM) to identify the next steps and load the OS from the main memory.
  • Warm booting: Also called “soft booting,” occurs when you restart a computer. The computer doesn’t start from the initial state. You may need to warm boot when your system freezes. On Windows, you can do that by choosing Restart from the options or pressing CTRL + ALT + DELETE simultaneously. On a Mac, you can select Restart from the options.

What Are the Steps in the Booting Process?

The booting process has six steps.

  1. Startup: This involves switching the power on to supply electricity to the main components like the basic input/output system (BIOS) and processor. The BIOS manages the data flow from the OS and attached devices like a hard disk drive (HDD), mouse, or printer.
  1. Power On Self Test (POST): This is an initial test performed by the BIOS. It checks I/O devices, the computer’s main memory, and disk drives, among others. You will hear a beep if any of them isn’t working correctly.
  1. OS loading: This loads the OS into the main memory. Once the OS starts, it executes all the initial files and instructions.
  1. System configuration: This loads the drivers into the main memory. The drivers are the programs that make peripheral devices (mouse, printer, etc.) work.
  1. System utilities loading: The system utilities are the basic programs that make your computer function. Examples are volume control, desktop settings, and antivirus, among others. This step loads the system utilities into the memory.
  1. User authentication: This asks you to enter your password if any. The computer authenticates you and loads your personal preferences like the programs you included in the startup. When you enter the correct password, the system finally starts.

Each step above must be completed to move on to the end of the booting process.

Why Is the Booting Process Critical?

Booting your computer not only ensures it will work properly. It is also vital to continue working when your system hangs. You may sometimes experience the so-called “blue screen of death (BSOD)” on Windows. That means your master boot record (MBR), which makes fixed or removable disks work, failed.

You can try warm booting first. If that doesn’t work, shut down your computer, then try cold booting. You may have to reinstall the OS if that still doesn’t work. You may need an OS installation compact disc (CD), hard disk, or USB drive for that. That drive must contain everything your computer needs to work.

To boot up from an installation drive or do a clean install, insert the CD or plug the drive, turn the computer on but hold the CTRL + ALT + DELETE keys simultaneously even before the booting process starts. Choose the drive where the OS is found and boot from there.

The booting process is critical for computers to work.