There’s nothing more frustrating than a computer that freezes in the BIOS, forcing you to shut down the machine. I recently spent hours working on this issue. I have an old PC that would either refuse to POST or boot into BIOS and immediately freeze. It’s a scary situation because corrupt BIOS can brick your computer.
Let me describe the scenario:
You are working on a PC and need to change some BIOS settings to boot from Windows. While in the middle of navigating BIOS menus, the screen becomes unresponsive, and there’s nothing you can do besides holding down the power button to force a shutdown. And now the computer won’t start again.
Well, that’s what I was dealing with. I spent an embarrassingly long time trying to fix the issue. After running through almost every troubleshooting step imaginable, I eventually fixed the computer’s frozen BIOS. From there, I was able to install Windows, and everything worked.
So, without further delay, let’s dive into the solutions.
1. Test a Different CPU
In my case, the reason my computer was freezing in the BIOS was because the CPU was having issues. I removed the CPU and inspected the pins, but I didn’t notice any bent pins, so assumed it was fine.
Luckily for me, I had a spare CPU lying around. I swapped in the backup CPU and I was able to boot into BIOS without it freezing or crashing on me. So, if your computer freezes in the BIOS, the most likely issue is there’s a problem with the CPU.
But don’t start stressing about buying a new CPU just yet. There are some other solutions you can try before you invest in another CPU. If you choose to buy a CPU, you can either buy a new one (I hear the Ryzen 7800X3D is good) or save some money buying second-hand.
2. Remove the Cables and Hold Down the Power Button
A buildup of static electricity could cause your BIOS to freeze. One easy way to drain excess electricity is to unplug all the external cables and hold down the power button for 30 or more seconds. I recommend a full minute. Sometimes a computer needs time to drain static electricity.
If holding down the power button doesn’t fix the BIOS, try leaving it overnight without power. I know, it’s not easy to give up on a computer repair project. However, taking a break can help you come back with a fresh pair of eyes and ideas. Holding down the power button usually fixes boot issues.
3. Clear CMOS
The CMOS is a little battery that saves your BIOS settings. Clearing the CMOS will reset the BIOS settings to factory defaults. There are two ways to clear the CMOS: remove the CMOS battery from the motherboard or switch the CMOS jumper.
For the battery method, unplug your computer from the power and remove all connected devices. Locate the CMOS battery (it’s disc-shaped) and press down on the tab to pop it out. Leave it out of the machine for a few minutes. If it worked, the date on your BIOS settings will be changed.
For the jumper method, locate the BIOS jumper pins on your motherboard. You will likely need to check your motherboard’s manual for the location of these pins. Remove the cap from the default pins and place them on the reset pins.
Boot the computer, it probably won’t start, but let the fans spin for a bit. Now, shut down the computer, and move the cap back to the original pins. You should be able to get into BIOS without freezes now.
4. Reseat CPU
There’s a chance your CPU is working fine (CPUs rarely fail for no reason) but it may not be installed correctly. To narrow down the issue, I suggest taking the CPU out and putting it back in.
Be careful. Don’t yank the heat sink off or it might take the CPU with it, and that’s an easy way to damage the CPU pins. If the heat sink won’t come off with a little force, use a hair dryer to warm it up, and then twist and pull. It should pop off, leaving the CPU in the CPU socket on the motherboard.
From there, remove the CPU, give it a look over, put it back in, secure it with the latch, re-apply thermal paste, and attach the heat sink.
5. Reseat RAM
When a computer won’t POST, or boot into BIOS, the reason is usually related to the RAM. Troubleshooting RAM is kind of funny because it feels like they have a mind of their own. What you want to do is remove the RAM sticks and then attempt to boot with only one stick installed.
If the computer still freezes in the BIOS, move the single RAM stick to a different RAM slot, and test it again. Test each stick one at a time. Sometimes you have to try every RAM slot until the computer finally decides to work. It might also be time to replace your RAM.
6. Double-Check all Connections
If a power cable is not fully connected to the motherboard, it can cause the BIOS to freeze. What you want to do is press down on all the wires on your computer, making sure they’re firmly in place.
To take it a step further, unplug the wires, and then reconnect them. Some dust could block the connections. It’s worth reseating the SATA cables too. I unplugged every cable on my computer and then reconnected them.
Just make sure not to forget where they go! I recommend taking a picture of all the connections before you start disassembling things. Otherwise, you will have to look up schematics, which is not fun.
The Bottom Line
If you’re not sure where to start, fixing a frozen BIOS can take a lot of work. I spent hours working on a computer that had a problematic BIOS. The solution for me was to use a different CPU but that may not be the problem on your computer. Either way, I hope this checklist gives you an idea of how to fix a frozen BIOS.
Just remember to take deep breaths and relax. There’s a good chance you can fix your computer without spending a lot of money. I know because I always manage to fix even the oldest computers with the weirdest issues.