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How to run hardware diagnostics from BIOS without an OS

Desktop operating systems offer different ways to troubleshoot problems. Most of these solutions come as third-party apps that you can run on the desktop OS but there are also built-in troubleshooting tools on most of them. The real problem arises when you no longer have an OS to boot to. If you’re stuck in BIOS and unable to boot to your desktop, you either have a hardware or a software/OS related problem. If you’re worried about the hardware being damaged, you can run hardware diagnostics from BIOS.

PC/Laptop manufacturer diagnostics

PC/laptop manufacturers like Dell and HP include a diagnostics tool that you can run from BIOS. It is possible that other manufacturers have something similar but you will need to check. This method is the most convenient way to go because the tools are all there, you just need to access them.

Turn on your PC and go to the BIOS. Look for anything called Diagnostics, or similar. Select it, and allow the tool to run the tests.

Third-party diagnostics tool

If your BIOS doesn’t have a diagnostics tool, or the one it has is too basic, you can use a third-party tool. In order to use a third-party tool, you must have access to a functioning PC and a USB disk on hand.

We recommend using Memtest86. It’s free and you can burn it to a USB disk easily with Etcher. This tool primarily checks your RAM and CPU for errors. Download it, and burn it to a USB. Boot to your BIOS and select the USB as the boot device.

You will see the app’s GUI where you can start the tests from.

The tests can take quite a bit of time to complete but the tool gives you the option to not only stop the test any time you want but also to save the results to a file.

Windows 10 or Ubuntu bootable disk

A Windows 10 bootable disk gives you access to certain tools such as the Command Prompt where you can run disk and system scans. It’s not the same as a diagnostics tool that will test all the hardware but it can often help repair problems with drives. Of course, you will need to create a bootable Windows 10 disk first.

Ubuntu is the most popular Linux distribution there is and if you create and boot from a bootable Ubuntu disk, you can ‘try it out’ before installing it. This trial version allows you access to a desktop where you can run third-party diagnostic tools from the desktop. Once you have access to a desktop, you can run all sorts of apps that you otherwise could not from just the BIOS.

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