Change the Boot Order in BIOS

A complete tutorial on changing the boot order in BIOS

Changing the boot order of the "bootable" devices on your computer, like your hard drive or bootable media in a USB port (e.g., flash drive), floppy drive, or optical drive, is very easy.

Illustration of a person using the BIOS to change Boot order on a computer
Lifewire / Derek Abella

Why Change the Boot Order?

There are several scenarios where it's necessary to change the boot order, like when launching some data destruction tools and bootable antivirus programs, as well as when installing an operating system.

The BIOS setup utility is where you change boot order settings.

The boot order is a BIOS setting, so it's operating-system independent. In other words, it doesn't matter if you have Windows 11, Windows 10, or another Windows version, Linux, or any other PC OS on your hard drive or another bootable device; these boot sequence change instructions will still apply.

How to Change the Boot Order

Follow these steps to change the boot order in BIOS. A change to the boot sequence will change the order in which devices are booted.

Step 1: Turn on or Restart Your Computer

Turn on or restart your computer and watch for a message during the POST about a particular key, usually Del or F2, that you'll need to press to access the BIOS setup utility. Press this key as soon as you see the message.

Screenshot of an example of a Power On Self Test (POST) screen
Power On Self Test (POST).

Step 2: Enter the BIOS Setup Utility

After pressing the correct keyboard command from the previous step, you'll enter the BIOS Setup Utility.

Screenshot of a BIOS Setup Utility Main Menu
BIOS Setup Utility Main Menu.

All BIOS utilities are a little different, so yours may look like this or it may look completely different. No matter how it appears, they're all basically a set of menus containing many different settings for your computer's hardware.

In this particular BIOS, the menu options are listed horizontally at the top of the screen, the hardware options are listed in the middle (grey area), and the instructions for how to move around the BIOS and make changes are listed at the bottom.

Using the instructions given for navigating around your BIOS utility, locate the option for changing the boot order. In the example BIOS above, the changes are made under the Boot menu.

Since every BIOS setup utility is different, the specifics on where the boot order options are located varies from computer to computer. The menu option or configuration item might be called Boot Options, Boot, Boot Order, etc. The option may even be located within a general menu like Advanced Options, Advanced BIOS Features, or Other Options.

Step 3: Find the Boot Order Options in BIOS

Locate and navigate to the boot order options in BIOS.

Screenshot of a BIOS Setup Utility Boot Menu
BIOS Setup Utility Boot Menu (Hard Drive Priority).

In most BIOS setup utilities, it will look something like the screenshot above.

Any hardware connected to your motherboard that's able to be booted from—like your hard drive, floppy drive, USB ports, and optical drive—will be listed here.

The order in which the devices are listed is the order in which your computer will look for operating system information—in other words, the "boot order."

With the order shown above, BIOS will first try to boot from any devices it considers "hard drives," which usually means the integrated hard drive that's in the computer.

If no hard drives are bootable, BIOS will next look for bootable media in the CD-ROM drive, next for bootable media that's attached (like a flash drive), and finally, it will look on the network.

To change which device to boot from first, follow the directions on the BIOS setup utility screen to change the boot order. In our example, it's changed using the + and - keys.

Remember, your BIOS may have different instructions!

If you're confident that your BIOS setup is missing a boot order option, consider flashing BIOS to the latest version and checking again.

Step 4: Make Changes to the Boot Order

Next, you'll make changes to the boot order.

Screenshot of a BIOS Setup Utility Boot Menu
BIOS Setup Utility Boot Menu (CD-ROM Priority).

As you can see above, we've changed it from Hard Drive shown in the previous step to the CD-ROM Drive as an example.

BIOS will now look for a bootable disc in the optical disc drive first, before trying to boot from the hard drive, and also before trying to boot from any removable media like a floppy drive or flash drive, or a network resource.

Make whatever boot order changes you need and then proceed to the next step to save your settings.

Step 5: Save Your BIOS Changes

Before your preference takes effect, you'll need to save the BIOS changes you made. To do that, follow the instructions given to you in your BIOS utility to navigate to the Exit or Save and Exit menu.

Screenshot of a BIOS Setup Utility Exit Menu
BIOS Setup Utility Exit Menu.

In this example, we'd choose Exit Saving Changes.

Step 6: Confirm Your Changes

Confirm the changes and exit BIOS. You'll most likely see a confirmation prompt like below, so you'd select Yes.

Screenshot of a BIOS Setup Utility Save and Exit Confirmation
BIOS Setup Utility Save and Exit Confirmation.

This Setup Confirmation message can sometimes be cryptic. The example above is pretty clear but I've seen many BIOS change confirmation questions that are so "wordy" that they're often difficult to understand. Read the message carefully to be sure that you're actually saving your changes and not exiting without saving changes.

Your boot order changes, and any other changes you may have made while in BIOS, are now saved and your computer will restart automatically.

Step 7: Start the Computer

Start the computer with the new boot order. When your computer restarts, BIOS will attempt to boot from the first device in the order you specified. If the first device isn't bootable, your computer will try to boot from the second device in the boot order, and so on.

Screenshot of an Example Boot From CD Prompt
Boot from CD Prompt.

In Step 4, we set the first boot device to the CD-ROM Drive as an example. As you can see in the screenshot above, the computer is attempting to boot from the CD but is asking for a confirmation first. This only happens on some bootable CDs and will not show up when booting to Windows or other operating systems on a hard drive. Configuring the boot order to boot from a disc like a CD, DVD, or BD is the most common reason for making this change, so I wanted to include this screenshot as an example.

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