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Booting Process

System Booting:

System booting process starts from powering on the system and ends at the loading
of Operating system files into the Main memory. Please see the following steps
involved in booting process:

1. When system is powered on SMPS (Switch mode power supply) component gets the
power supply first and then it distributes the required voltage power supply to
different system devices (ex. mother board, fans, hard-drive etc).

2. On powering on, processor reads the boot instructions stored on BIOS (Basic
Input Output System) firmware.

3. BIOS first performs POST (Power On Self Test). In this process it checks all the
required devices like registers, buses, controllers, memory and peripheral devices.
If any of the required device is missing/corrupted appropriate signal through beep
sound is passed, For different type of failures there are fix number of beeps
specified. For example 1 long 2 short beeps means video adapter error, 5 beeps
means processor error) .

4. After successful POST, boot device is identified from the BIOS entry. BIOS has a
list of devices ( CD/DVD ROM, Hard Drive, USB Drive, Network Interface) from where
Master Boot Record can be located. These devices are listed in an specific sequence
in BIOS so that if MBR is not found in first device then system looks the second
device for it. Default boot device sequence varies from hardware vendor to vendor.

Note: Sometimes we need to change this default boot device sequence to boot from an
external device (e.g. To do operating system installation, we set CD/DVD ROM in
first boot order), some systems have very user friendly options to select a booting
device at boot time without setting up the boot device sequence in the BIOS menu.

5. After identification of the first boot device, system looks at the Master Boot
Record (MBR) which is located at the first sector of the boot device. If first boot
device is not found system looks for MBR in second boot device according to the
device sequence specified in BIOS.

6. After finding MBR system reads the bootloader available in MBR. Boot loader
contains the address of the operating system files which needs to be loaded into
the main memory (RAM) for completing boot process.

Example of bootloader: NTLDR in Windows and LILO/GRUB/GRUB2 in Linux/UNIX systems.


Note: Bootloaders can have address of any operating system, it means its not
necessary that GRUB can have address of Linux operation system only, it can boot
Windows OS as well. A bootstrap loader can have the list of multiple operating
systems to boot.

7. After locating the address of operating system, required OS kernel files are
loaded into the main memory (RAM) of the system and after this other necessary OS
environment files are loaded.

Example: vmlinuz and initrd.img file in Linux and System32 in Windows OS.

In this way system boot process is completed.

Types of Booting:
Cold booting: When system is powered on from power off state. The booting process
described above is an example of cold booting.

Hot or Warm booting: When system is restarted/reset then booting process is called
Hot or warm booting. This type of booting skips the POST (Power on self test) step.