My wife is an American Sign Language interpreter. She is currently interpreting for a student in a computing class. Today they were talking about BIOS and POST beep codes and the student asked the instructor if there is any way they could get the code without being able to hear it.

The instructor didn't have any suggestions, but when she mentioned it to me my first thought was a POST test card. I haven't had/used one since the original PCI days. I don't remember and have no way at hand to test whether there is a numerical code generated/visible on the card when/after the beep codes play.

I have not been able to find any pertinent info, and I am having a hard time figuring out a search that doesn't return pages of false hits. If there is someone out there who knows or could test this for me I would appreciate it.


A short search found this UltraX Post Monitoring:

How do I see the generated POST Error Codes? POST codes can be seen as they are being generated by your BIOS with any of Ultra-X's QuickPOST Series P.O.S.T. Card. Simply plug any of the QuickPOST Series cards into your PC's PCI or ISA slot or MicroPOST into your parallel port and watch as the BIOS as the BIOS performs its tests. The QuickPOST Series cards as well as the MicroPOST parallel adapter display HEX digits which consist of alphanumeric characters 0-9 & the letters A-F.

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Using Google image search for bios post card display shows many POST cards having numerical displays.

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    In addition to an external card. Most higher-end motherboards today offer basically this feature built into them – Ramhound Sep 5 '14 at 18:11
  • @Ramhound doesn't help with a laptop (unless you are willing to dismantle it) :/ – DavidPostill Sep 5 '14 at 18:13
  • Who said anything about a laptop? I wanted to indicate this feature is built into most motherboards today. A laptop configuration is entirely different for one main reason there isn't exactly a configuration standard for them like there is for ATX for a desktop configuration. – Ramhound Sep 5 '14 at 18:17
  • Thank you. I was aware that most of the cards have an onboard display. My question came about because I seem to remember the alphanumeric codes and beep codes being handled differently during the POST process. But I may be unnecessarily complicating things. – nourse Sep 5 '14 at 18:17

Plug a LED with a ~330 Ohm resistor attached (note the +/- polarity!) instead of the beeper; it should light up when the beeper goes on.

Note 1: "Beep" is actually a square current alternating between GND (0V) and +5V rail - but since the LED will light up and down a couple of hundreds times a second, visually it will just light up with decreased intensity (as in PWM).

Note 2: Alternatively, since beeper is driven by 0/+5V voltage, you can power a BJT or MOS FET and drive any electronics with it, e.g. firing missile rockets at the moon at every beep; YMMV.

Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PC_speaker

  • dear downvoter, would you care to explain what's your problem with my answer? I'm eager to improve it, but without any feedback I fear that's not possible. – vaxquis May 31 '15 at 15:46

Possibly not an answer, but an option - as a lot of mobos don't have a beeper onboard, but do have a connector to attach one - a buzzer attached to that port perhaps, something that can be felt rather than heard?

  • Thank you. Great idea! Also brings up the possibility of a mic/light combo the user could just hold near the case to pick up the codes. I am still interested in the original question as well. – nourse Sep 5 '14 at 17:58
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    I think my suggestion will be to pick up a card, but keep in mind that if they don't have one they may be able to just stick their finger on the little peizo beeper and feel the vibration. – nourse Sep 5 '14 at 21:06

I worked in an IT shop previously where one of our senior staff began to lose his hearing due to old age.

He was a bit of a DIY-centric person so he built this small handheld black box powered by a 9v battery. It had what looked like a rectangle with 10 square lights built into it, as well as a microphone. Simply put, the louder a given noise, the more lights lit up allowing him to visually distinguish sound.

I can't seem to find any similar commercial versions of this (Is the market viable enough for commercial manufacturing?). Though I suspect an Android phone and app might be able to accomplish something similar.

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    Sounds like a standard LED VU meter driven by a small mike and amplifier... – keshlam Sep 5 '14 at 21:52

This seems to be an XY question, so I'm going to answer your problem rather than your question.

You can advise the student to use a spectral visualiser on her mobile, for example this app on Android. This has the advantage that it wouldn't require any special hardware, just a standard smart phone with a mic, and you don't need to crack open the case, and a room that's not too noisy.

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