As the answer to my question may differ depending on the specific hardware of a computer, I will limit my discussion to common PCs that we use everyday. The reason for asking this question is to try to solve my laptop problem (click to see).

My laptop has an Intel HD 3000 GPU integrated into my i7-CPU, and a discrete Nvidia graphics card with its own memory. When it enters BIOS, I will see a setup screen that allows me to configure hardware settings using the keyboard.

My question is, for the BIOS to generate the signal for the monitor, are the graphics card(s) involved at all? If yes, which one is used?

Most of the time, the integrated Intel GPU was used by Win7, because GPU-Z shows that the memory usage and load of the Nvidia card is always zero (Unless some 3D programs are running, or any application is purposely opened with the discrete GPU). What I'm not sure about is the BIOS screen output.
Edit 1 From wikipedia I found this:
"The modern Video BIOS does not support all the functions of the video card, being only sufficient to identify and initialize the card to display one of a few frame buffer or text display modes. It does not support YUV to RGB translation, video scaling, pixel copying, compositing or any of the multitude of other 2D and 3D features of the video card."

  • Is your question which video hardware handles the screen output for the BIOS, or how does the BIOS get output on the screen before any drivers are loaded? – fixer1234 Apr 15 '15 at 4:02
  • @fixer1234 I think the former one is more specific & more relevant, the second one may be too general? I'll edit the title accordingly. Thanks! – D-K Apr 15 '15 at 4:05
  • The second one is the more interesting question. Maybe another day. :-) – fixer1234 Apr 15 '15 at 4:07
  • @fixer1234 I agree. I suspect the driver of a discrete GPU is too complex to be used by BIOS. Since BIOS need to output only simple text and basic geometric patterns, CPU could be capable of performing these tasks. – D-K Apr 15 '15 at 4:16
  • "Since BIOS need to output only simple text and basic geometric patterns" - Not necessarily. Graphical BIOSes were available even in the early '90s, although they've become more popular now with the advent of UEFI. – Karan Apr 15 '15 at 21:04

Yes. A graphics card is always involved, even though it only provides basic functions. In your case, it's the integrated gpu.

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