BIOS, Security, and Software

The BIOS
Most laptop BIOS’ are kept very simple compared to their desktop counter parts and because of laptop thermal properties you won’t find any options relating to voltages or frequencies.

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What you will find in the W5F BIOS is basic, but thorough. There are four basic menus to choose from: Advanced, Security, Power, and Boot.

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Under advanced, you can control minor features like the boot-up sound, the volume level of your speakers, and whether num-lock is enabled during boot-up.

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Security is a bit more substantial and we will go into that in more detail later on this page.

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In the Power menu, you can calibrate the battery so that Windows reports the proper levels, turn on wake on LAN, or enable/disable LCD power savings when unplugged.

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Finally the Boot screen allows you to set up the boot order of your drives.

As you can see above, there’s not more detail I can give without it being overkill. Laptop BIOS’ are generally pretty simple, and the Asus W5F is no exception.

Security

An unfortunate fact of life about owning a laptop is that you become a favourite target of theives. We are hearing more and more stories of users having their computers ripped off, even while sitting down at a local coffee shop! Seeing how we live in an unforgiving world, laptop designers are integrating more anti-theft features into their products.

The Asus W5F has a few security features that give you a peace of mind. There is a Kensington Lock port on the back of the laptop so you can lock down your laptop to a sturdier surface.

In the BIOS you can protect your laptop from unauthorized usage by enabling the following features:

  1. Add/Change a Supervisor password – When set, the BIOS will require a password before entering the utility. When a Supervisor password is set, you can also configure the type of access the User account will have: no access, view only, limited, or full access.
  2. Add/Change a User password – When set, the BIOS will require a password before entering the utility. What you can do in the BIOS once the password has been entered is specified by the Supervisor.
  3. Boot sector virus protection
  4. TPM Security – Explained below.
  5. I/O device security – Enables / disables different I/O devices on the laptop (i.e. USB ports, DVD drive etc.).
  6. Hard Disk security – lock your hard disk with a password. Works when cold booting the laptop and when resuming from a hibernated state.

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Disable unused devices for extra security.

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Trusted Platform Module enhances security but may
create a false sense of security.

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Supervisor and User access levels in the BIOS make it easier for
IT teams to manage their assets.

Trusted Platform Module (TPM) security is supported and can be enabled through the BIOS. TPM is the next generation security feature for PCs that will lock/encrypt critical information from being snooped or stolen (though a thief interested in hardware won’t care for TPM, they will format the HDD anyway). However, current Windows operating systems do not use TPM even if it is available on the hardware, but Windows Vista will support TPM. This security feature will introduce a whole host of new issues once it’s used, so best to understand what it can and can’t do.

Since there is an integrated camera with Asus Video Security software, you can configure the software to sound an alarm, email you, or update a website at the signs of suspicious activity. This isn’t a fool proof system since a thief may be undeterred by the alarm, but at least you may be able to get an image or two captured of the perpetrator and have it emailed to you.

Not to be forgotten is the bundled Norton Internet Security suite to protect your network traffic. Some laptops have biometrics or special hardware keys to activate — the Asus W5F does not have these features.

Software

Asus motherboards typically come with an abundance of software that the user can install to make the most of their purchase, and their laptops are no exception. However it’s important to say right off the bat that not all of it is factory installed, so you don’t have to worry about your drive being bloated from the get go. There are eight CDs in total:

  1. Asus DVD – PowerDVD DVD playback software
  2. MediaShow SE – multimedia prosentation software
  3. PowerDirector DE – video editing software
  4. MS Works 8 – simplified office productivity suite
  5. Nero Burning Rom – the popular CD/DVD burning software 
  6. System CDs (2 discs containing the W5F factory installation)
  7. Asus driver CD

Items MediaShow, PowerDirector, and MS Works are not preloaded onto the W5F and are optionally installed by the user. This is great since not every user will want this software on their system and it helps cut down the bloat on the W5F.

MS Works 8 and Windows XP Home editions are bundled to help keep the retail cost lower while offering core functionality (instead of more expensive MS Office and XP Pro).

The driver CD contains all the software needed to get all the hardware running on the W5F including the card reader, Splendid Video, and web camera. The driver CD also includes useful software like WinFlash which allows you to flash your BIOS while within Windows, and EasyUpdate which scans for updated system software over the Internet.

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Oddly, a software utility called NB Probe is not installed with the factory setup. It’s a useful system health monitoring tool you will find on the driver CD and I’m not sure why it is omitted from the default installation.

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