UEFI Firmware or Unified Extensible Firmware Interface is a replacement for the increasingly legacy computer BIOS, or Basic Input/Output System.
Well not exactly. The BIOS is very much alive and kicking on millions of machines across the world. In fact, most versions of this new firmware includes support for legacy BIOS services.
As computing technology advances, so does the need for improved performance, security, and an ability to cope with increasing/evolving disk capacity.
The 'new' firmware delivers these benefits, and more, as you are to discover.
This page provides a basic overview of the new firmware. We take a look at its history and how it came to be, the benefits it delivers, and some issues for consideration.
This 'new' Firmware has in fact been around since 2005, even though most Windows Operating System users have only encountered it on new hardware since the release of Windows 8 on October 26th 2012.
Originally developed to cope with server technology enhancements, Intel and over 120 other organisations produced firmware to replace the traditional BIOS and overcome its limitations.
These limitations relate to how the traditional BIOS, written for old computer Processors, restricts addressable space to 1Mb, and operates in 16-bit processor mode, for example.
These restrictions means the traditional BIOS can only do so much, but also limits technological advancements such as security and disk capacity.
The time taken by the BIOS to complete tasks such as hardware detection and Power On Self Tests (POST) is shortened by UEFI Firmware.
Apple Macs have used UEFI for years. It functions in either 32-bit or 64-bit mode. This means more of your computers RAM is used for pre-boot purposes than the 1Mb limit imposed by the traditional BIOS.
The new firmware is the first program to run on your machine when you first switch on. Just like the BIOS it detects your hardware components and tests each one to ensure all is working well.
UEFI completes these tasks this much more quickly and more thoroughly than the old BIOS, before handing over control to the Operating System.
Next we look at some of the benefits offered by UEFI Firmware in more detail.
The main benefits of UEFI Firmware in my opinion are security and performance. Cryptography added to UEFI nearly 10 years ago protects your machines pre-boot process against Bootkit attacks.
In addition to improved start up times and the ability to resume from hibernation much better than before (thus improving response times), UEFI Firmware also supports larger hard disk sizes and memory (RAM) capacity.
UEFI is also backward compatible so you can still access BIOS settings within the UEFI Firmware. Another benefit is remote diagnostics and repair of computers at the UEFI/BIOS level.
Traditionally to remote access another machine for troubleshooting purposes, the machines Operating System is required to be fully loaded as a pre-requisite.
With UEFI all you need is a network connection to the firmware and you can access it from another location. For years Server technology also has this capability via management features such as the HP iLo functions (integrated Lights-out).
Traditionally BIOS and Operating System date/time functions are separate. With UEFI these options are synchronised which means changing such settings in your O/S are also changed in UEFI.
The look and feel of UEFI Firmware varies between providers. Some show graphical representations of details such as hardware specifications and operating temperatures.
Enhanced visual layouts improves understanding about your system. Some UEFI firmware is mouse capable, making it easier fir everyday users to navigate the options.
Finally with UEFI the traditional BIOS Beep Codes are gone! In place are manufacturers extensions that test your computers hardware much better and provide better information about test outcomes/issues.
Next we look at some of the UEFI issues you need to be aware of.
The first thing to mention is the Secure Boot option. To prevent Bootkit Attacks from doing damage this option (enabled) prevents your Operating System from loading unless they are authenticated with a secure key loaded into UEFI (Cryptogtaphy-Encryption).
Secure keys (or Trusted Certificate Authority) are only issued through original, genuine Microsoft software, for example.
The secure boot option prevents bootkit attacks from hijacking your Windows operating system. The following message appears if an issue is detected.
However it also prevents non-Windows and older Windows Operating Systems from booting, such as Linux Ubuntu, for example.
Disabling secure boot resolves this issue but unless you are using another operating system with a boot issue there is no need to change this setting.
If you are a gamer and/or invested in over clocking your CPU, for example, your options are possibly limited depending on your system and the type of UEFI Firmware applied.
There are less firmware options when viewing on a Tablet or Laptop compared with a traditional Desktop PC. However for most home users this is of no concern.
It is also worth noting that UEFI can not be applied to older hardware devices with exclusive BIOS based motherboards.
Next wel look at they ways to access your firmware.
Accessing the UEFI Firmware set up can be done in a multitude of ways. However the most common method in Windows 8.1 is outlined below, followed by a quick 1 minute video demonstrating these steps.
1. Load your charms by moving your mouse to the right hand side of your screen
2. Click/Tap Settings, then Change PC Settings
3. Click/Tap the Update and Recovery option
4. Click/Tap the Recovery option, then the Restart Now option underneath the Advanced Startup menu
5. After your machine restarts, click/tap the Troubleshoot option, followed by Advanced Options
6. Select UEFI Firmware Settings followed by Restart
7. Following the restart your machine loads the UEFI options
To illustrate the process see the following video. It is a 1 minute tutorial from Acer. Any clarifications or misunderstandings are cleared up in this video.
UEFI is the next generation of BIOS, expanding options and possibility as technology advances. It is here to stay and the BIOS as we know it will eventually disappear.
The core BIOS options remain, and except for the improved look and feel, improvements in detail about your machines components and test outcomes, and catering for future developments, not much else has changed.
If you find yourself here and are looking for information on traditional/legacy BIOS, take a look at the following BIOS tutorial series.