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Wave goodbye to BIOS and say hello to UEFI

By

October 4, 2010

Whereas antiquated BIOS can take around 30 seconds before allowing an operating system to ...

Whereas antiquated BIOS can take around 30 seconds before allowing an operating system to start, UEFI is said to boot in a fraction of that time

Those frustrating boot-up moments while we wait an absolute age for our computers to load up are set to get somewhat shorter with the impending retirement of system BIOS. Despite now being a very old technology and relatively stuck in its ways, the BIOS is still found in many modern machines. Instead of taking around 25 - 30 seconds before giving the all-clear for an operating system to start, a new kid on the block is well on its way to offering instant-on. It's not quite there yet, but the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) is getting closer.

That void before the welcome arrival of an operating system's splash screen has caused frustration and annoyance for almost as many years as BIOS software has been running. The software is stored on a chip that sits on a computer's main board and jumps to life as soon as the start button is pressed. The job of a computer's BIOS (which stands for basic input/output system) is to identify and enable all of the hardware periphery attached to a computer before the operating system starts.

In addition to informing the operating system of the existence of the graphics card, keyboard, mouse, storage and optical drives and so on, the BIOS is also where the system clock is set and hardware is configured by the user. It's been around for a long time, and the once-central role it played in the operation of a computer system has become less and less important over the years. Now, it looks set for retirement.

The computer boot up - the next generation

The system boot upgrade comes in the form of UEFI, which is currently up to version 2.3 and is said to break the ties of being based on the specifications and design of old technology. The Forum overseeing its development includes eleven industry leaders and says it "will provide a clean interface between operating systems and platform firmware at boot time."

UEFI started life as an Intel specification but has now changed into a general standard that offers similar boot and runtime services as the BIOS, but has the advantage of not being specifically tied to any processor architecture. It also has a different approach to dealing with the process of identifying and activating hardware prior to handing over to the OS. For example, instead of telling the operating system that there's a mouse attached to a specific port, UEFI simply recognizes that somewhere in the machine there's a device that behaves like a mouse.

The future-proof standard is already being used in some devices, with 2011 being earmarked as the tipping point for machine domination. More information on UEFI is available from the Forum's website.

About the Author
Paul Ridden While Paul is loath to reveal his age, he will admit to cutting his IT teeth on a TRS-80 (although he won't say which version). An obsessive fascination with computer technology blossomed from hobby into career before the desire for sunnier climes saw him wave a fond farewell to his native Blighty in favor of Bordeaux, France. He's now a dedicated newshound pursuing the latest bleeding edge tech for Gizmag.   All articles by Paul Ridden
12 Comments

Sucks if you just bought a pricey new BIOS-dependent piece of hardware for your computer, glad I've been holding out!

Aradoth
4th October, 2010 @ 02:50 pm PDT

I like this.... Will OS's have to make changes to read this though?

Facebook User
4th October, 2010 @ 04:44 pm PDT

Hmm I have the upgrade of all upgrades.

No quantum computing on silicon, on atoms, electrons, photons or even god dammit particles.

I have.....

Mr Stiffy
4th October, 2010 @ 08:41 pm PDT

I don't understand where the time saving comes from at boot time in UEFI. It seems to me that the BIOS has settings already that identify some of the hardware attached, so it probably isn't spending much time probing for hardware. The BIOS does a simple memory test to check for dead RAM and determine the size of physical memory, and that takes time to step through every byte of RAM on a modern computer. If you want a faster boot-up, you can suppress the RAM test by changing BIOS settings, but that's ill advised. I think the OS does probing at boot time to determine whether new hardware is attached and to load appropriate drivers. Maybe that's where the time saving comes in, if the UEFI can eliminate the OS probing.

overbyte
5th October, 2010 @ 07:02 am PDT

Now we just need to get rid of the remaining "I see you have changed a font/updated Adobe software for the 8th time today/etc. The system needs to reboot for the change to take effect" annoyances.

Adze
5th October, 2010 @ 09:22 pm PDT

Instant on? Microcomputers of the 1980's had that. Commodore 64, TI-99/4A and many more. Just hit the switch and POW, they were on and ready to go to work. 'Course their "operating systems" were only a few kilobytes and stored in ROM...

Facebook User
5th October, 2010 @ 11:50 pm PDT

It kind of seems like some of the tasks like locating which port the mouse is actually attached to, is just going to be handed off to the OS. Won't that take just as much time?

Also, I wonder if UEFI will be somewhat vulnerable to malicious hackers.

GeoMoon5
6th October, 2010 @ 12:31 am PDT

The only thing safe from malicious hackers, to date anyway, is the core of good old "SOL"

I like the comment of facebooker. Those systems were performing their work while the bloatwear was thinking about which side of the bed to get up on, which hand to use in removing the covers, which toothbrush to use...All of which should not be operating system, but programs called forth by intentional request. KISS Plus, how "easy" is it to write a simple game for Ms et al, wheras I was playing (homebrewed) b-jack in the first 15 minutes with C-64 and they are superb robotic control centers for radio monitoring, cameras, home hvac and security, intertainment, terrariums, aquariums....which i dare say would cost hundreds $$$ on the "advanced" offerings

waltinseattle
6th October, 2010 @ 12:05 pm PDT

My old Commodre Amiga was very close to instant on. AmigaDos was embedded in a 30K chip. There was your OS. With computer chips ranging into the terabyte range, WHY CAN SOMEONE PUT Windblows on a chip? No more concerns about piracy. Updates would take a minute or two, to swap chips.

VoiceofReason
6th October, 2010 @ 10:51 pm PDT

I fully enjoy the idea of the UEFI. I work with computers daily and I feel that I'm wasting at least a half hour everyday just waiting for BIOS to realizes my hardware is connected to specfic ports. The idea that I could just jump into work is very very intriguing.

juhay
8th October, 2010 @ 09:19 am PDT

i just put my computer on standby every-night, ... instant on :)

Andrew Hunt
20th October, 2010 @ 01:33 pm PDT

I read that the UEFI will required to have 2 drivers created by the vendors, 1 for the OS 1 for the UEFI "OS".

And apparently the current UEFI architecture will slow down the boot time. UEFI is like an OS which have to load drivers, and then starts the real OS. Its not just a change of the BIOS concept.

I can see screenshots of a game loaded from the UEFI system directly!?!?!?

well... wait and see...

Jéjé Quiaunnom
24th October, 2010 @ 07:14 am PDT
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