Back when Windows Vista was in beta Microsoft were talking about adding support for a new type of BIOS into the operating system, UEFI (also known as EFI) is a replacement for the ageing BIOSes we’ve now been using since 1979, and that were only intended to be used for a few short years.
The BIOS is the reason why PCs take so long to boot as this start-up software, which initializes all the devices in a computer, can take longer to run than the Windows loader itself.
The original PC BIOS is based on one written by IBM and then reverse-engineered by Compaq to produce the first PC clone. To get around copyright and legal issues with IBM, compaq had two teams working on the BIOS. The first team reverse engineered the IBM BIOS and wrote up notes about what functions and features they found and what did what. The second team, who never had access to the reverse-engineered BIOS, wrote a new BIOS from the specifications given to them b the first team.
The Unified Extensible Firmware Interface is the answer to this and it’s not a moment too soon as the advent of devices such as tablets require computers to be able to start up instantly and the public grow weary with long boot times.
The problem with current BIOSes is that they expect the hardware on a PC to be the same as it was with the early PCs. UEFI frees the computer from being based on original PCs specifying that hardware no longer needs to be connected via a specific port, for instance PS/2.
In an interview with the BBC, Mark Doran the head of the UEFI forum said “At the moment it can be 25-30 seconds of boot time before you see the first bit of OS sign-on. With UEFI we’re getting it under a handful of seconds.”
“In terms of boot speed, we’re not at instant-on yet but it is already a lot better than conventional Bios can manage, and we’re getting closer to that every day.”
Windows 7 already includes support for EFI BIOSes, which are more robust and secure than the traditional BIOS and that can include features such as anti-virus protection.
The UEFI forum expects to see motherboards supporting UEFI to start appearing in 2011. By the end of the year they say the bulk of new shipping PCs could be using the new BIOS standard.