UEFI, why we hate it, and why we love it
Unified Extensible Firmware Interface, (UEFI) is a new technology in the Windows PC world. I know some of you out there are asking why you would want to read about the inner workings of your computer, if fact some of you don’t want to know. But there are some reasons you should at least have a basic understanding of what is going on here.
Since the first PC was built, the motherboard has been controlled by the Basic Input Output System (BIOS), the BIOS translates the languages that the hardware and software speak. For example when you look at your computer properties and see how much RAM you have, or you hard drive size, you are just reading what the BIOS is telling Windows. The BIOS is the glue that makes it all work together.
Computers today are running 64bit operating systems, accessing 8 to 16GB or more of RAM, using massive hard drives and accessing up to 30 some USB devices. The BIOS must initialize each of these devices one at a time, which can take 20 to 30 seconds before the system even starts booting. In addition your software and hardware is full of time consuming work arounds to keep it all BIOS compliant.
Unfortunately, like all computer hardware eventually time passes it by. Some of you will remember when a computer had tiny hard drive limitations. Originally it was 528MB; this was due to a mathematical limitation in how the BIOS spoke to the hard drive. Later they reconfigured how the drives addressed the space on the disk, and the limit increased to 137.4GB. Soon that wasn’t enough and they the reconfigured the drives again, until finally the reached a 2.1TB limitation. Sure enough, by today’s standards, that isn’t enough anymore. These limitations have stretched the tired old BIOS to its breaking point. After all it was first designed in 1979. Can you imagine buying a brand new car based on 1979 technology?
Ok, so let’s just accept that the BIOS needs replaced. The program they came up with is UEFI. UEFI requires a special partition on the hard drive, which replaces the old Master Boot Record (MBR), and it skips through the initialization process is milliseconds, in conjunction with small secondary SSD drives some notebooks are now providing what they call “Instant On”, and it is really very close to instant. In addition, because it doesn’t use the MBR, Root Kit Viruses are rendered useless.
I titled this article “UEFI, why we hate it, and why we love it“, you must be wondering where the hate comes in? I mean, it is super fast, it addresses all these issues with hardware, and it kills the nastiest bug the bad guys ever invented, what’s not to love?
First, only the newest computers are sold using UEFI. That means every device designed for the BIOS system doesn’t work like it used to. Now this is a simple issue that will be corrected with time, but since the UEFI is a standard, not a product, everyone is doing it differently and right now this is a mess.
Remember to take this with a grain of salt, because each manufacturer is doing this differently right now. You want to boot to your CD and reinstall Windows or run a Live Linux CD? Nope, it is not going to happen unless you enter the BIOS and turn off secure boot (another feature of UEFI). Now on some computers you have to turn it back on if you want to run Windows. If you do reinstall Windows from CD after turning off UEFI, you’ve lost the UEFI advantages. So now you have to use special system builder tools to reinstall Windows if your system crashes. That pretty much makes home repair of your own PC a thing of the past.
And the whole Root Kit thing? Honestly? The bad guys have been working very hard for 20 or 30 years to break every single security measure. Since UEFI uses an EFI partition instead of the MBR partition, how long do you think it will take them to move their location of their Root Kits?
Computer service just got real complicated, but your system will boot up before you can put cream in your coffee.