What is UEFI?

The Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) is a software technology that prepares a computer to boot into an operating system after power on. It was marketed as a replacement for the Basic Input Output System ( BIOS ), a technology first developed for the original IBM® PC. The program is designed to overcome some of the weaknesses of the BIOS, such as speed and hardware limitations. Intel® introduced the technology in 2003 and later transferred authority to an industry trade group that gradually gained support for the standard in consumer PCs.

UEFI allows a computer to boot into its operating system after being turned on.

Most computer users have probably noticed that no matter how much faster the microchips in their systems get, virtually all PCs have a delay between when the power button is pressed and when the operating system is ready. During this period, specialized software communicates with electronic code called firmware found in hardware devices. The software looks for new hardware components, inspects and prepares existing components to boot into an operating system, and selects a drive or network location to boot. Historically, this role was filled by BIOS software, but the newer UEFI standard was intended to supplant it.

UEFI can help reduce computer boot time.

The BIOS is one of the oldest vestiges of the original IBM® PC, and limitations in its basic design have prevented many PCs from booting faster than they could, with delays of up to 30 seconds or more before an operating system begins to load. Unlike the hardware inside computers, the BIOS didn’t change much after its introduction in the early 1980’s. The system was tuned to support newer hardware, but it still faced issues and limited speed because of its heritage. For example, the BIOS is designed for 16-bit processors rather than the 32-bit or 64-bit chips found in most modern computers.

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Compared to BIOS, UEFI has many advantages. It is designed to be platform independent, which means it is not locked into a specific computer architecture and can be used on other types of hardware such as tablets. Boot time can be reduced to just a few seconds, and applications and drivers can even be created to run in the environment before the operating system loads. An application that mimics traditional BIOS behavior can also be created to allow backwards compatibility. The maximum size of a hard drive that can be used to boot has also increased from around 2 terabytes (TB) in the BIOS to 9.4 zetabytes (ZB).

UEFI was initially released as Extensible Firmware Interface or EFI, a technology developed by Intel® for use with its line of high quality 64-bit Itanium® processors, which were incompatible with the BIOS standard. In 2005, Intel® ceded control of EFI to the Unified EFI Forum, a multi-company industry group. The forum renamed the standard and promoted industry adoption on desktop computers and other devices.

UEFI software can be used on tablets.

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