What Is Motherboard Firmware and what two different types of firmware may be used on motherboards?

Firmware or BIOS are the most common word a normal computer user ( with not much technical knowledge)  may often hear from their computer technician or from their tech-savvy friend.

In this article, I will discuss everything about what is motherboard firmware? what two different types of firmware may be used on motherboards? , and I will also be covering the topics related to them. 

Follow up the whole article to get a better understanding of these topics.  Hope you will like it 😉

source - marksei.com

Firmware is the low-level software used to control a device’s specific hardware. Starting from the washing machine, TV remote to computer motherboard everything has firmware.

I am breaking down the information about firmware into several points to make you understand firmware more clearly. The points are as follows:-

  1. Firmwares are embedded in a piece of hardware that makes the hardware work as they are intended to work 
  2. Firmwares are programmed by software engineers in such a way that it provides the basic information to the system hardware to perform input/output tasks.
  3. For less-complex devices such as embedded systems, consumer appliances, and computer peripherals. The firmware itself acts as the device’s complete operating system.
  4. Firmware is like drivers in case of functions but Firmwares are stored on the hardware device itself which starts on its own but drivers are installed inside the operating system. 
  5. Firmwares are stored in non-volatile memory such as ROM, EPROM, EEPROM, and Flash memory.

So now I guess you have understood the importance of firmware.

In modern days, every electronic device you see around such as a simple traffic light, washing machines, card machines, surveillance cameras, motherboard, TVs, etc has firmware, and without firmware, each of these devices would have been doing nothing.

What Is Motherboard Firmware?

The Motherboard is the main printed circuit board (PCB) in every computer or in other expandable systems that connect all the computer’s components (such as the central processing unit and memory, other peripherals.) together to communicate with each other. And also if you are looking for buying a motherboard then you can check out some of the best motherboards for ryzen 7 3700x.

The firmware that is inside the motherboard of a computer is also known as BIOS (basic input and output system).

A computer or motherboard is nothing without the firmware (BIOS). Whenever you start your computer the first thing that starts your computer is BIOS.

The BIOS(firmware) is responsible for many things on your PC. They are as follows:-

  1. How your computer turns on to the Boot process,
  2. Determines the  boot priority order .
  3. Initialize the CPU, GPU, motherboard chipsets.
  4. Operates the peripherals and also recognizes the frequency at which it runs the CPU.
  5. Protects your computer.

Is it possible to rewrite BIOS?

Earlier BIOS (firmware) used to be stored in a ROM chip on the PC motherboard so it was difficult to rewrite. 

In modern days computers, the BIOS contents are stored on flash memory which makes it possible to rewrite it without removing the chip from the motherboard. 

This allows the end-user updates ( that include new features or fixed bugs) to be added to the BIOS firmware.

Is it dangerous to update your BIOS?

Updating your BIOS opens up a possibility of getting infected with BIOS rootkits and also if a BIOS upgrade fails then it may brick the motherboard.

What are the two different types of firmware used on motherboards?

When it comes to the firmware of a computer, there are 2 types of Firmware that can be used in the motherboard. They are as follows:-

1. Legacy BIOS

legacy bios

Legacy BIOS is a type of firmware that was used in computers with older motherboards. This firmware used to serve all the functions a firmware should serve but it faced some limitations.

Some of the limitations of Legacy Bios are as follows:-

  1. Legacy BIOS contents were stored in Read-Only Memory (ROMs) so you could not rewrite it without removing the chip from the motherboard. 
  2. Legacy BIOS  is written in Assembly language which makes them harder to work with for the programmer because assembly language is long and confusing.
  3. Legacy BIOS take slower boot time.
  4. Legacy BIOS fails to recognize drives larger than 2TB and has an all-text menu setup program.
  5. Legacy BIOS only has text-only menus in their setup programs.

All these points are the reason why Legacy BIOS is being replaced by another type of motherboard firmware that is UEFI.

2. UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface)

UEFI

The UEFI replaced the legacy BIOS due to the limitations legacy BIOS had, any modern computer motherboard has UEFI.

UEFI gave many reasons to use it as motherboard firmware. Some of the reasons are as follow:-

  1. UEFI is programmed with C language and has the ability to use large disks partitions of about 2TB due to the use of the modern GUID Partition Table (GPT) technique
  2. You can remotely diagnostics and repair the  computers with UEFI even with no operating system installed.
  3. UEFI features Backward and forward compatibility
  4. UEFI has a flexible pre-OS environment, GUI setup, and network capabilities.

These are a few of the reasons why UEFI has replaced Legacy BIOS. 

Although everything has pros and cons, it too has some cons like UEFI has limited compatibility because it only supports 64-bit systems and not 32-bit systems besides that it also has security risk because of direct connection during the boot phase.

FAQS

I have clubbed some frequently asked questions in one place for clearing all your relatable doubts.

  1. What is the difference between BIOS and firmware?

Ans:- There is actually no difference because earlier there was only one type of firmware available for the motherboard that is Legacy BIOS so the firmware was indicated as BIOS which is still continued even today, we still specify firmware as BIOS even if the motherboard firmware is UEFI firmware.

  1. Why do we need a firmware upgrade?

Ans:- You will be able to explore new features by updating the firmware, and also optimize the performance of firmware or device driver.

  1. Can firmware be hacked?

Ans:- If the firmware has vulnerabilities then it creates a loophole that makes firmware hacking possible by embedding it with malware, bootkits, and rootkits that leads to compromise of your whole device even before booting up the system.

  • How long does a firmware update take?

Ans:- 2-5 minutes

  • How much does firmware cost?

Ans:- Firmware costs around $15 to $30 per line.

  • Can I delete firmware?

Ans:- No, without firmware no system can boot up.

  • What Is Android Firmware?

Ans:- Android firmware (also referred to as Android ROM) includes the entire Android operating system which is stored in a writable form of memory called NAND flash memory(USB sticks and SD cards use the same type of memory).

  • Is BIOS a RAM or ROM?

Ans :- Earlier BIOS used to be stored on a non-volatile ROM chip on the motherboard but in modern days BIOS is stored on a flash memory chip.

  • What causes corrupted firmware?

Ans:- the following reasons are the causes of firmware corruption:-

  1. Power Surges,
  2.       2. Blackouts
  3.  Improper Voltage from PSU. 
  4.  Shutdown During Firmware Update.
  • 10.) Does firmware update erase data?

Ans:-  Not really but it is better to backup all your data before updating the firmware.

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