Computers are very complex machines that have tons of different parts called hardware and they all work together. There is also software, which are the programs that run off your storage. But what about firmware? What is motherboard firmware?
Motherboard firmware is actually a unique type of hardware – it combines persistent memory and code with all the data needed for your computer to operate. The BIOS is commonly referred to as motherboard firmware. It is responsible for turning your computer on and executing certain tasks. It stores basic information which can be changed by you, like the CPU frequency or voltage settings.
But there is a lot more to motherboard firmware. It is important to mention UEFI, which is also a type of motherboard firmware that is actually a replacement for traditional BIOSes. So, what is motherboard firmware? Let’s take a closer look so you can learn more about it.
What Is Motherboard Firmware?
One way to explain firmware is to say that it is a type of software that is permanently written inside your hardware. And it’s not just motherboards that use firmware. Your GPU and some storage options also come with firmware.
So, we have already mentioned that BIOS is essentially what we call motherboard firmware. Most modern motherboards actually use UEFI BIOS, which is a combination of the more modern UEFI that should replace BIOS in the future and the traditional BIOS.
BIOS stands for “Basic Input/Output System” and it is responsible for executing startup commands like checking the hardware inside the computer as well as the peripherals like your mouse, keyboard, monitor, speakers, etc. UEFI, on the other hand, stands for “Unified Extensible Firmware Interface“.
You can think of UEFI as a type of operating system that runs on top of your traditional BIOS. UEFI does the same things as the BIOS does, but it also stores all its data on a file instead of storing it on the firmware. The file is an .efi file and it is stored on the EFI system partition on your HDD or SSD.
UEFI has some important advantages and the reason why it was developed was to overcome the limitations of a traditional BIOS. It supports drive sizes of up to 9 zettabytes (the traditional BIOS only supports up to 2.2 terabytes), it makes your computer boost faster, has discrete driver support, and runs in 32-bit or 64-bit (BIOS runs in 16-bit mode).
Since virtually all modern motherboards come with a UEFI BIOS, you do not have to worry too much about it. You will be able to reap the full benefits of the more modern UEFI firmware.
It is not a mistake to refer to your motherboard firmware as BIOS. BIOS is just the specific type of firmware that runs on your motherboard. But it is important to mention that many other computer parts use different types of firmware that are not referred to as “BIOS”.
Your graphics card, network card, SSDs, HDDs, RAID controllers, and so on all have special firmware that is designed to run on those components. The graphics card, for example, also uses a UEFI and it can have two of them with a physical switch, just like motherboards can have two BIOSes that are changed using a switch.
Motherboard firmware is very important and all computers need it when starting up. It does a power-on self-test that scans the computer to check all the hardware and peripherals. It is a common software interface that allows computer programs to communicate with your hardware through the motherboard.
So, what is motherboard firmware? Motherboard firmware is the most basic set of instructions and commands that your computer needs when starting up. The motherboard firmware is also often referred to as the BIOS, but there is also UEFI which works on top of the motherboard BIOS.
UEFI is also a type of motherboard firmware and it was developed because of the limitations of traditional BIOSes. All modern motherboards have UEFI BIOSes that have a lot more options and allow you to configure the computer hardware in great detail. You can change the voltage, CPU and RAM frequency, RAM CAS latency, and more.