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UEFI vs BIOS: 8 Differences and Full Comparison

UEFI vs BIOS

UEFI vs BIOS: 8 Differences and Full Comparison

You may have heard the acronyms UEFI vs BIOS mentioned somewhere in passing, or when trying to install a new OS onto your machine. These acronyms refer to the important firmware interfaces responsible for booting operations like detecting and initializing hardware, running diagnostics, and launching the operating system.

While both UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) and BIOS (Basic Input/ Output System) serve the same purpose, there are significant differences between them that affect the way your computer boots up. In this article, we’ll dive into the technical differences between UEFI and BIOS to have a deeper understanding of what sets these interfaces apart.

UEFI vs BIOS: Side-by-Side Comparison

UEFI  vs BIOS comparison infographic
UEFIBIOS
Year Released20051975
Developed ByIntelIBM
User InterfaceOffers a graphical user interface (GUI), with icons and clickable buttonsUses a text-based interface, which can feel like using a command line
BootloaderSupports a bootloaderDoesn’t support a bootloader
Booting SpeedBoots up faster than BIOS due to the bootloader, its modular design, and its pre-boot environment.Slower boot time than UEFI
Partitioning and CapacitySupports the GPT partitioning scheme, which allows for larger disk sizes and more partitionsUses the MBR partitioning scheme, and has a limited number of partitions
SecurityOffers better security features, such as support for cryptographic authenticationLess secure since it lacks support for such features as cryptographic authentication
Driver SupportGreat driver supportLimited driver support
Network BootingSupports network booting through the PXE standardHas no network booting support
Compatibility16-bit systems32-bit/64-bit systems
CustomizationOffers plenty of customization optionsNot easily customizable

UEFI vs BIOS: What’s the Difference?

User Interface

The main advantage of the UEFI interface is that it offers a graphical user interface (GUI), which BIOS doesn’t. This means you get a more user-friendly experience, with icons, clickable buttons, and a more intuitive way of navigating through menus and settings. With BIOS, on the other hand, you’re stuck with a text-based interface that can feel more like using a command line than a modern user interface.

OpenCL vs OpenGL
UEFI systems can access GPT (GUID Partition Table) disks and boot directly from them, which allows Linux to use UEFI boot methods.

One of the benefits of having a GUI is that it makes it much easier to locate specific settings and information. For instance, with UEFI, you don’t have to remember a bunch of commands to change a setting; you can simply click on the corresponding icon or option.

This makes it much more accessible for users who are less technically inclined, as well as those who don’t want to spend a lot of time digging through menus to find what they’re looking for.

Bootloader

In the world of computer booting, the bootloader is the unsung hero that springs into action, working in conjunction with the system firmware. In practical terms, the bootloader helps to load the operating system more quickly. 

UEFI outshines BIOS in this department by supporting a bootloader that is integrated into the UEFI system. The much older BIOS lacks that and needs to load the bootloader program separately. 

UEFI also boots up faster than BIOS due to its modular design and pre-boot environment. It’s divided into separate modules, which can be loaded in parallel, resulting in faster boot times. With BIOS, the firmware does all the heavy lifting work while booting.

The faster load times with UEFI systems can, therefore, be attributed — at least in part — to the bootloader’s role in the process. It makes the booting process on your PC snappier, more straightforward, and more efficient, allowing you to get to work quickly.

Partitioning and Capacity

The UEFI interface supports the GPT partitioning scheme, which allows for larger disk sizes and more partitions. In contrast, BIOS uses the MBR partitioning scheme, which has a limit of 2.2TB and a limited number of partitions. With UEFI, users can work with massive hard drives with capacities of up to 9.4 zettabytes (that’s a billion terabytes!) and create as many partitions as they need.

Hence, thanks to the GPT partitioning scheme, UEFI users don’t have to worry about hitting any disk size limits when they want to store large amounts of data, and they can create more partitions for organization purposes.

While MBR used by BIOS may have been enough for older systems, the rise of data-intensive applications, high-resolution media, and the need for more storage have made GPT partitioning and UEFI the preferred choice for modern-day computers. 

Security

UEFI offers better security features than BIOS, such as support for the cryptographic authentication of components like drivers and applications. This means that UEFI can validate the bootloader and the operating system, which helps prevent boot-level malware attacks.

network security data encryption
There are at least five known BIOS attack viruses, two of which served demonstration purposes. 

In contrast, traditional BIOS bootloaders are less secure since they lack support for cryptographic authentication. UEFI is also more secure than BIOS because it can be password-protected.

This adds an extra layer of security, making it more challenging for an unauthorized user to access the system. Moreover, UEFI supports secure boot, which prevents unsigned operating systems or bootloaders from running, making it harder for malware to infect the system.

Driver Support

UEFI provides drivers that can run during boot, which allows it to recognize and work with modern hardware devices. UEFI contains drivers that are built into the firmware, so they can be loaded as soon as the firmware initializes.

BIOS, on the other hand, has limited driver support, as it requires the operating system to load drivers. The result is that BIOS can’t recognize or use many modern devices, while UEFI has broader support for more devices.

Furthermore, since UEFI is more modular than BIOS, it makes it easier for users to update and add new features. For example, if a new device is released, it is possible to update the UEFI firmware with the necessary drivers. This means that UEFI can keep up with the latest hardware devices, while BIOS may not be able to support them.

Network Booting

UEFI also has a significant advantage over BIOS when it comes to network booting. Network booting allows a computer to boot from a network server, which is useful in many scenarios. One example is its use in enterprise environments, where multiple computers need to be booted from the same image or OS. 

This process is quicker and more convenient than installing the same operating system on each computer individually. UEFI supports network booting through the Pre-Boot Execution Environment (PXE), which enables the computer to boot using files from a network server. This feature is not available in BIOS, making UEFI a better choice for users who require this functionality.

Compatibility

In terms of compatibility, UEFI has both pros and cons. On the one hand, UEFI supports both 32-bit and 64-bit operating modes, whereas BIOS only supports the 16-bit mode. This means that UEFI can take advantage of the larger memory and faster processing capabilities of modern 64-bit processors.

On the other hand, UEFI is not compatible with older hardware, while BIOS is. This means that BIOS supports legacy devices and software, whereas UEFI only supports modern devices and software that only allow 32-bit and 64-bit modes. 

Customization

UEFI offers more customizable options for OEMs and system builders than BIOS. With UEFI, you can add custom logos and themes to make your system look more personalized. You can also take advantage of its overclocking options, something BIOS can’t provide.

Not only that, but UEFI also offers improved security configurations and advanced settings that give you greater control over your system. All of this adds up to a more powerful and personal experience that BIOS just can’t beat.

UEFI vs BIOS: 5 Must-Know Facts

  1. BIOS, short for Basic Input/ Output System, was the standard firmware interface for PCs from 1975 until UEFI came along in 2005.
  2. UEFI is backward-compatible with BIOS, which means that computers with UEFI firmware can boot from drives with a BIOS-based bootloader with the right configuration.
  3. BIOS was initially designed for 16-bit processors, while UEFI was designed for 32-bit and 64-bit processors.
  4. UEFI is almost ubiquitous today and nearly synonymous with computer firmware interfaces, coming pre-installed in PCs by default.
  5. UEFI supports faster boot times than BIOS, offers more features out-of-the-box, and is more customizable.

UEFI vs BIOS: Which One Is Better? Which One Should You Choose For Your Computer?

UEFI and BIOS are both important technologies in the world of computing and booting. The graphical user interface of UEFI is definitely a step up in terms of usability, accessibility, and visual appeal. And with more and more systems moving away from BIOS and towards UEFI, it’s clear that the trend towards more user-friendly interfaces is here to stay.

While UEFI offers such clear advantages as speed, security, and customization, BIOS is still around (albeit fading away) and a reliable option. It’s still used in older PC systems and is relatively easy to understand and work with. It’s also less likely to experience compatibility issues if you are looking to use it with older hardware or software. 

Nevertheless, if you want to go the modern route or take greater control of your computer’s settings at the firmware interface level, thus unlocking your system’s full potential, UEFI is certainly the way to go (it will come pre-installed anyway). With greater customization options and improved security, it’s no wonder it has become the go-to firmware for modern computers.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the main difference between BIOS and UEFI?

The main difference between BIOS and UEFI is their capacity and security. BIOS has a maximum hard drive capacity of 2TB while UEFI has technically no maximum capacity. BIOS is less secure than UEFI which has more advanced security features.

Are there any similarities between UEFI and BIOS?

Yes, there are some similarities between them. Both UEFI and BIOS are firmware interfaces that initialize the hardware components of a computer during the boot process. They also perform similar functions such as testing hardware components, loading the operating system, and managing system settings.

What are the advantages of using UEFI over BIOS?

UEFI offers several advantages over BIOS, including a larger disk capacity, faster boot times, more advanced security features, a graphical user interface, support for larger files, and the ability to run pre-boot applications. UEFI is also more modular and extensible than BIOS, which means it can be updated and expanded more easily.

Can UEFI boot from an MBR disk?

Yes, UEFI can boot from an MBR (Master Boot Record) disk. However, it is important to note that UEFI was designed to work with the newer GPT (GUID Partition Table) partitioning scheme, which supports larger disks and more partitions. UEFI requires a GPT disk to take full advantage of its features, including its advanced security capabilities.

Can I switch from BIOS to UEFI?

It is possible to switch from BIOS to UEFI, but it is not a simple process. The switch requires a full reinstallation of the operating system, and the process may vary depending on the specific hardware and software configuration. Before attempting to switch from BIOS to UEFI, we recommended that you consult with a professional or the manufacturer of the computer.

Do all new computers come with UEFI?

All new computers come with UEFI firmware instead of BIOS nowadays. UEFI has been the standard firmware interface since circa 2012 and is used in most modern computers, including laptops, desktops, and servers.

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