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Now Windows 8 supports the UEFI bootloader and I have read that its different from the BIOS, but it's unclear to me after many searches on the Google.

Some points in mind are below

  • As we all know, BIOS is an important part of accessing boot options. So now UEFI will do that? How?

  • How would I know that I'm booting with UEFI not with BIOS?

  • So what is the real different in the "boot with BIOS" and "boot with UEFI"?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 37 down vote accepted
  • As we all know that BIOS is important part for accessing boot option. So now UEFI will do that? How?

BIOS boots by reading the first sector on a hard disk and executing it; this boot sector in turn locates and runs additional code. The BIOS system is very limiting because of space constraints and because BIOS runs 16-bit code, whereas modern computers use 32-bit or 64-bit CPUs. By contrast, EFI (or UEFI, which is just EFI 2.x) boots by loading EFI program files (with .efi filename extensions) from a partition on the hard disk, known as the EFI System Partition (ESP). These EFI boot loader programs can take advantage of EFI boot services for things like reading files from the hard disk.

As a practical matter, if you're using an OS like Linux that has complex BIOS-mode boot loaders, EFI-mode booting is likely to be similar to BIOS-mode booting, since GRUB 2 (the most popular BIOS-mode boot loader for Linux) has been ported to work under EFI, and many Linux distributions install GRUB 2 by default on EFI systems. OTOH, you can replace or supplement GRUB 2 with other EFI boot loaders. Indeed, the Linux kernel itself can be an EFI boot loader; code was added to do this with the 3.3.0 kernel. Used in this way, the EFI itself loads and runs the Linux kernel, or you can use a third-party boot manager like rEFInd or gummiboot to let you select which OS or kernel to boot.

  • How would I know that I'm booting with UEFI not with BIOS?

As Root says, there are clues in the firmware's user interface; however, those are unreliable and vary from one computer to another. The only way to be sure is to check to see how the computer booted. In Linux, for instance, the presence of a directory called /sys/firmware/efi is diagnostic. If it's present, you've booted in EFI mode; if it's not present, you've probably booted in BIOS mode. (This directory can be absent on an EFI-mode boot under some circumstances, though.) dmesg output that refers to EFI is also diagnostic of an EFI-mode boot. In Windows, the partition table of the boot disk is diagnostic; if it's GPT, you booted in EFI mode, and if it's MBR, you booted in BIOS mode.

  • So what is the real different in the "boot with BIOS" and "boot with UEFI"?

EFI can be faster, but that's not certain. The biggest speed difference is in hardware initialization early in the process. On my systems, this is a fraction of the total boot time, so a reduction in the hardware initialization time, while good, doesn't make all that much difference. It's not like I'm rebooting every ten minutes, after all.

UEFI supports a feature called Secure Boot that's intended, as the name suggests, to improve security. It does this by requiring a digital "signature" of boot loaders, which in turn should require signing of kernels, and so on up the chain. This should make it harder for malware authors to insert their code into the pre-boot process, thus improving security. This sounds good, but it also complicates dual-boot configurations, since code like GRUB and the Linux kernel must be signed. The major Linux distribution vendors are working on ways to make these requirements less of a burden for average Linux users, and they've got some preliminary stuff ready. At the moment, though, disabling Secure Boot is the easiest way to deal with it. This is a practical concern mainly for brand-new computers that ship with Windows 8, since Microsoft is requiring Secure Boot be enabled to get Windows 8 certification. Some people confuse UEFI and Secure Boot (the latter is just one feature of the former), but it deserves mention as a difference between BIOS and UEFI because it's causing some problems for new Windows 8 computers. If you've got an older system or are comfortable enough with firmware setup utilities to disable Secure Boot, this need not be a real problem.

Microsoft ties the boot disk's partition table type to the firmware type (MBR to BIOS; GPT to UEFI). Because MBR tops out at 2TiB (assuming standard sector sizes), this means that UEFI is a practical necessity to boot Windows on over-2TiB disks. You can still use such big disks as data disks under Windows, though, and you can boot some non-Microsoft OSes (such as Linux and FreeBSD) on big disks using GPT under BIOS.

As a practical matter if you're concerned about or interested in UEFI, the biggest issue is simply that UEFI is new enough that support for it is a bit spotty, particularly in some older and more exotic OSes. UEFI itself is new enough that most of its implementations are buggy, and those that aren't vary enough amongst themselves that it can be hard to describe things generally. Thus, using UEFI can be a challenge. OTOH, UEFI is the future. It's got some modest advantages, some of which will become more important in time (such as the 2TiB boot disk limit of Windows). Switching to a UEFI boot will change a few details of the boot process, but your overall computing experience won't change all that much once you overcome any boot issues you may encounter.

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If a harddisk has both a BIOS boot partition AND a EFI System Partition, does this mean that this harddisk can be booted in BIOS mode and EFI mode? So then the harddisk is "boot mode" agnostic? I saw on the gdisk tutorial, that it setup a BIOS Boot Partition and EFI System Partition. Also in other cases, some have said that you may need /boot on a different partition, (mainly because I'm trying to use ZFS). How would one reconcile a RAIDED /boot with BIOS boot partition and EFI system partition? –  CMCDragonkai Jul 3 '14 at 0:49
A disk can have both an ESP and a BIOS Boot Partition. The latter is used only by GRUB, so a disk can be bootable in both EFI and BIOS even without the latter, depending on what boot loader is used. A separate Linux /boot partition normally exists outside of a RAID array. No matter the boot mode, the boot loader must be able to read the kernel, and most boot loaders can't handle software RAID. (GRUB can supposedly do it, but few people even try.) –  Rod Smith Jul 3 '14 at 1:35
I need to use a soft RAID for /boot because ZFS cannot have /boot on it. I asked on the ZFS on Linux mailing list. –  CMCDragonkai Jul 3 '14 at 1:41
So if I do have a separate /boot partition on soft RAID, which one should be mounted on /boot? Should it be EFI System Partition or the RAID md0? –  CMCDragonkai Jul 3 '14 at 2:43
CMCDragonkai: I recommend you ask a new question about your ZFS and /boot issue. –  Rod Smith Jul 3 '14 at 12:58
  • As we all know that BIOS is important part for accessing boot option. So now UEFI will do that? How?

UEFI is an interface. It can be implemented on top of a traditional BIOS or on top of non-BIOS implementations.

  • How would I know that I'm booting with UEFI not with BIOS?

If you have a UEFI-compatible motherboard, in the boot menu, you will get two options: boot a device normally or boot it in UEFI:

  • So what is the real different in the "boot with BIOS" and "boot with UEFI"?

There are many differences:

See more info about UEFI.

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It's not always possible to tell what the actual boot mode is based on firmware settings alone, because most EFIs rely on disk-based factors, as well as firmware settings, to determine the boot mode. Such disk-based factors include the partition table type, "boot/active" flag settings in the MBR, the presence/absence of the EFI System Partition or files within it, and so on. The only way to tell for sure is to check for signs of an EFI-mode or a BIOS-mode boot in the OS you've booted, and those signs are OS-specific. –  Rod Smith Sep 7 '13 at 17:05
@Zuck, Why are you imitating Zuckerberg? –  Pacerier Dec 15 '14 at 10:00
@Pacerier Seriously? I'm imitating Hendrick Zuck by the way. –  Zuck Dec 15 '14 at 13:34

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