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Say Goodbye To Your BIOS: Hello, UEFI!

The industry has come a long way with UEFI. There have been various approaches to modularize the boot process and create a flexible standard. None of them were a real success, but it seems that Intel may have won at least some support with its ambitious Itanium project. EFI, which today is governed by the United EFI Industry Forum, controls the existing UEFI standards. The Extensible Firmware Interface will gradually replace the conventional BIOS and offer new interfaces to operating systems, facilitating boot-up and introducing a lot of flexibility through EFI applications and OS-independent device drivers.

Although the recent 2.3 specification is mature, the industry has not yet adopted the new standard. From an end-user’s perspective, this is difficult to understand. Apple, IBM, HP, and a few others have already proved that UEFI can indeed be implemented into production systems. Meanwhile, the entire motherboard business is pretty much supporting UEFI on paper. We found only a few exceptions that were mostly aimed at utilizing UEFI for improving visual appearances, unfortunately. Even though UEFI features are more interesting for system builders, the new standard also represents the only way to properly handle hard drives that exceed a total capacity of 2TB.

We failed in trying to get a 4TB RAID 0 array (2 x 2TB drives) to work on an Intel DP55KG, using its on-board Matrix RAID solution. It currently limits bootable arrays to a maximum of 2TB. Intel’s self-imposed limitations aside, we were fortunately successful in creating a 3TB system drive in Windows 7 with UEFI enabled using an external storage box by LaCie. The box employs RAID internally, and hence is a perfect showcase of what will happen once larger hard drives become available.

Finally, we can’t help but encourage everyone to keep an eye on the platform vendors and encourage them to bring their UEFI implementations up to speed. It feels wrong to purchase a brand new P55 motherboard today not knowing if it will be able to support future hard drive capacities. Keep in mind that this is all about booting from 2TB+ drives. If your boot drive is less than 2TB, you can still install virtually unlimited capacity in secondary system drives.

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