Computer users of a certain age will remember BIOS as ubiquitous firmware that came loaded on PCs. It was the thing you saw briefly before your operating system loaded, and you could dig into the settings to change your computer’s boot order, enable or disable some features, and more.

Most modern PCs ship with UEFI instead. But most also still have a “legacy BIOS” mode that allows you to use software or hardware that might not be fully compatible with UEFI.

In a few years that might not be an option anymore: Intel has announced plans to end support for legacy BIOS compatibility by 2020.

Intel’s Brian Richardson announced the move in a recent presentation (PDF link). In slightly more technical terms, Intel will require UEFI Class 3 or higher, which lacks legacy BIOS support.

Note that this doesn’t mean “Secure Boot” will be mandatory.

While Secure Boot and UEFI were often uttered in the same breath when UEFI started to take off, Secure Boot is just an optional feature in UEFI. So theoretically the move to deprecate support for legacy BIOS won’t prevent you from running an unsigned operating system on a PC with an Intel processor… unless PC makers decide to not only enable Secure Boot by default, but make it impossible for users to disable it. That’s not something Intel is requiring (at this point).

You should still be able to run Linux distributions on PCs with UEFI… but if you run into compatibility problems on a system that doesn’t support legacy BIOS, you’ll have one less option for forcing it to work… particularly if you’re using an older operating system that simply does not support UEFI. Some folks have noted that older graphics cards and other hardware may also fail to run on systems using UEFI 3.

Richardson notes that some users are still relying on legacy BIOS support because specific tools they rely on aren’t compatible with UEFI. So in order to meet its goal of phasing out support by 2020, Intel wants to work with partners to “eliminate components with no UEFI support” and “Improve user experience with UEFI Secure Boot” for things like installing operating systems and other tools.

The end result could lead to tighter security, smaller code sizes, and wider support of newer technologies.

via Phoronix, Hacker News, and Tweakers

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7 replies on “Intel plans to end legacy BIOS support by 2020”

  1. > The end result could lead to tighter security

    If a company that created the ultimate backdoor is pushing for additional technical changes, I have to wonder why.

  2. With UEFI the hardware vendors finally get their dream true. Dream of a hardware that only works for limited time (example 2 years) and forces consumer and companies to buy new ones.
    BIOS did not support this dream and old machines using BIOS have been running more than 30 years.

    Also BIOS is more secure because there is limited amount of code that has security faults and you cannot do so much damage than you can do with a huge UEFI code base that is also easy to expand to do even more evil things..

    1. Not to forget that with BIOS support you could keep running old software that is worth millions of dollars and just upgrade the hardware to make it run faster.

      BIOS compatibility or so called IBM-compatible is the things that made PC so good and popular.

      and to ARM fans… ARM does not have a standard boot method. This is the reason there is no generic installation media to install example. Windows RT to ARM-systems.

      Many cases you are locked out to install any OS to ARM-systems (like EUFI’s “Security things”) and the rare cases the board is not locked you don’t have a standard like BIOS that could enable user friendly OS installation.

      You need a standard and easy way for people to install alternative operating systems to allow innovations like Linux happen.

  3. I like how easy ARM boards are to boot. The SD card or external eMMC can be swapped quickly. I can’t wait for inexpensive a72 boards arrive.

  4. This is mostly a bad news for those Old School/Office computers you can buy for cheap $50-$600.
    They’re essentially locked out to Windows 7.
    I guess AMD had good timing for Ryzen on this one, not so much for older Intel systems.

    And let’s not even go in to the ramifications of Linux distros, or more importantly, Hackintosh projects.

  5. AND sales, lots of sales when users are forced to replace their PCs that are still running fine.

    1. That should not be a problem. Generally, when upgrading a processor, the mainboard gets replaced to support the pin set and to take advantage of performance enhancements. This seems to jam folks that like to use existing expansion cards on newer machines–if they aren’t compatible with UEFI. Based on the MINIX operating system that executes iME on a side processor on the newer Intel i-series chips, I have reservations about the future of unsigned operating systems, such as custom Linux builds. Intel seems deceptive on the use and purpose of this Intel Management Engine, to the point where Purism and Google are working to disable it from the chips.

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