What is a firmware update and why does your device need it?

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You may have come across the term “firmware” before. However, if you have computer hardware, you are using firmware. But what is the meaning of this term? What is a firmware update? What is it for and why does your device need it?

What is firmware?

Firmware, in simple terms, is software embedded in a piece of hardware. A good way to remember this is to think of it as software for hardware. However, it should be noted that this term is not interchangeable terminology for software.

Firmware is made up of programs written by software developers to operate hardware devices. If the firmware is missing, most of the electronic devices used by the masses on a daily basis cannot function. They just wouldn’t be able to do anything. The firmware is designed and installed by the manufacturer before purchasing the device.

What is the firmware update?

Hardware and firmware

A firmware update is as necessary as a software update: they are an integral part of the digital world. Device manufacturers create updated and better firmware. Updates add or rewrite existing software on the device that supports maximum efficiency.

Firmware updates are device dependent. Updates may occur infrequently (once in several years) or more frequently, especially for devices that are often connected to the Internet or for those requiring updates with up-to-date security features.

Several key devices use the firmware and will receive frequent firmware updates:

  • Router

  • Printer

  • Modem

  • Peripherals connected by USB (for example, mouse, keyboard)

  • Camera

  • Streaming device

Why do you need a firmware update?

Firmware updates are important, but do you need them? You will need a firmware update if a problem or bug needs to be fixed or if a new security vulnerability requires a patch, and the firmware already installed will no longer suffice.

By updating the firmware, you will have the opportunity to explore new features added to the device while enjoying an improved user experience when interacting with the device.

Related: Ways to Fix Missing UEFI Firmware Settings in Windows 10

A firmware update will also optimize the performance of the firmware or device drivers, potentially improving the performance of the processor or other device hardware. These updates also fix existing bugs.

Motherboard firmware types

There are many types of firmware. The way the firmware is developed differs between smartphones, routers, computers, etc. For the most part, people interact with two main types of firmware, usually on a motherboard.

Central processing unit

BIOS

BIOS (Basic Input / Output System) is an integral part of any computer that interacts with hardware and checks for unknown errors.

The job of the BIOS is to manage the components of the computer hardware and ensure that those components are functioning properly. BIOS is becoming obsolete because it no longer supports modern technologies.

EFI

EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface) is a software protocol specification for a new generation of system firmware. It is in charge of communication between the operating system and the system firmware. EFI is also referred to as Unified Extensible Firmware Interface or UEFI.

How to update the firmware?

Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when installing any firmware, as this helps to avoid applying the wrong update to your device. Otherwise, updating the firmware will overwrite the old microcode with the new program which might be incompatible with your device model. Installing the wrong firmware update could damage your device and, at worst, brick it. Unfortunately, there’s no turning back (potentially), so update with caution.

Firmware updates help apply changes to devices. Bugs are fixed, new features are introduced, and other significant changes are made with firmware updates. The different types of firmware (EFI and BIOS for your PC or laptop motherboard) provide different solutions for determining how hardware devices work.


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