How fast will PCs boot up in the future? I asked industry experts to explain what's involved and what could lead to PCs that boot up in seconds.
One of the key components in getting a PC to start quickly is the BIOS, or basic input/output system. The BIOS, which is present in every Windows PC and Apple computer, is the first piece of code run when the computer starts up, also referred to as firmware. The BIOS serves to initialize and identify system devices such as the hard-disk drive, DVD/CD drive, networking components, USB ports, the video card, keyboard, and mouse.
I chatted with Surendra Arora, vice president of business development at BIOS supplier Phoenix Technologies, and Stephen Jones, the company's chief technical officer, as well as Mark Doran, a senior principal engineer at Intel's Software and Services Group.
And I exchanged e-mail with Fadi Zuhayri, senior manager at the Intel Software & Services Group. Zuhayri said that UEFI, the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface, provides the foundation for reaching instant-on one day. But a number of factors, including the operating system, need to come together to achieve fast boot times in under 10 seconds. "So we are getting at near-parity to instant on. The technology foundation is there to make it happen," Zuhayri said. (Note that UEFI is already being used in Windows PCs from a number of PC makers.)
Q: What is UEFI and why is this replacing the traditional BIOS and why is it instrumental in achieving faster boot times? Surendra Arora (Phoenix): The reality is UEFI was started for various reasons. I'm not sure boot speed was one of the reasons that UEFI was started. The real reason was to move away from assembly code. That was what the bring-up process used to be. Hard-coded or machine-level coding. Now C [language] is being used. You can do it at an abstracted layer that's built on APIs [application programming interfaces]. This [UEFI] allows you to standardize things, use multi-threading. We've parallelized initialization so you can boot extremely fast.
Q: So how fast can boot times be now? For example, my Dell Adamo [laptop] that has a solid-state drive can boot to the Windows log-in in roughly 20 seconds. Arora: The OS and the components that you use lead to the complete experience. What we at Phoenix can do is hand off what we do to the OS extremely fast. It used to be 10 to 15 seconds and now… Read more