How to solve UEFI boot and startup problems

Fred Langa

Successor to the antiquated BIOS, the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) adds powerful security tools to post-XP systems.

Ironically, UEFI can also block important repair, recovery, and backup tools that boot from DVDs, CDs, or USB drives.

Windows 8’s tight integration with a PC’s UEFI can be especially problematic when you need to run bootable rescue media. This article will show how to fully master the UEFI boot system on Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8 systems. At the end, you’ll have the benefits of UEFI security but also know how to bypass its drawbacks.

The manystrengths — and weaknesses — of UEFI

From the start, all PCs have contained low-level, semipermanent software that wakes up a system’s components in the correct order and then hands off overall control to whatever operating system is installed.

In old systems, that software was the Basic Input/Output System, known to nearly all PC users as the BIOS. Commonly called “firmware,” the BIOS was specifically designed to be rarely, if ever, changed or updated. Its sole function was to initiate system startup.

As PCs became more powerful, the BIOS became effectively obsolete (more info). A more powerful and flexible replacement for the BIOS — UEFI — first appeared in PCs in 2005. It’s essentially ubiquitous in newer machines. In fact, it’s likely that the PC you’re using right now is UEFI-based.

Most early versions of UEFI, such as those found in Vista PCs, simply mimicked the limited capabilities of the classic BIOS. Then, a slightly more useful UEFI showed up in many machines sold with Win7. Users could, for example, access the UEFI settings while Windows was running; the UEFI could also access multi-terabyte hard drives and allow vendor-specific enhancements.



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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2014-12-11:

Fred Langa

About Fred Langa

Fred Langa is senior editor. His LangaList Newsletter merged with Windows Secrets on Nov. 16, 2006. Prior to that, Fred was editor of Byte Magazine (1987 to 1991) and editorial director of CMP Media (1991 to 1996), overseeing Windows Magazine and others.