UEFI says instant-on PCs may arrive in 2011

The Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) Forum has made new advances with its firmware interface, originally developed by Intel, so much so that it says we could have almost instant-on PCs available for sale as early as 2011.

Currently it takes most between 30 seconds and several minutes to boot up their PC. Windows Vista was a particularly bad culprit of long boot times, while Windows 7 has built on this. Microsoft has promised that Windows 8 will deliver faster boot times, but the problem is not limited to the operating system alone; the Basic Input/Ouput System (BIOS) is also a contributing factor.

“At the moment it can be 25-30 seconds of boot time before you see the first bit of OS sign-on,” said Mark Doran, head of UEFI. “With UEFI we’re getting it under a handful of seconds. We’re not at instant-on yet but it is already a lot better than conventional BIOS can manage, and we’re getting closer to that every day.”

Doran revealed that the BIOS tends to take a long time to recognise hardware peripherals on modern computers, effectively operating in the same way it did with older machines. A new BIOS that can more quickly recognise things is needed, which UEFI intends to offer.

Some attempts have been made to reduce boot times, such as using SSDs, MRAM, or hybrid hard disks, but they have often been unsuccessful or overly expensive options. A faster BIOS is a very cheap alternative and could cut boot times drastically if UEFI’s interface is employed in next year’s PCs.

Google is currently working on a fast-boot Linux-based operating system called Chrome OS, which promises to deliver extremely fast boot times by cutting out much certain elements of a standard OS. This will mean it will have a limited scope of application, however, since it is primarily designed to get people on the net.

HP is also looking to enter the arena of quick-booting. In June it acquired a fast-boot Linux OS called HyperSpace, which promises boot times of a couple of seconds.