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UEFI Programming - First Steps

| Tuesday, September 11, 2012
In this article, I will describe steps needed to start on with development of real UEFI applications on x86 PC, and share some practical experiences with problems doing so. I will focus on 64-bit version of UEFI, because the 32-bit version isn't much used in this area (most likely due to Microsoft decision not to support UEFI in 32-bit Vista). So, to follow some of my steps here, you'll need a 64-bit CPU (but not 64-bit OS, you can use any 32-bit OS as well). We will finish this article with EFI Hello World application.

This article is continuation of my previous article Introduction to UEFI. Make sure to understand things described there, before reading on.

Of course, anything you try according to this article, you are doing at your own risk.

Getting the hardware

To start UEFI development, first of all you need to get a motherboard whose BIOS has UEFI support. (more precisely we should probably say "whose firmware has UEFI support", but I will use this form). Finding whether particular BIOS has UEFI support often turns out to be quite complicated task. Motherboard manufacturers license BIOS from other companies, usually from AMI (Aptio, AMIBIOS), Phoenix (SecureCore, TrustedCore, AwardCore) or Insyde (InsydeH20). Forget about determining UEFI support just by end-user stats you see in most shops. Since UEFI support is still only in somewhat experimental state, in many cases it isn't even listed in motherboard technical specification. In such case you are left to googling and asking on forums, where you often get only internal brand name that is often hard to match with end-user product designation.

One trick that I found out to work for Intel boards (but it may very well work for other boards as well) is to look at BIOS Update Release Notes, e. g. the document which lists changes and fixes of BIOS. If board has UEFI support, you will probably find UEFI mentioned there (and only there in case of Intel).

In short, determining UEFI support is much harder than it may seem. Some machines that have this technology are listed here. I use Intel DG33BU board (it was marketed as Intel DG33BUC for some reason).

You will also need some place to boot from. In theory just USB pen should be enough, but in practice none of 4 brands I tried worked with my board's UEFI implementation. So you may have to use harddrive. I strongly suggest IDE drive, because SATA drives may need some tweaking of BIOS settings, or they may not work at all. Like the USB pens, USB keyboard might be a problem too. I wouldn't fear this that much, but if you can use PS/2 keyboard, do so.

Getting the software

To go on with UEFI development, you will need two development packages: EFI Development Kit (EDK) and EFI Toolkit.

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