Unified Extensible Firmware Interface

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Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (or UEFI for short) is a new type of firmware that was initially designed by Intel (known as EFI then) mainly for its Itanium based systems. It introduces new ways of booting an OS that is distinct from the commonly used "MBR boot code" method followed for BIOS systems. It started as Intel's EFI in versions 1.x and then a group of companies called the UEFI Forum took over its development from which it was called Unified EFI starting with version 2.0 . As of 24 July 2013, UEFI Specification 2.4 (released July 11, 2013) is the most recent version.

Note: Unless specified as EFI 1.x , EFI and UEFI terms are used interchangeably to denote UEFI 2.x firmware. Also unless stated explicitly, these instructions are general and some of them may not work or may be different in Macs. Apple's EFI implementation is neither a EFI 1.x version nor UEFI 2.x version but mixes up both. This kind of firmware does not fall under any one UEFI Specification version and therefore it is not a standard UEFI firmware.

Booting an OS using BIOS

A BIOS or Basic Input-Output System is the very first program that is executed once the system is switched on. After all the hardware has been initialized and the POST operation has completed, the BIOS executes the first boot code in the first device in the device booting list.

If the list starts with a CD/DVD drive, then the El-Torito entry in the CD/DVD is executed. This is how bootable CD/DVD works. If the list starts with a HDD, then BIOS executes the very first 440 bytes MBR boot code. The boot code then chainloads or bootstraps a much larger and complex bootloader which then loads the OS.

Basically, the BIOS does not know how to read a partition table or filesystem. All it does is initialize the hardware, then load and run the 440-byte boot code.

Multiboot on BIOS

Since very little can be achieved by a program that fits into the 440-byte boot code area, multi-booting using BIOS requires a multi-boot capable bootloader (multi-boot refers to booting multiple operating systems, not to booting a kernel in the Multiboot format specified by the GRUB developers). So usually a common bootloader like GRUB or Syslinux or LILO would be loaded by the BIOS, and it would load an operating system by either chain-loading or directly loading the kernel.

Booting an OS using UEFI

UEFI firmware does not support booting through the above mentioned method which is the only way supported by BIOS. UEFI has support for reading both the partition table as well as understanding filesystems.

The commonly used UEFI firmwares support both MBR and GPT partition table. EFI in Apple-Intel Macs are known to also support Apple Partition Map besides MBR and GPT. Most UEFI firmwares have support for accessing FAT12 (floppy disks), FAT16 and FAT32 filesystems in HDDs and ISO9660 (and UDF) in CD/DVDs. EFI in Apple-Intel Macs can access HFS/HFS+ filesystems also apart from the mentioned ones.

UEFI does not launch any boot code in the MBR whether it exists or not. Instead it uses a special partition in the partition table called EFI SYSTEM PARTITION in which files required to be launched by the firmware are stored. Each vendor can store its files under <EFI SYSTEM PARTITION>/EFI/<VENDOR NAME>/ folder and can use the firmware or its shell (UEFI shell) to launch the boot program. An EFI System Partition is usually formatted as FAT32.

Note: On some UEFI systems the only possible way to launch UEFI application on boot (if it doesn't have custom entry in UEFI boot menu) is to put it in this fixed location: <EFI SYSTEM PARTITION>/EFI/boot/bootx64.efi (for 64-bit x86 system)

Under UEFI, every program whether it is an OS loader or a utility (e.g. a memory testing app or recovery tool), should be a UEFI Application corresponding to the EFI firmware architecture. The vast majority of UEFI firmwares, including recent Apple Macs, use x86_64 EFI firmware. The only known devices that use i386 EFI are older (pre 2008) Apple Macs.

Note: Some older Intel Server boards are known to operate on Intel EFI 1.10 firmware, and require i386 EFI applications.

An x86_64 EFI firmware does not include support for launching 32-bit EFI apps unlike x86_64 Linux and Windows versions which include such support. Therefore the bootloader must be compiled for that specific architecture.

Multibooting on UEFI

Since each OS or vendor can maintain its own files within the EFI SYSTEM PARTITION without affecting the other, multi-booting using UEFI is just a matter of launching a different UEFI application corresponding to the particular OS's bootloader. This removes the need for relying on chainloading mechanisms of one bootloader to load another to switch OSes.

Multibooting Windows and Linux

64-bit Windows Vista (SP1+), Windows 7 and Windows 8 versions support booting using UEFI firmware. These Windows versions support either UEFI-GPT booting or BIOS-MBR booting. 32-bit Windows versions only support BIOS-MBR booting. See http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2581408 for more info.

This limitation does not exist in Linux Kernel but rather depends on the bootloader used. For the sake of Windows UEFI booting, the Linux bootloader used should also be installed in UEFI-GPT mode if booting from the same disk.


Boot Process under UEFI

  1. System switched on - Power On Self Test, or POST process.
  2. UEFI firmware is loaded.
  3. Firmware reads its Boot Manager to determine which UEFI application to be launched and from where (ie. from which disk and partition).
  4. Firmware launches the UEFI application from the FAT32 formatted UEFISYS partition as defined in the boot entry in the firmware's boot manager.
  5. UEFI application may launch another application (in case of UEFI Shell or a boot manager like rEFInd) or the kernel and initramfs (in case of a bootloader like GRUB) depending on how the UEFI application was configured.

Detecting UEFI Firmware Arch

If you have a non-Mac UEFI system, then you most likely have a x86_64 (aka 64-bit) UEFI 2.x firmware. A few known x86_64 UEFI 2.x firmwares are Phoenix SecureCore Tiano, AMI Aptio and Insyde H2O.

Pre-2008 Macs mostly have i386-efi firmware while >=2008 Macs have mostly x86_64-efi. All Macs capable of running Mac OS X Snow Leopard 64-bit Kernel have x86_64 EFI 1.x firmware.

To find out the arch of the efi firmware in a Mac, type the following into the terminal:

ioreg -l -p IODeviceTree | grep firmware-abi

If the command returns EFI32 then it is i386 EFI 1.x firmware. If it returns EFI64 then it is x86_64 EFI 1.x firmware. Macs do not have UEFI 2.x firmware as Apple's EFI implementation is not fully compliant with UEFI Specification.

UEFI Support in Linux Kernel

Linux Kernel config options for UEFI

The required Linux Kernel configuration options for UEFI systems are :


UEFI Runtime Variables Support (efivarfs filesystem - /sys/firmware/efi/efivars). This option is important as this is required to manipulate UEFI Runtime Variables using tools like /usr/bin/gummiboot. Efivarfs is recommended over efivars sysfs interface (described below). The below config option has been added in kernel 3.10 and above.


UEFI Runtime Variables Support (efivars sysfs interface - /sys/firmware/efi/vars). This option is important as this is required to manipulate UEFI Runtime Variables using tools like efibootmgr.

Note: For Linux to access UEFI Runtime Services, the UEFI Firmware processor architecture and the Linux kernel processor architecture must match. This is independent of the bootloader used.
Note: If the UEFI Firmware arch and Linux Kernel arch are different, then the "noefi" kernel parameter must be used to avoid the kernel panic and boot successfully. The "noefi" option instructs the kernel not to access the UEFI Runtime Services.

GUID Partition Table GPT config option - mandatory for UEFI support

Note: All of the above options are required to boot Linux via UEFI, and are enabled in Archlinux kernels in official repos.

Retrieved from http://git.kernel.org/?p=linux/kernel/git/torvalds/linux.git;a=blob_plain;f=Documentation/x86/x86_64/uefi.txt;hb=HEAD .

UEFI Variables Support

UEFI defines variables through which an operating system can interact with the firmware. UEFI Boot Variables are used by the boot-loader and used by the OS only for early system start-up. UEFI Runtime Variables allow an OS to manage certain settings of the firmware like the UEFI Boot Manager or managing the keys for UEFI Secure Boot Protocol etc.

Note: The below steps will not work if the system has been booted in BIOS mode and will not work if the UEFI processor architecture does not match the kernel one, i.e. x86_64 UEFI + x86 32-bit Kernel and vice-versa config will not work. This is true only for efivars kernel module and efibootmgr step. The other steps (ie. upto setting up <UEFISYS>/EFI/arch/refind/{refindx64.efi,refind.conf} ) can be done even in BIOS/Legacy boot mode.

Access to UEFI Runtime services is provided by "efivars" kernel module which is enabled through the CONFIG_EFI_VARS=y kernel config option. This module exposes the variables under the directory /sys/firmware/efi/vars (for kernels >=3.8 through /sys/firmware/efi/efivars). One way to check whether the system has booted in UEFI boot mode is to check for the existence of /sys/firmware/efi/vars (and in kernels >=3.8 for /sys/firmware/efi/efivars)directory with contents similar to :

Sample output (Lenovo Thinkpad E430, UEFI 2.3.1, x86_64 firmware, efivarfs dump):

# ls -1 /sys/firmware/efi/efivars

The UEFI Runtime Variables will not be exposed to the OS if you have used "noefi" kernel parameter in the boot-loader menu. This parameter instructs the kernel to completely ignore UEFI Runtime Services.

Userspace Tools

There are few tools that can access/modify the UEFI variables, namely

  1. efibootmgr - Tool to manipulate UEFI Firmware Boot Manager Settings (supports only sysfs-efivars currently) - efibootmgr or efibootmgr-gitAUR
  2. efivar - Library and Tool to manipulate UEFI Variables (supports both efivarfs and sysfs-efivars) - efivar or efivar-gitAUR
  3. efitools - Tools to Create and Setup own UEFI Secure Boot Certificates, Keys and Signed Binaries (requires efivarfs) - efitools-gitAUR
  4. uefivars - simply dumps list of EFI variables with some additional info - uses efibootmgr code internally - uefivars-gitAUR
  5. Ubuntu's Firmware Test Suite - to run some firmware related tests, includes efi variables test code - fwtsAUR or fwts-gitAUR

Non-Mac UEFI systems


Warning: Using efibootmgr in Apple Macs will brick the firmware and may need reflash of the motherboard ROM. There have been bug reports regarding this in Ubuntu/Launchpad bug tracker. Use bless command alone in case of Macs. Experimental "bless" utility for Linux by Fedora developers - mactel-bootAUR.
Note: efibootmgr command will work only if you have booted the system in UEFI mode itself, since it requires access to UEFI Runtime Variables which are available only in UEFI boot mode (with "noefi" kernel parameter NOT being used). Otherwise the message Fatal: Couldn't open either sysfs or procfs directories for accessing EFI variables is shown.
Note: If you are unable to use efibootmgr, some UEFI BIOSes allow users to directly manage uefi boot options from within the BIOS. For example, some ASUS BIOSes have a "Add New Boot Option" choice which enables you to select a local EFI system partition and manually enter the EFI stub location. (for example '\EFI\refind\refind_x64.efi')
Note: If efibootmgr fails to create the boot entry, check for existence of /sys/firmware/efi/efivars/dump-* files, if they exist, delete them, reboot and retry efibootmgr again. If even this fails, retry efibootmgr after booting with efi_no_storage_paranoia kernel parameter.
Note: If efibootmgr completely fails to work in your system, you can reboot into UEFI Shell v2 and use bcfg command to create a boot entry for the bootloader.

Initially the user may be required to manually launch the boot-loader from the firmware itself (using maybe the UEFI Shell) if the UEFI boot-loader was installed when the system is booted in BIOS mode. Then efibootmgr should be run to make the UEFI boot-loader entry as the default entry in the UEFI Boot Manager.

To use efibootmgr, first load the 'efivars' kernel module (if compiled as a external module):

# modprobe efivars

If you get no such device found error for this command, that means you have not booted in UEFI mode or due to some reason the kernel is unable to access UEFI Runtime Variables (noefi?).

Verify whether there are files in /sys/firmware/efi/vars/ (and /sys/firmware/efi/efivars/ for kernel >=3.8) directory. This directory and its contents are created by "efivars" kernel module and it will exist only if you have booted in UEFI mode, without the "noefi" kernel parameter.

If /sys/firmware/efi/vars/ directory is empty or does not exist, then efibootmgr command will not work. If you are unable to make the ISO/CD/DVD/USB boot in UEFI mode try #Create_UEFI_bootable_USB_from_ISO.

Note: The below commands use refind-efi boot-loader as example.

Assume the boot-loader file to be launched is /boot/efi/EFI/refind/refind_x64.efi. /boot/efi/EFI/refind/refind_x64.efi can be split up as /boot/efi and /EFI/refind/refind_x64.efi, wherein /boot/efi is the mountpoint of the EFI System Partition, which is assumed to be /dev/sdXY (here X and Y are just placeholders for the actual values - eg:- in /dev/sda1 , X=a Y=1).

To determine the actual device path for the UEFI System Partition (should be in the form /dev/sdXY), try :

# findmnt /boot/efi
/boot/efi  /dev/sdXY  vfat         rw,flush,tz=UTC

Then create the boot entry using efibootmgr as follows :

# efibootmgr -c -d /dev/sdX -p Y -l /EFI/refind/refind_x64.efi -L "rEFInd"
Note: UEFI uses backward slash \ as path separator (similar to Windows paths), but the efibootmgr-0.6.0-3 and above pkgs support passing unix-style paths with forward-slash / as path-separator for the -l option. Efibootmgr internally converts / to \ before encoding the loader path. The relevant commit that added this feature to efibootmgr is http://linux.dell.com/cgi-bin/cgit.cgi/efibootmgr.git/commit/?id=f38f4aaad1dfa677918e417c9faa6e3286411378 .

In the above command /boot/efi/EFI/refind/refind_x64.efi translates to /boot/efi and /EFI/refind/refind_x64.efi which in turn translate to drive /dev/sdX -> partition Y -> file /EFI/refind/refind_x64.efi.

The 'label' is the name of the menu entry shown in the UEFI boot menu. This name is user's choice and does not affect the booting of the system. More info can be obtained from efibootmgr GIT README .

FAT32 filesystem is case-insensitive since it does not use UTF-8 encoding by default. In that case the firmware uses capital 'EFI' instead of small 'efi', therefore using \EFI\refind\refindx64.efi or \efi\refind\refind_x64.efi does not matter (this will change if the filesystem encoding is UTF-8).

Linux Bootloaders for UEFI

See UEFI Bootloaders.

EFI System Partition

Note: UEFI System Partition and EFI System Partition (ESP) are same, the terminologies are used interchangeably in some places.
Note: The ESP should be accessible by the UEFI firmware, which cannot read LVM and software RAID systems.
Note: Setting "boot" flag in parted in a MBR partition marks that partition as active, while the same "boot" flag in a GPT partition marks that partition as "UEFI System Partition".

The EFI System Partition needs to be formatted with a FAT32 filesystem (non-FAT filesystems like ext2/3/4, reiserfs, NTFS, UDF etc. are not supported). Although ESPs with size >=100 MiB and formatted as FAT32 are allowed by Microsoft Windows and many Linux distros, Microsoft documentation specifies that the minimum partition/volume size for FAT32 is 512 MiB. Therefore an ESP should be at least 512 MiB size for maximum compatibility. If you are using Linux EFISTUB booting, then you need to make sure there is adequate space available for keeping the Kernel and Initramfs files in the ESP.

It is recommended to use always GPT for UEFI boot as some UEFI firmwares do not allow UEFI-MBR boot.

For GPT partitioned disks

Two choices:

  • Using GNU Parted/GParted: Create a FAT32 partition. Set "boot" flag on for that partition.
  • Using GPT fdisk (aka gdisk): Create a partition with partition type ef00. Then format that partition as FAT32 using mkfs.vfat -F32 /dev/<THAT_PARTITION>

For MBR partitioned disks

Two choices:

  • Using GNU Parted/GParted: Create FAT32 partition. Change the type code of that partition to 0xEF using fdisk, cfdisk or sfdisk.
  • Using fdisk: Create a partition with partition type 0xEF. Then format that partition as FAT32 using mkfs.vfat -F32 /dev/<THAT_PARTITION>

UEFI Shell

The UEFI Shell is a shell/terminal for the firmware which allows launching uefi applications which include uefi bootloaders. Apart from that, the shell can also be used to obtain various other information about the system or the firmware like memory map (memmap), modifying boot manager variables (bcfg), running partitioning programs (diskpart), loading uefi drivers, editing text files (edit), hexedit etc.

UEFI Shell download links

You can download a BSD licensed UEFI Shell from Intel's Tianocore UDK/EDK2 Sourceforge.net project.

Shell v2 works best in UEFI 2.3+ systems and is recommended over Shell v1 in those systems. Shell v1 should work in all UEFI systems irrespective of the spec. version the firmware follows. More info at ShellPkg and this mail

Launching UEFI Shell

Few Asus and other AMI Aptio x86_64 UEFI firmware based motherboards (from Sandy Bridge onwards) provide an option called "Launch EFI Shell from filesystem device" . For those motherboards, download the x86_64 UEFI Shell and copy it to your UEFI SYSTEM PARTITION as <UEFI_SYSTEM_PARTITION>/shellx64.efi (mostly /boot/efi/shellx64.efi) .

Systems with Phoenix SecureCore Tiano UEFI firmware are known to have embedded UEFI Shell which can be launched using either F6, F11 or F12 key.

Note: If you are unable to launch UEFI Shell from the firmware directly using any of the above mentioned methods, create a FAT32 USB pen drive with Shell.efi copied as (USB)/efi/boot/bootx64.efi . This USB should come up in the firmware boot menu. Launching this option will launch the UEFI Shell for you.

Important UEFI Shell Commands

UEFI Shell commands usually support -b option which makes output pause after each page. map lists recognized filesystems (fs0, ...) and data storage devices (blk0, ...). Run help -b to list available commands.

More info at http://software.intel.com/en-us/articles/efi-shells-and-scripting/


BCFG command is used to modify the UEFI NVRAM entries, which allow the user to change the boot entries or driver options. This command is described in detail in page 83 (Section 5.3) of "UEFI Shell Specification 2.0" pdf document.

Note: Users are recommended to try bcfg only if efibootmgr fails to create working boot entries in their system.
Note: UEFI Shell v1 official binary does not support bcfg command. You can download a modified UEFI Shell v2 binary which may work in UEFI pre-2.3 firmwares.

To dump a list of current boot entries -

Shell> bcfg boot dump -v

To add a boot menu entry for rEFInd (for example) as 4th (numbering starts from zero) option in the boot menu

Shell> bcfg boot add 3 fs0:\EFI\refind\refind_x64.efi "rEFInd"

where fs0: is the mapping corresponding to the UEFI System Partition and fs0:\EFI\refind\refind_x64.efi is the file to be launched.

To remove the 4th boot option

Shell> bcfg boot rm 3

To move the boot option #3 to #0 (i.e. 1st or the default entry in the UEFI Boot menu)

Shell> bcfg boot mv 3 0

For bcfg help text

Shell> help bcfg -v -b


Shell> bcfg -? -v -b


EDIT command provides a basic text editor with an interface similar to nano text editor, but slightly less functional. It handles UTF-8 encoding and takes care or LF vs CRLF line endings.

To edit, for example rEFInd's refind.conf in the UEFI System Partition (fs0: in the firmware)

Shell> fs0:
FS0:\> cd \EFI\arch\refind
FS0:\EFI\arch\refind\> edit refind.conf

Type Ctrl-E for help.

Hardware Compatibility

Main page HCL/Firmwares/UEFI

Create UEFI bootable USB from ISO

Note: The instructions below are specifically for Archiso/official media; Archboot preparation is identical, with this refind.conf instead of the one mentioned below (which is for Archiso) and without the filesystem label requirement.
# mkdir -p /mnt/{usb,iso}
# mount -o loop archlinux-2013.06.01-dual.iso /mnt/iso
  • Then create a FAT32 filesystem in the partition on the USB (unmount before if necessary) with LABEL as used in the Archiso configuration. Obtain the label from /mnt/iso/loader/entries/archiso-x86_64.conf; this is used by the archiso hook in initramfs to identify the udev path to the installation media. mkfs.vfat is part of package dosfstools.
    Note: The filesystem should be either FAT32 (recommended), FAT16, or FAT12.
  1. awk 'BEGIN {FS="="} /archisolabel/ {print $3}' /mnt/iso/loader/entries/archiso-x86_64.conf | xargs mkfs.vfat -F32 /dev/sdXY -n
  • Mount the newly created FAT32 USB partition, and copy the contents of the installation media to the USB media.
# mount /dev/sdXY /mnt/usb
# cp -a /mnt/iso/* /mnt/usb
# sync
# umount /mnt/{usb,iso}

Fixing errors

If you find the error: "No loader found. Configuration files in /loader/entries/*.conf are needed." First, try to convert filenames in /loader/entries/ to lower case. A possible fix is to use a different uefi bootloader to the included one, gummiboot.

Download refind-efi pkg and extract the file /usr/lib/refind/refind_x64.efi from within the package to (USB)/EFI/boot/bootx64.efi (overwrite or rename any existing (USB)/EFI/boot/bootx64.efi file).

Then copy this text to EFI/boot/refind.conf. Take care that the label in the Arch menu section (ARCH_201304 here) matches that of your usb's.

timeout 5

showtools about,reboot,shutdown,exit
# scan_driver_dirs EFI/tools/drivers_x64
scanfor manual,internal,external,optical

scan_delay 1
dont_scan_dirs EFI/boot

max_tags 0
default_selection "Arch Linux Archiso x86_64 UEFI USB"

menuentry "Arch Linux Archiso x86_64 UEFI USB" {
  loader /arch/boot/x86_64/vmlinuz
  initrd /arch/boot/x86_64/archiso.img
  ostype Linux
  graphics off
  options "archisobasedir=arch archisolabel=ARCH_201304 add_efi_memmap"

menuentry "UEFI x86_64 Shell v2" {
  loader /EFI/shellx64_v2.efi
  graphics off

menuentry "UEFI x86_64 Shell v1" {
  loader /EFI/shellx64_v1.efi
  graphics off

You should now be able to successfully boot, and you can choose which EFI you'd like to load.

Remove UEFI boot support from ISO

Warning: In the event that UEFI+isohybrid El Torito/MBR really causes problems, it would be better to just UEFI boot using the USB stick instructions in the previous section

Most of the 32-bit EFI Macs and some 64-bit EFI Macs refuse to boot from a UEFI(X64)+BIOS bootable CD/DVD. If one wishes to proceed with the installation using optical media, it might be necessary to remove UEFI support first.

Mount the official installation media and obtain the archisolabel as shown in the previous section.

Rebuild the ISO using xorriso from libisoburn:

$ xorriso -as mkisofs -iso-level 3 \
    -volid "ARCH_201212" \
    -appid "Arch Linux CD" \
    -publisher "Arch Linux <https://www.archlinux.org>" \
    -preparer "prepared like a BAWSE" \
    -eltorito-boot isolinux/isolinux.bin \
    -eltorito-catalog isolinux/boot.cat \
    -no-emul-boot -boot-load-size 4 -boot-info-table \
    -isohybrid-mbr "/mnt/iso/isolinux/isohdpfx.bin" \
    -output "~/archiso.iso" "/mnt/iso/"

Burn ~/archiso.iso to optical media and proceed with installation normally.


OVMF [1] is a project to enable UEFI support for Virtual Machines. OVMF contains a sample UEFI firmware for QEMU and KVM.

You can build OVMF (with Secure Boot support) from AUR ovmf-svnAUR and run it as follows:

qemu-system-x86_64 -enable-kvm -net none -m 1024 -bios /usr/share/ovmf/x86_64/bios.bin 


Windows 7 won't boot in UEFI Mode

If you have installed Windows to a different harddisk with GPT partitioning and still have a MBR partitioned harddisk in your computer, then it is possible that the UEFI BIOS is starting it's CSM support (for booting MBR partitions) and therefor Windows won't boot. To solve this merge your MBR harddisk to GPT partitioning or disable the SATA port where the MBR harddisk is plugged in or unplug the SATA connector from this harddisk.

Mainboards with this kind of problem:

Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H rev. 1.1 (UEFI BIOS version F19e)

- UEFI BIOS option for booting UEFI Only doesn't pretend the UEFI BIOS from starting CSM

See also