February 25, 2024


It's the Technology

Open Source BIOS Runs on Alder Lake Motherboard for the First Time


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The open-source software project coreboot hit a major milestone this week when Linux developers at 3mdeb successfully installed it to an Alder Lake motherboard.

According to PC Gamer, the programmers were able to install Coreboot on an MSI Z690 Alder Lake motherboard. Coreboot is an open source BIOS, designed to boot in one second while offering security and flexibility. The idea is that instead of using whatever your motherboard vendor cooked up, you could just run an open source BIOS instead. This would theoretically give you more options in how you run your PC.

One of the best features of Coreboot is that you can’t brick your PC by updating it. The developers of Coreboot says updating its firmware is as risky as updating an app on your phone. It even grants you the ability to load a custom JPEG for the boot-up splash screen.

Coreboot POST screen running Seabios. (Image: Coreboot.org)

The good news is they were able to get it running on new hardware. Previously, that wasn’t possible, so this is major progress.

The bad news: they can barely run Ubuntu Linux on it. According to 3mdeb’s CEO Piotr Król, the Ubuntu installation is fairly broken, with not all devices working properly. As an example he says they have no way to get sound working currently. One of the main issues is they just don’t have enough people to test things. Plus, none of the big motherboard manufacturers want to share their schematics with them. Król says the company is focusing on Intel’s platform currently as it offers a better open source ecosystem. AMD has apparently refused to get involved so far.

Though it’s certainly a novel idea to think we could easily replace our systems’ UEFI with an open source version, the reality is that will likely never happen. Every company from Asus to Gigabyte, ASRock and the rest view the UEFI for their systems as a crucial feature. Since they all offer similar designs and hardware support, the UEFI and aesthetics are what often what differentiates them. If you could put a custom UEFI on any motherboard, there’d be little reason to choose one board over another assuming the hardware features were similar.

While motherboard vendors might eventually see the benefits of offering a “open source compatible” motherboard, we doubt they’d give up that control. Not to mention opening the Pandora’s box of support tickets it could generate.

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