A motherboard’s BIOS is often seen as sacrosanct in the way it offers low-level control over a gaming PC. However, this is actually not true, and your motherboard BIOS is just as open to tinkering as any other part of your PC. If you’re brave enough.
An open source Linux consulting company called 3mdeb successfully loaded an open source BIOS, called Coreboot, and a firmware distribution framework of its own creation, called Dasharoon a modern Intel Alder Lake Z690 motherboard from MSI.
This is done in the hope of providing even greater control over fundamental PC software to the end user with open source BIOS software.
coreboot it is an identical replacement for the BIOS/UEFI firmware running on the motherboard by default. It was designed by a number of engineers, some who reportedly also worked on the Linux kernel, and is intended to open the door to cross-vendor and cross-platform improvements to the BIOS firmware, which is faster and more secure than traditional versions specific to the BIOS. provider. You can read all about Coreboot and recent efforts to bring it to modern chips in this Reddit Thread or how Coreboot works with various user interfaces, called payloads, on here.
Some of Coreboot’s main benefits: it is “unbrickable”, which means that updating the firmware should no longer put your PC in danger; it is secure with a minimal Trusted Computing Base; it’s designed to boot super fast, in less than a second; and you can load your own boot splash screen jpeg. The latter is extremely important.
One of the biggest users of Coreboot today that you may recognize is Google for their Chromebook devices.
Linux experts Phoronix note that Coreboot has been limited in the past to much older equipment and unable to keep up with the latest technology. However, with confirmation of the software working on an Intel Alder Lake motherboard, the MSI Pro Z690-A WiFi DDR4, this is no longer strictly the case.
The process is still in its early stages, however. The team working on porting the Coreboot software has only recently been successful in booting Ubuntu, though it has a lot of issues to figure out before it’s ready to compete with the alternatives from hardware manufacturers today.
“We’ve just started porting, we’re barely booting Ubuntu for now and not all devices work as expected (eg no sound), but we’ll improve in the coming weeks and months,” said Piotr Król, CEO of 3mdeb, in Phoronix forums. “We also have limited testing resources compared to major hardware vendors, so support in testing would be appreciated.”
Although there can be many benefits of loading an open source BIOS on your system when it is up and running. Król suggested that the company is open to integrating features such as overclocking into these products and is “very open to suggestions”.
“We have the technical expertise and access to resources to provide as many OC resources as the community needs, if any are missing, these can be added in the future,” continues Król.
So far, 3mdeb is focusing its efforts on Intel motherboards, hoping to convince some motherboard manufacturers to actually support their efforts directly in creating open source BIOS. He says, however, that it doesn’t look like that will happen yet, as at least MSI considers its BIOS an important part of its business.
“Of course, for retail motherboard manufacturers who don’t want to cooperate by providing schematics, we sometimes force to implement adversarial interoperability, which can add to the cost, but for friendly manufacturers it may not be that expensive.”
One such difficulty that the team is facing is regarding motherboards from AMD. 3mdeb says it is working hard to work with AMD, however it believes the company may not have the resources left to devote to such an endeavor.
“Unfortunately it’s not easy to play with AMD, we are trying hard, but let’s be honest for now Intel has a better ecosystem for developing open source firmware compared to the success achieved”, says Król on the matter.
While it seems that we are a long way from genuinely available and operational open source BIOS software for every gaming motherboard under the sun – this is a Many motherboards—this latest development could open many doors for our gaming PCs. If it’s going to work with Windows and its many new security measures, however, it could be a much bigger job.