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What is Firmware and why we need to update it?

Firmware is software embedded in hardware that allows it to function as intended and provided low-level control to the manufacturer. Like the firmware in some digital cameras, some firmware can also be the primary operating system [Malwarebytes, n.d.].

Firmware is the software that performs the most basic and low-level work of a system. In hardware equipment, firmware is the soul of hardware equipment because some hardware equipment is not composed of other software except firmware, so firmware also determines the function and performance of hardware equipment [WhatIs.com, n.d.].

Firmware is installed directly onto the hardware during the manufacturing process. It runs user programs on the device and can be considered software that makes the hardware run.

Types of Firmware:

We all know that firmware is essential, but how vital is firmware? There are many types of firmware, but all can generally be grounded into three categories based on hardware integration.

  • Low-level firmware: This is usually stored in non-volatile memory chips like read-only memory (ROM) and one-time programmable (OTP) memory. These chips cannot be rewritten or updated, and the firmware is intrinsic to the hardware, such as a computer [Fortinet, n.d.].
  • High-level firmware: This is deployed within flash memory chips and comes with more complex instructions that allow updates to be made [Fortinet, n.d.].
  • Subsystem firmware: These are semi-independent devices part of a more extensive system. Firmware at this level is embedded within central processing units (CPUs), flash chips, and liquid crystal display (LCD) branches [Fortinet, n.d.].

Firmware Updating

In a device, the firmware update is used to update the firmware because it is a software program. For example, when your device manufacturer releases a new firmware update that helps the device work at peak efficiency and enhances security through updates on the device. Hardware manufacturers can provide firmware updates. If a new security patch is created or a known bug needs to be fixed, the installed firmware will no longer be sufficient [javatpoint, n.d.].

Firmware updates occur depending on the device. This is rare, occurring only a few times over the device’s lifetime. When a device does not receive any firmware updates, it is possible that the manufacturer has stopped supporting the device or has had its development team retire the machine. For example, if your router is older, it may work fine for a while. But when your manufacturer officially stops supporting it, it can end up being a mess or unstable [javatpoint, n.d].

Why are Firmware Upgrades necessary?

Firmware can be upgraded to help improve new features while fixing known bugs and issues. The goal is to improve the end-user experience and functionality of existing features [Vilo, 2022].

Firmware updates will improve machine performance by improving instruction time, inferred execution time, branch prediction, out-of-order execution, and more. Microcode (another name for firmware) controls all of these functions [Vikram, 2017].

What IP Partners can do

In IP Partners, we give our vast range of technical expertise and are often engaged in a management or advisory role. We can provide switching and controller firmware upgrade services for clients who wish to use us as an external party advisory.

Call us on (08) 7200 5524 or email sales@ippartners.com.au to discuss how we can help you manage and assist with your IT needs!

Reference List:

Fortinet. (n.d.). What Is Firmware? Firmware Definition, Types and Examples. [online] Available at: https://www.fortinet.com/resources/cyberglossary/what-is-firmware [Accessed 7 Feb. 2023].

Javatpoint.com. (n.d.). What is a Firmware – javatpoint. [online] Available at: https://www.javatpoint.com/what-is-a-firmware [Accessed 7 Feb. 2023].

Malwarebytes. (n.d.). What is Firmware? [online] Available at: https://www.malwarebytes.com/computer/what-is-firmware [Accessed 7 Feb. 2023].

Vilo. (2022). Why Firmware Upgrades Are Important and How to Perform Them. [online] Available at: https://support.viloliving.com/hc/en-us/articles/6805681818519 [Accessed 7 Feb. 2023].

‌Vikram (2017). Importance of Firmware Update: Boost Your Device Performance. [online] www.technorms.com. Available at: https://www.technorms.com/64686 [Accessed 7 Feb. 2023].

WhatIs.com. (n.d.). What is Firmware? Definition, Types and Examples. [online] Available at: https://www.techtarget.com/whatis/definition/firmware [Accessed 7 Feb. 2023].

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