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Intel develops an exclusive firmware update driver for Linux

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Intel is implementing a feature support for the motherboards that, at least for now, will be Linux exclusive, a detail that is not usually the norm in the hardware world, where Windows is the highest priority in almost 100% of cases, even for Intel, which is practically the manufacturer that best supports Linux.

Being more specific, Intel has introduced a future Linux 5.17 driver called “pfr_update” that will make use of the specification Platform Firmware Runtime Update and Telemetry ACPI (PFRUT), which allows updating a BIOS or UEFI without the need to reboot. For now this feature will not reach Windows, but who doubts that this exclusivity aims to be ephemeral.

It doesn’t take a lynx to realize that Intel’s priority of Linux over Windows is due to the use of PFRUT I know will focus on servers, where workloads often cannot be interrupted. The ACPI specification will allow BIOS / UEFI updates to be carried out on the fly, thus eliminating, at least on paper, a potential outage scenario. In addition, it also incorporates a controller to read telemetry data from the firmware in a standardized way.

Apparently pfr_update has been designed to update the firmware only in cases of serious errors or security problems, thus making it easier for administrators to patch the servers without having to stop them.

Since it is allowed to update the firmware of the motherboard, be it “classic” BIOS or UEFI, the process has always required a restart of the computer to complete it. In order to bury that requirement, Intel has been working on implementing PFRUT, which was previously known as “Seamless Upgrade.”

PFRUT, the ACPI specification that Intel intends to implement on Linux

The standard BIOS / UEFI update procedure has required and continues to require restarting the computer to load the new firmware, as this is when the firmware is transferred to the motherboard to update the BIOS or UEFI. With PFRUT the paradigm changes by being the operating system that takes care of the entire update process, thus opening the door to no need to restart.

At the moment it seems that Intel’s support for PFRUT will not only be exclusive to Linux, but also to server environments. In other words, it does not seem that at first it will reach desktops and laptops, although being a feature incorporated into the Linux kernel there should not be any technological impediment on paper.

But even if PFRUT reaches desktop computers, it would be necessary to see how many manufacturers decide to rely on it, because for many years there have been LVFS and FWUPD And the truth is that a very small percentage of motherboards allow the firmware to be updated through the mechanism they form, so it is necessary to resort to the tool of the motherboard itself for that purpose or to Windows in many laptop models.

Those who want to know more details about PFRUT and the runtime firmware update mechanism powered by Intel can consult the corresponding document Posted by the chip giant.

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