Have you ever heard of firmware? If you own a computer, laptop, cell phone, keyboard, modem, BIOS, video cards, Blu-ray player, car stereo, TV remote control, or digital camera, you’re using firmware. All of these devices work only because of the firmware installed on their hardware. Firmware is what instructs these devices to operate in the way we would expect. It’s responsible for low-level operations, without which your device(s) would be completely non-functional.
Firmware is a type of software. Firmware enables hardware to communicate with each other so that your device functions the way it was designed to. Firmware has 2 major configurations:
- Low Level Firmware is installed permanently onto a hardware device’s read-only memory (ROM), programmable read-only memory (PROM), or Programmable Logic Array (PLA) and cannot be changed or updated without special programs from the device’s manufacturer.
- High Level Firmware is used in a device’s flash memory and can be updated “in the field,” which means end-users can apply updates without the manufacturer’s help.
Installing Firmware Updates
A firmware update is actually a software program created by hardware manufacturers to improve the system performance, add new features to the device, fix an issue, or even give the device additional capabilities that the manufacturer didn’t originally intend. You need firmware updates to properly maintain your firewall, Xerox printers, and VoIP phone systems.
Firmware updates can usually be instantly applied by the end-user at no charge. They often happen automatically, but you may be prompted to apply recent updates, depending on your device. Simply shutting down and restarting your device will usually apply updates. You can also register your device with the manufacturer so you can be notified whenever there’s a fresh update for you to download and install.
Get Help from Your IT Consultant
You need to be extremely cautious when downloading and installing firmware updates, so you might need the help of your IT consultant. IT consultants have the technical know-how to apply system updates as they come up, as well as the experience in firmware and customer service to tell you what you need to know. If you’re unsure how to update your system, contact us and your consultant will walk you through the process.
You need to be familiar with the owner’s manual for your device(s) before you apply any updates. If you do apply a system update, be sure your device doesn’t turn off before the update is finished downloading – otherwise, the firmware will be corrupted, which means your device won’t work the way it should.
In addition, be sure you install the right software to your device. Always double check the model number to ensure the update applies to you. Applying software that’s designed for a different device can damage your system.
If you want to correctly update your device(s), contact your IT consultant to get complete instructions or have him or her apply the updates for you.