In checking out the latest hub-bub on the Building Windows 8 blog this morning, I encountered a new post entitled “Enabling large disks and large sectors in Windows 8.” It’s the work of Bryan Matthew, a program manager on the Windows 8 Storage & File System team, and it’s definitely worth a read-through, not just for its explanation of how the file system in Windows 8 will support disks larger than 2.2 TB directly (without requiring an add-in driver like Seagate’s beyond-2TB software) but also for its explanation of where the technical limitations come from on BIOS-based systems that set the ceiling at 2.2 TB.
A big part of the answer to the support question involves another invocation of UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) which is also the key to Microsoft’s boot-time security protection for Windows 8 as well. Here’s what Matthew has to say about UEFI and Windows 8: “Beginning with Windows 8, multiple new capabilities within Windows will necessitate UEFI. The combination of UEFI firmware + GPT partitioning + LBA allows Windows to fully address very large capacity disks with ease.” Although this is nice, it is also another indication that BIOS-based PCs–which represent over 99 percent of the current installed base, including every system I myself own–are heading for second-class status in the brave new Windows 8 world.
I’ve recently started speccing out a UEFI based system with a touchscreen to put a Windows 8 test system together, and I’ve learned that the number of UEFI-based motherboards is still very small (though it’s growing by leaps and bounds every month: when I first checked on this in September, I could find only 8 UEFI mobos on Newegg; this morning, the site lists 28 AMD-based mobos and 43 Intel-based mobos). Though I can understand and appreciate the technical advantages of UEFI, I wonder if the world is ready to make a mass migration to a new firmware architecture simply to take best advantage of Windows 8.
I’ve got two newish notebook and an equal number of newish desktop PCs and I’m not planning to junk them for at least another 2-3 years. Will the need for UEFI to obtain the best Windows 8 experience force me to change my mind? I don’t know yet. But I do know this is gonna be interesting!