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Old June 6th, 2016, 03:26 AM   #1
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Firmware vs Software Updates: What's the Difference?

Hi there

What is the difference between a "firmware" and "software" update?

Are they essentially the same thing?

Cheers.
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Old June 6th, 2016, 09:00 AM   #2
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Re: Firmware vs Software Updates: What's the Difference?

I gather firmware is read only (ROM etc) and is found in hardware like a camera for controlling their systems, while software is instructions for computer systems and covers many programs that can be various purposes.
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Old June 6th, 2016, 04:43 PM   #3
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Re: Firmware vs Software Updates: What's the Difference?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Miggy Sanchez View Post
What is the difference between a "firmware" and "software" update?

Are they essentially the same thing?
Similar, but different. Both are code, the difference is where they are stored, and how they are accessed.

Firmware implies EPROM, or EEPROM, even an FPGA, etc. Basically a chip that can be electrically erased and written to, which maintains its program when powered off. It's designed to be readable directly by hardware such as a CPU or GPU. Much faster and at a much lower level than "software", and typically more difficult to change the content. Typical use would be to hold the CPU's bootup code. A computer's BIOS is typically implemented as firmware for example.

Software implies a file on disk (or disk emulator, like an SSD). Much higher level, slower to access, and easier to change the content.

A software update can be handled automatically without you even knowing about it (win10 anyone?). A firmware update usually involves copying a file to a USB drive (using the correct naming convention), inserting the USB drive into the correct USB port (many modern motherboards designate one USB port for firmware updates), and rebooting the motherboard, and perhaps interfacing with the BIOS. It's been so long since I updated my motherboard (2.5 years?) that I've forgotten exactly how to do it (but I've still got the manual ;-).

That enough of an answer?
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Old June 6th, 2016, 09:57 PM   #4
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Re: Firmware vs Software Updates: What's the Difference?

Thanks guys.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bruce Watson View Post
That enough of an answer?
Coming around to 3rd base...now to the home plate. :-))

Applying what you have said to some Blackmagic Devices I own (UltraStudio Express with Thunderbolt connectivity and the ProRecorder h264 with USB 2.0 connectivity):

If BM announce a "software" update, does that imply a simple un-install of old software, and download/install of new software version? Crucially, I am to assume that I DO NOT have to attach the devices to the laptop whilst installing new software?

I recently heard the terms "firmware" and "software" update used interchangeably by a very experienced AV tech recently in relation to the BM products mentioned above and it's bugged me ever since...

BM's user manuals are not the best IMHO, which is also causing confusion...

Anyway, thanks again...
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Old June 8th, 2016, 09:57 AM   #5
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Re: Firmware vs Software Updates: What's the Difference?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Miggy Sanchez View Post
Applying what you have said to some Blackmagic Devices I own (UltraStudio Express with Thunderbolt connectivity and the ProRecorder h264 with USB 2.0 connectivity):

If BM announce a "software" update, does that imply a simple un-install of old software, and download/install of new software version? Crucially, I am to assume that I DO NOT have to attach the devices to the laptop whilst installing new software?
Assumptions can be dangerous. Worse, all I can offer is generalities as I don't own and have never worked with any Blackmagic Designs equipment.

Typically if it's a software application, you don't have to un-install and reinstall anything. All you should have to do is update it. You'll often find an "update" option on the "help" or "tools" tab/dropdown of the application window. Click it, follow directions if there are any. Most applications just download the patch and apply it and you're done. Sometimes you have to reboot, sometimes not, depending on what the update tells you to do.

If this is actually a patch to firmware, you'll have to have the equipment to be updated attached to your computer so that what needs to be downloaded from the internet can be downloaded. When in doubt, ask the equipment manufacturer.

Sorry I can't be more explicit; you've reached the edge of my knowledge.
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Old June 8th, 2016, 08:26 PM   #6
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Re: Firmware vs Software Updates: What's the Difference?

While instructions for updating can be a bit daunting, you're best to take the time to figure out the correct steps - it may vary between manufacturers, but the principle is the same.

There's a "chip" in many modern devices that contains the instructional code that the device requires to operate (think the "BIOS" in your computer) at a basic level Those instructions are re-programmable, but are typically stored more or less permanently in the "chip". Cameras have a fairly complex instruction set, since it operates the whole enchilada.


Firmware (which can also be called "software") is usually updated either via creating a custom memory card with the update, or via USB connection wth a computer (I've seen both). There should be a set of instructions to obtain the firmware and prep the update, along with initializing the device to accept the update.

Think of it this way.... the update has to exist in "software" form, on your local disk or a memory card, before it can be written into the more permanent form that exists on that internal chip as "firmware". There is typically an "installer" software that transfers that to the device.

Your main concern is the device (and if attached to a computer, the computer) MUST remain powered on for the entire update, as it will be removing the "old" and putting in the "new" - if interrupted, you typically end up with what is commonly called a "brick". Other than that and following the instructions (I sometimes ignore the ones on the "download page" and just jump through the process that is stated when run on my computer.... but I've done a "few"), you shouldn't be too scared of the process.

I'll admit to waiting sometimes to see if there are any adverse reports when a new update pops up, but typically try to keep my devices updated.
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