What is firmware?

Learn what firmware is and how the term is used for various Apple products.


Firmware is a combination of software and hardware. Computer chips that have data or programs recorded on them are firmware. These chips commonly include the following:

  • ROMs (read-only memory)
  • PROMs (programmable read-only memory)
  • EPROMs (erasable programmable read-only memory)

Firmware in PROM or EPROM is designed to be updated if necessary through a software update.

You can download firmware updates for many Apple products from Apple Downloads. There, you can search for a particular product's update by entering the product's name and the word "firmware" in the search box. Some Apple products that have had firmware updates include:

  • AirPort
  • Bluetooth
  • MacBook
  • MacBook Air
  • MacBook Pro
  • iMac
  • Mac mini
  • Displays

iPod also has firmware. However, updates for iPod, whether they include firmware, software, or both are included in the iPod Software Updater.

Not every product has a firmware update. Sometimes an update is installed at the factory. Don't worry if you don't see an update for the product you are looking for.Firmware version

Sometimes you may be asked what version of firmware (also called bootROM) you have on your computer. Find out how to determine the firmware version for your computer.

Open Firmware

Open Firmware is the generic name of firmware complying with IEEE Standard 1275-1994. Among Open Firmware's many features, it provides a computer independent device interface - usually for PCI or AGP cards. This enables expansion card manufacturers to easily support several different computer designs without supplying different firmware for each one.

Generally you won't interact with Open Firmware. An example of when you might need to is if you see this message on the screen: "To continue booting, type 'mac-boot' and press return."

Last Modified: Dec 30, 2011
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  • Last Modified: Dec 30, 2011
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