Does updating the firmware as required by a Linux distribution alter the machine for use with a different OS? (i.e., Windows)

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Problem :

I’m trying Lubuntu and seeing the same error as here in version 16.04 (Ask Ubuntu question):

*starting configure network device
[ 110.081458] b43-phy0 ERROR: Firmware file "b43/ucode5.fw" not found
[ 110.081669] b43-phy0 ERROR: Firmware file "b43-open/ucode5.fw" not found
[ 110.081870] b43-phy0 ERROR: You must go to
and download the correct firmware for driver version. Please carefully read all
instructions on the website.

Does this modification change something for the Windows 7 OEM?

Solution :

Short answer: No

Firmware in this context is more akin to what windows would refer to as a driver, more specifically wifi card driver. It will therefore only affect the linux aspect of using the device. It’s a source of confusion, as firmware often refers to software running on the hardware, independent of the OS in use.

The other answer is correct that this won’t directly affect the Windows operation of this device, but not for exactly the reason you’d suspect.

Some devices have firmware that is an EEPROM, so when you perform an update everything that uses it gets the benefits and any issues that may arise from an update. Your system’s BIOS is a prime example, you can upgrade (and sometimes downgrade), but once you perform an update it sticks.

Other devices like the wireless card operate on a per OS basis with a just in time firmware loading/initialization. Wireless cards typically do this because there are different legal frequency bands for different countries and until the system loads the firmware the card isn’t sure which to use. You could theoretically run two different firmware versions for one card between Windows and Linux or between multiple Linux variants, but keeping them in sync speeds up the initialization because it doesn’t have to reload with the right version every time.

In your specific case there is a package called linux-firmware that contains the binary blob required to operate your wireless card. These aren’t always installed by default because they are ”non-free” as in they aren’t open source. Installing this package via sudo apt-get update; sudo apt-get install linux-firmware on a wired connection should get your wireless working. If it says package not found try sudo apt-get update; sudo apt-get install linux-firmware-nonfree as occasionally the package names change between versions.

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