One of the oldest pieces of technology, that is still widely used today, could be on its way out following the development of a newer, more efficient alternative.

You may not know too much about the Bios system that is hidden within your PC, but it is an integral part of any computer as it initialises a machine before the OS kicks in.

The trouble is that the Bios code has changed little in 25 years, and was never designed to last this long. It is one of the main culprits of a slow boot up time.

But a new solution could be on its way, called UEFI, which stands for Unified Extensible Firmware Interface.

UEFI was originally an Intel-only product, but evolved into a general standard when the need to replace Bios became apparent.

For consumers the biggest bonus of UEFI will be the speed with which a machine starts up.

"At the moment it can be 25-30 seconds of boot time before you see the first bit of OS sign-on", said Mark Doran, head of the UEFI Forum, which is overseeing development of the technology. "With UEFI we're getting it under a handful of seconds".

"In terms of boot speed, we're not at instant-on yet but it is already a lot better than conventional Bios can manage", he said "and we're getting closer to that every day".

It is expected that UEFI will become mainstream in 2011, with some manufacturers of embedded computers already using the system now.