KNOW Top 35+ Firmware Development Interview Questions & Answers
Firmware Development Interview Questions and Answers

KNOW Top 35+ Firmware Development Interview Questions & Answers

Last updated on 04th Jul 2020, Blog, Interview Questions

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The process of developing software specifically meant to operate on embedded systems, like microcontrollers or other specialised hardware, is known as firmware development. Hardware gains its intelligence from code, which allows it to carry out particular operations or tasks. To ensure effective use of resources, firmware is frequently written in low-level languages like assembly or C. When developing firmware, one must be aware of the limitations imposed by the hardware, optimise code for both size and performance, and frequently handle real-time concerns. It is the quiet orchestrator that keeps hardware functioning in harmony behind the scenes.

1. Define “Firmware”.

Ans:

Firmware refers to the program that has been securely embedded in a device, gadget, or microprocessor, often by manufacturer. An electrical device will not function without that. In contrast to the normal programs, firmware is designed to control, run, and manage systems in the background without interacting with human users.

2. What is an embedded system?

Ans:

Embedded System is the generic term that refers to the specific instance of equipment that is intended to be integrated into application. Firmware is the program or file on a computer during the system’s manufacturing process. The statement demonstrates how deeply ingrained it is in hardware.

3. What is distinction between driver and firmware?

Ans:

Peripheral drivers are software and hardware-dependent. A primary driver functions as the mediator between the device and the programs that are installed on the system. Firmware is the piece of software that is permanently installed on a piece of hardware, such as a keyboard, a hard drive, a BIOS, or a graphics card, and is totally independent of hardware.

4. Why is C and C++ still commonly used in firmware development?

Ans:

Hardware restrictions, both in terms of memory size and CPU performance, constrain functionality of embedded systems. C and C++ often have extremely low overhead and provide the developers with relatively few abstractions. As a result, they are compatible with even the tiniest gadgets.

5. How do you validate firmware prior to installation?

Ans:

Before loading firmware, you can evaluate it using the emulation procedure. This implies that it would simulate the firmware’s functionality on the separate machine or computer system prior to installing it. This may entail replicating a particular instruction, debugging, or keyword-based activities prior to committing to installation.

6. What are some most often encountered difficulties while dealing with interruptions?

Ans:

Interrupt handlers are nearly always required to be complete execution fast, which restricts the complexity of the program.

  • Functions found in the most libraries
  • Access to hardware and gadgets
  • A subset of a CPU instructions

7. When firmware performs activities, they interact with electronic devices?

Ans:

Most modern hardware has software that accomplishes operation in its ROM, and CPU. The CPU is capable of reading data from the ROM. A read pulse is issued to instruct ROM to render a value accessible. Whenever the system wants to do a task, a similar procedure happens.

8. What are the advantages of embedded systems?

Ans:

It is feasible to substitute dozens or even hundreds of physical logic gates, data buffers, clock circuits, and output modules with the very inexpensive microprocessor using an embedded system.

Embedded Systems Advantages

9. Describe a microcontroller.

Ans:

Microcontrollers are self-contained systems that include the peripherals, memory, and a CPU. They are often employed as embedded systems.

10. What is microcontroller firmware?

Ans:

It is the piece of software that is installed on any microcontroller-based gadget and is often stored in the memory chips. The bootloader is a tiny application that allows these flash memories to be programmed.

11. What are 32-bit and 64-bit microcontrollers is 8-bit microcontrollers still in use?

Ans:

The general purpose of this is to select appropriate equipment for the job. Backward compatibility, cost, and electricity consumption are indeed 3 most often cited reasons. They’re simple, cost-effective, and consume less power, making them ideal for tasks that don’t require the processing power of more advanced chips.

12. Why test middleware?

Ans:

The term “middleware” refers to the layer that exists between the hardware and the software. It aids in the data management, authorization, and communications. Testing middleware can assist in ensuring it communicates with both the systems and performs critical communications functions.

13. What does DMA address deal with?

Ans:

Physical addresses are dealt with by DMA addresses. It is the device that controls the information and addresses buses directly during data transport. As such, it is strictly a physical address.

14. Describe real-time embedded systems.

Ans:

Real-time embedded devices are the machines that observe, adapt to, and control ambient environments in real-time. Through valves, detectors, and other input-output connectors, this ecosystem is linked to a main system.

15. Give examples of typical Firmware.

Ans:

Firmware is the collection of commands that run on modems, DVD players, and cellphones, among the other devices. More cutting-edge firmware operates on a laptop that demands continuous power supply. BIOS is one such piece of firmware.

16. Define interrupt latency.

Ans:

Interrupt latency is a time required to exit the interrupt service procedure following treatment of a particular interrupt. It can be decreased by developing small ISR procedures.

17. What is a Watchdog Timer?

Ans:

A watchdog timer is an electrical device or electronic chip that, if some problem occurs with the computer circuit, performs a specific function after a predetermined time period.

18. What is semaphore?

Ans:

Semaphores are frequently employed for two different reasons.

  • To utilise a shared memory area.
  • To share file access.

19. Is software on microcontrollers secure against download, manipulation?

Ans:

No, Unless the microprocessor is specifically designed to prevent the firmware transfer or alteration, any information in the database transferred to the microcontroller should be regarded as reasonably simple to download and alter.

20. When is it necessary to utilise a recursive function?

Ans:

When the frequency of recursive operations is not enormous, the recursion method can be utilised. When an inline function is invoked, it copies the whole description of that procedure. Inline recursive functions place additional strain on the compiler’s processing.

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    21. What are most common errors found in Embedded Systems?

    Ans:

    • Static spikes destroy the memory devices.
    • Due to a short circuit, the address line can fail.
    • Data strains are not operating properly.
    • Incorrect insertion of a memory device into memory slots.
    • Incorrect signal control.

    22. Why is infinite loop necessary in embedded systems?

    Ans:

    Embedded structures require the infinite number of iterations to analyse an audit program’s state for unresolved problems. For instance, issues such as memory loss or division by a zero, among others. This might occur naturally during runtime and is being checked.

    23. What is software update?

    Ans:

    The manufacturer updates the firmware that controls the gadget. These enhancements are made by the firmware upgrades, which are typically available over the internet.

    24. What are different types of timers used in embedded systems?

    Ans:

    • A Computer system’s real-time clock.
    • After specified time delay, triggering an activity.
    • Actively pursuing an event in response to the time comparison.
    • Calculate timer value for any event.
    • Multiplexing is based on a time division.

    25. How are buses utilised in embedded systems to communicate?

    Ans:

    I2C: It is used to communicate amongst many integrated circuits.

    CAN: It is a network protocol that is used in vehicles that have a centrally managed network.

    USB: It is used to communicate between CPU and peripheral devices such as a mouse.

    26. What is the difference between Software and Firmware?

    Ans:

      Aspect Software Firmware
    Purpose

    Applications with a general purpose

    Control for embedded systems
    Location kept in a non-volatile memory kept in flash or ROM memory
    Execution Uses a general-purpose CPU to operate Operates using a specific microcontroller
    Interaction

    Direct user interaction

    Directly communicates with hardware

    27. What are requirements for building embedded systems?

    Ans:

    To build embedded systems, it is necessary to consider its cost, efficiency, stability, dependability, and specialised roles. The design should be affordable and reliable, and firmware must be able to function correctly.

    28. What are the characteristics of microprocessors?

    Ans:

    A microprocessor is the CPU without RAM, ROM, ALU, and multiplexer. It requires the serial connections and timers to function. Microprocessors are excellent for software, website, and game development due to high processing power and upgradeable memory.

    29. What are the characteristics of microprocessors?

    Ans:

    The necessary components of a microprocessor include the CPU, external buses, RAM, ROM, ALU, multiplexer, serial connections, and timers. These components work together to enable the microprocessor to function correctly and efficiently.

    30. What are necessary components of a microprocessor?

    Ans:

    The necessary components of a microprocessor include the CPU, external buses, RAM, ROM, ALU, multiplexer, serial connections, and timers. These components work together to enable the microprocessor to function correctly and efficiently.

    31. What is EFI?

    Ans:

    EFI stands for Extensible Firmware Interface. The EFI standard, a new generation of system firmware, provides the first instructions needed by the CPU to turn on hardware. A bootloader subsequently takes over operation of the system. EFI is also known as the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI).

    32. What is the purpose of Firmware development?

    Ans:

    The aim is to discuss firmware development, its differences, and resources. It will also compare e the embedded and generic systems’ strengths and downsides and help attendees learn a firmware development and job skills.

    33. What is Flashing?

    Ans:

    Flashing is the process of replacing the data or firmware that is currently stored in an electronic device’s EEPROM or flash memory modules with new data. This can be done to install a new operating system or to upgrade the device or switch the service provider linked to its functionality, such as switching mobile phone service providers.

    34. What programming language is used to write firmware?

    Ans:

    In other words, firmware is usually written in a low-level language, compiled, and assembled into machine code. It is then placed on this storage medium in a known position so that hardware can read from that location and start executing the machine code during hardware startup.

    35. What is meant by middleware testing?

    Ans:

    Middleware testing in the firmware refers to the testing of software components that act as bridge or intermediary between the hardware and the application software in embedded systems.

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    36. How can I use c++ 11 when programming Arduino?

    Ans:

    For older versions, read on:

    FIt is easy to change the flags for any element of the toolchain, including the assembler, compiler, linker or archiver.

    37. How does firmware communicate to electronic devices to perform its operations?

    Ans:

    The CPU configures addresses on its address bus, asks the ROM to provide the value stored there, and then uses that information to read data from the ROM.To get hardware to do something, the CPU basically executes the kind of write operation. It puts a value, which is just a bunch of bits if you want to look at it that way, on the address bus to select the certain device and perhaps function.

    38. Explain bootloader in firmware development.

    Ans:

    A bootloader is the small program that initialises the system and loads the main firmware into the memory during the startup process. It is responsible for preparing the system for execution of the main firmware and often provides essential functions such as memory initialization and hardware configuration.

    39. What are interrupts in firmware?

    Ans:

    Interrupts are used in the firmware to handle the asynchronous events or signals from external devices. When interrupt occurs, the processor temporarily stops executing its current task to handle interrupt service routine (ISR). This allows firmware to respond quickly to the external events without constantly polling for changes.

    40. How do I optimise firmware for limited hardware resources?

    Ans:

    Optimization in firmware involves minimising code size, reducing power consumption, and improving the execution speed. Techniques include using efficient algorithms, optimising data structures, utilising hardware features effectively, and employing the compiler optimizations.

    41. Difference between RAM and ROM in context of firmware.

    Ans:

    RAM (Random Access Memory) is used for a temporary storage of data during runtime, allowing firmware to read from and write to it. ROM (Read-Only Memory) is non-volatile and contains firmware code and constant data. Firmware is typically stored in the ROM, ensuring that it remains intact even when power is removed.

    42. Discuss the importance of testing in firmware development.

    Ans:

    Testing in firmware development is crucial for ensuring reliability and stability of embedded systems. This includes the unit testing for individual components, integration testing to verify interaction between the components, and system testing to assess overall functionality of a firmware.

    43. Explain Real-Time Operating Systems (RTOS).

    Ans:

    An RTOS is an operating system specifically designed for real-time applications, where timely and predictable responses to the events are critical. In firmware development, an RTOS ensures that tasks are executed within defined time constraints, making it suitable for applications such as control systems, robotics, and communication devices.

    44. How do you handle power management in firmware for battery-powered devices?

    Ans:

    Power management in a firmware involves implementing strategies like sleep modes, where non-essential components are turned off to conserve power. Additionally, optimising algorithms and minimizing time spent in active states contribute to the extending battery life in embedded systems.

    45. Explain volatile keyword firmware development.

    Ans:

    In firmware development, the volatile keyword is used to indicate that a variable’s value may change at any time without any action being taken by a code the compiler finds nearby. This is crucial for variables shared between interrupt service routine (ISR) and main program since it ensures that the compiler does not optimise away or reorder operations on variables.

    46. Discuss the challenges when developing firmware for resource-constrained devices.

    Ans:

    Developing firmware for the resource-constrained devices requires careful consideration of limited processing power, memory, and storage. Challenges include optimising code size, minimising power consumption, and selecting the algorithms that strike a balance between the resource usage and functionality.

    47. What is a memory map in firmware development?

    Ans:

    A memory map defines the organisation of memory in the system, specifying regions for code, data, and peripherals. In firmware development, understanding a memory map is crucial for allocating the variables, placing code in specific memory sections, and interacting with the peripheral registers.

    48. How do you handle concurrency and synchronisation issues?

    Ans:

    A memory map defines the organisation of memory in the system, specifying regions for code, data, and peripherals. In firmware development, understanding a memory map is crucial for allocating the variables, placing code in specific memory sections, and interacting with the peripheral registers.

    49. Explain DMA (Direct Memory Access) in firmware development.

    Ans:

    DMA is a feature that eliminates the need for the CPU in peripheral data transfers to and from memory. DMA reduces CPU overhead in data transfers, which improves efficiency in firmware development. Applications like music processing, graphics, and networking that require fast data transport frequently employ it.

    50. What are troubleshooting and debug firmware issues in a real-time system?

    Ans:

    Troubleshooting and debugging in the real-time firmware systems involve using tools like debuggers, logging, and oscilloscopes. Steps include identifying the problem’s scope, using breakpoints to isolate issues, analysing logs and error messages, and employing the real-time debugging tools to assess system behaviour during runtime.

    51. How ensure code portability in firmware development?

    Ans:

    Code portability in firmware development can be achieved by adhering to industry standards, using the hardware abstraction layers (HALs), and writing modular code. Adopting the modular design with well-defined interfaces allows for the easier adaptation to different microcontroller architectures without extensive code modifications.

    52. What tools do you use for performance analysis?

    Ans:

    Code optimization involves using efficient algorithms, minimising memory usage, and leveraging compiler optimizations. Performance analysis tools such as profilers, static analyzers, and code size analyzers help to identify bottlenecks and areas for improvement. Iterative testing and profiling are essential for achieving optimal performance.

    53. Explain finite impulse response (FIR) filter.

    Ans:

    An FIR filter is the digital filter with a finite response duration. In firmware development, FIR filters are commonly used in applications such as audio processing for the equalisation, noise reduction, or signal conditioning.

    54. What is double buffering technique in firmware development?

    Ans:

    Double buffering involves the using two buffers to alternate between the rendering and displaying graphics. In firmware development, this technique eliminates flickering and tearing in graphics rendering by updating one buffer while the other is being displayed.

    55. Explain error-correcting codes (ECC).

    Ans:

    ECC is the technique that adds redundant information to data to detect and correct errors. In firmware development, ECC is crucial for storage systems, such as NAND flash memory. It improves data integrity by identifying and repairing mistakes caused by variables like noise, wear, or environmental conditions.

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    56. What is phase-locked loop (PLL) in firmware development?

    Ans:

    A PLL is the control system that generates an output signal with the frequency related to the frequency of an input signal. In firmware development, PLLs are commonly used in the applications such as clock synthesis, frequency modulation, and clock recovery in the communication system.

    57. What is a circular buffer in firmware development?

    Ans:

    A circular buffer (or ring buffer) is the data structure that uses a fixed-size buffer where new data overwrites older data when the buffer is full.

    58. Explain bit-banding in microcontrollers.

    Ans:

    Bit-banding is the technique in microcontrollers where individual bits in memory are assigned the unique addresses, allowing for atomic bit manipulation. In firmware development, this is useful for efficiently handling control bits and flags without need for read-modify-write operations, improving performance and ensuring atomicity.

    59. What is the role of linker in firmware development?

    Ans:

    The linker in the firmware development is responsible for combining compiled code and data into the final executable. It resolves symbols, assigns addresses to variables and functions, and generates a memory layout of the firmware.

    60. How do you manage version control in firmware development?

    Ans:

    Version control systems (e.g., Git) are essential in the firmware development for tracking changes, managing the collaborative development, and ensuring code integrity. Branching and tagging facilitate the parallel development and release management. Benefits include code traceability, collaboration support, and the ability to roll back changes in the case of issues.

    61. Discuss challenges and strategies in firmware for IoT devices.

    Ans:

    Firmware for IoT devices faces challenges such as limited resources, security concerns, and diverse communication protocols. Strategies include optimising power consumption for battery-operated devices, implementing secure communication through the protocols like MQTT or HTTPS, and designing firmware to accommodate the various IoT connectivity standards.

    62. What is a state machine?

    Ans:

    A state machine is the computational model with a finite number of states, transitions between the states, and an initial state. In firmware development, state machines are used to model behaviour of systems with discrete states.

    63. What are const and volatile qualifiers in embedded C programming?

    Ans:

    The const qualifier indicates that a variable’s value cannot be changed after initialization, allowing the compiler to make optimizations. On other hand, the volatile qualifier informs the compiler that the variable can be modified outside current code flow, such as by interrupt service routine, preventing a compiler from making certain optimizations that might lead to incorrect behaviour.

    64. Describe flash memory wear levelling.

    Ans:

    Flash memory wear levelling is the technique used to distribute write and erase cycles evenly across memory cells, preventing premature wear on specific regions. In firmware development, wear levelling is crucial for extending the lifespan of flash memory in applications where frequent write operations occur, such as logging data or firmware updates.

    65. Explain bootloader in firmware development.

    Ans:

    A bootloader is the small program that initialises the system and loads a main firmware into memory during the startup process. It is responsible for preparing systems for the execution of main firmware, often by configuring memory, initialising peripherals, and facilitating firmware updates.

    66. What is a memory map in firmware development?

    Ans:

    A memory map defines organisation of memory in a system, specifying a region for code, data, and peripherals. In firmware development, understanding the memory map is crucial for allocating variables, placing code in specific memory sections, and interacting with the peripheral registers.

    67. Explain polling versus interrupt-driven I/O in firmware development.

    Ans:

    Polling involves regularly checking the status of a device to determine if it needs attention, while interrupt-driven I/O relies on device signalling the processor when it requires attention. Polling can be simpler but may waste the CPU cycles, while interrupt-driven I/O is more efficient as processors can perform other tasks until an interrupt occurs.

    68. Describe Mutex in firmware.

    Ans:

    A Mutex (Mutual Exclusion) is the synchronisation mechanism used to control access to the shared resources in a multi-threaded or multi-tasking environment. It ensures that only one thread or task can access shared resources at a time, preventing data corruption and race conditions.

    69. What is the memory barrier in firmware development?

    Ans:

    A memory barrier (or memory fence) is the synchronisation primitive used to control order of memory operations in multi-threaded environments. It ensures certain memory operations are completed before the others begin. Memory barriers are crucial in firmware development, especially when dealing with shared data accessed by multiple tasks or interrupts.

    70. Explain concept of DMA (Direct Memory Access).

    Ans:

    DMA allows the peripherals to transfer data directly to or from memory without involving CPU. This is useful in firmware development for tasks like high-speed data transfer, audio processing, or graphics rendering.

    71. Discuss challenges for firmware development in safety-critical systems.

    Ans:

    A Safety-critical systems, such as those in THE medical devices or automotive applications, require special consideration. Challenges ARE include ensuring fault tolerance, reliability, and compliance with safety standards.

    72. Explain code reviews in the firmware development process

    Ans:

    Code reviews are crucial for ensuring code quality, identifying bugs, and sharing knowledge among team members. In firmware development, where code reliability is paramount, code reviews help catch the issues early, enforce coding standards, and promote best practices.

    73. Discuss hardware abstraction layer (HAL) in firmware development.

    Ans:

    A HAL provides the standardised interface between firmware and hardware, allowing for portability across the different hardware platforms. It abstracts low-level hardware details, making it easier to develop a firmware that can be adapted to different microcontrollers or architectures.

    74. Explain CRC (Cyclic Redundancy Check).

    Ans:

    A CRC is the mathematical algorithm used to detect errors in data transmission by generating the checksum. In firmware development, CRCs are employed to ensure data integrity during communication between devices.

    75. Discuss endianness in firmware development.

    Ans:

    Endianness refers to a byte order in which multibyte data types are stored in the memory. Big-endian stores the most significant byte first, while little-endian stores the least significant byte first. In firmware development, endianness is crucial when interfacing with hardware or communicating between the systems with different endianness.

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    76. Explain flash wear levelling.

    Ans:

    Flash wear levelling is the technique used to evenly distribute write and erase cycles across memory cells of a flash storage device. In firmware development, wear levelling is crucial for preventing premature wear on specific flash memory regions, especially in applications with the frequent write operations, such as logging or data storage.

    77. What is stateless protocol in firmware development?

    Ans:

    A stateless protocol does not store the information about the state of communication between transactions. An example in firmware development is the HTTP protocol. Each HTTP request is independent of previous requests, making it stateless.

    78. How do you approach testing and validation in firmware development?

    Ans:

    Testing in firmware development involves the unit testing for individual components, integration testing for the interactions between components, and system testing to assess overall functionality.

    79. Explain circular buffers in firmware development.

    Ans:

    A circular buffer (or ring buffer) is the data structure that uses the fixed-size buffer where new data overwrites older data when the buffer is full. In firmware development, a circular buffer is useful in scenarios where the continuous stream of data needs to be processed or transmitted, such as in audio processing or data logging applications.

    80. Explain bit masking in firmware development.

    Ans:

    Bit masking involves the using bitwise operations to manipulate specific bits in the variable. An example in firmware development is setting or clearing specific configuration bits in the register. For instance, using the bitwise OR operation to set a specific bit for enabling features in a control register.

    81. What are the roles and responsibilities of firmware developers?

    Ans:

    Firmware engineers are responsible for developing and installing industry-specific software programs and hardware systems. The programmable data that gives an electronic hardware device, including the remote controls, cell phones, and medical equipment, instructions on how to operate is known as a firmware.

    82. Where do firmware updates come from?

    Ans:

    To increase the compatibility of hardware or devices with new media, often regular firmware updates are released by CD, DVD manufacturers, and BD drives. For instance, trying to burn a video to a few empty BD discs, but unable to do that.

    83. Explain firmware rollback.

    Ans:

    Firmware rollback refers to the ability to revert to a previous version of firmware after update. It is important for ensuring the system stability and functionality in case issues arise with the new firmware version.

    84. Discuss dual-bank memory architecture in firmware development?

    Ans:

    A Dual-bank memory architecture involves having two separate memory banks that can be independently programmed. In firmware development, this architecture is advantageous for implementing fail-safe firmware updates.

    85. What is a power-on self-test (POST)?

    Ans:

    POST is the diagnostic process performed by firmware during the system startup to check and verify the functionality of key components. In firmware development, POST contributes to the system reliability by detecting and reporting hardware issues early in the boot process.

    86. Explain signal integrity in firmware development.

    Ans:

    Signal integrity refers to the quality of a signal as it travels through the communication channel. In firmware development, maintaining signal integrity is crucial for reliable communication. It involves minimising signal distortion, managing impedance, and addressing issues like the reflections and crosstalk to ensure that transmitted signals are accurately received.

    87. What is a memory protection unit (MPU) in firmware development?

    Ans:

    An MPU is the hardware component that provides the memory access control and protection. In firmware development, an MPU is more beneficial for enforcing access restrictions to the specific memory regions.

    88. Explain firmware virtualization and its applications in embedded systems.

    Ans:

    Firmware virtualization involves the creating virtual instances of hardware resources or functionalities. In embedded systems, firmware virtualization is used to abstract and emulate hardware interfaces, enabling the more flexible and scalable system architectures.

    89. Discuss challenges and require high levels of fault tolerance.

    Ans:

    High fault tolerance in firmware development involves designing systems that can continue to operate despite the presence of faults or failures. Challenges include identifying potential failure points, implementing redundancy, and ensuring a rapid fault detection and recovery.

    90. What are the roles of firmware?

    Ans:

    Firmware contains instructions that assist hardware in starting up, communicating with other devices, and performing basic input/output operations. Software, on the other hand, is placed on the device and utilised for interaction, such as internet surfing, document processing, music listening, and videoconferencing.

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