3.4 Handle database

The handle database is composed of objects called handles and protocols. Handles are a collection of one or more protocols and protocols are data structures named by a GUID. The data structure for a protocol may contain data fields, services, both or none at all.
At reset, the Handle Database is empty. During platform initialization, the system firmware, UEFI conformant drivers and UEFI applications create handles and attach one or more protocols to the handles. Information in the handle database is "global" and accessible by any executable UEFI image.
The handle database is a list of UEFI handles and is the central repository for the objects maintained by UEFI-based firmware. Each UEFI handle identified by a unique handle number is maintained by the system firmware. A handle number provides a database "key" to an entry in the handle database. Each entry in the handle database is a collection of one or more protocols. The types of protocols named by a GUID attach to a UEFI handle and determine the handle type. A UEFI handle may represent components like:
  • Executable images such as UEFI drivers and UEFI applications
  • Devices such as network controllers and hard drive partitions
  • UEFI services which are accessed as drivers such as EFI Decompress and the EBC Interpreter
The following figure shows a portion of the handle database. In addition to the handles and protocols, a list of objects is associated with each protocol. The handle database uses this list to track which agents are consuming which protocols. This information is critical to the operation of UEFI drivers. It is what allows UEFI drivers to be safely loaded, started, stopped and unloaded without resource conflicts.
###### Figure 2-Handle database ![](../media/image3.jpg) The figure for Handle types, below, shows the different types of handles that may be present in the handle database and the relationships between the various handle types. The handle-related terms introduced here appear throughout the document. There is only one handle database and all handles reside in it. Services that manage the Handle database do not distinguish handle types. Handles are differentiated by the types of protocols associated with each handle.

Figure 3-Handle types

The following table describes the types of handles shown above. The UEFI Specification provides detailed information on these types of handles, the protocols they support, and the different driver types. Note that HII handles are considered service handles.

Table 5-Description of handle types

Type of handle
Image handle
This is the handle for the UEFI Driver image loaded into memory. It supports the Loaded Image Protocol.
Driver handle
Supports all UEFI protocols. The most common protocols are the Driver Binding Protocol, the two Component Name Protocols and the two Driver Diagnostics Protocols.
Driver image handle
This is a handle that has the attributes of both an Image Handle and a Driver Handle. It is the handle for a UEFI Driver image loaded into memory. It supports the Loaded Image Protocol, and it supports the UEFI Driver related protocols.
Agent handle
Some of the UEFI driver model-related services in the UEFI Specification use this term. An agent is a UEFI component that can consume a protocol in the handle database. An agent handle is a general term that can represent an image handle, a driver handle or a driver image handle.
Controller handle
A controller handle represents a console or boot device that is present in the platform. If the handle represents a physical device, then it must support the Device Path Protocol. If the handle represents a virtual device, then it must not support the Device Path Protocol. In addition, a device handle must support one or more additional I/O protocols that are used to abstract access to that device. The list of I/O protocols that are defined in the UEFI Specification include the following: Console Services: These have been replaced or supplemented by HII functionality. These protocols include the Simple Input Protocol, Simple Text Output Protocol, Simple Pointer Protocol, Serial I/O Protocol and Debug Port Protocol. Bootable Image Services: Block I/O Protocol, Disk I/O Protocol, Simple File System Protocol and Load File Protocol. Network Services: Network Interface Identifier Protocol, Simple Network Protocol and PXE Base Code Protocol. PCI Services: PCI Root Bridge I/O Protocol and PCI I/O Protocol. USB Services: USB Host Controller Protocol and USB I/O Protocol. SCSI Services: Extended SCSI Pass Thru Protocol and SCSI I/O Protocol. Graphics Services: Graphics Output Protocol.
Device handle
Used interchangeably with controller handle.
Bus controller handle
A Controller Handle managed by a bus driver or a hybrid driver-producing child handles. The term "bus" does not necessarily match the hardware topology. The term "bus" in this document is used from the software perspective and the production of the software construct-a child handle-is the only distinction between a controller handle and a bus controller handle.
Child handle
This is a Controller Handle created by a bus driver or a hybrid driver. The distinction between a child handle and a controller handle depends on the perspective of the driver that is using the handle. A handle would be a child handle from a bus driver's perspective, and that same handle may be a controller handle from a device driver's perspective.
Physical controller handle
A controller handle representing a physical device that must support the Device Path Protocol. See the UEFI Specification.
Virtual controller handle
A controller handle representing a virtual device and not supporting the Device Path Protocol.
Service handle
A handle referencing certain types of tasks such as decompression or HII forms display. It can interface with other drivers, but does not relate to hardware or file management. This type of handle is not used for the Loaded Image Protocol, the Driver Binding Protocol or the Device Path Protocol. Instead, this type of handle supports the only instance of a specific protocol in the entire handle database. This protocol provides services that may be used by other UEFI applications or UEFI drivers. The list of service protocols that are defined in the UEFI Specification include: HII functionality Platform Driver Override Protocol Unicode Collation Protocol Boot Integrity Services Protocol Debug Support Protocols Decompress Protocol (optional). To give developers more flexibility, the EDK II open source project provides several decompression algorithms EFI Byte Code (EBC) Protocol