There have been a lot of comments over the past couple of weeks lambasting Microsoft for supposedly introducing an element into Windows 8 which is said to prevent users from dual or multi booting different operating systems, and Linux in particular. It is astounding how these rumors spread, largely based on ignorance and misinformation. The truth of the matter is, this issue is being overly dramatized and has very little to do with Microsoft or Windows 8.
The controversy is actually being fueled by the Secure Boot feature of UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) – the PC firmware which is set to replace the outdated BIOS systems in newer PC’s. If Secure Boot is enabled in UEFI, only those operating systems with a Trusted Certificate are allowed to start up, and the original certificate will generally be loaded into UEFI by the PC manufacturer. The idea being to prevent viruses and other malware from executing in a pre-OS environment.
This is where Windows 8 comes into the picture; Microsoft’s licensing program for the Windows 8 logo requires that all PCs must incorporate UEFI with Secure Boot enabled by default – and obviously with a Windows 8 key installed. Note: Microsoft are insisting that Secure Boot be enabled only, not locked. So, if anyone wishes to setup a dual or multi boot system, all they need do is turn Secure Boot off, or load new keys into the UEFI.
Of course, manufacturers could, theoretically, choose to lock down Secure Boot themselves and so preclude their devices from running any operating system other than Windows 8, but I seriously doubt that is ever likely to actually happen. What manufacturer in their right mind is going to initiate a policy which will almost certainly see prospective customers scurrying to its competitors?
For the moment anyway, this should be viewed as an extreme overreaction and of little concern to users. That is obviously subject to change if all the major manufacturers begin releasing PCs locked into Windows 8 only, but there is absolutely no indication that will be the case and common sense dictates it is indeed a most unlikely scenario.