Will Windows 8 prevent dual booting with Linux?

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.

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3 thoughts on “Will Windows 8 prevent dual booting with Linux?”

  1. Hi Jim,


    In particular:


    The final irony? If the user has no control over the installed keys, the user has no way to indicate that they don’t trust Microsoft products. They can prevent their system booting malware. They can prevent their system booting Red Hat, Ubuntu, FreeBSD, OS X or any other operating system. But they can’t prevent their system from running Windows 8.

    Microsoft’s rebuttal is entirely factually accurate. But it’s also misleading. The truth is that Microsoft’s move removes control from the end user and places it in the hands of Microsoft and the hardware vendors. The truth is that it makes it more difficult to run anything other than Windows. The truth is that UEFI secure boot is a valuable and worthwhile feature that Microsoft are misusing to gain tighter control over the market. And the truth is that Microsoft haven’t even attempted to argue otherwise.

  2. Hi Dave,

    Thanks for the links, the articles are an interesting read and include some very valid points. I still believe the main issue lies more with how manufacturers configure Secure Boot than with MS though. I think it’s important to keep in mind that MS are insisting only that Secure Boot be enabled on machines shipped with W8, they have never suggested Secure Boot should be locked.

    “we’ve already been informed by hardware vendors that some hardware will not have this option – (to disable Secure Boot)”
    I consider that to be a somewhat inflammatory statement – would have a lot more credence if specifics were included.

    One aspect I do agree with 100% is that the process involved with issuing/procuring trusted keys needs to be clarified thoroughly.


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