Dual Booting Linux Might be Possible in Windows 8 After All

Microsoft responded to the reports of Windows 8 not being able to dual boot Linux because of the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface. (UEFI) Tony Mangefeste, senior program manager at Microsoft,  disproved the theory in a blog post last Thursday.

Mangefeste said that dual booting was possible in Windows 8 even with versions of Linux that don’t have trusted certificates. “You would need to turn off secure booting though.”

You can also disable secure booting in the Samsung tablets that Microsoft gave away at the BUILD conference, though that may not be the case with the final version.

Matthew Garret, the Red Hat developer who wrote the original blog post pointing out the whole Linux booting problem, said that Mangefeste’s blog post does not contradict his statement.

Garret said that, “Windows 8 certification does not require that the user be able to disable UEFI secure boot, and we’ve already been informed by hardware vendors that some hardware will not have this option.”

Because of the UEFI, Microsoft’s own Windows 7 apparently won’t be able to dual boot with Windows 8 either. So it’s not just Linux that’s being blocked from Windows 8 systems.

“If you are dual booting, it depends on whether you are booting into another trusted operating system,” Arie van der Hoeven, Microsoft principal lead program manager said after being asked Windows 8’s dual boot capability.

“One discussion we are having is…[with] this first firmware OK boot manager OK handshake, you can’t have a version of that that works with Windows 7. Windows 7 doesn’t have the ability to check firmware.

The firmware can check and make sure it is assigned a Windows 7 boot loader. Truly, right now today, if you want to have secure boot and you want to dual boot Windows 8 and Windows 7, you need to turn secure boot off in firmware.

We are thinking about having a way that you can go ahead and make that work, but that’s not POR [plan of record] today.”

Windows 8 can boot on machines with either BIOS of UEFI, as we already know from the developer previews, but Microsoft requires that manufacturers who want their systems to be officially certified by Microsoft to have secure boot enabled by default. Whether manufacturers allow users to disable security boot is completely up to them.

The reason Microsoft is being so pushy about the use of UEFI is simply because BIOS is outdated. BIOS systems have been around since the ’80s and only support 32-bit and 64-bit systems.

They also only support a maximum boot disk size of 2.2 terabytes which soon just won’t be enough storage for a lot of users, especially with 3D technology coming to computers. Microsoft wants computer manufacturers to move away from old technology in preparation for the near future.

So will Linux be able to dual-boot with Windows 8? Well it’s really up to the manufacturer. A lot of manufacturers in the beginning won’t bother editing the firmware, but as soon as users start complaining about not being able to dual-boot, certain manufacturers will add the feature and use it as an ad campaign.

Of course, even if the manufacturers don’t cooperate, the Linux community will probably find a way around it.

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  • aseries

    I started worked with EFI (now UEFI) back around 1998 with Intel Itanium powered mainframes that could run Windows, Linux or our proprietary legacy OS’s. UEFI is the key to a lot of things once, if ever, it gets used to anywhere near it’s full capabilities. With the coming advent of non-volatile processor main memory the 0 wait startup will lead directly to transparent switching between operating system images on the same machine…they will just be running in parallel. The Linux world apparently would rather avoid learning something new and just keep tweaking the next decimal point on their releases.