Will Windows 8 ARM block Linux from booting?

Could Microsoft block dual booting of another operating system such as Linux in its ARM version of Windows 8? That's the conclusion from Computerworld.uk.com which discovered a provision in Microsoft's Windows Hardware Certification Requirements, which were first posted in December.

The story gives its attention to page 116 of Microsoft's document which states:

MANDATORY: Enable/Disable Secure Boot. On non-ARM systems, it is required to implement the ability to disable Secure Boot via firmware setup. A physically present user must be allowed to disable Secure Boot via firmware setup without possession of Pkpriv. Programmatic disabling of Secure Boot either during Boot Services or after exiting EFI Boot Services MUST NOT be possible. Disabling Secure MUST NOT be possible on ARM systems.

This would seem to indicated that Microsoft is not allowing Secure Boot to be disabled on ARM-based Windows 8 hardware. There's no indication as to why Microsoft would make this kind of exception.

Back in September an employee at Red Hat expressed some concerns that Microsoft would not allow Linux to be dual booted on a Windows 8 PC. Microsoft later said that such a move would in fact be possible but that it would be up to the hardware manufacturer to allow users to disable secure boot on their devices.

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41 Comments

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First off, on the Windows 8 tablets that will use ARm, won't those just being using the Metro UI only?

And if so, I don't see how this is different from any Android/iOS tablet. You can't dualboot anything on those either.

If you want to dual-boot something, that is what the x86 tablets are for

Interesting, they are going to try making secureboot mandatory somehow, for example windows not booting if its not active. Sure you can dual boot, but you have to access the BIOS every time you need to switch

Can I install Android or Windows to an iPad? No? Ok, no biggie.

Can I install Windows or iOS to Android devices? No? Ok, no biggie.

Can I install Linux, iOS, or Android to Windows 8 tablets? No? OMGWTFBBQ! MICROSOFT IS EVIL! ANTI-COMPETITIVE! #Whatevs

Doesn't windows 7 and up allow for butting from a vhd file from the hard drive? Just set up the Linux portion in a virtual machine, boot from the VHd then adjust the hardware to support real devices instead of virtual.

Einlander said,
Doesn't windows 7 and up allow for butting from a vhd file from the hard drive? Just set up the Linux portion in a virtual machine, boot from the VHd then adjust the hardware to support real devices instead of virtual.

Windows 7 Enterprise. You would be asking people to pay a tax. Also VHD are not 100% as fast even with bare metal and generally have issues with certain features like hibernate.

1) People will find a way around it, they always do.

2) It is probably there so Microsoft can sell the ARM licenses for next to nothing, as they can get the money back in Windows Market sales, which also helps developers.

So, at the end of the day, not a big issue even for Linux users.

PS When Windows 8 comes out, if anyone can get Linux running as fast as Windows 8 on the same hardware, they would be crowned king of reality. Linux is easily portable, not performance optimized for portability without a lot of rewritting. Windows NT is both, which the WinCE model also uses, an why WinCE WP7 device can in 'GPU/CPU' tests, beyond just usability tests, still smoke most Android devices and all iPhones.

No one is crying about what they can or cannot boot. They are only asking a question. The only people crying are the people talking about crying. Except for me. I am only stating the fact.

Any Linux hobbyists would not have a Windows 8 ARM tablet to begin with, this is a non issue. Poor Linux hobbyists, so unFREE!!!!

KingCrimson said,
Any Linux hobbyists would not have a Windows 8 ARM tablet to begin with, this is a non issue. Poor Linux hobbyists, so unFREE!!!!

but but but the windows tablets have betterz hardwarez! unfare!!!!!!!1!!!11111!!!!!11!!!1!1

high end computer users aside, who would dual boot on a tablet anyways? The average user won't even know you could potentially change the OS, or even care for that matter, they'd buy the tablet that had the OS they wanted and stick with it generally, its only that 1/10th of a percent of users that want this, mainly us types here on this site

neufuse said,
high end computer users aside, who would dual boot on a tablet anyways? The average user won't even know you could potentially change the OS, or even care for that matter, they'd buy the tablet that had the OS they wanted and stick with it generally, its only that 1/10th of a percent of users that want this, mainly us types here on this site

Can I dual-boot an iPad with Windows 7?

Anthonyd said,

With crappy apple hardware & drivers? No it wouldn't.

I just said it would be interesting, didn't say it would be usable

neufuse said,

I just said it would be interesting, didn't say it would be usable

After "upgrading" to ios5 my iPad can hardly be classed as usable

(sorry, I know that wasn't relevant, but the damn thing crashes every 5 mins and I need to vent!!!)

Pygmy_Hippo said,

After "upgrading" to ios5 my iPad can hardly be classed as usable

(sorry, I know that wasn't relevant, but the damn thing crashes every 5 mins and I need to vent!!!)

But... "Magical" crashes, right? And when your face turns red, you look like a glittering pink unicorn?

iOS is better than Android, but wow, Apple has not created a future path for the platform and development. They can't even jump resolution hurdles, which is why the iPad 3 won't get a higher resolution display as it would break too many Apps and increase power consumption with the GPU scaling everything in the composer.

thenetavenger said,

But... "Magical" crashes, right? And when your face turns red, you look like a glittering pink unicorn?

Lol - Have you been hacking into my webcam? D

I'd just like my iPad (or any subsequent tablet I purchase) to load a program and have it stay working without it quitting the second I use it. I'd been led to believe that crashing was only something you'd see on Microsoft products, but I never had this problem with Windows ME or Vista

Pygmy_Hippo said,

Lol - Have you been hacking into my webcam? D

I'd just like my iPad (or any subsequent tablet I purchase) to load a program and have it stay working without it quitting the second I use it. I'd been led to believe that crashing was only something you'd see on Microsoft products, but I never had this problem with Windows ME or Vista

There is an iPad for that... it is the iPad 2!

LOL@ all the crybabies commenting on the original article. As if there is some other tablet platform out there that easily lets you install a completely different operating system.

Can't install Android on an iPad? Okay...

Can't install anything without a Linux kernel on an Android device? Okay...

Can't install Linux on a Windows tablet? HOLYMOTHEROFGODWTFTHOSEBASTARDSWHYDOTHEYHATECOMPETITION

Joshie said,
LOL@ all the crybabies commenting on the original article. As if there is some other tablet platform out there that easily lets you install a completely different operating system.

Can't install Android on an iPad? Okay...

Can't install anything without a Linux kernel on an Android device? Okay...

Can't install Linux on a Windows tablet? HOLYMOTHEROFGODWTFTHOSEBASTARDSWHYDOTHEYHATECOMPETITION

I think this is more of a shock due to the fact that Windows has always been on relatively "open" hardware. Phones aside, there isn't a Windows machine out there that you can't install something else on.

Joshie said,
LOL@ all the crybabies commenting on the original article. As if there is some other tablet platform out there that easily lets you install a completely different operating system.

Can't install Android on an iPad? Okay...

Can't install anything without a Linux kernel on an Android device? Okay...

Can't install Linux on a Windows tablet? HOLYMOTHEROFGODWTFTHOSEBASTARDSWHYDOTHEYHATECOMPETITION

STOP MAKING SENSE! MICROSOFT IS EVIL AND THAT'S THAT.

fsX said,

STOP MAKING SENSE! MICROSOFT IS EVIL AND THAT'S THAT.

Providing the manufacturers provide a facility for doing so, Win8 will be perfectly installable on an Android tablet. Google makes no rules about locking down the device, and given that most manufacturers provide a facility for rooting and installing your own Android ROMs, they don't seem to have much intention of doing so. If you want Windows on an Android tablet, and Windows has the appropriate drivers, and the manufacturer enables it, feel free to do it!

Microsoft, on the other hand, and according to this document are FORCING the manufacturers to lock down their devices to prevent the install of other operating systems. See the difference?

Joshie said,
LOL@ all the crybabies commenting on the original article. As if there is some other tablet platform out there that easily lets you install a completely different operating system.

Can't install Android on an iPad? Okay...

Can't install anything without a Linux kernel on an Android device? Okay...

Can't install Linux on a Windows tablet? HOLYMOTHEROFGODWTFTHOSEBASTARDSWHYDOTHEYHATECOMPETITION

Actually you can run Android on some Windows Phone based phones. I know the HTC HD2 can boot Windows 6.5, Android (up to Ice Cream Sandwich), and Windows Phone 7.

lunarworks said,

I think this is more of a shock due to the fact that Windows has always been on relatively "open" hardware. Phones aside, there isn't a Windows machine out there that you can't install something else on.

Two things come to mind...

1) OEM and MRF involvement with this provision. Let's say amazon moved from Kindle Fire on Android to Kindle SuperNova on Windows 8. They wouldn't want the hardware to get jacked easily, as it is a lost leader for them.

2) There may also be a significantly reduced licensing fee on ARM versions of Windows 8, to make it cheap enough for OEM to use easily on sub $200 tablets, and thus let Microsoft recoop the loss of the licensing through the Windows Market on the device by users buying Apps.

3) #2 seems more likely, as it helps to guarantee developers a 'cut' of a larger market, thus expanding the ecosystem for developers as well.

Joshie said,
LOL@ all the crybabies commenting on the original article. As if there is some other tablet platform out there that easily lets you install a completely different operating system.

Can't install Android on an iPad? Okay...

Can't install anything without a Linux kernel on an Android device? Okay...

Can't install Linux on a Windows tablet? HOLYMOTHEROFGODWTFTHOSEBASTARDSWHYDOTHEYHATECOMPETITION

You forgot to talk about all Linux users being evil communists.

Enron said,
Can I boot Windows on the Android tablet?

I believe all tablets are ARM. So when the Windows ARM version comes out, I'd imagine so? I have a tablet I'd love to put it on myself.

jedilord said,

I believe all tablets are ARM. So when the Windows ARM version comes out, I'd imagine so? I have a tablet I'd love to put it on myself.

Big problem: Windows 8 is closed source, so it's 99% unlikely we'll see our Android tablets boot Windows 8. It's wishful thinking.

Enron said,
Can I boot Windows on the Android tablet?

Providing that the bootloader is capable, and Windows has the necessary drivers, I can't see why not. Android doesn't lock anything down, except for the OS itself, so assuming you can run the Windows installer from the Bootloader, it wouldn't be a problem for a capable tablet/smartphone. Whether or not the manufacturer makes this possible is another question entirely however...

I do not see why not if the hardware is comparable to an existing windows device but it all depends on the drivers. I am not sure how flavors of hardware is going to be out there and how Microsoft is going to handle the drivers. Right now Windows has a basic set or almost any driver you would need in the install disc. All other drivers are installed once Windows is installed. Windows install asks if you have any drivers during setup but I think its only for raid controllers and things like that.

So if there are no drivers in the Windows 8 disc for your hardware and they do not give you an option to load drivers during setup then it will be impossible.

Tony. said,

Big problem: Windows 8 is closed source, so it's 99% unlikely we'll see our Android tablets boot Windows 8. It's wishful thinking.

Being closed source has what to do with it?

I swear the kiddies today need easy to read 'code' or it is impossible. How about just modifying the machine code in the binaries like a real old school programmer? Seriously, even the NT kernel itself is very readable if you know more than how to read only higher level languages. Why do you think there are tons of 'unsanctioned' Windows mods that change binary code, do you think the people that created these just 'guessed' which bits to flip and how the code works?

Besides, if Windows 8 has a good ARM HAL, the only problem from running on devices would be Windows 8 specific drivers. (And again, the people capable of reading machine code, could modify the HAL rather easily if needed.)

I think this is more of a non-issue. Most variants of Linux should be able to boot through secure boot anyway. This is more concerning to those using more obscure Linux variants or custom variants.

thealexweb said,
I heard Ubuntu were working on adding ARM support, guess this has thrown a spanner in the works

I thought Ubuntu ARM already existed?

MASTER260 said,

I thought Ubuntu ARM already existed?

I heard about the project a while ago but never saw anything more about it, maybe it does for all I know xD

thealexweb said,

I heard about the project a while ago but never saw anything more about it, maybe it does for all I know xD

As much as I dislike ubuntu, them getting a stable world-wide release of an ARM distribution out would actually be magnificent, the knock-on effect of ubuntu is that a hell of a lot more *nix stuff was made, developed and whatnot, and anything that increases it again is brilliant in my books.