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  1. #1

    Win 8 (UEFI) computers

    Lots of folks coming here lately with issues on installing Linux on a Win 8 (UEFI) computer. In this post is some basic info about the differences between a W8 computer and a "legacy" computer.

    Hard drive: For many years hard drives used an MBR (msdos) type partition table. Think of the partition table as roughly equal to the table of contents for a book. W8 computers generally use a GPT partition table which is very different.

    The boot sequence on a computer will be different on a GPT disk than it is on an MBR disk as the tables are not the same. So, the disk structure on a W8 computer is different than a legacy computer. You can change the partition table from GPT to MBR by:

    Deleting all partitions and creating a new "msdos" partition table. NOTE: This will wipe your disk clean. Once the new table is created, you can partition the disk however you want to.

    Boot controller: Until W8, all Windows (DOS) computers used BIOS to control initial system level functions like configuration and booting. The new method is called UEFI and it is different. UEFI also includes what is called "secure boot" and this means in laymen's terms that a digital signature is required for the computer to boot. A few Linux distros are built to boot and install correctly with UEFI/secure boot but expect to have issues. Yes, folks have got it working but it's usually a complicated process and may require a lot of tweaking.

    NOTE: Shutting off secure boot will likely cause your W8 installation to quit working. Shutting off UEFI mode and selecting legacy mode may cause your W8 installation to quit working as well.

    You can turn your W8 machine into a legacy machine, what I call a BIOS box, by following these steps:

    Wipe all partitions off the hard drive and create a new msdos partition table. Then create any partitions you desire as you now have an MBR disk.

    Turn off secure boot, put UEFI in legacy mode, and disable fastboot if your system is so equipped.

    This is exactly what I did to my only W8 computer, an HP DV6 laptop, and it operates exactly the same as my legacy BIOS laptops. It has W7 and Lubuntu in a dual boot config and I've tried dozens of distros on it without issue. NOTE: I discarded Win 8 as it was not for me.

    NOTE: There are reports of some early UEFI Toshiba computers having issues where secure boot and legacy mode could not be changed - I haven't seen one but they supposedly exist.

    Final comment. If you want to keep Win 8 but still want to use or test Linux: pick up a spare hard drive. They're relatively cheap and it provides you the ability to just remove your Win 8 installation and put it away for posterity. You can then turn the computer into a BIOS box and do whatever you want to do. This is what I did initially with my laptop but a week or so later I just went ahead and wiped the drive and I now use it as a backup drive...
    Last edited by NGIB; 08-22-2014 at 11:52 AM.

  2. #2
    Linux Engineer TNFrank's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Avondale, AZ.
    Good post, thanks. Over a year and a half ago I had to buy a new computer when my iMac died. My wife and I got a Win8 laptop and within a week it was borked by a Trojan Horse virus. I tried to install Linux on it to no avail. For one I was a "noob" at using Linux and for two it was a UEFI system which makes it very hard to do much with. My solution to the "problem" was to return the computer for a full refund and buy a couple older machines that were the normal BIOS type of computer. I was able to install Linux with zero problems and I've been running Linux on older hardware every since.
    A question about Fastboot though, can't you still run your computer in Fastboot since all that does is skip some steps in POST so it'll boot faster? I'm running my older BIOS boxes in Fastboot mode so they boot quicker and it seems to be a non-issue with a BIOS computer. Is Fastboot only a "problem" with a UEFI machine? Thanks again.
    No matter where ya' go, there ya' are.

  3. #3
    I don't have an answer as I know each hardware vendor implements UEFI differently. Fastboot on a legacy computer may not be exactly the same on a UEFI computer even if it's called the same thing. To be safe, until you get a UEFI computer working as you want it I'd set up all choices to "plain vanilla". Once you get everything working, you can enable fastboot (if your settings has it) and see what happens. This was not meant to be a be all end all guide, merely a quick reference so folks with UEFI computers can quickly realize that they ARE different than legacy computers...

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  5. #4
    Linux Engineer TNFrank's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Avondale, AZ.
    I'm just happy that I don't have to deal with all that UEFI crap on my older laptops.
    No matter where ya' go, there ya' are.

  6. #5
    Newer machines do have benefits: faster processors and USB 3 & HDMI ports to name three.

    The main reason I created this thread is so folks will know they don't have to fear getting a new computer as you can make them work just like an older computer. You are not locked in to UEFI, secure boot or GPT disk structures and you can change them as you see fit...
    Last edited by NGIB; 08-22-2014 at 03:33 PM.

  7. #6
    Penguin of trust elija's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Either at home or at work or down the pub
    One thing to remember when installing Linux on an efi or uefi computer is the need for a small (about 500MB or so) partition formatted as FAT32 and mounted at /boot. FAT32. Yeah that's ^ real ^ secure!
    Should you be sitting wondering,
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    It's Adam Bloody West!

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  8. #7
    Linux Guru Jonathan183's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Quote Originally Posted by TNFrank View Post
    Is Fastboot only a "problem" with a UEFI machine?
    yes ... I'm sure I read somewhere it preloads things on the assumption you will load Windows 8. I have Linux working with uefi on a machine with Windows 8 but have not had time to sort out enabling secure boot - but I'm sure it can be done. I'm not really intending using Windows 8 ... I don't want a PC with a smart phone gui ...

    Ed: for secure boot see here
    and follow link on windows fast startup feature from here
    Last edited by Jonathan183; 08-23-2014 at 10:25 PM.

  9. #8
    Linux Enthusiast Steven_G's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Western US
    Quote Originally Posted by NGIB View Post
    ...NOTE: There are reports of some early UEFI Toshiba computers having issues where secure boot and legacy mode could not be changed - I haven't seen one but they supposedly exist...
    They do, we run in to them at work all the time. All of our client's users are required to run 8. But a lot want to keep 7 for the work they're doing and set up a dual boot 8 and use 8 to connect to the network with a shared data partition so they call for help. As a rule of thumb Toshiba's are turning in to a major PITA. We have a whole section on them in the TS DB and almost every article starts with a disclaimer that we have to read to the caller basically stating this probably won't work, may screw up your system and you really should be calling Toshiba instead of us.

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