Windows 8 Secure Boot Won't Block Third-Party Operating Systems

By Wesley Fenlon

The Windows 8 UEFI Secure Boot system will only protect the Windows 8 boot process--it won't prevent other operating systems from being loaded on Windows 8 PCs.

Spiffy new BIOS-replacing UEFI offers significant benefits over the blue-and-gray keyboard-only interface of old. It's a more robust, easier-to-navigate interface thanks to the GUI and mouse support, but more importantly the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface will help with those 7-second Windows 8 boot times. When Microsoft started talking about the Secure Boot technology it built into Windows 8, some Linux users grew concerned that their OS would be locked out of OEM machines.

Thankfully, that's not the case: as Microsoft explained in its latest Building Windows 8 blog, Secure Boot is a feature of UEFI that Windows 8 will take advantage of to prevent malware--not other operating systems--from jumping into the boot process.

Microsoft laid out the major points of its Secure Boot system and how it works with the UEFI BIOS to improve OS security:

  • UEFI allows firmware to implement a security policy
  • Secure boot is a UEFI protocol not a Windows 8 feature
  • UEFI secure boot is part of Windows 8 secured boot architecture
  • Windows 8 utilizes secure boot to ensure that the pre-OS environment is secure
  • Secure boot doesn’t “lock out” operating system loaders, but is a policy that allows firmware to validate authenticity of components
  • OEMs have the ability to customize their firmware to meet the needs of their customers by customizing the level of certificate and policy management on their platform
  • Microsoft does not mandate or control the settings on PC firmware that control or enable secured boot from any operating system other than Windows

Microsoft's Windows Certification program with OEMs will ensure firmware doesn't have control over the Secure Boot process, making it impossible for malware to sneak into the process and disable security. Secure Boot is based on the Public Key Infrastructure used to certify firmware.

If you planned to dual boot Windows 8 with another OS, rest easy--Secure Boot won't interfere.

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