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Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Windows 8 To ARM Tablets: No Disabling Secure Boot For You!

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Way back in September, a tech geek brouhaha flared up when Linux fans pointed out that if Microsoft required Windows 8 to ship with UEFI Secure Boot enabled, that could mean Linux distros might not be able to run on the hardware. Don’t worry, Microsoft said at the time; OEMs had the option to include an option that disabled Secure Boot. Things calmed down after that, but now, the debate has resurfaced: new guidelines require x86-based Windows 8 systems to include the ability to disable Secure Boot, but ARM-based systems specifically CANNOT be able to turn Secure Boot off.
Remember that back in September, Microsoft said that it “Does not mandate or control the settings on PC firmware that control or enable secured boot from any operating system other than Windows.” Apparently, Microsoft falls into the “Tablets aren’t PCs” camp, because Computerworld UK’s Glyn Moody found the following tidbit buried deep in the latest Windows 8 hardware requirements:
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.
It's great that the ability to disable Secure Boot is being required for PCs, but if you want to dual-boot Android and Windows 8 on a tablet, it looks like you’ll want to skip an ARM-powered device. Now, to be fair, a lot of tablets have locked bootloaders and won’t let users play around with the OS. Is Microsoft wrong to lock down ARM tablets? Why do you think they’ve targeted ARM tablets specifically

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