FSF Criticizes Microsoft For Secure Boot Feature

Martin Brinkmann
Oct 20, 2011
Updated • Jun 25, 2018
Windows, Windows 8
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18

Hardware manufacturers that want to ship Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 operating system with manufactured PCs need to implement the Secure Boot feature that is part of the UEFI specification according to Microsoft.

The feature determines which code or programs can be started during boot. The core intention here is to prevent malware and other unauthorized code from being executed when the computer boots (see Windows 8, Boot Security And Third Party Operating Systems for details).

While that looks like a good security feature it also means that the feature will block other unauthorized operating systems from being started on the system.

The main problem that the Free Software Foundation (FSF) sees is that Microsoft is giving manufacturers the power to decide how to implement the feature. This means in particular that hardware vendors could implement the feature in a way that users could not install any other operating system on the PC.

In other words: manufacturers may lock down the device so that it runs only Windows and no other operating system as standalone or multi-boot.

Matthew Garrett points out that Windows 8 certification requires that hardware ship with UEFI boot enabled, that it does not request that manufacturers give users options to disable the feature (which can be done) and that certification does not require that the PCs ship with any keys other than that for Windows. Keys determine which systems can be installed and run.

According to Matthew, some hardware vendors have already confirmed their intention that they wont give users the option to disable UEFI secure boot.

This means that users may no longer be in control of the computer, and that the hardware manufacturers and Microsoft are.

What does this mean for the end user? Microsoft claim that the customer is in control of their PC. That's true, if by "customer" they mean "hardware manufacturer". The end user is not guaranteed the ability to install extra signing keys in order to securely boot the operating system of their choice. The end user is not guaranteed the ability to disable this functionality. The end user is not guaranteed that their system will include the signing keys that would be required for them to swap their graphics card for one from another vendor, or replace their network card and still be able to netboot, or install a newer SATA controller and have it recognise their hard drive in the firmware. The end user is no longer in control of their PC.

Even worse, it could furthermore mean that hardware that would otherwise be compatible with the PC won't function because of missing signing keys. This could mean that users will be unable to swap graphics cards, network cards or other peripherals.

One could now say that users have to just buy from the right vendor to avoid this if they want to install other operating systems on their PC. The issue here is that this would require extensive research on part of the user. They first would need to be aware of the limitations of Secure Boot and they would then need to research how particular PC vendors have implemented the feature and whether the devices they are interested in have the feature locked or not: this is far from practicable.

The only sure way out is to build your own PCs or convince Microsoft and hardware vendors to give users control over the feature. The FSF is asking users to sign a statement to "urge all computer makers implementing UEFI's so-called "Secure Boot" to do it in a way that allows free software operating systems to be installed".

Summary
Article Name
FSF Criticizes Microsoft For Secure Boot Feature
Description
Hardware manufacturers that want to ship Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 operating system with manufactured PCs need to implement the Secure Boot feature that is part of the UEFI specification according to Microsoft.
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Ghacks Technology News
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Comments

  1. Dan Donx said on January 15, 2023 at 10:29 am
    Reply

    What mental age of reader are you targeting with the first sentence? 10?

    Why not write an article on how to *avoid* upgrading from W10 to W11. Analogous to those like me who avoided upgrading from 7 to 10 for as long as possible.

    If your paymaster Microsoft permits it, of course.

  2. Dexter said on January 15, 2023 at 11:14 am
    Reply

    5. Rufus
    6. Ventoy

    PS. I hate reading these “SEO optimized” articles.

    1. cdr said on January 15, 2023 at 3:32 pm
      Reply

      I used Rufus to create an installer for a 6th gen intel i5 that had MBR. It upgraded using Setup. No issues except for Win 11 always prompting me to replace my local account. Still using Win 10 Pro on all my other PCs to avoid the bullying.

  3. sv said on January 15, 2023 at 6:40 pm
    Reply

    bit pointless to upgrade for the sake of upgrading as you never know when you’ll get locked out because ms might suddenly not provide updates to unsupported systems.

    ps…. time travelling?
    written. Jan 15, 2023
    Updated • Jan 13, 2023

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 16, 2023 at 5:49 am
      Reply

      This happens when you schedule a post in WordPress and update it before setting the publication date.

  4. Anonymous said on January 16, 2023 at 8:24 am
    Reply

    Anyone willing to downgrade to this awful OS must like inflicting themselves with harm.

  5. basingstoke said on January 16, 2023 at 11:18 am
    Reply

    I have become convinced now that anybody who has no qualms with using Windows 11/10 must fit into one of the following brackets:

    1) Too young to remember a time before W10 and W11 (doesn’t know better)

    2) Wants to play the latest games on their PC above anything else (or deeply needs some software which already dropped W7 support)

    3) Doesn’t know too much about how computers work, worried that they’d be absolutely lost and in trouble without the “”latest security””

    4) Microsoft apologist that tries to justify that the latest “features” and “changes” are actually a good thing, that improve Windows

    5) Uses their computer to do a bare minimum of like 3 different things, browse web, check emails, etc, so really doesn’t fuss

    Obviously that doesn’t cover everyone, there’s also the category that:

    6) Actually liked W7 more than 10, and held out as long as possible before switching, begrudgingly uses 10 now

    Have I missed any group off this list?

    1. Heinz Strunk said on September 19, 2023 at 3:57 pm
      Reply

      You have missed in this group just about any professional user that uses business software like CAD programs or ERP Programs which are 99% of all professional users from this list.

      Linux doesn’t help anyone who is not a linux kid and apple is just a fancy facebook machine.

  6. ilev said on August 24, 2023 at 7:34 pm
    Reply

    Microsoft has removed KB5029351 update

    1. EP said on August 24, 2023 at 9:21 pm
      Reply

      only from windows update though
      KB5029351 is still available from the ms update catalog site

  7. Anonymous said on August 24, 2023 at 11:05 pm
    Reply

    1. This update is labaled as PREVIEW if it causes issues to unintelligent people, then they shouldn’t have allowed Preview updates ot install.

    2. I have installed it in a 11 years old computer, and no problems at all.

    3. Making a big drama over a bluescreen for an updated labeled as preview is ridiculous.

    This is probably another BS internet drama where people ran programs and scripts that modified the registry until they broke Windows, just for removing stuff that they weren’t even using just for the sake of it.
    Maybe people should stop playing geeks and actually either use Windows 10 or Windows 11, but don’t try to modify things just for the sake of it.

    Sometimes removing or stopping things (like defender is a perfect example) only need intelligence, not scripts or 3rd party programs that might mess with windows.

  8. john said on August 24, 2023 at 11:17 pm
    Reply

    Windows 11 was a pointless release, it was just created because some of the Windows team wanted to boost sales with some sort of new and improved Windows 10. Instead, Microsoft cannot support one version well let alone two.

    1. John G. said on August 25, 2023 at 12:08 pm
      Reply

      Windows 11 is the worst ugly shame by Microsoft ever. They should release with every new W11 version a complete free version of Starallback inside just to make this sh** OS functionally again.

  9. EP said on August 25, 2023 at 3:10 pm
    Reply

    motherboard maker MSI has recently released a statement regarding the “unsupported processor” blue screen error for their boards using Intel 600/700 series chipsets & to avoid the KB5029351 Win11 update:
    https://www.msi.com/news/detail/MSI-On–UNSUPPORTED-PROCESSOR–Error-Message-of-Windows-11-Update-KB5029351-Preview-142215

  10. EP said on August 29, 2023 at 7:32 pm
    Reply

    check out the following recent articles:

    Neowin – Microsoft puts little blame on its Windows update after UNSUPPORTED PROCESSOR BSOD bug:
    https://www.neowin.net/news/microsoft-puts-little-blame-on-its-windows-update-after-unsupported-processor-bsod-bug/

    BleepingComputer – Microsoft blames ‘unsupported processor’ blue screens on OEM vendors:
    https://www.bleepingcomputer.com/news/microsoft/microsoft-blames-unsupported-processor-blue-screens-on-oem-vendors/

  11. Leonard Britvolli said on August 30, 2023 at 10:33 pm
    Reply

    While there may be changes or updates to the Windows 10 Store for Business and Education in the future, it is premature to conclude that it will be discontinued based solely on rumors.

  12. sembrador said on September 5, 2023 at 9:32 pm
    Reply

    My advice, I left win 15 years ago. Now I’m a happy linux user (linuxmint) but there is Centos, Fedora, Ubuntu depending on your needs.

  13. EP said on September 6, 2023 at 11:55 am
    Reply

    motherboard maker MSI has recently released new BIOS/firmware updates for their Intel 600 & 700 series motherboards to fix the “UNSUPPORTED_PROCESSOR” problem (Sept. 6):

    https://www.msi.com/news/detail/Updated-BIOS-fixes-Error-Message–UNSUPPORTED-PROCESSOR–caused-BSOD-on-MSI-s-Intel-700-and-600-Series-Motherboards-142277

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