Windows 8 PCs May Not Boot Other Operating Systems

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft is planning to introduce a rule by which most Windows 8 computers will be unable to run any other system. It should improve security, but could be bad news for users that prefer to have more than one operating system installed on their PCs.

The new rules will apply to computer manufacturers who want to use the official Windows 8 logo on the machine and in marketing. It's perfectly possible to sell legitimate Windows 8 computers without the logo, but the chances are most major manufacturers will follow the rules. (Source:

Operating System Guarded by Identification Key

Computers using the Windows 8 logo will be required to have a secured boot-up. That means there'll be an identification key on the operating system, and the firmware will only load a system with that key. The firmware is software that isn't part of the operating system, but rather directly controls the hardware.

The effect will be that the computer will only be able to load Windows, even if other systems are installed on the computer. The point of this measure is to prevent malicious software that is designed to run as the computer is booting up, before the operating system loads and runs. When that happens, malware can do damage before any Windows-based security software is able to spot it and block it.

This type of malware infection is often referred to as rootkit software, and it's incredibly difficult, if not impossible to remove.

Secure Boot Likely to Cause Headaches for Hardware, Software Vendors

The security measure may be a major problem for various reasons.

The most prominent is the case of users who want to run a "dual-boot" system, which lets them choose which operating system to run. Many users who have installed open source Linux-based systems will also run Windows as well, using it as a back-up or to run Windows-only software. It's also common for users to have a dual-boot setup when they are 'weaning' themselves off of Windows before fully committing to Linux (for example). (Source:

Another group potentially affected by the changes is those who run so-called Hackintoshes: PCs set-up to emulate Apple software. One reason for doing this is to get the look and feel of a Mac without having to pay for the expensive Mac hardware. Many Hackintosh users use their machines to dual-boot their systems into Windows.

There may also be problems for people who use back-up software that aims to copy an entire hard drive and boot directly from the copy if the original installation of Windows becomes corrupt through a virus.

It's also been suggested that a bootable firmware-only system will have issues with graphics card, network, and hard drive controller installations. (Source:

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