Windows 8: How to Use Linux on a Windows 8 PC

Dennis Faas's picture

Here's a question of increasing importance that recently came to us from a loyal reader in California:

"Dear Infopackets,

I really appreciate the helpful Windows 8 tips I've been getting from you. But there's one issue I am struggling with: Linux, and specifically installing it on my Windows 8 computer.

I haven't been able to get Linux to install properly, and I really don't know why. One of my techie friends told me it has to do with a new Secure Boot feature in Windows 8.

Is this true?

I am really frustrated by this and would appreciate your telling me how to by-pass the problem, if possible.

Thanks in advance,

Chad H."

My Response:

Hi Chad,

Your problem is actually related to Microsoft's shift in Windows 8 away from BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) to a UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) system.

Windows 8 and the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface

UEFI is a miniature, lightweight operating system that a computer loads at boot time. Like any other operating system, it has access to all the computer's on-board hardware.

One of the most prolific features of the UEFI specification is Secure Boot. This feature relies on a public-key encryption infrastructure to verify the validity of the operating system -- before it boots -- and so to prevent unauthorized programs from infecting a machine.

With Secure Boot, a chip on the motherboard stores cryptographic hashes (or keys) of important Windows 8 operating system files and drives. During the boot up process, the computer automatically checks these resources.

If any of their hashes have changed, the files and drives are assumed to be infected and the entire boot-up process stops. (Source:

This is great for computer security. But a change for any reason, including a normal Linux installation, stops subsequent Windows 8 boot processes.

Fortunately, there are some ways to get around the Secure Boot "security" measures.

How to Bypass Secure Boot

The most direct solution would be to completely disable Secure Boot. However, most ARM-powered Windows RT devices do not even offer this option. If you did disable Secure Boot, though, the computer would be left vulnerable to attack.

Fortunately, a better work-around is now available, because Linux developer Matthew Garrett has gotten Microsoft to authorize a pre-bootloader called Shim.

Shim contains its own database of legal hash codes, in addition to the normal UEFI specification key database. The Shim bootloader is also able to enrol new keys off a Linux distribution file system.

Shim is said to work for SUSE, Fedora, Ubuntu, and other Linux distributions. (Source:

So now to answer your question: yes, you can install Linux on your Windows 8 machine (with a little extra work, of course). You just have to utilize Shim.

To learn more about and to download Shim, click here.

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