uefi booting boot camp (rebooted)

uefi booting boot camp (rebooted)
Upgrade your the way your system boots without installing a
distribution or resorting to Grub.
e’ve been using the BIOS for decades. It’s
as perennial as your keyboard and mouse,
breathing life into inert hardware when a
little electricity is applied. These days, the POST status
messages delivered after your BIOS initialises the
system race across the screen so quickly you seldom
get the chance to read the text, making entering
the BIOS itself a mad keyboard-bashing mini-game
that more often than not ends with Grub than the
configuration menus you’re after. Modern PCs aren’t
well suited to the old-school charm of the BIOS. They
don’t want to wait for permission, they don’t want lowres large white fonts on a blue background. They just
want to get on with the job at hand, and that’s booting
your computer.
And so the BIOS is being wheeled out, albeit slowly,
while its replacement makes itself comfortable.
Initially developed by Intel, the booting heir was called
the EFI – the Extensible Firmware Interface. But it’s
now better know as UEFI. The U is for unified, because
it’s not just Intel anymore. UEFI has been hanging over
the Linux boot system like the Sword of Damocles,
threatening to upend the booting status quo and
exclude us from installing our own operating systems,
thanks to the spectre of Secure Boot. Secure Boot is
a system that embeds a key without your firmware
so that only operating systems signed by the key
are allowed to boot. It’s primarily a way for Microsoft
– in part, legitimately – to ensure nothing has been
tampered with from the very first moment your PC
gets power to the moment you get to play with the
inspirational Windows 8.1 interface. But it could
also make life harder for when you do intentionally
want to tamper with your PC by making the choice
It doesn’t look much,
but this is the Refind
bootloader running from
our new EFI partition.
to install another operating system. In reality, the
Secure Boot cataclysm has yet to materialise, as
many PCs still include a traditional BIOS or allow
you to disable Secure Boot. The latter option should
always be available, and you’ll need to disable Secure
Boot unless you want to start dealing with signing a
bootloader shim.
Muddy waters
Another potentially confusing option is something
called the Compatibility Support Module. To the user,
this will appear as a hybrid between UEFI and the
BIOS, a magical panacea that seems to allow us to
forget about UEFI and BIOS completely. You’ll typically
see its effects from your computer’s own boot device
selection menu, usually the one you get when you
hold F12 after turning on your machine. What’s not
always made clear is that the mode you boot into
from this point will affect how your Linux distribution
installs itself, which in turn affects whether you’ll be
able to boot Linux from a UEFI boot. An installer won’t
install a UEFI bootloader, for instance, unless you boot
into UEFI mode. And if your install medium doesn’t
support a UEFI bootloader, you’re stuck.
But defaulting to a UEFI installation and forgetting
about the BIOS and the Compatibility Support Module
is beginning to make more sense. Modern laptops
are often pre-configured to boot UEFI, and there will
be a time when falling back to the BIOS won’t be an
option. But these days, there’s nothing to be scared
of, and in many ways, UEFI can make the whole
booting process more transparent. The bootloaders
may, at the moment, feel slightly more primitive that
their well worn BIOS equivalents, but to us the boot
process actually makes more sense than the black
arts involved in the old methods. If you’ve spent the
last decade thinking about booting in terms of MBR
bootloaders, Grub and old-style partitions, get ready to
update your notes.
We’re going to create our own UEFI boot
environment, and we’ll be doing this primarily from
the Mint Live desktop as found on last month’s DVD,
in much the same way you might fix a broken MBR
installation or reconfigure Grub. You can use any
similar distribution, however, as there’s nothing Mintspecific about our instructions. We’re also going to
use a 1GB USB stick to get around the limitation of
BIOS-only booting DVD drives, but we’ll only use this to
‘fix’ the installation, rather than initiate it.
The system we create won’t be perfect. It won’t
handle distribution updates to the kernel without a
little further tinkering, and you’ll need to make plenty
of considerations for your own hardware rather than
these instructions for ours. But you will learn how
UEFI works from a practical perspective, and learn
how to troubleshoot the future of Linux booting.
Depending on which boot
option you take, your
system will boot into either
UEFI or BIOS boot modes.
Look into the black box
The great thing about taking control of UEFI yourself
is that you don’t have the problem of which mode
your system has booted from – UEFI or BIOS, which
is especially useful if you’re booting off a DVD that can
only boot in the old BIOS mode. When you get one
distribution running , it’s easy to add more, and it can
also be the only way of running the latest Microsoft
Windows or even Apple’s OS X alongside.
Mint 16 and many other distributions have their
own preliminary support for UEFI bootloaders, as
long as you’ve booted into the correct boot mode,
but we’ve found its approach a little unpredictable,
along with many other distributions. We had similar
problems with Mageia, for example. Which is why
we want to roll our own – the intention being to
learn more about how it works and how you might
approach installation with a distribution that doesn’t
support UEFI. And the real trick isn’t installing the
distribution, it’s configuring your drive in such a way
that it works with UEFI. The most important part is
booting to a Live distribution,
But before we get to the booting part, we need to
start with partitioning. To boot UEFI, need to use a
different partitioning scheme. So you’ll need a spare
drive – or one you’re willing to sacrifice, as all the
data it contains will be removed in the process, and
you’ll need to be confident about your current drive
configuration. We’re going to be reformatting the drive
and you don’t want to overwrite or repartition personal
data in the process of experimentation, so it may even
be wise to disconnect any other drives. With all that in
mind, locate your nearest Linux live CD and USB stick
and boot your machine.
There’s nothing wrong with the command line,
but when it comes to partitioning drives, we like the
visual safety net provided by GParted. Fortunately, this
essential application is part of most live distributions,
You need to create a GPT partition table for UEFI booting.
and you’ll find it in Mint 16’s Administration menu. It’s
an application that hides a lot of power. In the top-right
you’ll find a drop-down list of all the drives detected
and connected to your system. When you select one
of these drives, the horizontal bar beneath the menu
will become populated with a graphical representation
of the partitions on that drive. Each partition is a selfcontained horizontal block and its border colour is
used to show the filesystem used for each partition.
Within each partition, a yellow bar is used to indicate
how much space is taken up by data, with white used
to indicate free space on the partition. This is handy if
you want to use free space to resize a partition.
Danger: partitioning!
Make sure you select the correct drive from the
drop-down list. If you’ve only got one drive installed,
this isn’t going to be a problem. If you’ve got five, you
need to be certain the drive you’re selecting is the one
you intend to partition for a UEFI bootloader, because
you’re going to remove all the data on the drive in the
process. Our drive, for example, already has a Linux
partition on it, but this is going to disappear in the very
next paragraph – you have been warned.
The old partitioning scheme used a table to store
the partition data, and this table was stored on the
Master Boot Record (MBR), a statically located 512
bytes allocated to explain the layout of a drive to
the BIOS. Nearly all Linux drives prior to UEFI used
MBR, and MBR can still be used in some cases with
UEFI. But it’s better to make clean break. The first
thing we need to do with our drive is create a new
partition table.
With your drive definitely selected, click on a
partition on the drive and select Device > Create
Partition Table from the menu. From the dialog that
appears, click on ‘Advanced’ and while avoiding the
temptation to click on ‘amiga’, select ‘gpt’ as the
partition type followed by Apply. All the data on that
drive is effectively dead to us now, and you’ll see there
are no partitions on your drive. Just the cold grey of
unallocated space.
If you’re installing Linux
alongside Windows, make
sure you disable Fast
Startup and Secure Boot.
new UEFI boot scheme to your system firmware so
that it knows there’s a new way to boot the system.
You will need to know where your distribution
is installed. The easiest way of doing this is from
GParted’s drop-down device menu, as you’ll be able to
see the device node (/dev/sda1, for instance) along
with the partition configuration and the UUID of the
device if you make a note of it.
To mount the partition, open a terminal and type
the following, replacing sda2 with the location of your
own distribution’s root partition:
It’s vital that the EFI
partition you create has
a partition type of EF00.
Either use cgdisk on the
command line or enable
the ‘boot’ flag for the
partition in GParted.
sudo -s
mount /dev/sda2 /mnt/
GParted can create an
incompatible EFI boot
partition. If this happens,
we’d recommend using
the command line tool
cgdisk to create a EF00
type partition formatted
with fat32.
We’re now going to create a couple of partitions to
fill the space, but the first is mandatory. This is the
EFI system partition, and it’s this that UEFI expects
to find on your drive and where it will eventually find
your UEFI bootloader. For that reason, it’s operating
system-agnostic, and needs to be formatted as FAT32
for maximum compatibility. It should also be a certain
size. The UEFI standard recommends this as 512MB,
although in execution we’ve found that 100MB
partitions work just as well. Eventually, you could
install Linux kernel images into this partition, so there’s
no harm in making it larger unless you’re working with
an expensive SSD. To create this partition, click on
the ‘plus’ icon in the toolbar, set its size to 512MB and
make sure it uses the FAT32 filesystem.
The next step is important. If you were doing this
from the command line, using a tool like gdisk, you’d
need to mark this partition as type EF00. This tells
UEFI that this is the system partition (also known as
the ESP – the EFI System Partition), and it’s the one
to use for booting. GParted doesn’t use hex codes,
but you still have to tell UEFI about the partition.
You do this by setting the ‘boot’ flag, which is a little
incongruous when you may be used to using a similar
flag in MBR systems to tell the BIOS which partition
to boot. Right-click on the freshly created partition
and select ‘Manage Flags’. From the list of flags that
appears, select ‘boot’, this should disable the default
‘msftdata’ flag as well as cause some drive activity.
With the EFI partition created, assigned a partition
type and formatted FAT32, we can now install the
bootloader. There are several that work with EFI – and
even Grub can be made to work with the new scheme,
although you don’t win any house points for simplicity
of you take that route. The two we tried for this tutorial
were Gummiboot and Refind. Both have a couple of
things in common. Firstly, their names are terrible. But
they’re both straightforward to install and use a simple
directory structure on your UEFI partition plus a
configuration file to hold information on the operating
systems you want to boot. We went with Refind.
We’ve now got to the point where we can install
the UEFI bootloader, and there are two stages to the
process. The first is to mount the distribution you
want to add, and to now make the boot folder the
UEFI partition we just created. The second is to move
all the files you need to the UEFI partition and add the
With an MBR installation, Grub uses the /boot
folder to not only hold its configuration files, but also
the kernel and filesystem image for booting. We need
both of these for UEFI and the UEFI partition needs
to replace /boot on the filesystem tree. Here’s the list
of commands we used to move the old boot aside,
mount the new one and copy the files we need over
(remember to replace filenames and devices with
ones that match your own system):
cd /mnt
mv boot boot_old
mkdir boot
mount /dev/sda1 /mnt/boot
mkdir boot/EFI
cp boot_old/vmlinuz-3.11.0-12-generic boot/vmlinuz
cp boot_old/initrd.img-3.11.0-12-generic boot//initrd.img
We now need to add the new UEFI partition as
a mount point, and to do this we need to add the
partition’s unique identifier (its UUID) to the etc/ftsab
configuration file. You can get the UUID from GParted
or by typing the following:
/dev/sda1: UUID=”BD8C-E7B3” TYPE=”vfat”
/dev/sda2: UUID=”0abcc4da-c2aa-437b” TYPE=”ext4”
We’ve shortened the output slightly, but you can see
the UUID for the UEFI ‘vfat’ partition on the first line.
This needs to be added as a new line in etc/fstab on
your distribution’s root partition by editing the file with
nano etc/fstab:
UUID=BD8C-E7B3 /boot/efi
Installing the bootloader
We can now install the bootloader itself. If we’d been
able to boot into the distribution using UEFI, we could
simply install this through a package manager and
everything else would be handled automatically. But
because our system is currently booted from BIOS
mode, we need to copy the files manually, edit a config
file and then add the bootloader to the UEFI firmware
by booting in UEFI mode off a USB stick.
Let’s first download the binary version of the Refind
bootloader (refind-bin-0.7.7.zip) plus the image of
the same bootloader (refind-flashdrive-0.7.7.zip)
we’re going to use to boot off the USB stick. Both
can be grabbed from www.rodsbooks.com/refind
via links to SourceForge. To install the bootloader, we
need to unzip it and copy the folder to the mounted
boot partition on our distribution:
cd ~/Download
unzip refind-bin-0.7.7.zip
cd refind-bin-0.7.7/
cp -r refind /mnt/boot/EFI/
cd /mnt/boot/EFI/refind
From here you need to remove either the 32-bit
or the 64-bit bootloader, depending on what your
system is capable of, with rm refind_ia32.efi or rm
refind_x64.efi, and edit the configuration file (nano
refind.conf) to add the details about the partition that
contains the distribution you want to boot. Here’s the
contents if ours for booting Mint 16 – you should take
a look at your boot options first, to make sure you get
any kernel options specific to your system:
resolution 1024 768
menuentry “Mint Linux” {
loader vmlinuz
initrd initrd.img
options “root=/dev/sda2 rw rootfstype=ext4
Our final challenge is to tell the UEFI firmware that
we’ve created a new EFI partition and bootloader. Had
we been able to boot into the live desktop through
UEFI, the firmware variables would be mounted
as part of the system, and we’d be able to add the
bootloader by typing:
sudo apt-get install efibootmgr
efibootmgr -c -l \\EFI\\refind\\refind_x64.efi -L new_refind
But we can’t. Instead, one solution is to create a
USB stick with the Refind bootloaders installed, and
from there, use the EFI shell to add the bootloader
manually. This isn’t really what we’d recommend.
You’re better off installing Mint through a UEFIbooted USB live image, but the EFI shell is much
more interesting and can be a very powerful tool if
your system doesn’t boot. Plug in your USB stick and
use either GParted or dmesg to find for certain what
its device node is and type the following from the
unzipped folder of the Refind flash image:
dd if=refind-flashdrive-0.7.7.img of=/dev/sde
Remember to replace /dev/sde with the location of
your own USB drive and also remember that this will
With Refind added to the system firmware, our boot entry
should appear from the system (press F12) boot menu.
delete all data at that location, so get it right and make
sure there’s nothing on there you want to keep. You
can now reboot your system and launch your BIOS/
system boot menu. You should see the USB stick
appear as a UEFI boot source. Select this and from
the graphical boot menu that appears, choose the first
option, which should take you to the EFI shell.
With Refind copied to a
USB stick, you will be able
to boot into UEFI mode and
select the EFI shell.
Welcome to your new shell
The EFI shell is full of commands for adding, removing
and managing storage from the EFI bootloader.
Before you get to the prompt itself, you’ll see how
EFI is interpreting your various filesystems and the
aliases it’s giving them. For us, fs0: was the USB drive
and fs1: was the EFI partition we just created on the
hard drive, but these assignments will depend on your
own system. From the command prompt, type fs1:
to switch to the root folder of our new EFI partition.
The EFI shell is crammed full of commands to help
you manage storage and booting. Type help if you
want to see what it’s capable of – you can use ls,
cp and rm, for example. But we’re only going to use
one command to add our bootloader to the system
firmware. We’re assuming you don’t have any other
EFI boot loaders installed, because using one of them
would have been a much easier solution for all of this,
but you can check by typing bcfg boot dump -b. If
you do have another installed, you’ll need to adjust the
number 1 to a free slot in the command below, which
is going to add the new bootloader to the firmware:
bcfg boot add 1 fs1:\EFI\refind\refind_x64.efi “LV_Refind”
**bcfg instructions output
Target = 0001.
bcfg: Add Boot0001 as 1
And that ’s all there is too it. It’s been a challenge,
but when you now reboot your machine (type reset
from the EFI shell), you’ll see LV_Refind as a new EFI
boot option. Hopefully, you’ve learnt how UEFI works
and how it’s implemented, and also how you might be
able to troubleshoot UEFI problems in the future.
Adding new distributions, for instance, is now a
case of copying their kernel and filesystem images
to the partition and adding a new configuration entry.
You might also want to look into making symbolic
links for these files for when your distribution updates
itself. Other than that, you’re ready to go.
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