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Want to Run Linux on Your Microsoft Surface? Good Luck!

Posted on December 31, 2012 10:10 AM by Rob Williams
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Microsoft’s Surface tablet is an interesting specimen for a couple of reasons, but one of the biggest is that it’s a tablet that features a desktop OS (although the RT edition is very scaled-down). Because of this, some had hoped that installing another OS on it would be fairly simple. After all, we’re all familiar with Windows’ boot-loaders at this point. As it turns out, however, accomplishing this is easier said than done. The reason? You guessed it: SecureBoot.

Microsoft_Surface_Pro

This is the UEFI feature that has had many Linux users worried over the past year, and one of its biggest repercussions it can enable is seen right here. Microsoft employs a specific key on the Surface that handshakes with whatever OS is installed so that it’ll boot. No OS except Windows 8/RT is going to be able to successfully acknowledge this key, which means Linux or any other OS is a no-go.

Overall, few tablets on the market are any different in regards to allowing an alternate OS to be installed easily, but the problem here is that SecureBoot really complicates things. To many (myself included), it’s a technology that shouldn’t even exist. It’s actually quite unfortunate, because Surface tablets are not exactly cheap, and it would have been cool to be able to dual-boot both Windows and another OS, especially with more tablet-focused Linux distros en route.

It’s not as though the market for those wanting Surface to install alternate OSes is great, but this is without question an unfortunate implementation on Microsoft’s part.


  • RainMotorsports

    Well we knew from the get go that Microsoft wanted locked bootloaders on the tablets. Similar in manner to phones. Its their loss in sales of the device to those who are interested. There will be a few people to find out late but for the most part you should obviously do your research before buying this kind of product.

  • http://twitter.com/madstork91 Stetson

    I fear for the future of the PC. I have said it before, but I will say it here:
    Soon, MS will try to implement something to lock people into their OS for the foreseeable future. I know not what it is, but it is coming.

    • RainMotorsports

      The Surface RT is not a PC. So worry not. Windows is already ruined and most users find themselves either locked to Windows 7 or Windows period for one reason or another.

      • http://twitter.com/madstork91 Stetson

        A Steam employee has let it slip that their pre-built PC will run Linux.

        That company is really doubling down on that.

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