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Is Microsoft blocking the installation of Ubuntu and other Linux distributions?

alternative_beSep 21, 2016, 11:23:10 AM

Ubuntu versus Windows

Ever since I bought my ‘new’ computer in June 2015, I swore to myself that I would install Ubuntu on it, as soon as I would myself see fit to do so. Do not get me wrong. I just love that computer, but it came with Windows 8.1 pre-installed. The tiles, to say the least, just drove me mad, and the fact that Windows prompted me to use my ‘pre-historic’ and hardly ever used hotmail account in order to get started, drove me warier and warier. Luckily, I was able to bypass this requirement. However, after a few months, Windows started bugging me to switch to Windows 10. This is something that I did not want and will never do. I do care about my privacy. Though I most probably am a person who has nothing to hide, the way Windows 10 kept being promoted by endless popups, made me feel uneasy. I installed Never10.exe on my PC, but the more I thought about things, the more I wanted to leave Microsoft Windows altogether. I seriously began considering Ubuntu as an alternative.

Installing and working with Ubuntu 16.04

A few months ago, (on July 1, 2016) I finally decided to cut the knot in order to go ahead and try out Ubuntu. To be on the safe side, I installed Ubuntu 16.04 on a second hand PC that I bought at a thrift shop. For those wary of Linux distributions: I had no trouble at all installing Ubuntu 16.04 and furthermore, anything that I used to do on my Windows computer, I am also able to do using Ubuntu. All installed programs work fine. Now that we are almost 3 months later, I am convinced. Ubuntu is a fully operational OS that is a worthy alternative for Windows. It allows you to do whatever you would want to do on a computer; the interface is much more user friendly and  moreover, your desktop will look a lot less messy than when using Windows 8.1 or Windows 10. In short, yes, I would recommend Ubuntu to anyone. You no longer need to be a complete nerd to be able to use it. In fact, it feels a bit like using apps on your PC instead of on your tablet. Of course, for me the main reason for switching to Ubuntu was the enhanced privacy and the ability to be in control of what gets installed on my PC. So why have I been feeling concerned over the last few weeks?

Windows blocking Linux distributions?

Last month, August 2016, I received a mail from a friend. He brought the Windows Security Update for Secure Boot (3177404) to my attention. Microsoft summarized this update from July 10, 2016 as follows: “This security update resolves a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows. The vulnerability could allow Secure Boot security features to be bypassed if an attacker installs an affected policy on a target device. An attacker must have either administrative privileges or physical access to install a policy and bypass Secure Boot.This security update is rated Important for all supported editions of Windows 8.1, Windows RT 8.1, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2, and Windows 10. For more information, see the Affected Software and Vulnerability Severity Ratings section.The security update addresses the vulnerability by blacklisting affected policies. For more information about the vulnerabilities see the Vulnerability Information section.”

What is meant by this so called vulnerability?

In a Dutch language article in LinuxMag it was stated that the Windows Security Update for Secure Boot (3177404) blocks the installation of Linux distributions on RT Tablets. (For those wondering: Ubuntu is a Linux distribution) So, using my deductive mind here, I concluded after reading the article that the ability to overrule Secure Boot in order to install Linux distributions was seen as a vulnerability by Microsoft. At first, I did not feel too concerned, because I want to install Ubuntu on my main computer, and of course, that is a desktop pc and not an RT Tablet. However, according to the article, the said vulnerability in Windows Secure Boot is what enables users to install Linux on their RT Tablets. When exploring things a little bit further, I quickly discovered that the Windows Security Update for Secure Boot (3177404) is not only meant for the RT variants of the Windows OS, but also for Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2, and Windows 10. When taking a look at this list, one can only conclude that once installed, the Windows Security Update for Secure Boot (3177404) prohibits users from installing an OS of their choice. This came also to the attention of The Register who asked Microsoft if there would be any possibility to install another OS later on. The Register never got a reply to their question. So, how will it be possible to install another OS on your pc or other device if you do not want to work with a Windows distribution?

Do not install the Windows Security Update for Secure Boot (3177404)

If you haven’t already, do not install the Windows Security Update for Secure Boot (3177404). If you are still a Windows 7 user, keep on using it and do not upgrade to another Windows version, if you want to be able to switch to Ubuntu or any other Linux distribution for that matter!