Thursday, 04 June 2015 11:07

Windows 10: no secure boot unless Microsoft tax is paid Featured


Windows 10 will turn off secure boot when one upgrades from Windows 8/8.1 unless a graphics card that has the Windows 8 ready logo is present in the system.

This means that even though one can do the update free of cost, one will need to buy a new graphics card if one wants to continue running the system with secure boot turned on.

The requirement for such a graphics card was not present in Windows 8, the first version of Windows in which Microsoft implemented secure boot, one of the features of the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI), the replacement for the old BIOS.

The certification of hardware for Windows means that manufacturers have to pay Microsoft a fee and this is often referred to as the Microsoft tax.

I have been running Windows 8 with secure boot from November 2012, a month after its release. From that, I have upgraded to Windows 8.1 and now to Windows 10 Technical Preview. The updates that occurred in the days before May 18 appear to have brought about this change. Right now I am running build 10049.

The system has an old graphics card dating from the time when I built the machine, sometime in 2007. While most of the other components have been updated, there was no need to upgrade this card.

Now when one ensures that secure boot is enabled in the UEFI and boots the machine, a message appears on the screen, saying "System BIOS detected a non-Windows 8 logo graphic card. There is no Graphic Output Protocol support detected in this card. Windows 8 feature settings in BIOS will be changed to disabled."

The Windows 8 feature referred to is a menu item in the UEFI of my system's motherboard under which secure boot can be turned on or off.

Graphic Output Protocol is a method defined in the UEFI for supporting device-independent graphics.

Microsoft was asked for comment about this change on May 18. A day later, the company asked for some time and I asked them to take a week. After that, when there was no response, I sent them a reminder. On Monday (June 1) I received a phone call to assure me that they were still on the case.

When Microsoft introduced secure boot, it was touted as a panacea for many security issues that haunted Windows. But now, if people are forced to run machines without secure boot, it seems like the original purpose of introducing what was a controversial feature has been lost.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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