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I'm about to purchase an Asus motherboard with EFI firmware and wanted to prepare myself for installing Windows and Debian once the hardware arrives. I was hoping that someone who has gone down this road could give me a few pointers.

What preparations should I make before attempting to install Windows 7 and Debian on a new UEFI based system?

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4 Answers 4

Make sure that UEFI is not going to lock Linux out of your machine; there is probably a setting to that effect in the BIOS. Check and verify for sure. I would double-check this point with the manual and with the manufacturer if you must.

There was some extended discussion about it; ZDNet had several articles. Here is an article from 21 September 2011 and one from 23 September.

Secondly, based on historical data, you may want to install Windows first. Traditionally, Windows just assumes that it is the only OS on the machine - thus, it wipes out any boot data related to Linux. This may be different for UEFI, I don't know.

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EDIT: When I wrote this answer very few distributions shipped with an EFI_STUB configured kernel so one had to build a custom one. Nowadays most distributions ship a suitably configured kernel and a custom build is not required any longer. In this case the sections “Set up your partitions” and “Setting things up” are the interesting ones, “Requirements” and “Compiling the kernel” can be skipped.

I don't know how Windows handles UEFI, but from the Debian side it's pretty straightforward.

Set up your partitions

Use the GPT partition scheme, not MBR.

To boot from a GPT partition with UEFI a dedicated boot partition is mandated, called the EFI SYSTEM PARTITION (ESP). It is not mandatory, but the most compatible way is to use a FAT32 partition. A size of 200 MiB should be fine for most cases.

To register the partition as a ESP, it has to be flagged with the boot flag. In contrast to MBR schemes, the boot flag is only used to indicate the ESP, not the partitions to be able to boot from.

UEFI uses a directory structure \EFI\<vendor>\<application>.efi to store UEFI applications. A directory separator is denoted by a backslash, even on Linux. could be a distribution name, the actual value is not relevant to the UEFI.

Applications can be system utilities like memory checkers or an UEFI shell. It can also be an OS loader or the operating system itself. These applications need to be registered in the UEFI to be able to be launched at boot time.

Requirements

The Linux kernel version >=3.3 can be loaded directly by the UEFI. The kernel can act as its own loader. This is called EFISTUB. The following kernel configurations are needed.

CONFIG_EFI=y
CONFIG_EFI_PARTITION=y
CONFIG_EFI_STUB=y
CONFIG_RELOCATABLE=y
CONFIG_FB_EFI=y
CONFIG_FRAMEBUFFER_CONSOLE=y
CONFIG_EFI_VARS=m

A kernel with this configuration is currently not in Debian stable, yet. You can either bake your own kernel or use the one from the experimental tree in that case you can skip the next paragraph.

Compiling the kernel

(probably not necessary any more, see edit)

If you decide to compile the kernel here are short instructions how to do that. If you run into problems, there is plenty of information available on how to compile a kernel.

Getting the source

git clone git://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/torvalds/linux-2.6.git

Check out one particular version

git checkout v3.6

Configuring kernel

make menuconfig

Make the settings that are needed on your system or leave it as it is if you have nothing to customize. This writes the kernel configuration to the file .config.

Make sure the settings from the previous paragraph are set. It also makes sense to select CONFIG_INPUT_EVBUG=n. Otherwise your logs will be filled with GiB of junk.

Building kernel

INSTALL_MOD_STRIP=1 make-kpkg --uc --us binary-arch

The packages are created in the parent directory.

Installing kernel

dpkg -i linux-image-3.5.0_Custom.deb linux-headers-3.5.0_Custom.deb

Building initramfs

mkinitramfs -o /boot/initrd.img-3.6.0-amd64 3.6.0

3.6.0 is the kernel version. It defaults to the running kernel, which is not a good choice, since you are still running the old kernel.

Setting things up

To be able to boot the Linux kernel, it has to be copied to the ESP together with the initramfs. Given that the ESP is mounted at /boot/efi

/boot/efi/EFI/debian/vmlinuz-3.6.0.efi
/boot/efi/EFI/debian/initrd.img-3.6.0

NOTE: To ensure compatibility with most systems the extenstion efi has to be added to the kernel.

Now the kernel can be registered in the UEFI. We use the tool efibootmgr for that.

echo "root=UUID=3a4287b6-b3a7-4721-da38-acc38a928278 ro rootfstype=ext4 add_efi_memmap initrd=\\EFI\\debian\\initrd.img-3.6.0" |
  iconv -f ascii -t ucs2 |
  efibootmgr \
    --create \
    --gpt \
    --disk /dev/sda \
    --part 4 \
    --label "Debian Linux kernel 3.6.0" \
    --loader "\\EFI\\debian\\vmlinuz-3.6.0" \
    --write-signature \
    --append-binary-args -

The argument of --disk is the device where the kernel resides, not the ESP. --part is the partition number where the kernel resides. --label is the entry in the UEFI boot menu.

To see a list of the available entries, just launch efibootmgr without arguments. Syntax to delete a particular entry

efibootmgr -b entry (hex) -B

for example:

efibootmgr -b 001a -B

These instructions don't handle the case of a kernel update. The kernel and initramfs are not automatically copied to the ESP. This can be done using a short script which copies the kernel and initramfs to the ESP and runs efibootmgr. This script can be placed in /etc/kernel/postinst.d to be launched automatically after the kernel has been updated.

Note: A boot manager like GRUB is not needed, UEFI itself acts as a boot manager.

That's all you need from the Linux side, I don't know what it takes to add Windows.

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You don't necessarily need to dual boot Windows and Linux on UEFI. Follow the guide to convert your UEFI to MBR-BIOS without loss of data.

This guide has been made by me. Also, the referred blog will never be taken down. Although I have used it like 10 times without any loss of data, I would recommend you to backup your data before using my procedure.

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I can heartily recommend the UEFI article series by Rod Smith. In particular, he mentions that "hybrid" GPT-MBR is a "dangerous hack" due to desynchronisation hazards.

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