Tech Note: How To Install Linux On A Laptop With UEFI

Here's what I did to replace Windows 8 (boo) with Linux Mint (yay) on a 2013 Asus ultrabook with the problematic UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) firmware, using an external DVD drive linked to the machine with a USB cable.

  1. Download Linux Mint and burn a bootable DVD.
  2. Disable Windows Fast Startup (in Windows' Control Panel).
  3. Reboot machine while pressing F2, to get into BIOS setup.
  4. Under the Security menu, disable Secure Boot Control.
  5. Under the Boot menu, disable Fast Boot.
  6. Under the Boot menu, enable Launch CSM – if you can. (I couldn't at first. This menu option was visible but inaccessible – "greyed out" in effect, though with no visible indication. In order to make the menu item accessible, I had to save the BIOS parameters, re-start and go back into BIOS setup. Then the item spontaneously became not just visible but selectable. This is an obvious bug in the Aptio setup utility.)
  7. Save the BIOS parameters, re-start and go back into BIOS setup.
  8. Under the Boot menu, Add New Boot Option and make your DVD drive boot option #1. My drive is named "HL-DT-STVRAM GPZON AP00".
  9. Boot the install DVD you made and install Linux.

The above steps worked to get Linux Mint 14, the second-newest version of that linux distro, up and running. My troubles thus far were due to a buggy and undocumented BIOS. But then I ran into a bug in the installation software for Linux Mint 15. It installed without a hitch but then would not boot.

Here's what I did to get an apparently problem-free install of Linux Mint 15 to actually boot when I turn on my laptop.

  1. On another machine that isn't currently autistic, download an .ISO file of the Ubuntu Boot-Repair CD and burn it to a disc. (I had to install Free ISO Burner on an old Win XP machine in order to do this.)
  2. Boot the afflicted machine from the Boot-Repair CD and select "Recommended repair". (And marvel at the funky graphic design.)
  3. Follow the instructions exactly, including opening a terminal window and typing (because copy & paste doesn't work) four long arcane linux commands that they show you, where the distinction between one hyphen and two hyphens makes a difference.
  4. This creates a functioning GRUB menu that will show up on re-boot and send you straight into Linux Mint 15.
  5. Disconnect DVD drive, reboot. Phew!

All this on an Asus laptop. None of it, sadly, is any help if you've got a Samsung laptop rendered useless by the Samsung UEFI BIOS bug.

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Regarding step #6 - The CSM Disable/Enable issue isn't a bug, it's just a little counter intuitive. CSM can't be enabled unless Secure Boot is disabled, since CSM opens a security hole for unsigned 16-bit code. You have to reboot with Secure Boot disabled to change the CSM setting. If the help in setup doesn't fully explain this, you might want to report a bug back to Asus.

There are a number of Linux distros that work with UEFI Secure Boot enabled (Ubuntu, Fedora, openSUSE, ...) so you may be able to replace Windows without disabling Secure Boot or enabling the CSM.