Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dual-boot joy

I complained in my last post that ever since we converted Windows 7 to use BitLocker, my laptop has had problems in dual-booting. It seems clear that BitLocker and TPM require that every step in the boot process is controlled. Generally, that's a good idea for security. But in practice, it's a pain.

If something changes (say, the MBR gets updated by GRUB?) then TPM shuts off, and I need to enter a very long BitLocker key just to boot Windows. That wasn't going to work for me. I guess Windows doesn't like to play nice with other systems. I don't boot Windows very often, but I'd rather not have to type in that long key every time.

I asked you for help, and got several helpful suggestions. Thanks! I liked one in particular: put GRUB on a USB fob drive. The simplest solutions are usually best. And I happen to have a small 32MB USB fob drive that I'm not using.

So, a little fiddling around, and I now have a bootable "GRUB" fob drive. When I want to boot Linux on my laptop, I just use the USB fob drive when I boot (I can take it out once Linux has started booting.) Easy! When I want to boot into Windows, I take the fob drive out of my computer, and boot from the hard drive.

But the most important part: I haven't had any problems in the last month, since I did this. If you want to do this on your multi-boot system, you can google the steps needed to set up GRUB on a USB fob drive. But of course, it's far easier to just do this at install-time. At least with Fedora Linux, there's an option when you install to select where to write the boot loader.


  1. Personally I would prefer to chain via ntldr because I wouldn't have to (a) carry around a USB stick and (b) keep a duplicate of it in case the stick fails or I lose it somehow. Updating the file to chain to whenever the Linux bootloader is modified is only a minor inconvenience.

  2. Hello JH,

    I just found your blog and I think it hits the nail on the head! I am a linux lover working at a university, and unlike most universities this one is m$ from the bottom to the top. From the webservers and fileservers to learning management systems, to Sharepoint (you don't wanna know.....) all the way to the desktop - WinXP, IE, Outlook, MSOffice....... Users ahve no admin rights, and to top it off you can't change the boot order, so booting linux from a usb is not possible.

    The good news is, they have no problem with 'bring your own hardware'. So I do use my linux laptop :-)

    I now just have to cope with the usual problems that come with m$-"standards".

    Keep up your blog! :-)


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