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How To Boot a Linux Live USB on a Windows 8.1 Tablet with UEFI BIOS

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In this article, we will delve into the process of booting a Linux Live USB on a Windows 8.1 tablet with UEFI BIOS. This can be a challenging task due to the specific firmware limitations of these devices. However, with the right guidance, it is certainly achievable. Let’s get started.

Quick Answer

Booting a Linux Live USB on a Windows 8.1 tablet with UEFI BIOS is possible, but it can be challenging due to firmware limitations. You may need to enable the CSM option in the BIOS or use a specific workaround for tablets with Bay Trail architecture. However, it’s important to note that there may still be issues when trying to boot Ubuntu after installation.

Understanding the Challenge

Most tablets with Windows 8.1 use a 64-bit firmware interface called UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface). This interface is designed to handle large hard drives and is more secure than the traditional BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) interface. However, UEFI can cause issues when trying to boot from a Linux Live USB, as it only recognizes NTFS-formatted USB drives, which are not compatible with Linux distributions.

Preparing Your Linux Live USB

Firstly, you need to prepare your Linux Live USB. You can use tools like Rufus or UNetbootin to create a bootable Linux USB. When formatting the USB, use the FAT32 file system, as it is compatible with UEFI. Also, ensure that the distribution you choose is UEFI-compatible. Most modern distributions, such as Ubuntu, Fedora, and Debian, support UEFI out of the box.

Enabling CSM in BIOS

One possible solution to booting a Linux Live USB on a Windows 8.1 tablet is to enable the CSM (Compatibility Support Module) option in the BIOS. CSM allows for legacy BIOS booting into operating systems. However, not all BIOS versions include this option.

To enable CSM:

  1. Restart your tablet and enter the BIOS setup by pressing the appropriate key (usually F2, F10, or Del).
  2. Navigate to the ‘Boot’ tab and look for the ‘CSM’ or ‘Legacy Boot’ option.
  3. Enable this option and save your changes.
  4. Restart your tablet.

Using a Workaround for Bay Trail Tablets

If your tablet uses Bay Trail architecture and does not have a CSM option, you can use a specific workaround. This involves using a file named bootia32.efi, which enables booting from a 32-bit OS on a 64-bit firmware.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Prepare your Linux Live USB as mentioned above.
  2. Navigate to the ‘efi’ folder on the USB drive.
  3. Download the bootia32.efi file from this GitHub repository and copy it into the ‘efi’ folder on your USB drive.

Please note that this solution only solves the issue of booting from the live USB. You may still encounter problems when trying to boot Ubuntu after installation.

Conclusion

Booting a Linux Live USB on a Windows 8.1 tablet with UEFI BIOS can be challenging due to firmware limitations. However, with the right preparation and the use of workarounds, it is possible. Remember to always back up your data before attempting to install a new operating system. If you encounter any issues, don’t hesitate to seek help from the Linux community. They are always ready to assist with any problems you may encounter.

Can I use any Linux distribution with UEFI on a Windows 8.1 tablet?

Most modern Linux distributions, such as Ubuntu, Fedora, and Debian, support UEFI out of the box and can be used on a Windows 8.1 tablet with UEFI BIOS.

Do I need to format my USB drive using a specific file system?

Yes, when preparing your Linux Live USB, format the USB drive using the FAT32 file system, as it is compatible with UEFI.

What if my tablet’s BIOS does not have the CSM option?

If your tablet does not have the CSM option in the BIOS, you can use a workaround specific to Bay Trail tablets. This involves using a file named bootia32.efi to enable booting from a 32-bit OS on a 64-bit firmware.

Can I encounter any issues when trying to boot Ubuntu after installation?

Yes, even if you successfully boot from the Linux Live USB, you may still encounter problems when trying to boot Ubuntu after installation. It is always recommended to backup your data before attempting to install a new operating system and seek help from the Linux community if you encounter any issues.

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