Users should control their computers, not be controlled BY their computers

There has been a steady stripping of power of users to control their computers. I talk mainly about PCs as Mac users have never had much control.

Starting with the BIOS, this used to be easily accessed by a “de facto” standard by pressing F2 or DEL. There was a message on the screen telling you which button to press. Easy!

Later computers, particularly laptops, showed a manufacturer logo and hid the options. However, you could still press the buttons to get access. Recent models have dropped the F2/Del standard and started using other options, such as ESC, F1, F9 F10, and F12. If you are very lucky, you get a splash screen letting you know what key to press, otherwise you have to read the (non-existent) F-ing manual, or Google it.

The latest round of removing power from users is the rise of UEFI bios. What this effectively does is tie the bios to the operating system (which is always Windows.) This prevents you from booting from non-UEFI media, effectively prevents the booting up from DVD or USB stick. You have to dig around in the UEFI BIOS to turn off secure boot, change UEFI to CSM boot in order to boot from anything else. Although this allows for faster booting, and has some security benefits, it makes things harder for users who need to reinstall or install a dual boot system.

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Windows 8 laptop a brick – can’t boot from anything except hard drive

Not so long ago, I was given the job of adding a new laptop to a small network of 20 pcs plus two Windows servers. The only thing was, the laptop came with Windows 8, and they needed a custom application that only runs in Internet Explorer 9 or below (I know, I know…  )

As we have volume licences for Windows 7, I assumed this would just require booting from a USB stick or DVD, wiping the hard drive and installing Windows 7. However, whatever F key I pressed, it started the Windows 8 installation process. After some reading online, it appears that the newer type of BIOS, called UEFI, can be modified by the OS and therefore, the only way to alter this was to install Windows 8, then go into advanced startup options, and choose the USB or DVD.

So, an annoying delay where I had to install an operating system I didn’t want, followed by tweaking the startup options. Still no joy. Just an error message. Tried changing various UEFI setting in the bios to no avail. Then tried modifying various USB sticks to include bootx64.efi and other boot drivers.

More online reading, and it appears that the implementation of UEFI is flawed in some makes of laptop, notably Lenovo and Toshiba. So, laptop returned to supplier.