Oct 232014

I have bought an Acer Extensa notebook after reading the under 300 Euros notebooks test in the latest c’t magazine where it came up as the winner regarding battery life and the rest wasn’t too bad either. I chose the 4 GB model so it won’t thrash the hd all the time. The Extensa comes preinstalled with Windows 8.1 and – as so many computers nowadays comes without an install medium and also without a user’s manual. (The link given in the short setup guide for downloading the manual http://go.acer.com/?id=17833 leads to a non-functional site. Not very user friendly in my book.)

Now, what is the first thing you do, when you get a new computer which comes pre-installed with an operating system but does not come with an install medium? I for one, make a backup, preferably an image backup of the whole hard disk using Clonezilla. Since this is my image backup tool of choice I carry it with me on a USB stick almost all the time (Hey, I work in IT, so it’s pretty much normal to carry USB sticks and other stuff. 😉 ). So I plugged that USB stick into the notbook and booted it up. It went straight into the Windows 8.1 setup screen. 🙁

So I tried to get a boot menu. Perusing Google told me that Acer notebooks use F12 for the boot menu. Unfortunately this didn’t work. Windows 8.1 setup again. 🙁

Next, I tried to get into the BIOS, or whatever the UEFI stuff nowadays calls this tool. The usual DEL key didn’t work but after several reboots and key presses I ended up in some windows boot menu that allowed me to boot from an USB stick. Only, it didn’t. It told me there was a secure boot failure and stopped.

Turning the computer off and on again, this time I apparently got the BIOS setup key right: F2 (It didn’t work the first several times I tried it, why?) I got something called “Insydeh” which looked like a BIOS of old. And there it was: An option to turn off “secure boot”, only it was disabled. I could only switch to BIOS mode which I didn’t want to. WTF?

Google to the rescue again: To turn off secure boot, you first must set a supervisor password. So I did that, came back to the secure boot screen and lo and behold, the option to turn it off was enabled now. After turning it off, I could clear the supervisor password and the option was still enabled. Another setting I changed was the F12 boot menu. It was disabled by default so I enabled it.

Save and reboot, press F12 and – voila – a boot menu which finally allowed me to boot clonezilla from my USB stick. The backup is running now.

Praise Microsoft for requiring PC manufacturers to have an option to turn off secure boot if they want to be Windows 8 compliant (I wonder whether that will still be a requirement for Windows 10, though.). But curse Microsoft and the bloody PC manufacturers to come up with the pretty much useless secure boot feature at all. It’s my computer, I paid for it, so it should be my choice to install whatever operating system I want on it!

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