I just purchased an HP Pavilion 17 Notebook PC 17-e055nr. I wanted to install Ubuntu on a Western Digital 120 GB (WD1200U017-001) portable hard drive, while leaving the Windows 8 installation on the internal hard drive undisturbed. This is my first attempt at installing Ubuntu on a UEFI Secure Boot machine.

The procedure used is: 1) Download the LiveDVD image, ubuntu-12.04.3-desktop-amd64.iso. 2) Use "Start Up Disk Creator" on an existing Ubuntu machine to create a LiveUSB stick. 3) Use gparted on an existing Ubuntu machine to delete all partitions on the portable hard drive. 4) Disconnect the internal hard drive in the laptop (this is unnecessary but insures the internal drive is not altered). 5) Boot the laptop with the LiveUSB stick and install Ubuntu on the portable hard drive. 6) Reconnect the internal hard drive to the laptop. 7) In the BIOS Setup, use Boot Options to change the UEFI Boot Order (a. USB Hard Disk, b. OS boot Manager).

When powered up, if the portable drive is attached then Ubuntu loads. If the portable drive is not attached then Windows loads.

The procedure initially worked and I was able to boot Ubuntu from the portable drive once. After shutting down, the laptop never again recognized the portable drive as a bootable device. I repeated the above procedure with no success.

Thinking the Western Digital portable drive was at fault, I switched to a Toshiba 1 TB Canvio Basic 3.0 portable hard drive. The procedure worked. I was able to boot from the Toshiba drive several times. Then the HP laptop continually failed to recognize the Toshiba drive as a bootable device.

As an experiment, I used the above procedure on an Acer Aspire 5102WLMi (non UEFI Secure Boot) laptop and the Western Digital portable hard dirve. Everything worked fine on the Acer laptop. I tried to boot the HP laptop with the Western Digital drive created but the HP laptop failed to recognize a bootable device.

Through out this endeavor, the HP laptop consistently recognized and booted Ubuntu from the LiveUSB stick.

I am not sure where the problem is: a) the HP Pavilion 17 Notebook PC 17-e055nr hardware b) the Insyde F.17 BIOS c) Ubuntu 12.04.3

The lack of a stable Ubuntu install is unacceptable. My only options now seem to be update the BIOS, a direct install onto the internal hard drive, or to return the HP laptop to the store. My thinking is to return the laptop and wait another year for the UEFI technology to mature a bit more.

Any thoughts or comments would be most welcomed.

  • Did you set up a bootable, FAT32 EFI partition on the USB, with shim.efi in /EFI/Boot renamed to bootx64.efi, with the signed copy of grubx64.efi and the grub.cfg file in /EFI/ubuntu ? NVRAM should just point to the USB device, no explicit loaders should be named. – ubfan1 Dec 5 '13 at 7:08

Under EFI, there's really no such thing as a "boot drive" in the same sense as under BIOS. Instead, EFI stores EFI boot loaders on the EFI System Partition (ESP), and it stores references to them in NVRAM. My suspicion is that this all worked fine when you set up the new drive, but then if you unplugged it and powered up, the firmware may have "helpfully" removed the NVRAM entry for the external disk, so that it never worked again.

My recommendation is to install a boot manager, such as gummiboot or my own rEFInd, on the computer's main hard disk. That will enable you to select which OS to boot at each boot. In the case of rEFInd, the Ubuntu option won't appear if the external disk isn't plugged in, and if you set the default to Ubuntu with a short timeout, the result will be a boot to Ubuntu when the external disk is plugged in and to Windows when it's not. The caveat to this is that if you leave Secure Boot enabled, you'll have to jump through some extra hoops, as described on the rEFInd Secure Boot page. It's likely to be easier to disable Secure Boot. (Note that Secure Boot is just one EFI feature, so you can continue booting in EFI mode even with Secure Boot disabled.)

A similar solution is to install Ubuntu's GRUB on the internal disk's ESP rather than on the external disk's ESP. I don't think this would switch automatically between OSes when the external disk is plugged in vs. not, though.

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