Problem

Using UEFI+SecureBoot, dual boot Windows 8.1 / Ubuntu 13.10. Boot order can be configured in BIOS per device (HDD/ODD/PXI/USB etc) but there is no way to specify boot order of systems present on HDD. UEFI boot loader finds both Windows (present as OS Manager) and Ubuntu (as ubuntu), but always uses OS Manager first. As I intend to use Ubuntu most of the time, I need a way to make booting Ubuntu the default option.

Research

According to teh Internets such problems seem to occur reasonably often, when vendors “under-implement” UEFI on their products. One commonly proposed solution is using recent versions of boot-repair Ubuntu package (a really nice piece of engineering, saved my ass couple of times in the past). What it does is it substitutes (with backup of course) the windows efi file with accordingly renamed Ubuntu efi file, thus loading GRUB automatically, and from there user can choose what system to boot. But I find such solution a bit too risky, so I want something more native.

Another program that is related is efibootmgr

sudo apt-get install efibootmgr

It has the option to modify boot order of efi files with efibootmgr -o, but at least on my particular HP notebook it has no effect, and system boots to Windows by default despite any changes in the boot order introduced by efibootmgr. Strangely though, the option to force the boot order only on next reboot (efibootmgr -n) is working alright. So, here comes the solution I figured out with the help of this Ubuntu Forums thread

Solution

My current EFI setup looks like following

shell$: sudo efibootmgr
BootCurrent: 0001
Timeout: 0 seconds
BootOrder: 0001,0002
Boot0001* ubuntu
Boot0002* Windows Boot Manager

So I ‘ve placed the following line in /etc/rc.local (before the final exit 0 line):

/bin/efibootmgr -n 0001

This forces next default boot to be Ubuntu on every boot of Ubuntu. The dark side - after booting to Windows, this setting naturally disappears, so the next booted by default system after Windows boot is Windows again. But actually this is exactly what I want - it sort of replicates GRUB_SAVE_DEFAULT feature which I was always using before, so that every next boot by default is the same as previous boot. Installing zero delay on UEFI bootloader (there is still couple of seconds to press F9 and go into UEFI boot menu manually), and very short delay on GRUB (2 sec just for an emergency need to boot not into standard Ubuntu) gives me a system that’s fast enough to boot in unattended mode.

Update

After living with this configuration for several months I realized two things:

  1. I do not use Windows more than once a month;
  2. Using hibernate via TuxOnIce has some problems.

The last one is due to rc.local not being processed on resume from hibernate, and unfortunately I failed to configure TuxOnIce to execute the efibootmgr properly on resume.

I again turned to BIOS settings and this time noticed that I can in fact configure “Custom” boot section and make it the first one to boot. So now I have Ubuntu booting by default, and from Grub I can start Windows if I need, and also I can safely use SAVE_DEFAULT option of Grub. For those times when Windows has to be booted directly from EFI, there is still possibility to override first boot option during POST.