Windows Recovery Environment

The Windows Recovery Environment, or WinRE, has actually been around for awhile. It was first introduced in Windows Vista as a basic boot environment from which users could run tools like System Restore, Startup Repair, and the Command Prompt, and it could also restore a complete OS image created by Windows Backup.

This menu remained basically unchanged in Windows 7, but in Windows 8 it picks up Metro styling and also replaces the text-based menu that appears when you press F8 at Windows startup, one of the last bastions of the Windows 9x/NT era to make it into 2012 relatively unchanged.

The new graphical menu presents all of the same options as the old WinRE, as well as access to the new Refresh and Reset functionality—the main difference is that options for booting into Safe Mode are buried in the Advanced Options rather than coming up right when you press F8. When you choose a function like System Restore, the desktop-style tools included in Windows Vista and Windows 7 will pop up and walk you the rest of the way through the process. Most of the troubleshooting options require you to input the name and password for an administrator on the computer, to prevent tampering.

There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but the Metro styling is functional and attractive. See the screenshot gallery below for more.

Secure Boot and UEFI Support

After Metro, this is probably one of Windows 8's more misunderstood features, so let's try to break it down and demystify it: UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) is a replacement for the legacy BIOS found in most PCs. UEFI support has been around in the 64-bit versions of Windows since Vista, but it has only recently started to see wider adoption in PCs. In addition to being more modern and flexible than BIOS, UEFI supports a feature called Secure Boot, which can compare signatures in drivers, OS loaders, and other things against security certificates stored in firmware to verify that your computer is using a known safe bootloader rather than a malware bootloader. On both ARM and x64 computers certified for Windows 8, Secure Boot will be enabled by default to prevent these potential exploits. Note that this is an extremely brief overview of the functionality—you can read more on the Building Windows 8 blog if you’re interested.

Now, the problem people have with this new feature is that it can potentially be used to block any non-Windows bootloader from functioning, including those used in operating systems like Linux. By default, this is true, but you’ve got an out: in all x86-based Windows systems that ship with Windows 8, you should be able to add and remove security certificates from UEFI as needed (thus adding certificates that Linux needs to be recognized as a trusted operating system) or disabling secure boot entirely (making the Windows 8 PC act more or less like most Windows 7 PCs do now).

This will be slightly different for Windows on ARM—WOA systems will also support UEFI and thus the Secure Boot feature, but users won’t be allowed to add certificates or disable the feature, and OEMs will be disallowed from shipping updates or tools that unlock the bootloader (as some Android tablet makers have been known to do). You might not like this behavior, but the fact remains that this is how the vast majority of ARM devices work today. Linux advocates act as though Microsoft has taken something away in disallowing third-party OSes on WOA devices, when in fact they’re disabling nothing that hasn’t already been disabled on most competing tablets.

Internet Explorer 10 Windows 8 and the Enterprise: Windows To Go, Deployment Tools, and a Business Perspective


View All Comments

  • DOOA - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    "Where Metro actually shines pretty brightly on the desktop is with a keyboard, though there’s one major caveat: if you want to make the most of Metro, you’re going to have to learn your keyboard shortcuts."

    So Metro actually shines as a command line OS?
    Well done Microsoft! Bill Gates never wanted us to leave DOS.

    Correct me if I am wrong (or if you just want to troll), but an OS is supposed to be as fast and obvious as possible so you can get what you have to do done and get on to things you want to do? i.e. would you rather be sorting your movies or watching them?
  • shin0bi272 - Friday, March 16, 2012 - link

    If I wanted my desktop to look like a tablet I might get this OS but since I want my desktop to look like a desktop I'll stick with windows 7. Win 8 is pointless unless you have a touchscreen monitor. Reply
  • casca - Sunday, March 25, 2012 - link

    If I wanted a freakin phone on my desk I woulda put one there.

    I see a lot of features I think will be nice but this interface to me if fugly and clumsy.
  • UrQuan3 - Tuesday, March 27, 2012 - link

    "This will be slightly different for Windows on ARM—WOA systems will also support UEFI and thus the Secure Boot feature, but users won’t be allowed to add certificates or disable the feature, and OEMs will be disallowed from shipping updates or tools that unlock the bootloader"

    Damn, the only reason I was looking forward to Windows on ARM was so that some of the ARM the market would standardize enough for people like me to get pre-compiled Linux distros. The current market fragmentation for ARM systems is painful. What's the goal of disallowing this on purpose?
  • sundansx - Monday, May 14, 2012 - link

    In the article, there are a good number of references to "...but works great with keyboard shortcuts". This is a review of a graphical UI - if that is the case, powershell works good with keyboard shortcuts. If that is the verdict from this article, then as a graphical user interface, I would say it is a failure for this review. Granted, I have not used it yet, but just read this article closely. Reply
  • Anonymous1a - Wednesday, November 07, 2012 - link

    Anand, I also have an Asus K53E and am having problems with the trackpad. For example, the touchpad supports multi-touch gesture but on Windows 8, they don't work. Also, I am supposed to be able to bring up the charms menu right from the touchpad but even that functionality is not working. So, where do I get the relevant drivers? (I checked the Asus website and I can't find the right ones.) Reply

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