UEFI, SecureBoot, PXE, and You

For a while now we’ve had a need to PXE-boot computers that are set up for UEFI and SecureBoot but haven’t quite been able to pull it off.  For a long time, information on the subject was really difficult to come by and was mainly in the form of discussions by experts in the process of research and development.  I’m not an expert in the field of…anything really; I’m just an everyday computer repair grunt who knows enough about a lot of different things to make him wish he knew a lot about any one thing.  Over time I’ve occasionally taken the time to do a little more searching to see if tutorial-format information had become available and today I was not disappointed.

I came across this page on the Ubuntu wiki, and it was the glue I needed to finally make the pieces fit together in my mind.  It didn’t work exactly as described, so I’ll document my actual steps here.  I’m starting off with an already existing PXE environment that was working the old way, e.g. BIOS booting using pxelinux.  This is one of the big differences between my setup and the Ubuntu wiki page and that’s the starting point for this tutorial.  There are a lot of great resources out there for that so if you need help it’s only a web search away.

One thing to keep in mind is that my server is running CentOS, but my bootable PXE environment is LinuxMint.  What that basically means is that the config files will be CentOS related but I’m borrowing files from Ubuntu (since they have signed bootloader files easily documented in their tutorial).

First, here’s a list of files as per the Ubuntu wiki page:

  • shim.efi.signed from the shim-signed package, installed as bootx64.efi under the tftp root

  • grubnetx64.efi.signed from the grub2 source package (and shipped in the grub-efi-amd64-signed binary package), installed as ‘grubx64.efi’ under the tftp root

  • unicode.pf2 from the grub-common package, installed as grub/fonts/unicode.pf2 under the tftp root.

So getting these files is pretty easy.  We’re just going to extract them directly from the packages they belong to.  Now Ubuntu has a script on their page that is supposed to do this stuff, but I want to do it manually.  For one thing they have you grab grubnetx64 from the Saucy repo but that did not work for me.  It would load the grub menu, then work intermittently, otherwise giving two errors: “couldn’t send network packet” and “you need to load the kernel first”  Doing some searching it appears there have been bugs in that file fixed recently and the one from Trusty worked for me fine.  Here’s what we want to do (I ran these from my existing BIOS PXE environment):

apt-get download shim-signed
ar vx shim-signed_1.6+0.4-0ubuntu4_amd64.deb
tar -xvJf data.tar.xz
cp ./usr/lib/shim/shim.efi.signed ./bootx64.efi
# !! now you're ready to copy ./bootx64.efi to your tftproot
rm -rf ./usr data.tar.xz control.tar.gz debian-binary shim-signed_1.6+0.4-0ubuntu4_amd64.deb

wget -O grubx64.efi http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/dists/trusty/main/uefi/grub2-amd64/current/grubnetx64.efi.signed
# !! now copy ./grubx64.efi to your tftproot

apt-get download grub-common
ar vx grub-common_2.02~beta2-9ubuntu1_amd64.deb 
tar -xvJf data.tar.xz
cp ./usr/share/grub/unicode.pf2 ./
# !! now copy unicode.pf2 to your tpftproot under grub/fonts (e.g. /tftpboot/grub/fonts/)
rm -rf ./usr data.tar.xz control.tar.gz debian-binary grub-common_2.02~beta2-9ubuntu1_amd64.deb

Now we need to create a grub configuration file that will be stored on tftproot under the “grub” directory (e.g. /tftpboot/grub/grub.cfg).  Mine is a bit different from the one on the Ubuntu wiki since I’m mounting an NFS root and they were not.  My NFS root is on my server ( under /exports/nfsrootqiana.  Keep in mind that in the kernel load lines , “(pxe)/” refers to the tftp root directory and that’s where the files vmlinuz-3.15.3 and initrd.img-qiana are located.  So here’s my config file:

# /tftpboot/grub/grub.cfg
set default="0"
set timeout=-1

if loadfont unicode ; then
 set gfxmode=auto
 set locale_dir=$prefix/locale
 set lang=en_US
terminal_output gfxterm

set menu_color_normal=white/black
set menu_color_highlight=black/light-gray
if background_color 44,0,30; then

function gfxmode {
 set gfxpayload="${1}"
 if [ "${1}" = "keep" ]; then
 set vt_handoff=vt.handoff=7
 set vt_handoff=

set linux_gfx_mode=keep

export linux_gfx_mode

menuentry 'Linuxmint Qiana' {
 gfxmode $linux_gfx_mode
 linux (pxe)/vmlinuz-3.15.3 $vt_handoff root=/dev/nfs initrd=initrd.img-qiana nfsroot= ip=dhcp rw
 initrd (pxe)/initrd.img-qiana

We also need to tweak our DHCP config to respond to UEFI PXE requests; dnsmasq is my DHCP server of choice, as it gives local DNS registration for free. Here is my entire updated config, including the lines that make the old BIOS PXE boot work:

# /etc/dnsmasq.d/dhcp.conf

Or if your tftp root is on a different host than the one running dnsmasq, you can use a  configuration like the one below.  In this case, dnsmasq is running on and the tftp root is hosted from a machine named server1 with the ip See man dnsmasq for full details regarding the syntax for each option.

# /etc/dnsmasq.d/dhcp.conf

On our old CentOS (5.10), the builtin dnsmasq didn’t work with that “tag:” syntax so I had to update the program.  The source version of dnsmasq doesn’t come with the init scripts for Red Hat so I had to cheat a little bit.  I built dnsmasq from source and did a “make install” like usual.  Then I simply edited /etc/init.d/dnsmasq and changed it like so:

# /etc/init.d/dnsmasq
# change...
# to...

Now it will happily use the nice new version of dnsmasq. No fuss, no muss.

We should now be able to boot PXE from either a BIOS motherboard or a UEFI motherboard with or without SecureBoot enabled. For the curious, here’s the sequence of events as I understand it. Please correct me in the comments if I get something wrong:

  1. You tell the computer you want to boot via PXE.  It sends out a PXE request.
  2. DHCP Server initially sets the boot image file to pxelinux.0
  3. If booting from UEFI, the DHCP Server sees that the client architecture is 7 (EFI) and sets the tag “efi-x86_64”.
  4. If the efi-x86_64 tag is set, the DHCP Server switches the boot image to bootx64.efi (otherwise, the PC boots from pxelinux.0)
  5. DHCP Server sends the response to the client
  6. (from here on, I’m following UEFI sequence) The client requests the file bootx64.efi via TFTP
  7. SecureBoot checks the signature on bootx64.efi, and it has a valid Microsoft signature
  8. The firmware then loads and runs bootx64.efi
  9. bootx64.efi looks for grubx64.efi via tftp and checks its signature.  It’s signed by Canonical, and passes the check
  10. bootx64.efi loads and runs grubx64.efi, which in turn loads the grub config from tftp
  11. Normal grub boot sequence occurs, and we’re cooking with gas