The rEFInd Boot Manager:
Installing rEFInd

by Roderick W. Smith,

Originally written: 3/14/2012; last Web page update: 11/8/2015, referencing rEFInd 0.10.0

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This page is part of the documentation for the rEFInd boot manager. If a Web search has brought you here, you may want to start at the main page.

Don't be scared by the length of this page! Only portions of this page apply to any given user, and most people can install rEFInd from an RPM or Debian package in a matter of seconds or by using the refind-install script in minute or two.

Once you've obtained a rEFInd binary file, as described on the preceding page, you must install it to your computer's EFI System Partition (ESP) (or conceivably to some other location). The details of how you do this depend on your OS and your computer (UEFI-based PC vs. Macintosh). The upcoming sections provide details. See the Contents sidebar to the left for links to specific installation procedures. For most Linux users, an RPM or Debian package is the best way to go. If your Linux system doesn't support these formats, though, or if you're running OS X, using the refind-install script can be a good way to go. If you're using Windows, you'll have to install manually.

Installing rEFInd Using an RPM or Debian Package File

I provide RPM and Debian package files for rEFInd; and starting with version 0.8.1, I'm maintaining an Ubuntu PPA for rEFInd. If you have a working RPM-based or Debian-based Linux installation that boots in EFI mode, using one of these files is likely to be the easiest way to install rEFInd: You need only download the file and issue an appropriate installation command. In some cases, double-clicking the package in your file manager will install it. If that doesn't work, a command like the following will install the RPM on an RPM-based system:

# rpm -Uvh refind-0.10.0-1.x86_64.rpm

On a Debian-based system, the equivalent command is:

# dpkg -i refind_0.10.0-1_amd64.deb

Either command produces output similar to that described for using the refind-install script, so you can check it for error messages and other signs of trouble. The package file installs rEFInd and registers it with the EFI to be the default boot loader. The script that runs as part of the installation process tries to determine if you're using Secure Boot, and if so it will try to configure rEFInd to launch using shim; however, this won't work correctly on all systems. Ubuntu 12.10 users who are booting with Secure Boot active should be wary, since the resulting installation will probably try to use Ubuntu's version of shim, which won't work correctly with rEFInd. The shim program provided with more recent versions of Ubuntu should work correctly.

If you're using Ubuntu, you should be able to install the PPA as follows:

$ sudo apt-add-repository ppa:rodsmith/refind
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install refind

The PPA version will update automatically with your other software, which you might or might not want to have happen. It's also built with GNU-EFI rather than with TianoCore. This last detail should have no practical effects, but it might be important if you've got a buggy EFI or if there's some undiscovered rEFInd bug that interacts with the build environment.

Since version 0.6.3, the installation script makes an attempt to install rEFInd in a bootable way even if you run the script from a BIOS-mode boot, and therefore the RPM and Debian packages do the same. I cannot guarantee that this will work, though, and even if it does, some of the tricks that refind-install uses might not persist for long. You might therefore want to use mvrefind to move your rEFInd installation to another name after you boot Linux for the first time from rEFInd.

Since version 0.6.2-2, my package files have installed the rEFInd binaries to /usr/share/refind-version, the documentation to /usr/share/doc/refind-version, and a few miscellaneous files elsewhere. (The PPA package omits the version number from the file paths.) Upon installation, the package runs the refind-install script to copy the files to the ESP. This enables you to re-install rEFInd after the fact by running refind-install, should some other tool or OS wipe the ESP or should the installation go awry. In such cases you can use refind-install or install manually.

Installing rEFInd Using refind-install under Linux or Mac OS X

If you're using Linux or Mac OS X, the easiest way to install rEFInd is to use the refind-install script. This script automatically copies rEFInd's files to your ESP or other target location and makes changes to your firmware's NVRAM settings so that rEFInd will start the next time you boot. If you've booted to OS X or in non-Secure-Boot EFI mode to Linux on a UEFI-based PC, refind-install will probably do the right thing, so you can get by with the quick instructions. If your setup is unusual, if your computer uses Secure Boot, or if you want to create a USB flash drive with rEFInd on it, you should read the extra instructions for this utility.

Quick refind-install Instructions

By default, the refind-install script installs rEFInd to your disk's ESP. Under Mac OS X, you can instead install rEFInd to your current OS X boot partition by passing the script the --notesp option, or to a non-boot HFS+ partition by using the --ownhfs devicefile option. Under either OS, you can install to something other than the currently-running OS by using the --root /mountpoint option. (See Table 1 for details.)

Under Linux, refind-install will be most reliable if your ESP is already mounted at /boot or /boot/efi, as described in more detail in the Installing rEFInd Manually Using Linux section. (If you installed Linux in EFI mode, chances are your ESP is properly mounted.) If your ESP is not so mounted, refind-install will attempt to locate and mount an ESP, but this action is not guaranteed to work correctly. If you run refind-install from a BIOS/legacy-mode boot, particularly on a computer that also runs Windows, you should be aware that the tricks the script uses to install itself from BIOS mode are rather delicate. You can convert to a more conventional configuration using the mvrefind script after you've booted in EFI mode.

Prior to version 0.8.4, refind-install installed rEFInd to the OS X root partition by default. I changed this because the default configuration for OS X 10.10 ("Yosemite") makes this placement unusable. Instead, refind-install now installs to the ESP under OS X, just as it does under Linux. If you're upgrading a working install of rEFInd to the OS X root partition, it's best to pass the --notesp option to refind-install. This option is described in more detail shortly.

A sample run under Linux looks something like this:

# ./refind-install
Installing rEFInd on Linux....
ESP was found at /boot/efi using vfat
Installing driver for ext4 (ext4_x64.efi)
Copied rEFInd binary files

Copying sample configuration file as refind.conf; edit this file to configure

Installation has completed successfully.

The output under OS X is a bit different:

$ ./refind-install
Not running as root; attempting to elevate privileges via sudo....
Installing rEFInd on OS X....
Installing rEFInd to the partition mounted at /Volumes/ESP
Found suspected Linux partition(s); installing ext4fs driver.
Installing driver for ext4 (ext4_ia32.efi)
Copied rEFInd binary files

Copying sample configuration file as refind.conf; edit this file to configure

WARNING: If you have an Advanced Format disk, *DO NOT* attempt to check the
bless status with 'bless --info', since this is known to cause disk corruption
on some systems!!

Installation has completed successfully.

Unmounting install dir

In either case, the details of the output differ depending on your existing configuration and how you ran the program. Unless you see an obvious warning or error, you shouldn't be concerned about minor deviations from these examples. If you run into such a situation, or if you want to install in an unusual way, read on....

Note that the change to an ESP location for rEFInd with version 0.8.4 means that, if you upgrade rEFInd from an earlier version, you may notice a rEFInd boot option in the rEFInd menu. This option will boot the old version of rEFInd (or the new one, if something went wrong and the old version continues to boot). You can rid yourself of the unwanted boot menu by deleting the old files or by using dont_scan_dirs or dont_scan_files in refind.conf. Before you do this, you should use rEFInd to identify the unwanted files—the filename and volume identifier appear under the icons when you highlight the option. You can then locate and delete them from within OS X. Before you delete the old files, though, you may want to copy over any changes you've made to the rEFInd configuration, icons, and other support files.

Extra refind-install Instructions

Some details that can affect how the script runs include the following:

In addition to these quirks, you should be aware of some options that refind-install supports to enable you to customize your installation in various ways. The syntax for refind-install is as follows:

refind-install [--notesp | --usedefault device-file | --root mount-point | \
            --ownhfs device-file ] [--keepname ] \
           [--nodrivers | --alldrivers] [--shim shim-filename] [--localkeys] [--yes]

The details of the options are summarized in Table 1. Broadly speaking, they come in four classes: installation location options (--notesp, --usedefault, and --root), driver options (--nodrivers and --alldrivers), Secure Boot options (--shim and --localkeys), and a user input option (--yes). Using some of these options in unusual conditions can generate warnings and prompts to confirm your actions. In particular, using --shim or --localkeys when you're not booted in Secure Boot mode, or failing to use --shim when you are booted in Secure Boot mode, will generate a query and a request to confirm your installation. Consult the Managing Secure Boot page for more on this topic.

Table 1: Options to refind-install
Option Explanation
--notesp This option, which is valid only under OS X, tells refind-install to install rEFInd to the OS X root partition rather than to the ESP. This behavior was the default in rEFInd 0.8.3 and earlier, so you may want to use it when upgrading installations of that version, unless you used --esp (which is now the default behavior, although the --esp option no longer exists) or --ownhfs. You may also want to use --notesp on new installations if you're sure you're not using whole-disk encryption or logical volumes.
--usedefault device-file You can install rEFInd to a disk using the default/fallback filename of EFI/BOOT/bootx64.efi (and EFI/BOOT/bootia32.efi, if the 32-bit build is available) using this option. The device-file should be an unmounted ESP, or at least a FAT partition, as in --usedefault /dev/sdc1. Your computer's NVRAM entries will not be modified when installing in this way. The intent is that you can create a bootable USB flash drive or install rEFInd on a computer that tends to "forget" its NVRAM settings with this option. This option is mutually exclusive with --notesp and --root.
--ownhfs device-file This option should be used only under OS X. It's used to install rEFInd to an HFS+ volume other than a standard Mac boot volume. The result should be that rEFInd will show up in the Mac's own boot manager. More importantly, suspend-to-RAM operations may work correctly. Note that this option requires an HFS+ volume that is not currently an OS X boot volume. This can be a data volume or a dedicated rEFInd partition. The ESP might also work, if it's converted to use HFS+.
--root /mount-point This option is intended to help install rEFInd from a "live CD" or other emergency system. To use it, you should mount your regular installation at /mount-point, including your /boot directory (if it's separate) at /mount-point/boot and (on Linux) your ESP at that location or at /mount-point/boot/efi. The refind-install script then installs rEFInd to the appropriate location—on Linux, /mount-point/boot/EFI/refind or /mount-point/boot/efi/EFI/refind, depending on where you've mounted your ESP. Under OS X, this option is only useful in conjunction with --notesp, in which case rEFInd will install to /mount-point/EFI/refind. The script also adds an entry to your NVRAM for rEFInd at this location. You cannot use this option with --usedefault. Note that this option is not needed when doing a dual-boot Linux/OS X installation; just install normally in OS X.
--nodrivers Ordinarily refind-install attempts to install the driver required to read /boot on Linux. This attempt works only if you're using ext2fs, ext3fs, ext4fs, or ReiserFS on the relevant partition. If you want to forego this driver installation, pass the --nodrivers option. This option is the implicit when you use --usedefault.
--alldrivers When you specify this option, refind-install copies all the driver files for your architecture. You may want to remove unused driver files after you use this option, especially if your computer uses Secure Boot. Note that some computers hang or fail to work with any drivers if you use this option, so use it with caution.
--shim shim-filename or --preloader preloader-filename If you pass this option to refind-install, the script will copy the specified shim program file to the target directory, copy the MokManager.efi file from the shim program file's directory to the target directory, copy the 64-bit version of rEFInd as grubx64.efi, and register shim with the firmware. (If you also specify --usedefault, the NVRAM registration is skipped. If you also use --keepname, the renaming to grubx64.efi is skipped.) When the target file is identified as PreLoader, much the same thing happens, but refind-install copies HashTool.efi instead of MokManager.efi and copies rEFInd as loader.efi rather than as grubx64.efi. The intent is to simplify rEFInd installation on a computer that uses Secure Boot; when so set up, rEFInd will boot in Secure Boot mode, with one caveat: The first time you boot, MokManager/HashTool will launch, and you must use it to locate and install a public key or register rEFInd as a trusted application. The rEFInd public key file will be located in the rEFInd directory's keys subdirectory under the name refind.cer. Note that I'm not providing a shim binary myself, but you can download one from here. Some distributions also provide their own shim programs, so can point to them—for instance, in /boot/efi/EFI/fedora/shim.efi.
--localkeys This option tells refind-install to generate a new Machine Owner Key (MOK), store it in /etc/refind.d/keys as refind_local.*, and re-sign all the 64-bit rEFInd binaries with this key before installing them. This is the preferable way to install rEFInd in Secure Boot mode, since it means your binaries will be signed locally rather than with my own key, which is used to sign many other users' binaries; however, this method requires that both the openssl and sbsign binaries be installed. The former is readily available in most distributions' repositories, but the latter is not, so this option is not the default.
--keepname This option is useful only in conjunction with --shim. It tells refind-install to keep rEFInd's regular filename (typically refind_x64.efi) when used with shim, rather than rename the binary to grubx64.efi. This change cuts down on the chance of confusion because of filename issues; however, this feature requires that shim be launched with a command-line parameter that points to the rEFInd binary under its real name. versions of shim prior to 0.7 do not properly support this feature. (Version 0.4 supports it but with a buggy interpretation of the follow-on loader specification.) If your NVRAM variables become corrupted or are forgotten, this feature may make rEFInd harder to launch. This option is incompatible with --usedefault and is unavailable when run under OS X or without the --shim option. If the script discovers an existing rEFInd installation under EFI/BOOT or EFI/Microsoft/Boot and no other rEFInd installation when this option is used, it will abort.
--yes This option causes the script to assume a Y input to every yes/no prompt that can be generated under certain conditions, such as if you specify --shim but refind-install detects no evidence of a Secure Boot installation. This option is intended mainly for use by scripts such as those that might be used as part of an installation via an RPM or Debian package.

After you run refind-install, you should peruse the script's output to ensure that everything looks OK. refind-install displays error messages when it encounters errors, such as if the ESP is mounted read-only or if you run out of disk space. You may need to correct such problems manually and re-run the script. In some cases you may need to fall back on manual installation, which gives you better control over details such as which partition to use for installation.

Installing rEFInd Manually

Sometimes the refind-install script just won't do the job, or you may need to install using an OS that it doesn't support, such as Windows. In these cases, you'll have to install rEFInd the old-fashioned way, using file-copying commands and utilities to add the program to your EFI's boot loader list. I describe how to do this with Linux, OS X, Windows, and the EFI shell.

Installing rEFInd Manually Using Linux

On a UEFI-based PC, you'll normally install rEFInd to the ESP, which is usually mounted at /boot/efi. You can verify that this is the case by using the df command:

$ df /boot/efi
Filesystem     1K-blocks  Used Available Use% Mounted on
/dev/sda1         191284 16604    174681   9% /boot/efi

This example shows that /dev/sda1 is mounted at /boot/efi, which is a typical configuration. (The ESP can be on another disk or partition, but /dev/sda1 is the most common place for an ESP.) If your output shows /boot or / under the Mounted on column, then your ESP isn't mounted. (An exception is if you're mounting the ESP at /boot. This is an unusual configuration. If you're using it, you can proceed, making suitable adjustments to subsequent commands.) If you get a df: `/boot/efi': No such file or directory error message, then the /boot/efi directory doesn't even exist. In such cases, you may need to jump through some extra hoops, as described on my EFI Boot Loader Installation page.

Assuming the ESP is mounted at /boot/efi, you can install the rEFInd files as follows (you must be root to issue these commands, or precede each of them with sudo):

  1. Type cp -r refind /boot/efi/EFI/ from the refind-version directory in which the refind directory exists. This copies all the files that rEFInd needs to work. Note that this includes all of rEFInd's drivers. This command also copies the rEFInd binaries as signed by me; if you prefer to re-sign the binaries yourself, you'll have to do so before or during the copy operation, as described on the Managing Secure Boot page.
  2. Type cd /boot/efi/EFI/refind to change into rEFInd's new directory on the ESP.
  3. Type rm refind_ia32.efi to remove the IA32 binary if you're using an x86-64 (64-bit) system; or type rm refind_x64.efi to remove the x86-64 binary if you're using an x86 (32-bit) system. (Note that you must keep the version that's the correct bit width for your EFI; if you've installed a 32-bit Linux on a 64-bit PC with a 64-bit EFI, you'd keep refind_x64.efi.
  4. Optionally, type rm -r drivers_ia32 to remove the x86 drivers from an x86-64 system, or rm -r drivers_x64 to remove the x86-64 drivers from a 32-bit x86 system. You may also want to remove some or all of the drivers for the architecture you are using. If you don't need them, they'll slow down the start process, and worse, loading unnecessary drivers can cause some systems to hang or interfere with the drivers you do need. See the page on drivers for more on this topic.
  5. Rename the configuration file by typing mv refind.conf-sample refind.conf. Consult the Editing the rEFInd Configuration File page for information on how to adjust your options.
  6. On a UEFI-based system, type efibootmgr -c -l \\EFI\\refind\\refind_x64.efi -L rEFInd to add rEFInd to your EFI's list of available boot loaders, which it stores in NVRAM. Adjust the path to the binary as required if you install somewhere else. You may also need to include additional options if your ESP isn't on /dev/sda1 or if your configuration is otherwise unusual; consult the efibootmgr man page for details. You may need to install this program on some systems; it's a standard part of most distributions' repositories. Also, if you're installing in Secure Boot mode, you must normally register shim.efi rather than the rEFInd binary, and rename refind_x64.efi to grubx64.efi. Shim 0.7 and later enables you to keep rEFInd's usual name by adding a -u "shim.efi refind_x64.efi" option to your efibootmgr command line, though. Change the filenames to the ones used by your actual Shim and rEFInd binaries, respectively.
  7. If other boot loaders are already installed, you can use efibootmgr to adjust their boot order. For instance, efibootmgr -o 3,7,2 sets the firmware to try boot loader #3 first, followed by #7, followed by #2. (The program should have displayed a list of boot loaders when you added yours in the preceding step.) Place rEFInd's number first to set it as the default boot program.

Note the use of doubled-up backslashes (\\) rather than forward slashes (/) in the directory separators when using efibootmgr. This command will work on most systems that are already booted into EFI mode; however, it won't work if you're booted in BIOS mode. You may also need to add options if your ESP is in some unusual location or if your system is unusual in some way. Consult the efibootmgr man page if you need help.

On some systems, efibootmgr won't do what you expect. On such systems, you may have better luck renaming the rEFInd files, as described in the Alternative Naming Options section.

Installing rEFInd Manually Using Mac OS X

Before installing rEFInd on a Mac, you must determine whether it uses a 32-bit or 64-bit EFI implementation. Most Intel-based Macs have 64-bit EFIs, so you should use the refind_x64.efi file with them; but very early Intel-based Macs have 32-bit EFIs (and sometimes 32-bit CPUs), which require the refind_ia32.efi file. You can determine whether your Mac needs the x86-64 or IA32 build by typing the following command in a Mac Terminal window:

$ ioreg -l -p IODeviceTree | grep firmware-abi

The result should include either EFI32 or EFI64, indicating that you should use the refind_ia32.efi or refind_x64.efi binary, respectively.

You should also be aware of your OS X version and installation options. If you used whole-disk encryption (WDE) or a logical volume for installation, you cannot install to the OS X root partition; you must install to the ESP or to a separate HFS+ partition. WDE became an option with OS X 10.7 and logical volumes are the default in OS X 10.10. If in doubt, proceed with an installation to the ESP or to a separate HFS+ partition.

The procedure for installing rEFInd on a Mac is similar to that for installing it under Linux, except that you must use the bless utility rather than efibootmgr to register the program with the firmware. Also, you'll probably have to mount your ESP manually, since that's not done by default under OS X. To be precise, you should follow these steps:

  1. Open a Terminal window in which you'll type the following commands.
  2. If you want to install rEFInd on your ESP, you must first mount it. The easy way to do this is to use the mountesp script that comes with rEFInd. When you run it, the script should tell you where the ESP was mounted. You can do the job manually by typing mkdir /Volumes/ESP followed by sudo mount -t msdos /dev/disk0s1 /Volumes/ESP. Note that you may need to change /dev/disk0s1 to something else if your ESP is at an unusual location. Type diskutil list or use a tool such as my GPT fdisk (gdisk) to examine your partition table to find your ESP if necessary.
  3. Type sudo mkdir -p /Volumes/ESP/efi/refind to create a suitable directory for rEFInd. If you want to place rEFInd on the OS X root partition, you should adjust the pathname appropriately, as in /efi/refind. Alternatively, you can use the Finder to create the directory.
  4. Copy the files in the refind subdirectory of the rEFInd binary package to the like-named directory you've just created. You can do this in the Finder or by typing sudo cp -r refind/* /Volumes/ESP/efi/refind/ in your Terminal window after changing into the rEFInd package's main directory.
  5. Remove the file for the version of rEFInd you're not using, as in sudo rm Volumes/esp/efi/refind/refind_ia32.efi on a Mac with a 64-bit EFI or sudo rm /Volumes/ESP/efi/refind/refind_x64.efi on a Mac with a 32-bit EFI.
  6. Optionally, remove the drivers directory for the architecture you're not using—/Volumes/ESP/efi/refind/drivers_ia32 or /Volumes/ESP/efi/refind/drivers_x64, as appropriate. You may also want to remove some or all of the drivers for the architecture you are using; if you don't need them, they'll slow down the start process. See the page on drivers for more on this topic. Note that Apple's firmware includes its own HFS+ driver, so the HFS+ driver provided with rEFInd is useless on Macs.
  7. If this is your first installation, type sudo mv /Volumes/ESP/efi/refind/refind.conf-sample /Volumes/ESP/efi/refind/refind.conf (adjusting the path as necessary) to rename the sample configuration file so that it will serve as a real configuration file. (Again, you can do this with the Finder, if you prefer.)
  8. "Bless" rEFInd by typing one of the following two commands: This is the step that's likely to fail if your system is booted with SIP active.
  9. If you don't want to reboot immediately after installing rEFInd, you may optionally unmount the ESP by typing sudo umount /dev/disk0s1 or sudo umount /Volumes/ESP. This step isn't strictly required, but if you want to keep the ESP out of your directory tree, it can be useful.

When you reboot, your Mac should bring up the rEFInd menu, and should continue to do so thereafter. If you make changes that break this association, you can re-run the bless command (if necessary, restoring the rEFInd files first). This might be necessary after installing system updates from Apple or if you upgrade rEFInd to a newer version.

If you're replacing rEFIt, you may discover that rEFInd works on the first boot, but the system reverts back to rEFIt or a direct boot to OS X on the second boot. To fix this problem, you can remove the rEFItBlesser program, which is located at /Library/StartupItems/rEFItBlesser. This program attempts to keep rEFIt set as the default boot loader, but it also has the purpose of protecting the computer from launching the wrong OS after waking from sleep. If you want that protection, my suggestion is to install rEFIt and rEFItBlesser and then replace the refit.efi file with refind_x64.efi or refind_ia32.efi (renaming it to refit.efi). Used in this way, rEFInd will still look for its own configuration file, refind.conf, so you'll need to move it but not rename it. If you don't move the icons from the rEFInd package, your icons will continue to look like rEFIt icons, and you'll be missing the new icons for specific Linux distributions that rEFInd provides. One final caveat: It's conceivable that rEFItBlesser is what's causing filesystem corruption for some users, so if you've been having this problem with rEFIt, it might be worth disabling this program and not using it with rEFInd.

If you want to remove rEFInd from your system, you can delete its files. The Mac will revert to booting using whatever standard boot loader it can find. Alternatively, you can use bless to bless another EFI boot loader. The GUI Startup Disk utility in System Preferences provides a simplified interface that enables you to select which OS X installation to boot, but it doesn't look for non-Apple boot loaders, so you can't use it to enable rEFInd.

Installing rEFInd Manually Using Windows

I know relatively little about Windows EFI management tools; however, I do know that at least two relevant tools exist: the standard bcdedit and the third-party EasyUEFI.

The EasyUEFI tool is a free (as in beer) GUI tool for managing EFI boot programs. I've only tried it once, and it seemed fairly intuitive and easy to use, but I don't have detailed instructions on how to use it. If you want to use EasyUEFI, you'll have to use it in place of bcdedit at the end of the following procedure.

Attempt this method of installation only on a UEFI-based PC; this method will not work on Windows that's installed on a Mac in BIOS/CSM/legacy mode. To install rEFInd under Windows, you must first find a way to access the ESP, which Windows normally hides from view. One way to accomplish this goal, and to proceed forward once the ESP is accessible, is as follows:

  1. Locate Command Prompt in the Start menu, right-click it, and select Run as Administrator. This action opens a Command Prompt window with administrative privileges.
  2. Type mountvol S: /S in the Administrator Command Prompt window. This makes the ESP accessible as drive S: from that window. (You can use a drive identifier other than S: if you like.)
  3. Change into the main rEFInd package directory, so that the refind subdirectory is visible when you type dir.
  4. Type xcopy /E refind S:\EFI\refind\ to copy the refind directory tree to the ESP's EFI directory. If you omit the trailing backslash from this command, xcopy will ask if you want to create the refind directory. Tell it to do so.
  5. Type S: to change to the ESP.
  6. Type cd EFI\refind to change into the refind subdirectory
  7. You may want to selectively delete some of the drivers in the drivers_x64 or drivers_ia32 directory, depending on your architecture and needs. Unnecessary drivers will slow the rEFInd start process, and can even cause the drivers you need to not work or cause a system crash. See the page on drivers for more on this topic.
  8. Type rename refind.conf-sample refind.conf to rename rEFInd's configuration file.
  9. Type bcdedit /set {bootmgr} path \EFI\refind\refind_x64.efi to set rEFInd as the default EFI boot program. Note that {bootmgr} is entered as such; that's not a notation for a variable. Also, change refind_x64.efi to refind_ia32.efi on systems with 32-bit EFIs. Such computers are rare, and most of them are tablets. Check your Windows bit depth to determine which binary you should use.
  10. If you like, type bcdedit /set {bootmgr} description "rEFInd description" to set a description (change rEFInd description as you see fit).

At this point, when you reboot, rEFInd should appear as your new default boot program. If it doesn't work for you, you have several other options, such as:

Installing rEFInd Manually Using an EFI Shell

If you can't currently boot any OS (say, because a firmware update has wiped your NVRAM entries), you may find it convenient to install rEFInd using an EFI version 2 shell. Unfortunately, the bcfg command described here is not available in the EFI version 1 shell, and the version 2 shell is unusable on many firmware implementations prior to 2.3.1. Thus, this procedure won't work for all systems.

In addition to emergency situations, using bcfg can be desirable if efibootmgr or other OS-hosted tools don't do the job. This happens under VirtualBox, for instance. An alternative in such cases can be to use alternative names for rEFInd.

To begin, you must have a way to launch your shell. Unfortunately, this can pose a dilemma, since without rEFInd or some other boot manager, many EFI implementations lack the means to launch a shell. Some will do so, though, if the shell is stored as shellx64.efi (for x86-64) or shellia32.efi (for x86) in the root directory of the ESP. Thus, you can try copying your shell file there. You can obtain EFI 2 shells here:

Note that the IA32 shell included in rEFInd's CD-R image version is a version 1 shell, so you can't use it for this purpose. You can, however, copy rEFInd's files from the CD-R. You can even launch the version 1 shell included with rEFInd and then use that to launch a version 2 shell. The x86-64 shell on the CD-R is the alternate shell, which should work on any x86-64 computer. Once you've booted the shell, you can proceed as follows:

  1. If you haven't installed rEFInd previously, unpack its zip file to a FAT partition. This can be the ESP itself or another partition, such as a USB flash drive. If you're simply repairing a lost NVRAM entry, you needn't move your existing rEFInd files.
  2. Identify your filesystems, which are labelled with the form fsn:, as in fs0: for the first filesystem, fs1: for the second, and so on. Type the filesystem number followed by the Enter key to begin using it. You can then type ls or dir to see the contents of the filesystem. Chances are your ESP will be fs0:, but it could be something else. (The following steps assume your ESP is fs0:; you'll need to adjust them if it's not.) If rEFInd's source files are on another device, you must identify it, too.
  3. If necessary, create a directory for rEFInd by typing mkdir fs0:\EFI\refind. (If the fs0:\EFI directory doesn't already exist, you must create it first, though.)
  4. Change to the directory in which rEFInd's files exist.
  5. Type cp refind_x64.efi fs0:\EFI\refind to copy the rEFInd binary file. (Adjust the name if you're using a 32-bit computer.)
  6. Type cp refind.conf-sample fs0:\EFI\refind\refind.conf to copy and rename the sample rEFInd configuration file.
  7. Type cp -r icons fs0:\EFI\refind\ to copy rEFInd's icons.
  8. Optionally, type cp -r drivers_x64 fs0:\EFI\refind\ to copy rEFInd's 64-bit drivers. (You could instead copy the 32-bit drivers or limit yourself to just the drivers you need, of course.)
  9. Type fs0:, if necessary, to change to the ESP.
  10. Type cd \EFI\refind to change to rEFInd's installation directory.
  11. If you want to edit rEFInd's options, type edit refind.conf and use the shell's built-in text editor to do so. Press F2 followed by the Enter key to save your changes and F3 to exit.
  12. Type bcfg boot dump -b to see a list of existing NVRAM entries. Pay attention to their numbers (labelled Option: and Variable:, with the latter number preceded by the string Boot, as in Boot0007). You'll want to create a boot entry for rEFInd using a number that's not in use.
  13. Type bcfg boot add 3 fs0:\EFI\refind\refind_x64.efi "rEFInd", adjusting the number (3 in this example), filesystem (fs0:), and filename (\EFI\refind\refind_x64.efi) as necessary for your system. If you're used to Linux, be sure to use backslashes (\), not Linux-style forward slashes (/), as directory separators. Note that some shells may ignore the number you entered and use another one, so watch for this possibility.
  14. Type bcfg boot mv 3 0, substituting the option number for the entry you created for 3. This moves rEFInd to the top of the boot order.
  15. Type reset to reboot the computer.

With any luck, rEFInd will start up at this point. If not, you can check your settings using a shell or an emergency system for your OS of choice. In an EFI shell, you might type bcfg boot dump -b to view your boot loader entries and verify that rEFInd appears at the top of the list. Be sure to check the pathname for typos. If you continue to have problems, you might look into giving rEFInd a fallback filename that your firmware will recognize.

Alternative Naming Options

Some EFI implementations do a poor job of honoring the boot options set via Linux's efibootmgr or other tools. You may also lack access to such utilities, such as if you must install rEFInd in Windows. In such cases, you may need to change the boot loader's name so that the EFI will see it as the default boot loader. rEFInd should then boot when your NVRAM lacks information on specific boot loaders to use. Broadly speaking, there are two alternative names that are most useful:

If you need to use one of these names, or something more exotic, you can do so in either of two ways: You can use the mvrefind script to move your installation in one step, or you can move and rename your files manually.

Using mvrefind

The easiest way to move a rEFInd installation, at least in Linux, is to use the mvrefind script. If you installed from one of my RPM or Debian packages, this script should be installed in /usr/sbin, so you can use it like a regular Linux command; otherwise you'll need to install it to your path yourself or type its complete path. Either way, it works much like the Linux mv command, but you pass it the directory in which a rEFInd installation appears and a target location:

# mvrefind /boot/efi/EFI/BOOT /boot/efi/EFI/refind

This example moves rEFInd from /boot/efi/EFI/BOOT to /boot/efi/EFI/refind. It differs from mv in several ways:

The mvrefind script is likely to be useful in resolving boot problems—if your system won't boot, you can try copying the installation to /boot/efi/EFI/BOOT, /boot/efi/EFI/Microsoft/Boot, and /boot/efi/EFI/refind in turn, testing the boot process after each attempt. (These filenames all assume your ESP is mounted at /boot/efi.) You could also copy a BIOS-mode install from /boot/efi/EFI/BOOT or /boot/efi/EFI/Microsoft/Boot to /boot/efi/EFI/refind to make it more robust against Windows repairs (assuming your firmware isn't broken).

Renaming Files Manually

You can move and rename rEFInd manually from any OS by following these steps:

  1. Access your ESP, as described in earlier sections.
  2. Look for an existing directory called EFI/BOOT or EFI/Microsoft/Boot. If neither of these directories exist, skip the next step. (Note that FAT is case-insensitive, so the name may vary in case.)
  3. Rename the existing directory or boot loader file to something else. For EFI/BOOT, try renaming it to EFI/Oldboot. For EFI/Microsoft/Boot, move or rename the bootmgfw.efi file it contains. For instance, you can move it to EFI/Microsoft. This will keep the boot loader accessible to rEFInd's menu, while preventing the firmware from launching it automatically.
  4. Rename/move your EFI/refind directory to EFI/BOOT. If you're working from EFI/Microsoft/Boot, you should move the contents of your rEFInd directory to EFI/Microsoft/Boot.
  5. Rename EFI/BOOT/refind_x64.efi to the name of the boot loader it's replacing—it should become EFI/BOOT/bootx64.efi or EFI/Microsoft/Boot/bootmgfw.efi.

When you reboot, rEFInd should come up. With any luck, it will detect your old boot loader as an option, if one was installed before.

Upgrading rEFInd

If you've installed an earlier version of rEFInd, you can upgrade a bit more easily than you can install directly:

In all cases, if the new version includes new or altered configuration file options, you may need to manually update your configuration file. Alternatively, if you've used the default configuration file, you can replace your working refind.conf with refind.conf-sample from the rEFInd zip file. (When using refind-install, this file will be copied to rEFInd's installation directory under its original name, so you can rename it within that directory to replace the old file.)

If you're upgrading to rEFInd from rEFIt, you can simply run the refind-install script as described earlier or perform a manual installation. Once installed, rEFInd will take over boot manager duties. You'll still be able to launch rEFIt from rEFInd; a rEFIt icon will appear in rEFInd's menu. You can eliminate this option by removing the rEFIt files, which normally reside in /EFI/refit.

Installing Additional Components

rEFInd includes the ability to launch any EFI program; however, rEFInd detects only certain programs. These include boot loaders in traditional locations and a handful of other programs. To launch most of these other programs, you must download and install them separately from rEFInd:

I've seen links to other versions of these tools from time to time on the Web, so if you try one of these programs and it crashes or behaves strangely, try performing a Web search; you may turn up something that works better for you than the one to which I've linked.

Fixing Macintosh Boot Problems

I've received a few reports of a sluggish boot process (a delay of about 30 seconds before starting rEFInd) on some Macs after installing rEFInd, as well as some other Mac-specific peculiarities. I've been unable to replicate thess problems myself, and their true causes remains mysterious to me. I have found several possible solutions, though: Using the --shortform option, using the fallback filename, moving rEFInd to an HFS+ volume, clearing NVRAM entries, fixing wake problems, and fixing a failure to find Linux.

Using the --shortform Option

Prior to version 0.8.5, these instructions and the refind-install script omitted the --shortform option from the bless command when installing rEFInd to the ESP. A rEFInd user, however, discovered that using the option eliminated the 30-second delay, so it is now the default with 0.8.5's refind-install, and is specified in the instructions. If you installed rEFInd 0.8.4 or earlier, you may want to re-install or re-bless rEFInd using this option.

There is one caveat, though: The man page for bless notes that --shortform notes that its use can come "at the expense of boot time performance." Thus, it's not clear to me that this option might not actually create problems on some computers. (It's eliminated the boot delay on my 2014 MacBook Air and has no detrimental effect on an old 32-bit Mac Mini that's never had a boot delay problem, though.) Thus, if you have problems with rEFInd 0.8.5 or later, you might try running bless, as described in Installing rEFInd Manually Using OS X's step 8, but omit the --shortform option.

Using the Fallback Filename

I've received a few reports that installing rEFInd to the ESP using the fallback filename (EFI/BOOT/bootx64.efi on most systems, or EFI/BOOT/bootia32.efi on very old Macs) can work around a sluggish boot problem. In fact, version 0.8.4's refind-install script copied the rEFInd binary to this name when run under OS X. (Version 0.8.5 switches to using --shortform with the more conventional EFI/refind/refind_x64.efi or EFI/refind/refind_ia32.efi name, as just noted.) If you installed to a name other than EFI/BOOT/BOOT{ARCH}, either manually or by using the 0.8.5 or later refind-install, renaming (and re-blessing) the installation is worth trying.

Moving rEFInd to an HFS+ Volume

Most of the reports of sluggish Macintosh boots I've seen note that the user installed rEFInd to the ESP rather than to the OS X root partition. Some users have reported that re-installing rEFInd to the OS X root partition clears up the problem. This is obviously a straightforward solution to the problem, if it works. (This location is not an option when using WDE or OS X logical volumes.) Note that rEFInd can launch boot loaders that are stored on any partition that the EFI can read no matter where it's installed; therefore, you'll still be able to launch boot loaders stored on the ESP (or elsewhere) if you install it in this way.

A variant of this solution is to create a small (~100MiB) HFS+ volume to be used exclusively by rEFInd. You can then install rEFInd to that volume with the --ownhfs option to refind-install, as in ./refind-install --ownhfs /dev/disk0s6 if the volume is /dev/disk0s6. This approach has the advantage that it can be managed via OS X's own Startup Disk tool in System Preferences.

The biggest drawback to storing rEFInd on an HFS+ volume is that you won't be able to edit the rEFInd configuration file or move rEFInd-related binaries from an EFI shell if you install it in this way, since Apple's HFS+ driver for EFI is read-only. (The same is true of rEFInd's HFS+ driver, so it won't help you overcome this limitation.) You may also be limited in making changes to your rEFInd configuration from Linux or other OSes, too, since Linux's HFS+ drivers disable write support by default on volumes with an active journal. You can force write access by using the force option to mount; however, this procedure is noted as being risky in the Linux HFS+ documentation, so I don't recommend doing this on a regular basis on the OS X boot volume. This isn't as risky if you use a dedicated HFS+ rEFInd partition, though. You could even mount it as the Linux /boot partition, in which case it would also hold the Linux kernel and related files.

A variant of this solution is suggested in this blog post, which recommends placing rEFInd on an HFS+ volume on the first SATA channel. (In the blogger's case, that channel used to hold an optical drive, but that drive was replaced by a hard disk.)

Clearing the NVRAM Entries

Another possible solution is documented in a Web forum post. Be aware, though, that this procedure involves using the efibootmgr utility on Macs, which has been known to damage the firmware on some Macs. Other reports indicate that this problem has been fixed with 3.3.0 and later kernels. Thus, I present this information cautiously and with a strong "use at your own risk" warning. If you care to proceed, I recommend you update your Linux kernel to the latest possible version and then proceed as follows:

  1. Boot into Linux.
  2. Type efibootmgr as root to obtain a list of your boot loader entries. Each entry includes a boot number, as in Boot0003 or Boot0027.
  3. Remove all of the boot loader entries except rEFInd's by using efibootmgr's -b bootnum option to specify the boot entry and -B to delete it. For instance, typing efibootmgr -b 0027 -B as root deletes boot entry Boot0027. Issue a separate efibootmgr command for each boot entry.
  4. Re-install rEFInd using the install script. It's unclear from the original post if this meant installing from Linux or from OS X.

Fixing Wake Problems

Some people have reported that installing rEFInd causes problems with resuming from a suspended OS X session. I know of two workarounds to such problems:

I've recently acquired a 2014 MacBook Air, but I haven't yet had the chance to try to reproduce this problem and find a workaround. It's on my to-do list, though.

Fixing a Failure to Find Linux

Some users report that rEFInd doesn't detect Linux, or won't boot it when it is found. Broadly speaking, there are two common causes of this problem:

If you suspect that your hybrid MBR is damaged, you can try re-creating it with my GPT fdisk (gdisk) program. The GPT fdisk hybrid MBR documentation covers this procedure in detail. You can run gdisk from either OS X or Linux, although you may need to install it, particularly in OS X.

If you suspect driver problems, you'll need to mount your ESP (as described in the manual OS X installation instructions), locate the rEFInd drivers_x64 directory, and adjust its contents. Make sure you have a driver for the filesystem that holds your Linux kernel. If you don't know what filesystem this is, it's probably ext4fs. rEFInd ships with several filesystem drivers, including one for ext4fs. You should also remove unnecessary filesystem drivers. I've seen several reports of one driver interfering with others' operation. The biggest culprit seems to be the HFS+ driver when used on Macs.

Fixing Windows Boot Problems

Most Windows boot problems are best addressed on Windows-specific sites, so I recommend you make the rounds of Windows forums to solve such problems. There is one that deserves mention here, though: If you accidentally erase the Windows boot loader file, EFI/Microsoft/Boot/bootmgfw.efi, you won't be able to boot Windows. The simplest solution is to restore this file from a backup you prepared ahead of time. If you don't have such a backup, though, you can restore it as follows:

  1. Boot from an emergency Windows recovery disk. If you don't have one, you can prepare one from a working Windows system as described here.
  2. Type diskpart to enter the Windows disk-partitioning tool.
  3. In diskpart, type sel disk 0 followed by list vol. You should see a set of partitions. This step is intended to help you identify your ESP, which will probably be the only FAT32 partition on the disk. (If you have multiple disks, you may need to try again with sel disk 1 or higher.) Note the volume number of your ESP.
  4. Type sel vol 1, changing 1 to whatever the ESP's volume number is.
  5. Type assign letter=S: to assign the ESP a Windows disk identifier of S:. (You can use another letter if you prefer.)
  6. Type exit to exit from diskutil.
  7. Type cd /d s:\EFI\Microsoft\Boot\ to change into the Windows boot loader directory. (If this directory doesn't exist, you may need to create it first with mkdir. If rEFInd or some other boot loader occupies this directory, back it up first.
  8. Type bootrec /fixboot.
  9. Type bcdboot c:\Windows /s s: /f ALL. Note that this command should set the Windows boot loader as the default. Omit /f ALL if you don't want to adjust the EFI's default boot program.
  10. Reboot and hope it works! If the computer boots straight to Windows and you want to use rEFInd, use bcdedit in Windows, as described in step 9 of the Installing rEFInd Manually Using Windows section of this page.

For more information, see this SuperUser question and answer.

Uninstalling rEFInd

If you decide you don't want to keep rEFInd, you can uninstall it. Doing so is a matter of removing the rEFInd files from your ESP (or from your OS X boot partition, if you installed the program there). The exact details of how to do this vary from one OS to another, though; and in some cases there are alternatives to completely uninstalling rEFInd that are easier to implement.

Uninstalling rEFInd from Linux

In Linux, a command like the following, typed as root, should remove rEFInd:

# rm -r /boot/efi/EFI/refind

You must type this command as root (or use sudo in some environments, such as under Ubuntu). This example assumes that your ESP is mounted at /boot/efi and that rEFInd is installed in EFI/refind on that partition. If you've mounted your ESP elsewhere, or installed rEFInd elsewhere, you should adjust the command appropriately.

If you installed via an RPM or Debian package in Linux, using your package manager will remove the package files, but not the files that the installer places on your ESP. Thus, you must uninstall those files manually, as just described. To complete the job, you'll also have to remove /boot/refind_linux.conf, and perhaps the /etc/refind.d directory.

Uninstalling rEFInd from OS X

The easiest way to restore the standard OS X boot loader on a Mac is not to uninstall rEFInd; it's to bypass it. This can be accomplished with the Startup Disk item in the System Preferences panel:

The OS X Startup Disk tool enables you to reset a Mac
    to use the standard OS X boot loader.

Select your startup disk (Macintosh HD OS X, 10.10.1 in this example) and then click Restart. The computer should reboot into OS X, bypassing rEFInd.

I recommend stopping here, because the procedure for completely removing rEFInd from a Mac depends on your installation method and tends to be challenging for many Mac users, who are unfamiliar with the necessary command-line tools. Basically, you must reverse the steps described earlier, in Installing rEFInd Manually Using Mac OS X:

  1. You must first determine where rEFInd is installed. This can be any of several locations:
  2. If necessary, mount the ESP or rEFInd-specific HFS+ volume, as described in Installing rEFInd Manually Using Mac OS X. (The mountesp script that comes with rEFInd will handle this task.)
  3. Verify that rEFInd is installed in the directory noted in step #1. If a refind.conf file is present, rEFInd is almost certainly installed in that directory. If not, it's not rEFInd there and you should not proceed. Be extra cautious about deleting the System/Library/CoreServices directory, since that's the default location of the OS X boot loader! Never delete this directory from your OS X root (/) partition, only from the partition you specified to refind-install using the --ownhfs option.
  4. Once you've identified the rEFInd directory, delete it, or at least the rEFInd boot file. This file may be called refind_x64.efi, bootx64.efi, boot.efi, or conceivably something else. You may need to use sudo rm at the command line to accomplish this task, as in sudo rm -r /Volumes/ESP/EFI/refind.

Uninstalling rEFInd from Windows

From Windows, you must reverse the directions for installing in Windows—type mountvol S: /S to mount your ESP as S:, then navigate to the S:\EFI directory and delete the refind subdirectory.

Post-Uninstallation Activity (UEFI-Based PCs)

On a UEFI-based PC, when the computer boots and cannot find the rEFInd files, it should move on to the next boot loader in its list. In my experience, some EFI firmware implementations remove boot loaders they can't find from their NVRAM lists, so nothing else will be required, provided you have another working boot loader in your firmware's list. If your firmware doesn't automatically clean up its NVRAM entries, rEFInd's entry will do little harm; however, you can delete it with the efibootmgr utility in Linux:

# efibootmgr --verbose
Timeout: 10 seconds
BootOrder: 0000,0007
Boot0000* rEFInd	HD(2,1b8,64000,f1b7598e-baa8-16ea-4ef6-3ff3b606ac1e)File(\EFI\refind\refind_x64.efi)
Boot0007* CD/DVD Drive	BIOS(3,0,00)PATA: HP DVD Writer 1040r     .
# efibootmgr --delete-bootnum --bootnum 0000
Timeout: 10 seconds
BootOrder: 0007
Boot0007* CD/DVD Drive

This example shows use of efibootmgr's --verbose (-v) option to display boot programs so as to identify which one is rEFInd, followed by --delete-bootnum (-B) to delete a boot program and --bootnum (-b) to identify which one to delete. Of course, in this example there's not much else left, so you'd presumably want to install another boot program at this point! If you already have another one installed, you may want to check the BootOrder line to determine which one will take precedence when you reboot. If you don't like what it shows, you can adjust it with the --bootorder (-o) option; consult efibootmgr's man page for details.

If you're not using Linux, you may be able to find a utility that serves a similar function. Under Windows, the bcdedit command, described in the section on installing rEFInd under Windows, may work, although I've not attempted this.

copyright © 2012–2015 by Roderick W. Smith

This document is licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License (FDL), version 1.3.

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