The rEFInd Boot Manager

by Roderick W. Smith, rodsmith@rodsbooks.com

Originally written: 3/14/2012; last Web page update: 4/10/2022, referencing rEFInd 0.13.3

This Web page is provided free of charge and with no annoying outside ads; however, I did take time to prepare it, and Web hosting does cost money. If you find this Web page useful, please consider making a small donation to help keep this site up and running. Thanks!

Donate $1.00 Donate $2.50 Donate $5.00 Donate $10.00 Donate $20.00 Donate another value

Introduction

This page describes rEFInd, my fork of the rEFIt boot manager for computers based on the Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI) and Unified EFI (UEFI). Like rEFIt, rEFInd is a boot manager, meaning that it presents a menu of options to the user when the computer first starts up, as shown below. rEFInd is not a boot loader, which is a program that loads an OS kernel and hands off control to it. Many popular boot managers, such as the Grand Unified Bootloader (GRUB), are also boot loaders, which can blur the distinction in many users' minds. All EFI-capable OSes include boot loaders, so this limitation isn't a problem. If you're using Linux, you should be aware that several EFI boot loaders are available, so choosing between them can be a challenge. In fact, since version 3.3.0, the Linux kernel can function as an EFI boot loader for itself, which gives rEFInd characteristics similar to a boot loader for Linux. See my Web page on this topic for more information.


rEFInd presents a graphical menu for selecting your
    boot OS.

In theory, EFI implementations should provide boot managers. Unfortunately, in practice these boot managers are often so poor as to be useless. The worst I've personally encountered is on Gigabyte's Hybrid EFI, which provides you with no boot options whatsoever, beyond choosing the boot device (hard disk vs. optical disc, for instance). I've heard of others that are just as bad. For this reason, a good EFI boot manager—either standalone or as part of a boot loader—is a practical necessity for multi-booting on an EFI computer. That's where rEFInd comes into play.

rEFInd is a fork of the earlier rEFIt boot manager, which has not seen any development since 2010. Since rEFInd's release, Chrisoph Pfisterer, rEFIt's author, has begun pointing to rEFInd as its successor project. The Clover boot manager is a different fork of rEFIt that's used mainly as a Hackintosh (macOS on stock PC hardware) boot utility. In 2020, RefindPlus emerged as a fork of rEFInd with features intended to support older Macs with third-party video cards, which can be difficult to get working. Thus, the rEFIt family of boot managers has become fairly populous.

As already noted, rEFInd is a boot manager for EFI and UEFI computers. (I use "EFI" to refer to either version unless the distinction is important.) You're likely to benefit from rEFInd on computers that boot multiple OSes, such as two or more of Linux, macOS, and Windows. You will not find rEFInd useful on older BIOS-based computers or on systems with other types of firmware, such as older PowerPC-based Macs. Prior to mid-2011, few computers outside of Intel-based Macs used EFI; but starting in 2011, computer manufacturers began adopting UEFI in droves, so most computers bought since then use EFI. Even so, many modern PCs support both EFI-style booting and BIOS-style booting, the latter via a BIOS compatibility mode that's known as the Compatibility Support Module (CSM). Thus, you may be using BIOS-style booting on an EFI-based computer. My page on the CSM describes how it works and why it can create problems in more detail. If you're unsure which boot method your computer uses, check the first of the subsections, What's Your Boot Mode.

Subsequent sections of this document are on separate pages. Be aware that you probably don't need to read them all; just skip to the sections that interest you.

References and Additional Information


copyright © 2012–2021 by Roderick W. Smith

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

If you have problems with or comments about this Web page, please e-mail me at rodsmith@rodsbooks.com. Thanks.

Return to my main Web page.