WxFixBoot is being retired

Hi there, it’s been a long time since I’ve talked about this project. It came time to review what was important going forwards and what isn’t, and WxFixBoot didn’t make the cut, sadly. In this post I will talk about why I’m retiring WxFixBoot, what it means, and what you should use instead.

Project history

WxFixBoot was originally developed in order to provide a similar program to boot-repair for Parted Magic. Later on, I decided to release it for Ubuntu and Fedora as well, as those were the two operating systems it was able to fix the bootloader for.

Sadly, despite the enormous amount of effort needed, WxFixBoot never seemed to get much use. Patrick Verner from Parted Magic LLC and I never got much feedback to suggest it was being of much help. Nevertheless, I maintained it from February 2014 until 3.1.0 released in December of 2020. Most of the updates were periodic minor changes to ensure WxFixBoot continued to work with new releases of Ubuntu and Fedora.

Why retire WxFixBoot?

The BIOS to EFI/UEFI transition is pretty much over now

Most people who are going to do the BIOS to EFI/UEFI switch have probably done it by now, in my opinion. This was the primary use case for WxFixBoot in the first place. That, and the fragility of BIOS bootloaders, especially when dual-booting with Windows; Windows tended to periodically overwrite GRUB/LILO after installing updates, making it impossible to boot back into Linux.

EFI/UEFI bootloaders are less fragile and need fixing much less often

Also, EFI bootloaders are much more robust and less likely to be broken by Windows. As time goes on, switching between EFI and BIOS was getting harder and harder, with more and more workarounds needed for each new OS release, so this was inevitably going to happen eventually. At it turns out, all Intel Macs ever released (all Macs from roughly 2007 onwards) used EFI. Meanwhile, most PC hardware from at least 2012 uses EFI, if not a bit before that. I doubt there are many people using Linux on hardware that old who don’t know how to fix the bootloader themselves.

Time and effort versus reward and other factors

The third reason for retiring WxFixBoot is that it began with an enormous effort and learning curve for me, as I had never used EFI before when I first wrote it, and certainly never chrooted into a Linux install to fix it. I learned a lot from the project, but as time goes on, Ubuntu and Fedora (and other Linux distributions) have made it harder and harder to switch between EFI and BIOS bootloaders. It was never really supported to begin with, but more and more barriers arose with time. So essentially WxFixBoot became a large time and effort drain for apparently not much benefit, sadly. I have enjoyed working on the project, on the whole, and I’m sad to see it go, but it’s time to move on to bigger and better things.

Note: Fedora has recently considered removing BIOS support entirely. They did backtrack, but clearly BIOS bootloaders are on borrowed time on Fedora.

What does this mean?

It means I will no longer provide any updates or support for WxFixBoot. The existing releases will remain freely-available in the Museum on my website forever, unless there’s ever reason to remove them. The developer documentation will also remain there, in case anyone else decides to fork this project and wants it later.

The current version of WxFixBoot has not been (and will not be) tested on some of the newer versions of Ubuntu and Fedora, but it may remain a useful tool for those on Ubuntu LTS releases such as 20.04 LTS, and 18.04 LTS.

Please note: I will not provide any support whatsoever for use even on platforms that I did test on back in the day. It has been a long time and I wouldn’t be surprised to find that package updates have broken WxFixBoot on those platforms – use it at your own risk.

What is the alternative?

As it happens, a tool called boot-repair continues to exist – it might be a good bet to use that if you ever need a tool like this again. Please note that (at least when I last used it, many years ago) you need to tell it not to auto-upload system information before use, if you don’t want that for privacy reasons. Hopefully it is now opt-in, rather than opt-out. I have asked a question here to see if this is still the case.

To fix boot issues with Windows and macOS, you will need to use other tools – WxFixBoot has never had the ability to fix issues with booting any version of Windows or macOS.

Summary

It’s been a fun ride, but all good things come to an end. In this case, the end is an opportunity to spend time working on more helpful and interesting things. In any case, I should be back soon with some more posts – stay tuned!

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About Hamish McIntyre-Bhatty

I'm a self-employed software developer working on Free Software projects, as well as studying for my degree with the Open University. Being pedantic when it comes to detail is fortunately useful for both of these things! A strong believer in free software, I have a few pay-for programs available under the GPLv3 and enjoy reporting bugs and helping to improve various open source projects, including volunteering at Wimborne Model Town to work on their river control system.

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