Fedora May Make It Easier To Switch To systemd-boot, Making A GRUB-Free System

Written by Michael Larabel in Fedora on 22 June 2023 at 05:30 PM EDT. 57 Comments
A change proposal that hopes to take place for Fedora 39 would make it easier to have an optionally GRUB-free system by instead performing a clean install with systemd-boot for booting on EFI platforms.

Fedora currently defaults to using a shim and the GRUB bootloader for booting on EFI systems. However, systemd-boot is already packaged on Fedora and there are some ways to manually going about switching over to using systemd's boot solution instead. The F39 proposal drafted by Arm engineer Jeremy Linton would allow for more easily installing Fedora with systemd-boot.

The proposal currently involves finishing work within the Anaconda installer, Kickstart, and related tooling with an initial focus on allowing the Fedora Everything spin to optionally allow installing a GRUB-free machine.
"As a first pass, the 'inst.sdboot' option already in anaconda should work. As it stands, that replaces grub+shim with the systemd-boot loader, and moves the kernel + initrd to the EFI system partition (ESP). It doesn't attempt to create unified kernel images, so the existing dnf update, kdumpctl, and make install in a kernel source directory should all work. The vast majority of this work has been done, leaving only two action items, removing grubby from core, and merging a shimming package (sdubby) into the fedora repos.

Beyond that there are various enhancements which can be made to remove the /boot partition (leaving the EFI at /boot/efi), enrolling fedora keys if the secure boot mode is "Setup", adding options to enable shim+systemd-boot, assuring that there is a systemd-boot-signed package, etc.

The advantages of just enabling the systemd-boot loader without UKIs or restructuring the /boot and /boot/efi mount points result in a wider range of supported machines and a more familiar environment for users and applications. AKA, by not changing the HostOnly/initrd build process the vast majority of UEFI machines are supported.

To be clear the intention isn't to replace grub, but to co-exist alongside as an alternative bootloader."

More details on this proposed change for Fedora 39, which still needs to be evaluated by the Fedora Engineering and Steering Committee (FESCo), can be found on the Fedora Wiki.
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