Microsoft: Windows 8 boots too fast for F8

23 May 2012

Microsoft has created a new way to access boot menus

Windows 8 boots so quickly it's impossible to access the boot menu, Microsoft has said - meaning it's had to redesign how users access setup and safe mode.

In SSD-based PCs running Windows 8, the window to hit "F8" or other keys to go into boot modes is smaller than 200 milliseconds, Microsoft said.

"When you turn on a Windows 8 PC, there’s no longer long enough to detect keystrokes like F2 or F8, much less time to read a message such as 'Press F2 for Setup'," said Chris Clark, programme manager for the user experience team, in a post on the Windows 8 blog. "For the first time in decades, you will no longer be able to interrupt boot and tell your PC to do anything different than what it was already expecting to do."

Microsoft won't be slowing down boot to allow fingers to get keystrokes in, however. Instead, it has created a boot options menu, offering access to troubleshooting tools, ways to access UEFI settings, and a place to boot from alternative devices, such as USB, or to alternative OSes.

Windows 8 boot advanced screen

The menu will be brought up when the PC is struggling to boot successfully into Windows, but users will also be able to trigger it, either by going to the Advanced startup section in PC settings, by holding down the Shift key while clicking Restart, or by working from the Command Prompt.

New PCs only

The system only works for PCs running the BIOS replacement Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI). Older, non-UEFI devices, will have fewer options to choose from and still be able to press a key to enter the menu while booting.

"Legacy hardware that was made before Windows 8 will not have these new UEFI-provided menu features (booting to firmware settings and booting directly to a device)," Clark said. "The firmware on these devices will continue to support this functionality from the POST screen as it did in the past (using messages such as 'Press F2 for setup')."

"There is still time for keystrokes like this to work in POST on these legacy devices, since they won't have the improvements that enable a Windows 8 PC to POST in less than two seconds," he said.

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