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You own a Windows RT device and want to give it a new life? Congratulations you came to the right place.

What to do with Windows RT devices?

Windows RT was limited from the beginning. It didn't allow to run 3rd party desktop apps and therefore you weren't able to run your favorit apps. On the one hand it was Microsofts fault as they closed down the desktop for 3rd party apps. On the other hand Windows RT devices run on ARM32 processors. This means that the CPU speaks another language than your desktop x86/AMD64 CPU. 3rd Party apps need to be compatible with ARM32. But due to the closed System no company ported their Application to Windows RT. Most if not all program you which currently run on Windows RT were ported by hobbyists or were taken from other Platforms like Windows Mobile. Thefore most Windows RT devices ended up in a draw and were forgotten.
Most people paid a lot of money for them but now they are reasonably cheap but they aren't more useful than 8 years ago. App support is getting worse day by day. The only browser you get is Internet Explorer and it already doesn't work with most famous pages.
However the look and feel of the devices is great and they still have some power left. The battery life is great thanks to the early mentioned ARM processor.
We like to show you some solutions. Some are ready for daily use others are for tech nerds who love to play with it.
But first we have to solve a problem created by Microsoft: Secure Boot.

Secure Boot

Secure Boot is a really nice thing in theory. It prevents attackers from booting malware on your PC. Your UEFI firmware checks the signature of the EFI app which will be booted. In Most cases this a bootloader which will load your OS like Windows Bootmanager or GRUB2. Most UEFI systems only accept files signed by Microsoft. This is a problem if you want to boot a 3rd party unsigned OS like Linux. On Desktop system you could add the secure boot key of your Linux distribution creator and you are safe. The other alternative is to disable secure boot. This is much easier but opens a small window were attackers can take control over your PC. Microsoft being Microsoft and didn't gave us an option to disable secure boot on Windows RT devices.
Luckily there are there are a few exploits which deal with secure boot on ARM32 devices. First there was a secure boot bypass which allowed to boot test-signed Windows Bootmanager apps. It was followed by another exploit which is able to disable secure boot entirely. Disabling secure boot only works on Surface RT and Surface 2.
Instruction for bypassing or disableing secure boot can be found below.

Windows 10 on ARM32

The first solution is Windows 10. Yes you heard right Windows 10 runs on Windows RT devices. And by Windows RT devices we mean all of them: Surface RT, Surface 2, Asus Vivo Tab RT, Lenovo Ideapad Yoga 11 and so on. But there's a catch: it isn't an official build. It was leaked 5 years ago. This brings some pros and cons with it. It comes with Microsoft's Edge Browser which is newer but also starts to struggle with newer pages. You also get access to a larger library of apps which might be something you are looking for.

Linux

Linux runs on pretty much anything and so it does on Windows RT devices. They run on Nvidia Tegra SoC's (System on Chip). These SoC's have are mainlined and therefore and run plain Linux but they aren't fully supported. For example they are lacking OpenGL/3D hardware acceleration. There are a few more problems caused by the UEFI firmware running on Windows RT devices. Firmware prevents Linux from managing power settings and other essential stuff like: CPU Voltage/Frequency Scaling, L2 Cache, Regulator management.
Linux apps are still limited to ARM apps but the selection is much bigger as long as you look for traditional Linux desktop apps.
Not all devices can run Linux very well. Some are better supported than others. Furthermore there are different ways to boot those devices. One way is to use the UEFI firmware which is easy and doesn't requires any special equipment other than an USB drive. The other way is booting via APX which requires a x86 Linux PC and a USB A-to-A cable every time you want to boot your device.

UEFI vs APX

In most cases you will decide to boot via UEFI whether it be related to the fact that you need your Host every time you want to boot or the fact that you have no USB A-to-A cable. But why do we mention APX if it is more annoying than UEFI booting? Let us explain with a little analogy.

UEFI:

You have an older timer. It looks nice but it isn't the fastest car anymore. Also something is broken and you can only drive in 2nd gear. Not very fast but you eventually reach your destination. You want to stop the car but the motor keeps running using fuel.

APX:

You have the same old timer but it ain't broken. It can shift gears to go faster or slower to save energy. The motor can be stopped but you need jumper cables everytime want to start it.

Supported devices

Currently supported devices are: Surface RT, Lenovo ideapad yoga 11, Asus Vivotab RT and Surface 2

Surface RT

It is pretty well supported it just misses some features like bluetooth and microphones.

Asus Vivo Tab RT

Is is pretty well supported too. It is mainted by another group

Lenovo Ideapad Yoga 11

It has some hardware support but somethings are still missing. We would appreciate if you are willing to test somethings. Feel free to contact us at discord :)

Distributions

Any ARM32 distro can be used. Most popular are postmarketOS and Raspberry Pi OS. Arch, Void, Ubuntu, Kali were reported to work too.
See below for more informations:

Android

No attempts at porting Android were made so far.
Last modified 2d ago