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A hardware restriction (sometimes called hardware DRM)[1] is content protection enforced by electronic components. The hardware restriction scheme may complement a digital rights management system implemented in software. Some examples of hardware restriction information appliances are video game consoles, smartphones,[2] tablet computers, Macintosh computers[3] and personal computers that implement secure boot.


Instances of hardware restrictionEdit

Upgradeable processorsEdit

Some Intel processors are sold with some features "locked", that can later be unlocked after payment.[4][5]

Note that this is not unique to Intel. Some models of IBM's System/370 mainframe computer had additional hardware included, that if the customer paid the additional charge, IBM would send out a service engineer to enable it, typically by cutting a resistor in the machine.

Intel InsiderEdit

Intel Insider, a technology that provides a "protected path" for digital content,[6] can be considered a form of DRM.[7][8][9]

Verified/trusted/secure bootEdit

Some devices implement a feature called "verified boot", "trusted boot" or "secure boot", which will only allow signed software to run on the device, usually from the device manufacturer. This is considered a restriction unless users either have the ability to disable it or have the ability to sign the software.

Android devicesEdit

Many modern Android devices, such as Huawei's[10] and Nokia's[11] come with the bootloader locked.

Apple devicesEdit

Apple's iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and Apple TV) require signatures for firmware installation, intended to verify that only the latest official firmware can be installed on those devices. Official firmware allows third-party software to be installed only from the App Store.

Macs equipped with a T2 security chip also are equipped with secure boot, ensuring that only trusted versions of Apple's macOS and Microsoft's Windows operating systems that support secure boot can start.


If a device only runs software approved by the hardware vendor, and only a certain version of a free software program is allowed to run on the device, the user cannot exercise the rights he theoretically has, because he or she cannot install modified versions.


Another case of trusted boot is the One Laptop per Child XO laptop which will only boot from software signed by a private cryptographic key known only to the OLPC non-profit organisation and the respective deployment authorities such as Education Ministries. Laptops distributed directly by the OLPC organisation provide a way to disable the restrictions, by requesting a "developer key" unique to that laptop, over the Internet, waiting 24 hours to receive it, installing it, and running the firmware command "disable-security". However some deployments such as Uruguay[12] deny requests for such keys. The stated goal is to deter mass theft of laptops from children or via distribution channels, by making the laptops refuse to boot, making it hard to reprogram them so they will boot and delaying the issuance of developer keys to allow time to check whether a key-requesting laptop had been stolen.

Secure bootEdit

Certified Windows 8 hardware requires secure boot. Soon after the feature was announced in September 2011, it caused widespread fear it would lock-out alternative operating systems.[13][14][15][16] In January 2012, Microsoft confirmed it would require hardware manufacturers to enable secure boot on Windows 8 devices, and that x86/64 devices must provide the option to turn it off while ARM-based devices must not provide the option to turn it off.[17] According to Glyn Moody, at ComputerWorld, this "approach seems to be making it hard if not impossible to install Linux on hardware systems certified for Windows 8".[17]

Solaris Verified BootEdit

Oracle Solaris 11.2 has a Verified Boot feature, which checks the signatures of the boot block and kernel modules. By default it is disabled. If enabled, it can be set to "warning" mode where only a warning message is logged on signature failures or to "enforce" mode where the module is not loaded. The Solaris elfsign(1) command inserts a signature into kernel modules. All kernel modules distributed by Oracle have a signature. Third-party kernel modules are allowed, providing the public key certificate is installed in firmware (to establish a root of trust).[18]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Archived 2015-09-24 at the Wayback Machine HP Laboratories
  2. ^ Stross, Randall. "Want an iPhone? Beware the iHandcuffs". Archived from the original on 2016-11-01. Retrieved 2017-02-22.
  3. ^ "Apple brings HDCP to a new aluminum MacBook near you".
  4. ^ "Intel wants to charge $50 to unlock stuff your CPU can already do". Archived from the original on 2017-07-21. Retrieved 2017-08-29.
  5. ^ "Intel + DRM: a crippled processor that you have to pay extra to unlock / Boing Boing". Archived from the original on 2011-08-25. Retrieved 2011-07-12.
  6. ^ Shah, Agam. "Intel: Sandy Bridge's Insider is not DRM". Archived from the original on 2011-12-04. Retrieved 2011-07-12.
  7. ^ "Intel Claims DRM'd Chip Is Not DRM, It's Just Copy Protection". Archived from the original on 2011-12-25. Retrieved 2011-07-12.
  8. ^ "Is Intel Insider Code for DRM in Sandy Bridge?". Archived from the original on 2017-02-10. Retrieved 2017-08-29.
  9. ^ "Intel's Sandy Bridge sucks up to Hollywood with DRM - TheINQUIRER". Archived from the original on 2011-06-15. Retrieved 2011-07-12.
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ "[Sugar-devel] Is Project Ceibal violating the GNU General Public License?". Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2016-09-24.
  13. ^ Hacking; Security; Cybercrime; Vulnerability; Malware; Lacoon, Check Point snaps up mobile security outfit; users, Fake Pirate Bay site pushes banking Trojan to WordPress; Lebanon, Mystery 'Explosive' cyber-spy campaign traced back to. "Windows 8 secure boot would 'exclude' Linux". Archived from the original on 2016-07-11. Retrieved 2016-09-24.
  14. ^ "Windows 8 secure boot could complicate Linux installs". Archived from the original on 2012-05-01. Retrieved 2017-06-14.
  15. ^ "Windows 8 secure boot to block Linux". ZDNet. Archived from the original on 2011-09-23. Retrieved 2011-09-28.
  16. ^ Staff, OSNews. "Windows 8 Requires Secure Boot, May Hinder Other Software". Archived from the original on 2016-09-27. Retrieved 2016-09-24.
  17. ^ a b Is Microsoft Blocking Linux Booting on ARM Hardware? - Open Enterprise Archived 2012-03-09 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ Anderson, Dan. "Solaris Verified Boot". Archived from the original on 2014-05-02. Retrieved 2014-05-01.

External linksEdit