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Particular problems with dual booting M1 Macs

at 14:05 - 23rd, July 2021
Here's an interesting and somewhat unique issue that no one foresaw. Apparently if you have any M1 mac (Macbook, MacMini, iMac) and install the newest version of MacOS on it, which upgrades the firmware of the machine, the process has a special admin user that is created that impedes dual booting other OS' on the machine, even other versions of MacOS.
The real question is: is this intentional? Is Apple planning on blocking dual booting on Macs? Is this a developer preview bug?

With my macbook pro nearing actual end of life - not what Apple calls end of life, I was looking into getting another laptop and the idea of possibly getting an new Macbook did occur to me for a travel companion. But the issues just keep increasing with Apple.

Last Week on My Mac: The perils of M1 Ownership

According to the small print in Apple’s Platform Security Guide, when you set up a new M1 Mac, or set one up after restoring it in DFU mode, the primary admin account created is special: it’s the Owner account of that Mac. During that inital setup, the Mac sends a request to Apple for that Mac’s signed Owner Identity Certificate (OIC). This is based on a private key generated in the Secure Enclave known as the Owner Identity Key (OIK).

Each M1 Mac has just a single OIK, and access to that is confined to that primary admin user of the internal SSD, who is thus its Owner. If your M1 is configured with a single macOS boot volume group on its internal SSD, never boots from an external disk, and has no other admin users – a vanilla system – then that’s all transparent.

If you install a second operating system, on internal or external storage, the Owner needs to agree to hand over Ownership to users of that second system. And that’s where problems can occur, with a combination of puzzlement and frustration. Last week, when trying to perform a macOS update on a second operating system on my M1 Mac mini, I only succeeded at the third attempt, after a total of five hours.

It's an interesting little find but only the full release of Big Sur will tell us for certain what direction Apple is actually taking.


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