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Converting to UEFI

When I got my HP ML110 Gen9 working as a workstation I initially was under the impression that boot wasn’t supported on NVMe and booted it from USB. I found USB booting with legacy boot to be unreliable so decided to try EFI booting and noticed that the NVMe devices were boot candidates with UEFI. Making one of them bootable was more complex than expected because no-one seems to have documented such things. So here’s my documentation, it’s not great but this method has worked once for me.

Before starting major partitioning work it’s best to run “parted -l and save the output to a file, that can allow you to recreate partitions if you corrupt them. One thing I’m doing on systems I manage is putting “@reboot /usr/sbin/parted -l > /root/parted.log” in the root crontab, then when the system is backed up the backup server gets any recent changes to partitioning (I don’t backup /var/log on all my systems).

Firstly run parted on the device to create the EFI and /boot partitions, note that if you want to copy and paste from this you must do so one line at a time, a block paste seemed to confuse parted.

mklabel gpt
mkpart EFI fat32 1 99
mkpart boot ext3 99 300
toggle 1 boot
toggle 1 esp
p
# Model: CT1000P1SSD8 (nvme)
# Disk /dev/nvme1n1: 1000GB
# Sector size (logical/physical): 512B/512B
# Partition Table: gpt
# Disk Flags: 
#
# Number  Start   End     Size    File system  Name  Flags
#  1      1049kB  98.6MB  97.5MB  fat32        EFI   boot, esp
#  2      98.6MB  300MB   201MB   ext3         boot
q

Here are the commands needed to create the filesystems and install the necessary files. This is almost to the stage of being scriptable. Some minor changes need to be made to convert from NVMe device names to SATA/SAS but nothing serious.

mkfs.vfat /dev/nvme1n1p1
mkfs.ext3 -N 1000 /dev/nvme1n1p2
file -s /dev/nvme1n1p2 | sed -e s/^.*UUID/UUID/ -e "s/ .*$/ \/boot ext3 noatime 0 1/" >> /etc/fstab
file -s /dev/nvme1n1p1 | tr "[a-f]" "[A-F]" |sed -e s/^.*numBEr.0x/UUID=/ -e "s/, .*$/ \/boot\/efi vfat umask=0077 0 1/" >> /etc/fstab
# edit /etc/fstab to put a hyphen between the 2 groups of 4 chars for the VFAT filesystem UUID
mount /boot
mkdir -p /boot/efi /boot/grub
mount /boot/efi
mkdir -p /boot/efi/EFI/debian
apt install efibootmgr shim-unsigned grub-efi-amd64
cp /usr/lib/shim/* /usr/lib/grub/x86_64-efi/monolithic/grubx64.efi /boot/efi/EFI/debian
file -s /dev/nvme1n1p2 | sed -e "s/^.*UUID=/search.fs_uuid /" -e "s/ .needs.*$/ root hd0,gpt2/" > /boot/efi/EFI/debian/grub.cfg
echo "set prefix=(\$root)'/boot/grub'" >> /boot/efi/EFI/debian/grub.cfg
echo "configfile \$prefix/grub.cfg" >> /boot/efi/EFI/debian/grub.cfg
grub-install
update-grub

If someone would like to make a script that can handle the different partition names of regular SCSI/SATA disks, NVMe, CCISS, etc then that would be great. It would be good to have a script in Debian that creates the partitions and sets up the EFI files.

If you want to have a second bootable device then the following commands will copy a GPT partition table and give it new UUIDs, make very certain that $DISKB is the one you want to be wiped and refer to my previous mention of “parted -l“. Also note that parted has a rescue command which works very well.

sgdisk /dev/$DISKA -R /dev/$DISKB 
sgdisk -G /dev/$DISKB

To backup a GPT partition table run a command like this. Note that if sgdisk is told to backup a MBR partitioned disk it will say “Found invalid GPT and valid MBR; converting MBR to GPT forma” which is probably a viable way of converting MBR format to GPT.

sgdisk -b sda.bak /dev/sda

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