Since I'm a student, I downloaded Windows Server 2008 R2 from Microsoft DreamSpark to test the Windows builds of some servers I programmed in C++.

While I know that the ISO has an EFI bootloader, how do I know if it can boot on a PC with a standard BIOS ?

I don't want to burn the ISO to a disc, or "install" it on a USB key. I also don't want to install software (except packages that can be found in Debian's repos).

I have both Windows and Debian, so I accept answers for both OSes.

Thanks in advance for your answer(s).


In Debian:

file youriso.iso

should return (among other information)


Now the question is: how to tell whether it refers to BIOS or EFI bootable? I don't know for sure, but here are some clues:

  1. EFI firmware understands the filesystem. On installation media it looks for *.efi file in specific locations and executes it (see this article).
  2. Syntax for patterns used by the file command is described in man 5 magic. It looks to me that this syntax is unsuitable for digging into a filesystem and looking for a file with certain name (I may be wrong here). It is for sure suitable for identifying MBR that makes ISO bootable with BIOS.

For these reasons my bet is that „(bootable)” output for ISO file indicates BIOS bootability.

  • After checking the presence of the (bootable) tag, I started a VM with the ISO, just to be sure. I don't know why I didn't think of that earlier... – Guillaume Jacquemin Mar 2 '16 at 20:23

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