ELAM Driver Requirements

Driver installation must use existing tools for online and offline installation, registering a driver through typical INF processing. For sample ELAM driver code, please see the following: https://github.com/Microsoft/Windows-driver-samples/tree/main/security/elam

AM Driver Installation

To ensure driver install compatibility, an ELAM driver advertises itself as a boot-start driver similar to all other boot-start drivers. The INF sets the start type to SERVICE_BOOT_START (0), which indicates that the driver should be loaded by the boot loader and initialized during kernel initialization. An ELAM Driver advertises its group as “Early-Launch”. The early launch behavior for drivers in this group will be implemented in Windows, as described in the next section.

The following is an example of the driver install section of an ELAM driver INF.

DisplayName    = %SampleAVServiceName%
Description    = %SampleAVServiceDescription%
ServiceType    = 1       ; SERVICE_KERNEL_DRIVER
StartType      = 0       ; SERVICE_BOOT_START
ErrorControl   = 3       ; SERVICE_ERROR_CRITICAL
LoadOrderGroup = “Early-Launch”

Because an AM driver does not own any devices, it is necessary to install the AM driver as a Legacy so the driver is only added as a service into the registry. (If the AM driver is installed as a normal PNP driver, it will be added to the enum section of the registry and therefore will have a PDO reference, which will lead to unwanted behavior when unloading the driver.)

You also need to include a SignatureAttributes Section in the INF file for the ELAM driver.

Backup Driver Installation

To provide a recovery mechanism in the event that the ELAM driver is inadvertently corrupted, the ELAM installer also installs a copy of the driver in a backup location. This will allow WinRE to retrieve the clean copy and recover the installation.

The installer reads the backup file location from the BackupPath key stored in


The installer then places the backup copy in the folder specified in the regkey.

AM Driver Initialization

The Windows boot loader, Winload, loads all boot-start drivers and their dependent DLLs into memory prior to handoff to the Windows kernel. The boot-start drivers represent the device drivers that need to be initialized before the disk stack has been initialized. These drivers include, among others, the disk stack and volume manager, and file system driver and bus drivers for the operating system device.

AM Driver Callback Interface

The ELAM drivers use callbacks to provide the PnP manager with a description of every boot-start driver and dependent DLL, and it can classify every boot image as a known good binary, known bad binary, or an unknown binary.

The default operating system policy is not to initialize known bad drivers and DLLs. Policy can be configured and is measured by Winload as part of boot attestation.

PnP uses policy and the classification provided by the AM driver to decide whether to initialize each boot image.

Registry Callbacks

The Early Launch drivers can use registry or boot driver callbacks to monitor and validate the configuration data used as input for each boot-start driver. The configuration data is stored in the System registry hive, which is loaded by Winload and is available at the time of boot driver initialization.


Any changes to the ELAM registry hive are discarded before the system boots. As a result, an ELAM driver should use standard Event Tracing for Windows (ETW) logging rather than writing to the registry.

These callbacks are valid through the lifetime of the ELAM driver and will be unregistered when the driver is unloaded. For more info, see:

Boot Driver Callbacks

Use IoRegisterBootDriverCallback and IoUnRegisterBootDriverCallback to register and unregister a BOOT_DRIVER_CALLBACK_FUNCTION.

This callback provides status updates from Windows to an ELAM driver, including when all boot-start drivers have been initialized and the callback facility is no longer functional.

Callback Type

The BDCB_CALLBACK_TYPE enumeration describes two types of callbacks:

  • Callbacks that provide status updates to an ELAM driver (BdCbStatusUpdate)
  • Callbacks used by the AM driver to classify boot-start drivers and dependent DLLs before initializing their images (BdCbInitializeImage)

The two callback types have unique context structures that provide additional information specific to the callback.

The context structure for the status update callback contains a single enumerated type describing the Windows callout.

The context structure for the initialize image callback is more complex, containing hash and certificate information for each loaded image. The structure additionally contains a field that is an output parameter where the AM driver stores the classification type for the driver.

An error returned from a status update callback is treated as a fatal error and leads to a system bug check. This provides an ELAM driver the ability to indicate when a state is reached outside of AM policy. For example, if an AM runtime driver was not loaded and initialized, the Early Launch driver can fail the prepare-to-unload callback to prevent Windows from entering a state without an AM driver loaded.

An image is treated as unknown when an error is returned from the initialize image callback. Unknown drivers are initialized or have their initialization skipped based on OS policy.

Malware Signatures

The malware signature data is determined by the AM ISV, but should include, at a minimum, an approved list of driver hashes. The signature data is stored in the registry in a new “Early Launch Drivers” hive under HKLM that is loaded by Winload. Each AM driver has a unique key in which to store their signature binary large object (BLOB). The registry path and key has the format:


Within the key, the vendor is free to define and use any of the values. There are three defined binary blob values that are measured by Measured Boot, and the vendor may use each:

  • Measured
  • Policy
  • Config

The ELAM hive is unloaded after its use by Early Launch Antimalware for performance. If a user mode service wants to update the signature data, it should mount the hive file from the file location \Windows\System32\config\ELAM. For example, you could generate a UUID, convert it to a string, and use that as a unique key into which to mount the hive. The storage and retrieval format of these data BLOBs is left up to the ISV, but the signature data must be signed so that the AM driver can verify the integrity of the data.

Verifying Malware Signatures

The method for verifying the integrity of the malware signature data is left up to each AM ISV. The CNG Cryptographic Primitive Functions are available to assist in verifying digital signatures and certificates on the malware signature data.

Malware Signature Failure

If the ELAM driver checks the integrity of the signature data, and that check fails, or if there is no signature data, the initialization of the ELAM driver still succeeds. In this case, for each boot driver the ELAM driver must return “unknown” for each initialization callback. Additionally, the ELAM driver should pass this information onto the runtime AM component once it has started.

Unloading the AM Driver

When the callback StatusType is BdCbStatusPrepareForUnload, this is an indication to the AM driver that all boot drivers have been initialized and that the AM driver should prepare to be unloaded. Before unloading, the early launch AM driver needs to deregister its callbacks. Deregistration cannot happen during a callback; rather, it has to happen in the DriverUnload function, which a driver can specify during DriverEntry.

To maintain continuity in malware protection and to ensure proper handoff, the runtime AM engine should be started prior to the early launch AM driver being unloaded. This means that the runtime AM engine should be a boot driver that is verified by the early launch AM driver.


The driver must meet the performance requirements defined in the following table:


Start Time

End Time

Upper Bound

Evaluate loaded boot critical driver before allowing it to initialize. This also includes status update callbacks.

Kernel calls back to antimalware driver to evaluate loaded boot critical driver.

Antimalware driver returns evaluation result.


Evaluate all loaded boot critical drivers

Kernel calls back to antimalware driver to evaluate the first loaded boot critical driver.

Antimalware driver returns evaluation result for last boot critical driver.

50 ms

Footprint (driver + configuration data in memory)




Initializing Drivers

Once the boot drivers are evaluated by the ELAM driver, the Kernel uses the classification returned by ELAM to decide whether to initialize the driver. This decision is dictated by policy and is stored here in the registry at:


This can be configured through Group Policy on a domain-joined client. An antimalware solution may want to expose this functionality to the end user in nonmanaged scenarios. The following values are defined for DriverLoadPolicy:

PNP_INITIALIZE_DRIVERS_DEFAULT 0x0  (initializes known Good drivers only)
PNP_INITIALIZE_BAD_CRITICAL_DRIVERS 0x3 (this is the default setting)

Boot Failures

If a boot driver is skipped due to the initialization policy, the Kernel continues to attempt to initialize the next boot driver in the list. This continues until either the drivers are all initialized, or the boot failed because a boot driver that was skipped was critical to the boot. If the crash occurs after the disk stack is started, then there is a crash dump, and it contains some information about the reason or the crash, to include information about missing drivers. This can be used in WinRE to determine the cause of the failure and to attempt to remediate.

ELAM and Measured Boot

If the ELAM driver detects a policy violation (a rootkit, for example), it should immediately call Tbsi_Revoke_Attestation to invalidate the PCRs that indicated that the system was in a good state. The function returns an error if there is a problem with measured boot, for example no TPM on the system.

Tbsi_Revoke_Attestation is callable from kernel mode. It extends PCR[12] by an unspecified value and increments the event counter in the TPM. Both actions are necessary, so the trust is broken in all quotes that are created from here forward. As a result, the Measured Boot logs will not reflect the current state of the TPM for the remainder of the time that the TPM is powered up, and remote systems will not be able to form trust in the security state of the system.