Lenovo Accused Of Locking Linux Out Of Certain Laptops At Microsoft's Request

from the that-would-be-dumb dept

A thread on Reddit is getting a fair bit of attention today, claiming that Lenovo has set up some of its Yoga laptops to block anyone from installing Linux — and a Lenovo representative then pointed the finger at Microsoft, saying that it’s part of what Lenovo was required to do as part of the Microsoft “Signature Edition” Windows 10 program, though there are reasons to doubt this is true. What is clearly true is that there’s a problem installing Linux on a bunch of Lenovo machines. Here’s a giant thread on the problems (which apparently disappeared for a while, but is back as I write this). And here’s another. And here’s another. Some of these threads go back many months. But the issue that has suddenly made it big news is a comment supposedly from a Lenovo “product expert” that the company is forced to block it as a part of the Signature Edition program:

If you haven’t heard of the Windows “Signature Edition,” it’s a program from Microsoft to offer a “clean” (read: no annoying bloatware) version of Windows. Think of it like a Google Nexus phone with a clean Android install, as compared to one from a carrier or handset maker stuffed with annoying bloatware you’ll never use. The Signature Edition PCs have received some fairly glowing reviews — and many (ironically given this story today) of the news stories about the Signature Edition program use the Lenovo Superfish malware fiasco as a reason for why people should look at a Signature Edition computer if they want to run Windows.

So, yeah, based on this storyline so far, you have Microsoft making a clean install of its operating system without bloatware (good idea!), but then being accused of making Lenovo design its BIOS to block the installation of Linux (bad idea!). There is at least some reasonable skepticism that the problem here is really because of the Microsoft Signature Edition program. First of all, Signature Edition computers are supposed to only be available directly via Microsoft’s stores — and the laptop that kicked this off was purchased at Best Buy. Also it wasn’t labeled as a Signature Edition PC. And it’s certainly not unheard of for low level employees in forums to post incorrect information — and there is even some question as to whether or not the “Lenovo Product Expert” in the forum post above is even a Lenovo employee or a third-party contractor anyway.

So whether Microsoft is truly to blame here is still an open question. At the very least, it does seem like Lenovo has some questions to answer — and one hopes that the company will be more forthright and honest than it was back during the Superfish episode when it basically lied through its teeth until it couldn’t lie any more.

Filed Under: , , , , , , ,
Companies: lenovo, microsoft

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Lenovo Accused Of Locking Linux Out Of Certain Laptops At Microsoft's Request”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Certainly not. Not many Linux distros send so much information about your usage, if any. No Linux distro blocks you from choosing what you want installed or not or what updates you will receive let alone forcefully install things you don’t want via obscure, closed packages. I could go on but you get the picture.

Skeeter says:

Re: Re:

Yeah, I smiled sarcastically when I read that, too. This being said by a company that thinks you’re too stupid to be informed of what updates you’re getting, refuses to let you turn off your updates, and mines your personal files like an insane prospector looking for that last flake of gold.

No thanks, I like my malware free (not WinMal v.10), oh, but wait, Linux doesn’t get malware (or viruses) too easy. What was I thinking?

crade (profile) says:


According to http://www.zdnet.com/article/lenovo-reportedly-blocking-linux-on-windows-10-signature-edition-pcs/

[UPDATE 9-21-16 7:25 PDT: Comment from Lenovo:

“To improve system performance, Lenovo is leading an industry trend of adopting RAID on the SSDs in certain product configurations. Lenovo does not intentionally block customers using other operating systems on its devices and is fully committed to providing Linux certifications and installation guidance on a wide range of products -https://support.lenovo.com/us/en/documents/pd031426. Unsupported models will rely on Linux operating system vendors releasing new kernel and drivers to support features such as RAID on SSD.”

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: update

Lenovo, if you’re going to modify your hardware in a way that all major Linux distributions won’t install, then either develop the Linux fix, or take the blame that your hardware doesn’t allow Linux to be installed.

None of this “does not intentionally block” stuff. Your hardware change that blocks major non-Microsoft OSes is something that you should consider, or take the blame for not considering it.

Before anyone says that is unfair, it is no less fair than pointing out that any vendor X of a product (not even a computer) can’t do Y. (HP and ink cartridges?) This kind of thing should be made widely known. Especially when large numbers of developers run Linux, and use laptops.

PRMan (profile) says:

Re: Re: update

The Linux drivers exist but they are not in the install CDs.

Linux devs can easily change that and then Linux would install easily.

But right now there’s a catch-22, because you can’t load far enough to load the driver, since the common workaround (switch the BIOS to AHCI) is locked.

Once RAID drivers are installed in Linux by default, it won’t be a problem anymore.

People are also having a VERY difficult time reinstalling Windows 10 on this tablet.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 update

You don’t need a RAID controller to do RAID in linux.

How is that relevant, exactly?

If an SSD is hooked up to a RAID controller, then your OS needs to be able to access that RAID controller to access that disk. Whether it would be able to implement software RAID if the hardware were in a completely different configuration doesn’t really have anything to do with it.

Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Ultrabook

It’s an Ultrabook. You can’t change the hardware. The solid state drive (SSD) is on the board and not removable (so it can’t be replaced by a cheaper larger one not sold by the manufacturer).

That drive is connected to the built-in on-board controller, which can either do Advanced Host Controller Interface (AHCI) or RAID. Lenovo has elected to have its BIOS only allow the controller to do RAID mode.

As Intel has not released a Linux RAID driver for this chipset — or even the specifications — Linux has no way to access this drive through the built in controller.

Note that Intel hasn’t released the specs to Microsoft either. That’s why their proprietary driver is required for e.g. Windows 10 to boot.


Skeeter says:

Re: update

ANOTHER lie, for those not familiar with ‘Computer BIOS 101’.

Heads up for the lay-person, a BIOS is a chip on the motherboard that takes the initial or ‘basic’ instruction set (tells the computer how to boot up to a flashing cursor without an OS) so that you can install an OS. A BIOS (therefore) MUST be instructed NOT to install, or it will try to. If Winjunk can install, Linux can install, UNLESS BIOS is told to ‘check first, and deny if it is’.

Since the BIOS is a $1 chip, simply ask Lenovo why they’re using a different BIOS on their ‘Signature’ series.
(FYI, I had a Dell Inspiron like this, that absolutely would NOT take a Linux install – comes to find out, the specific motherboard used had been BIOS’d to ‘prevent Linux installation’, and there were many online complaints from those who wanted to change over, when Winjunk 10 hit the market.)

experiencias extremadura (user link) says:

The problem seems to lie in a lock BIOS by Lenovo : Linux distributions are not able to detect the SSD makes use of NVMe technology and operating in RAID (Intel RST ) mode. Linux detect the unit if it were set to AHCI mode, but the computer’s BIOS Lenovo is locked. Only a complex operation that have to be welded on the plate to reflash the BIOS to change the BIOS settings for the SSD is detected.

Darkhog says:

Re: Re: Re:

How about having driver for every OS supported by its vendor and is released for the public to use with documentation allowing of developing software and drivers for it? So HW companies won’t need to e.g. support DOS (unless it’s FreeDOS) or win 98 (or even XP)? But they would have to support Windows, Linux, MacOS, Haiku, *BSD. Latter clause (released for the public to use with development docs) is in case some yahoo would develop simple OS from a tutorial and would then demand then demand “okay so myOS that I support, you kinda HAVE TO make drivers for it”.

Skeeter says:

Re: Re:

See, I keep expecting this to eventually hit a major courtroom somewhere, but not like you think. I expect someone to claim a 3-year tax write-off with the IRS for ‘lease expenses’, where the product isn’t ‘technically’ leased (whether it’s Winjunk 10, or Lenovo Big Brother computer). The IRS is going to only allow a 1-year claim, then this goes to court for defining ‘what constitutes a purchase, versus a lease’.

Taxes took down Capone, not the murder of hundreds. I’m sure taxes will take down the ‘you bought it, but really, you’re only leasing it’ crowd, too.

Skeeter says:

Re: Obviously....

Yep, and Hillary thought Trump was an inconsequential joke not to be entertained, too. Old military adage, ‘that attack to your flank that you think is a small, unimportant guerrilla ambush is actually the major offensive that you are ignoring’.

Then again, maybe that’s why Microsoft took away every single programming tool they could from their Terminal Window years ago (thinking the user did NOT need to be able to use command lines), but as of last year, want to but the Linux Bash screen and functionality into their Winjunk 10 ensemble.

Skeeter says:

Re: Re: Enquiry in re other operating systems

Having a LOT of trouble believing an RMT RAID driver nested in the Kernel is why Lenovo locked out the Linux Kernel. Also having a lot of trouble understanding why this would matter.

Consider what you are saying, that a computer manufacturer, that buys a host of various BIOS chips (some that CAN run Linux) chose to put a BIOS (which, BTW, is programmed on the Signature Machines to be locked out and apparently not re-flashed while on-board) on this specific computer, which is sorting out what OS’s it will allow to be installed on a computer, based on whether an RMT RAID driver is built-into the OS Kernel? That’s nothing but fingerprinting for identification, at best!

I’ve got an old PC486-Pentium I that runs Linux PERFECTLY, and an AMD64 quad-core 3.0-ghz with 32-GB of RAM running it too (the AMD64 machine is MUCH faster than a Winjunk-OS-peer, too). Linux is FAR MORE versatile than Winjunk – why (other than shady agreements) would they lock Linux out of ANY of their computers?

Microjunk Win 10 – the best advertisement program that Linux could ever design!

MrTroy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Enquiry in re other operating systems

which is sorting out what OS’s it will allow to be installed on a computer, based on whether an RMT RAID driver is built-into the OS Kernel? That’s nothing but fingerprinting for identification, at best!

What? That’s like saying that my Intel CPU is performing fingerprinting by not letting me install an OS based on whether it supports the x86 instruction set.

MDT (profile) says:

Ha... ha... haha... hahahahahaha

At the very least, it does seem like Lenovo has some questions to answer — and one hopes that the company will be more forthright and honest than it was back during the Superfish episode when it basically lied through its teeth until it couldn’t lie any more.

Ha…Ha…Ha Ha… Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha…

Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha

Oh wow, I love the humor here on Techdirt… god I needed that laugh…

Anonymous Coward says:

Lenovo leading the way again (superfish II)

Unsupported models will rely on Linux operating system vendors releasing new kernel and drivers to support features such as RAID on SSD.

Great, Lenovo, and just where have you published the specs for doing so on your new non-industry-standard hardware? Or is this a new version of superfish embedded in RAID drivers this time?
Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Machin Shin (profile) says:

Re: Re:

They are of course free to lock out other OS options. The place this gets really questionable is if Microsoft made a deal with them to place that lock. If so you suddenly are opening up some bigger questions about Microsoft abusing it’s power to hurt competition. They kind of got in trouble for this exact kind of thing a few years ago……..

Ben (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I think more to the point: that if they did lock out other OS options, did they identify that fact in their literature? Lots of people buy laptops to put Linux on them. If the documentation clearly stated something to the effect of “This laptop does not support Linux” then people would know not to buy it. The problem is them not being open with their customers, not a problem with Microsoft (about this /s).

Anonymous Coward says:

interesting thing to me is that this is the first indication i’ve come across that microbully realizes what a mess they are making of things and that the need is there to go on the offensive. clearly the numbers have their full and vile attention.

my very great suspicion is that they have no choice but to be obnoxious. they’ve likely been subsumed into a higher power and must do the bidding of that higher power. or else.

they must realize their days are numbered if they can’t tilt the playing field even more than they usually do, and this is a ham-handed attempt.

as for lenovo, this is just lenovo.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Ooooohhh, this is gonna be good

Don’t hold your breath.

One of my pet conspiracies, is that MS was responsible in part for W. Bush’s fraudulent election in Bush V. Gore. There was a HUGE antitrust case against them at the time which they had lost on multiple appeals. Soon after W. took office, the DOJ dropped the case.

YMMV. But since then I have regarded MS as a branch of government. Indistinguishable from other agencies of state in all ways except formal recognition by the state itself.

Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

Whom to blame...

Matthew Garret is a well know Linux kernel developer. He speaks out on this: https://mjg59.dreamwidth.org/44694.html

The crux is that there are two issues here:
1. Intel has not provided any drivers for Linux. They have for Windows, and
2. Intel wants Lenovo to put the device in RAID mode so the normal Windows drivers won’t attach; Intel’s custom driver will; that driver will set some power profile stuff that will make the laptop run cooler longer.

Put those two together and we have a laptop that COULD have linux installed on it except it defaults to putting storage in an unusable state and has the BIOS setting to fix it locked out.

Garret also suggests the Lenovo quote is misunderstood and likely references Microsoft’s UEFI requirements, not some dastardly deal with Lenovo.


Skeeter says:

Re: Whom to blame...

So what you’re describing then, is Lenovo trying to prevent ‘peanut butter meltdown’ on motherboard and possibly drive hardware, by means of manipulating the power environment by using RAID, and since Linux doesn’t have such support, Lenovo can’t let it be placed on this ‘top end computer’?

What a joke, a Pontiac Fiero that repeatedly catches on fire when you try to actually drive them like the sports-cars they are marketed to be – so you put a 4-cylinder 98-HP motor in them, to prevent lawsuits.

Yeah, uh, this didn’t work well for Pontiac, either. People catch on, FAST! Then, you just end up with another market failure, lost shares, etc.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Whom to blame...

That would seem to suggest that the actual objection here is that Lenovo does not provide a configuration toggle for whether or not the storage controller should be in RAID mode.

My experience seems to indicate that this sort of toggle is a nearly universal feature for every system that supports a hardware RAID mode within the past several years, if not the past decade or more. The decision to omit it is one worth questioning.

John Mayor says:


You might be interested in the story at, http://baltimorepostexaminer.com/lenovos-pcs-spy-china/2015/02/24… and at, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/how-an-email-sparked-a-squabble-over-chinese-owned-lenovos-role-at-pentagon/2016/04/22/b1cd43d8-07ca-11e6-a12f-ea5aed7958dc_story.html… and… the quote from, http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/2055006-ex-spy-chief-white-house-ignores-elephant-in-the-room/?… and which reads:…
“I won’t go into details regarding companies like Huawei, ZTE, Lenovo, and others, also because there are differences among them,” he said. “But I’ll tell you this, the Chinese industrial effort against the United States is, to my mind, absolutely breathtaking. I have never seen anything of such a scale and persistence coming at this country.”
Please!… no emails!

Anonymous Coward says:


1: “not made in China” is not the same as “made only in the USA”.

2: there’s a difference between a computer that contains Chinese components and one that contains Chinese software/firmware. If your motherboard has some transistors on it that were manufactured in China, that’s probably not a threat. But I wouldn’t go buying a cheap Chinese phone charger, because it could very well contain firmware that installs a malware payload onto my phone.

Mr Big Content says:

Good Ridance

I for one have no use for this Lunix crap. Where is there local office you go to if something goes wrong with your Lunix? While Microsoft AT LEAST LISTENS TO IT’S USERS!!! I mean, Windows is such a high quality OS, thing hardly go wrong with it. Thats because it was CREATED BY US USERS!! All those features Microsoft put in, its becuase users wanted them. Which is why Windows is THE BEST OS IN THE WORLD!!!

Why would you use anything else? Their must be something wrong with you if you do.

Anonymous Coward says:

Leave poor lenovo alone. They HAD to lock the BIOS down, otherwise someone would be able to remove the ROM-based spyware they’ve added that (again like previous) turns your webcam on, records sound and sends it straight to a Chinese government server.

They’ve done this FOUR TIMES in a row now, when will people get wise that a chinese-government owned ‘business computer’ company isn’t to be trusted?

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...