2016/09/21 15:50 GMT Update: Lenovo speaking to The Register denied any intended blocking for Linux or any other OS. They said that it’s a driver issue on Linux that makes it unable to read RAID on SSD disks.

Microsoft opening the source code of a lot of its projects in the last months convinced some people that the company – under its new management – is now good, and that it “loves Linux”, however, this assumption came to be wrong today with the latest monopoly try from Microsoft.

In a TL;DR format: Some new laptops that ship with Windows 10 Signature Edition don’t allow you to install Linux (or any other operating system) on it; the BIOS is locked and the hard drives are hidden in a way you can’t install any OS. This news is not some rumors from the Internet, Lenovo for example confirmed that they have singed an agreement with Microsoft for this.

Where Did It Start?

Lenovo is one of the largest hardware manufactures in the world, they make everything, from smartphones to laptops and tablets, and they have been rising in the market due to its “good” price and quality.

However it seems that’s the company doesn’t care a lot when it comes to its consumers after they sell you the product, I am not talking about the hardware guarantee or something here, but about the software.

Some users have reported that one of the new Lenovo Ultrabooks (Yoga 900 ISK2 and other models) have a locked BIOS setup, which doesn’t allow you to install other operating systems on the laptop. It’s simply “locked”; for example if you tried to install Ubuntu on it, the installer won’t detect the hard drives because of this setup.

BaronHK is one of those who faced this problem and started talking about it, here’s his quote about the issue:

They have the SSD in some strange “RAID” mode where Linux can’t see or be installed to it, and neither can Windows unless you add some drivers to your Windows installer media. They removed AHCI mode from the BIOS. Then they wrote additional code so if you try to toggle it to AHCI mode with an EFI variable from EFIshell, it immediately sets itself back to RAID.

For the last 11 months, they were silent on why this machine was configured this way. The only reason we know why now is because Lenovo answered my Best Buy review by stating it is locked due to the agreement they signed with Microsoft for the Signature Edition PC program, so it’s very likely that all Ultrabooks in the Microsoft Store, and some outside the MS Store (such as at Best Buy) will eventually be configured so that Linux can’t be installed, even if there are some now where you can install Linux.

So consider “Signature Edition” a warning label that means “You aren’t allowed to run Linux, per Microsoft.”.

Lenovo from its side, confirmed the problem yesterday by replying to the guy’s review on BestBuy saying:

This system has a signature edition of Windows 10 Home installed, it’s locked per our agreement with Microsoft

Here’s a screenshot (In case they deleted that review):

Windows 10 Signature Edition
Lenovo’s Reply on BIOS Locking

That means that there’s an agreement between Microsoft and Lenovo to do this kind of setup, it’s intended and not just a “bug” in the BIOS or something, as the official response states from Lenovo’s reply above.

Other laptops from Dell or ASUS for example also come pre-loaded with the Signature Edition. But they provide an option in the BIOS to switch the hard drive mode from RAID to AHCI; which later allows installing Linux. Lenovo however, doesn’t. Many people from other hardware vendors are facing the same problem, check this post.

Some users on the Lenovo forums tried to replace the BIOS with a new one beside doing a lot of other things to disable the LOCK, but all their attempts failed, it doesn’t seem that there’s any way to install Linux on those laptops. They have locked that thread now and they said they will update their reply soon.

The Problem Is Caused By Windows 10 Signature Edition And BIOS Lock

Windows 10 Signature Edition is an official public edition since around a year ago, Microsoft says that it’s better, cleaner and more secure, as no 3rd-party software is allowed to be installed on laptops which come pre-loaded with that edition, however, it looks like that edition doesn’t even allow the OS to be replaced, it depends on the hardware vendor, with Lenovo for example, there’s nothing to do. With others, switching the hard drive mode may fix it.

Here’s another quote from the bottom line of the Windows 10 Signature Edition page:

Is it time for a new computer? Microsoft Store has a large diversity of Windows 10 computers, including Surface tablets, desktop computers, portable laptops and tablets, touchscreen all-in-ones, 2 in 1 PCs, and more. Pick from a curated selection of best-in-class computers, including the Surface tablet and other notable brands like Lenovo, HP, Dell, ASUS, Acer, Samsung, Razer, and Toshiba. Whether you need a computer for gaming, entertainment, work, or surfing the web, the Microsoft Store has the computer with the power and performance perfect for you.

At Microsoft Store, Windows computers come in a variety of configurations. Need a processor with the power to get you through your toughest work? You’ll find many computers with powerful processors like AMD, Intel Core i5, Intel Core i7, and Pentium available. You can select from computers with plenty of memory so you can run multiple programs and play games will loads of graphics simultaneously without slowing down.

Every laptop sold at Microsoft Store comes with the Microsoft Signature Edition. This means that your new laptop will be lightning-fast from the moment you turn on.

For you: If you see the “Windows 10 Signature Edition” badge on a laptop (specially Lenovo), DON’T BUY IT! You may not be able to install Linux (or any OS) on it, and there’s nothing you can do to the machine to change this currently. Depending on the vendor of the machine, some BIOS patches may / may not exists. You can check them from the vendor’s official website.

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  • one_kender

    Law suit? If it’s not advertized on the box, I’d sue or at least make them replace the machine/refund my money.

    • It will, just wait until the media acknowledge this problem and you will start hearing about law suits.

  • Peter

    Hmm, If Windows 10 Signature Edition was designed for entry level hardware, then why would you want to install Linux on these machines anyway (given that these machines possibly have no CD/DVD drive and one or two USB ports)? It sounds like Windows 10 Signature Edition is a consumer version of Windows Embedded.

    • Liberty

      Peter, it doesn’t matter if something is supposedly “entry-level hardware.” If you bought it, you should be able to use it as you see fit, without a monopoly-supporting company throwing up barriers to OS competition. Furthermore, “entry-level hardware” is great hardware to run Linux on. When properly tuned, Linux can run much more effectively and efficiently on lower power hardware than can Windows.

      Even though I wasn’t hit by this issue, I will never buy another Lenovo product given how they have handled this situation.

      • Peter

        I have to say that I’ve read more into it, and came to the conclusion that ‘Windows 10 Signature Edition’ devices are really aimed at government departments where they rarely use Linux, or for businesses which rely on a ‘Windows only’ platform. Which is weird as I would have thought that these two sectors would rely on Windows 10 Enterprise LTSB. Maybe it’s something to with telemetry. Either way I don’t think that these devices are designed for the average user.

        • You are kidding us, right? Did you even check the Windows 10 Signature Edition page? “ALL THE LAPTOPS YOU BUY FROM MICROSOFT STORE HAVE WINDOWS 10 SIGNATURE EDITION”, I can’t see any thing indicating that it’s only from “governmental purposes”. I don’t know also since when do governments buy from a shop or a store.

          • Peter

            Actually yes, I did visit the store page and there wasn’t anything on there aiming at home users. Also I noticed that you were referencing a possible law suit for this. A law suit won’t do much damage, as they’re too big. Just look at Microsoft v EU in the Internet Explorer case. Sure we had a ‘browser choice’ screen, but that mysteriously disappeared after three years due to ‘security issues, and that the legislation had elapsed’. If you want to make a point quickly then don’t buy their products, they will soon take notice. If anything why would anyone from the open source community buy anything from the Microsoft store? Surely like myself you would build your own custom PC, or get a custom built PC with no OS built for you, as you have more control over the hardware specs. And yes I do use Linux in conjunction with Windows. My favourite distro is Elementary OS.

            Edit: I had another look at the page. Why would anyone pay double the price of a ‘Signature Edition’ PC when you can go through and uninstall the bloatware? As I say always get a custom built PC.

  • Kamela Spivey

    Why can’t we all just get along!?! Keeping Linux out of these new laptops (or attempting to) proves MS doesn’t play well with others; we knew this. It also proves how threatened MS feels by Linux… we also knew this. But not playing fair, well that further shows how MS plays dirty!! I think MS needs to go back to kindergarten to learn the basics of how to coexist and get along with others… if they have to legally learn it!! NO MONOPOLY!!

    • Matts Computer Support

      well known fact hardcore linux users and web developers use linux and dont like windows/Microsoft i don’t go much on linux thats my opinion it become more reality when i tried running a newer mint on my laptop this is a fairly new laptop with good spec wont support my cpu on boot, you think linux need to promote themselves well things like that don’t look good

      • hunt bear

        That’s why you have to research find you the best version for you unlike Windows and Mac it’s not going to just be handed to you with a silver spoon the best things in life you have to go after

        • Jay Koerner

          So cpu compatibility isn’t just handed out?(sarcasm) Linux has always been hit or miss, i like it, but they take awhile to get support for thing is ever.

          • hunt bear

            Use Manjaro or arch live rollouts on all updates unlike Ubuntu and all other distros where you have to wait multiple months

          • hunt bear

            I’ve never had a hit and miss with Linux sounds like a user issue please don’t take it is rude just understand that you need to know what you want in order to get it

          • Jay Koerner

            half way asleep when i posted, will edit

      • hunt bear

        Mint is a joke

    • The problem is when you buy a laptop and you get insane about why the OS doesn’t read the hard drives, see how many hours you would spend until you finally discover that the problem is in the hardware vendors. Nothing new about MS here, just another story of monopoly.

    • Xajel

      While I never installed Linux as a dual boot ( always live USB or VM ), I will not accept such a limitation on any laptop I buy ( I always build my Desktop system ).

  • chuck wegrzyn

    I recently purchased a ASUS G752VS OC laptop with Windows 10 installed. What I found is that it requires some playing around.

    First, most new systems have SSDs installed on them and use the new NVME protocol in place of the older SATA style SSDs. Since most Linux systems don’t come with NVME installed as a non-module (i.e. part of the kernel) it won’t recognize the SSD. This can be fixed. And yes it does show up as “raid” in the BIOS (but no big deal).

    Secondly, most new BIOS systems come with two different ways to boot the OS. The “compatibility” mode (usually listed as CSM in the BIOS), and the newer mode through UEFI. This can also be set.

    I’m guessing all this is probably true with the Lenovo BIOS. I’m betting this is a lot of hype for no good reason other than lack of understanding.

    • Kamela Spivey

      I knew there would be a way…

      • chuck wegrzyn

        It took me about an hour to figure it out but once I did I got gentoo to boot up.

    • Bro, what you are talking about doesn’t even relate to what’s mentioned in the article. Please check the links and the forum threads to read more about where the issue truly is.

      • chuck wegrzyn

        Actually you are absolutely wrong. It turns out the Lenovo BIOS is the same as on the ASUS platform. The issue it that the SSDs are NVME and the type of support is RAID. It is very common on all new platforms!

        • If you continued, you would discover that the problem is that in Lenovo laptops, there’s no option to switch from RAID to AHCI, which do exist in ASUS and others, which solved the problem for people who used those laptops from those vendors, but wasn’t possible in the case of Lenovo because they removed that option and locked the BIOS.

          • chuck wegrzyn

            Actually the ASUS doesn’t allow you to switch from RAID to AHCI. But that didn’t stop me from dual booting the ASUS rig. But it has nothing to do with Windows 10 – it is a BIOS/hardware change as a result of technology. SSDs now use NVME and running them as RAID 0 is fine.

            As I said all this aside it doesn’t stop the installation of Linux, which was the point of the article.

          • Maybe it’s not for you, but it was for other people who faced the problem and solved it this way. Lenovo’s last reply just declared that “the problem is from Linux distributions vendors, they don’t offer a driver”.

            Taking this into consideration, we are not even talking about ASUS here, we’re talking about an agreement (or something) between Lenovo and Microsoft. Linux – until this moment – can’t be installed on the ISK2 model from lenovo, I read someone who did it but the way to do it wasn’t even possible for 99.99% of the users. Therefore the bug still exist until this moment, your experiment is out of range.

          • chuck wegrzyn

            As I said yesterday this wasn’t a bug nor a plot on part of Microsoft. The Alienware 17 R2 – over two years old – had support for SSDs. That support INCLUDED the supposed (big deal) RAID option!!! So what.

            Around the same time Intel released their version of the NVME driver for Linux. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to have been integrated into many Linux distros except as a loadable module (which makes it too late for booting).

            This is all really a lot of hot air over nothing except if you believe in conspiracy theories.

  • Wilder
  • Christopher Wortman

    Best way to ensure lost sales, lock your computer down.

  • hunt bear

    My y700 and my yoga 2 both do Manjaro fine

  • Interesting enough – Product Q&A shows “Lenovo Product Expert” saying that it’s a way to “improve system performance”. And that Lenovo is not intentionally blocking customers from installling Linux on it, and that it’s up to the system vendors releasing new kernel/drivers to support features like RAID on SSD. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/aac44b68a6f1cd30be71d9fb959ca06e43cd70b468ba6a82f9cea5e4b970325b.jpg

  • hunt bear

    The title of this needs to be changed it’s a Windows 10 signature edition problem not Lenovo

    • No actually, while Windows 10 Signature Edition is the one who caused using this kind of setup in the first place, other vendors do provide a workaround for this, you can get Linux to work on ASUS, DELL.. But you can’t on Lenovo, that’s the problem. The BIOS is locked here.

      • hunt bear

        Both my new y700 and y900 work just fine

        • The problem is with the ISK2 model, the BIOS lock their is the problem.

  • Kamela Spivey

    I think there should be no limitations as to what we install on a computer WE PURCHASED, and know that this is a tactic to suppress knowledge of another operating system. It should be a personal decision and not limited by corporations or their thoughts or opinions. I have, well my computer genius son, has dual booted at least three of my laptops and two desktops – one an AiO I love. Both Linux & Windows coexist happily on my machines and I think they should be able to anywhere they are wanted. Let’s just get along!!