Beware: Lenovo's Windows 10 Signature Edition Blocks Installing Linux

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.

36 Comment
one_kender September 21, 2016
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Law suit? If it's not advertized on the box, I'd sue or at least make them replace the machine/refund my money.
Peter September 21, 2016
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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.
Kamela Spivey September 21, 2016
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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!!
chuck wegrzyn September 21, 2016
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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.
Wilder September 21, 2016
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Is very great. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b01e83e8bc5ad0b6f3b7f33865609a401bd6e2f374dbbacccf8cd0aa0fbde9d8.png
Christopher Wortman September 21, 2016
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Best way to ensure lost sales, lock your computer down.
hunt bear September 21, 2016
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My y700 and my yoga 2 both do Manjaro fine
farewelldave September 21, 2016
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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 September 21, 2016
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The title of this needs to be changed it's a Windows 10 signature edition problem not Lenovo
Kamela Spivey September 22, 2016
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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!!
Joe February 18, 2018
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You could try installing plop, that will at least allow you to boot from another drive.

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