Lenovo denies accusations of ‘locking’ Yoga PCs to Windows 10

Lenovo is at the centre of some controversy this morning following allegations that it has cooked up some sort of deal with Microsoft to lock some ‘Signature Edition ‘ (i.e. bloatware-free) PCs so it’s only possible to use Windows 10 on them, and Linux can’t be installed – an accusation Lenovo has strongly denied.

Okay, so what’s going on here exactly? The basic premise is that certain machines – including the Yoga 900, Yoga 900S, and Yoga 710S – come with their SSD storage locked in a RAID mode which Linux doesn’t work with, as there is no functioning driver for the alternative OS. Hence users can’t remove Windows 10 and replace it with Linux, if they wished to do so.

But as the Register spotted, the real controversy erupted when a Lenovo representative responded to complaints about this on the Best Buy site by saying: “This system has a Signature Edition of Windows 10 Home installed. It is locked per our agreement with Microsoft.”

Hence the accusations of some sort of deal with Microsoft to ensure that only Windows 10 can be used on these Signature Edition machines.

No blocking

Lenovo was quick to defend against this allegation, however, and told the Register that it “does not intentionally block customers using other operating systems”.

And in a subsequent statement issued to the press at large, Lenovo stated that its consumer PCs are specifically designed and tested for Windows 10, and that the “Yoga design requires very specific, complex and unique drivers that require even greater amounts of testing, to ensure class-leading performance with Windows 10″.

The company added that: “To support our Yoga products and our industry-leading 360-hinge design in the best way possible we have used a storage controller mode that is unfortunately not supported by Linux and as a result, does not allow Linux to be installed. Beyond the controller setup limitation, other advanced capabilities of the Yoga design would likely not work with current Linux offerings.”

So there you have it – although we can’t help but think that it would be a good idea if Lenovo cleared up exactly why a system with a single SSD is in a RAID mode anyway, beyond the reasoning that it’s simply to “support our Yoga products … in the best way possible”.

In the lengthy Reddit thread discussing this matter, though, other posters have offered insight into this point, including the apparent fact that all Signature Edition PCs have to be locked into their best performing mode in BIOS (for safety/security reasons). Indeed, that could be the ‘agreement’ the aforementioned Lenovo rep was referring to.

At any rate, those Yoga owners with a hankering for Linux will have to wait until the appropriate driver arrives for the OS – although one Reddit user appears to have bypassed Lenovo’s lock already via direct BIOS flashing.

Source: techradar.com

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  1. Reply Dr. Gideon Dickinson September 22, 2016 at 1:47 pm

    First they pre-install Microsoft bloatware on their phones and now this. Never buy Lenovo products.

  2. Reply Buddy Hartmann September 22, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    I am BaronHK. I wrote the article on Reddit. My experience with Windows 10 on the Yoga 900 ISK2 has been less than optimal. Bugs in bluetooth. Telling me to restart my computer because I pair my headphones, updates not installing and requiring me to give up and install the offline update package. That happened on the most recent cumulative update.

    My touchscreen stopped working once. Rebooted. It wouldn't work. Turned the computer off and on, it worked again. Just lots of weird things.

  3. Reply Magali Blanda September 22, 2016 at 8:58 pm

    i refuse to buy the Yoga stuff now. Bought a yoga just before win10 came out (it was on win8) and had a load of issues due to drivers which prevented me from installing updates, connecting to networks, in the end iirc I had to go in to the registry and re-enable a load of things that lenovo had deliberately disabled. Once I had that working and installed updates I decided to go to win10 because I'm not a fan of the 8 interface. The upgrade bricked the laptop for, I imagine, the same reason they say you can't install linux.

    I sent it back the next day, too much hassle trying to get a piece of hardware to work as expected, and it made me add lenovo to my "do not like" list.

  4. Reply Mr. Faustino Wisoky PhD September 22, 2016 at 10:20 pm

    I am BaronHK. I wrote a new Reddit article documenting a hardware hack that re-enabled AHCI mode on one person's Yoga 900 ISK2. This proves it would work if Lenovo let it. I also wrote a response to Lenovo and Microsoft.

    My response regarding Microsoft and Lenovo's effective joint statement:
    Microsoft and Lenovo got together and agreed on the lies that they would tell in response to this. The lie is that it's a driver problem. That Linux just doesn't support the fake RAID mode that they forced the storage into when they deliberately sabotaged the BIOS by writing new code to hide AHCI mode and also code to reset the BIOS to their fake RAID mode if the user used EFI Shell to try setting it to AHCI. Let me make my position clear, that Lenovo is lying through their teeth just like they did with Superfish malware incident. They lied until they couldn't lie anymore. Linux should not have to support the RAID mode because the mode should be able to be changed to AHCI, which is fully compatible with Linux, by the user in about 20 seconds.

    If, by some chance, some Very Smart People ever figure out a way to make the SSD visible again, I would STRONGLY advise never upgrading the laptop's firmware again, lest Microsoft and Lenovo find something else to break and then tell us "Oops. Better run Windows 10 so you can use our 360 degree hinge! Have we told you about our 360 hinge?".

    I believe that if Linux ever gains driver support for the forced fake RAID configuration, that future laptops from Lenovo will just toggle something else so Linux doesn't work on them for a while.

    I would strongly advise avoiding the Yoga 910 and Yoga Book when they come out until we find out whether they broke those models as well.

    Even if your intent is to never run Linux, Lenovo is the first PC maker I've seen that ships computers that you can't even realistically (for the average user) reinstall Windows on. I will never buy another Lenovo computer again and I will advise others to avoid them whenever the chance arises.

    I had to spend about an hour googling random support topics before I found a recommendation to use Universal Extractor to get their Windows storage driver to use in a Windows installation thumb drive. Then I had to find a beta version of Universal Extractor that supported the archive format in the setup program just to dig the Intel RST driver out of their godawful installer so that I can slipstream it into a Windows installer.

    Most people will have to pay to ship it back to Lenovo if Windows needs to be reinstalled, and will be unable to use the computer for weeks, and it'll probably have some sensitive, confidential, work-related information on the SSD that someone at Lenovo could copy and steal while it's in their repair center.

    Their arrogant forum moderator "Andy_Lenovo" posted Lenovo's ridiculous press release to their forum and then marked it as solved. The only part of it that is true is that Linux will likely never be able to install on Yoga laptops, because they are "designed for Windows 10", which in my experience has been unstable and full of bugs (like updates stalling out requiring manual installation from offline packages, telling me to reboot everytime I pair my bluetooth headphones, etc.). Unfortunately, in addition to Lenovo and Microsoft's lies, Matthew Garrett wrote some more horsefeathers when he blamed Linux for not supporting a storage mode that shouldn't even be in use anyway. He apparently has a long record of apologizing for Microsoft and misleading people, and it's a shame that he's in the FSF. Of course, the FSF has put some other people in high places that have proceeded to undermine their mission in the past, like Miguel de Icaza.

    Maybe it's true that you need "special drivers" to make Windows run, but Microsoft doesn't care. It breaks Linux on Lenovo laptops and then makes it look like the problem is in Linux, when it's actually in Microsoft's storage driver and Microsoft is undoubtedly leaning on Intel to keep the way the RST driver does power management a secret.

    To make sure that you don't accidentally buy a Signature Edition computer, on the demo model, click the start (Windows logo) button, click "about your PC", and under Windows 10 it will say "Signature Edition" if it's part of this program. Also, if you do buy a laptop to see if Linux supports it, then make sure you try installing Linux before the return period expires. If the Linux installer in Live mode can't see your SSD, stop. Unplug the thumb drive, turn the computer off, and I would recommend that you return it. Just tell the store that you decided that you didn't need it or something. It's true.. Nobody needs this kind of aggravation.

    END of my response to Lenovo and Microsoft.

    (You do not need to ask for my permission to repost this response in its entirety anywhere else, in hard copy, or on a website.)

  5. Reply Lauretta Haag September 23, 2016 at 3:40 am

    No they don't. It's a hack to work around lousy power management support in Windows. It forces it to bypass the Windows storage driver and load Intel's driver. Microsoft doesn't care because the device is preloaded with Windows and you don't have a choice now. They get to pretend there's a legitimate reason for fake RAID mode.

  6. Reply Frances Bode September 23, 2016 at 4:02 am

    Do these models have two SSDs then to facilitate RAID?

    So people are up in arms they're prevented from breaking the warranty and putting on an unsupported operating system?

    If Lenovo allowed this they're bound to get complaints from people their system isn't running as well as it might because they're doing something they shouldn't in the first place.

    Can't you just buy the regular cheaper version anyway? You're going to obliterate the bloatware anyway when you remove Windows.

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