Lenovo recently caved in to criticism over many of its Yoga 900 laptops that incorporated Windows 10 Signature Edition by releasing a BIOS update that allows owners to install Linux-based operating systems. The company was the target of scrutiny last month when customers accused it of conspiring with Microsoft by blocking the installation of non-Windows platforms at the firmware level.
The accusations started on a Reddit thread, with customers claiming that Lenovo teamed up with Microsoft to lock down Yoga 900 laptops by keeping the installed solid state drives in RAID mode via the BIOS. The problem is that the RAID mode relies on a proprietary SSD driver from Intel, which is compatible with Windows 10. That means if Linux is somehow installed on the device, the operating system can’t see the SSD because there is no available driver. AHCI, which is supported by Linux, is disabled in the firmware and can’t be changed.
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AHCI is a standard created by Intel, and is short for Advance Host Controller Interface. It is hardware that enables software to communicate with devices that connect to the SATA interface, such as a hard drive or SSD. RAID, on the other hand, stands for Redundant Array of Independent Disks. It is another type of disk management for configuring one or more drives. These drives can be combined as one single volume (C:), used as two separate storage volumes (C: and D:), or set up in a primary/mirrored configuration (C: only).
Typically, when OEMs like Lenovo and HP provide desktop and laptop devices with Windows already installed, they come with what is called “bloatware” or “crapware,” which is unnecessary software that takes up precious memory and hard drive space, bogging down the PC. Windows 10 Signature Edition is a clean install of Microsoft’s platform without any additional software from the OEM. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop retailers like Best But from including their own bloatware.
Lenovo responded to accusations of conspiring with Microsoft on a Lenovo Yoga 900 product review listed on Best Buy. The review was posted on September 20, and was followed by Lenovo’s response on September 21.
“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,” said a Lenovo Product Expert. “Unsupported models will rely on Linux operating system vendors releasing new kernel and drivers to support features such as RAID on SSD.”
A Lenovo Product Expert made a statement on another product review posted on Best Buy accusing Lenovo of locking the BIOS to prevent Linux installs. According to this company representative, the system was locked due to Lenovo’s agreement with Microsoft to provide Windows 10 Signature Edition on the Yoga 900 devices.
Naturally, that statement added fuel to the fire. However, Lenovo recently denied that it intentionally blocked the installation of non-Microsoft platforms, and asserted that it could not confirm its relationship with the Product Experts who were providing feedback on Best Buy device reviews. The company followed its denial with a new BIOS to install on the Yoga 900-13ISK2 model that enables customers to use Linux on that specific device.
The release notes confirm that the new BIOS creates an AHCI SATA Controller Mode selection so that users can switch to AHCI and install Linux. The new BIOS is not meant for customers who plan on using the Windows 10 Signature Edition installation that came with the device.