Update: A representative from Lenovo has responded to our inquiry regarding the issue, and has given us the following statement.
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.
Yoga 900 is designed for Windows 10 and is not on Lenovo’s Linux supported list. As mentioned, Lenovo has an extensive list of Linux supported and/or certified products.
Thus our response regarding the reports that Lenovo and Microsoft have an agreement to “lock” the UEFI bios on Microsoft Signature Edition systems to prevent installation of other operating systems, is that this information is incorrect!
Our original article continues below.
The Lenovo Yoga 900 ISK2, Yoga 900S, and Yoga 710S Windows 10 Signature Edition laptops may be blocking Linux installs through a locked BIOS option according to a post by BaronHK on Reddit’s /r/linux subreddit.
According to /u/BaronHK, the BIOS is “is locked in a proprietary RAID mode that Linux doesn’t understand.” When he attempted to install Linux he found that the installer was unable to detect the SSD. He reports that several users in a thread over on Lenovo’s forums have been discussing the issue, and an earlier thread from May of 2016 also echoes these issues. Furthermore, BaronHK has reported that his posts have been deleted or edited by forum administrators. A viewing of both the live thread and archives does indicate that some of his posts have been edited by an administrator.
A post on the Lenovo forums on July 27 from an employee going by the handle Amy_Lenovo states that the issue has been escalated to development and a patch could take from several weeks to several months to deploy.
The problem in question relates to a RAID setting in the BIOS. Normally, you would be able to change the SSD from RAID to AHCI if you encountered issues with hardware detection in an operating system. However, this particular option is reported to be unavailable in the BIOS.
This issue was reflected in a review at Best Buy’s product page for the Yoga 900 made by BaronHK under the username DaemonFC (which he also uses on the Lenovo forums and elsewhere). The review received a reply from a “Lenovo Product Expert” which stated that the laptop is “locked per our agreement with Microsoft”:
Several users in the Reddit thread make the point that if the inability to install Linux is truly at the behest of Microsoft, it would breach laws against “tie-in” products. The Federal Trade Commission’s explanation of the concept details how such a practice falls foul of antitrust laws. Microsoft has been taken to court in the EU over similar issues such as the attachment of Windows Media Player to Windows.
However, Microsoft does actively support Linux to a degree. For example, they assist Ubuntu by signing their bootloader as part of Ubuntu’s chain of trust – something that they are under no obligation to do.
We’ve reached out to BaronHK, Microsoft, and Lenovo for comment on this issue.
Update 2 9/21/16 9:12 PM Eastern: We’ve received a response to our questions from Baron HK. Here are our questions with BaronHK’s answers in full.
TechRaptor: Do you believe that the inability to install Linux due to a BIOS setting is a deliberate choice by Lenovo or do you believe that it is a side effect of unrelated design decisions in the BIOS?
BaronHK: I think that it was a deliberate design choice made by Lenovo, and I say that because the BIOS code that they use has AHCI mode available for the storage device, which Linux and Windows understand without any special drivers. Lenovo patched the code to remove the AHCI mode from the BIOS setup utility and then they wrote additional code to make sure that you can’t set AHCI mode with an EFI variable using EFI shell. So, I’d say it’s definitely deliberate, and can’t see any LEGITIMATE reason why they would have. It isn’t really faster, it makes recovering Windows from Microsoft’s installer very difficult if you have to later. About the only thing putting a single SSD setup into RAID mode using the BIOS gives you is (a) Linux won’t be able to use the storage and (b) greater potential for data loss. Also, given that the Lenovo employee said that they caused the issue to “lock” the system to Windows per their agreement with Microsoft….Well, why wouldn’t I believe them? Lenovo’s official statement to the media has been “Unfortunately, [we] cannot confirm our relationship to the person at Best Buy.”, and I find that odd because it said “Lenovo” on the signature of their reply. So they’re throwing their employee under the bus.
TR: What do you think the reasoning for these BIOs settings being in place is in the event that these BIOS settings were employed in the Yoga 900 at Microsoft’s behest
BH: I think that Microsoft and Lenovo agreed to lock Linux out, and forcing RAID mode accomplishes that. In the last 11 months, nobody except one Lenovo forum poster that used a modded BIOS and an external flasher to get around Lenovo’s signature check on BIOS updates has managed to install Linux on the Yoga models affected by this. I believe that Lenovo and Microsoft figured that if Linux ever did get driver support for this configuration, that it would be years after the product was released, so it might as well be forever. Most people replace their laptop every 5 years or less, so almost nobody would ever be able to run Linux on the Yoga laptops while in their designed service life.
TR: Do you feel that BIOS settings of this nature ought to be disclosed more clearly prior to purchasing of a product?
BH: I think that if you’re going to sell someone a general purpose computer where installing an operating system is going to be difficult or impossible, you should have to say that on the packaging or on the website description.
TR: Do you have any further commentary on this matter?
BH: Yes, I do have a further comment.
I think that Lenovo’s official reply is insufficient and carefully worded. They talk about how much they love to support Linux and then say that they don’t support Linux on many of their own laptops. Actions speak louder than words, and there’s no technical reason other than the BIOS RAID mode lock why the Yoga 900 ISK2 and other affected systems wouldn’t be great Linux machines. I also think that locking down the thread and editing [people’s] comments and then blaming forum posters for being “disruptive” was uncalled for, and they’re obviously trying to turn this around and make it seem like I am overreacting or somehow I’m at fault for what they did. And unfortunately, some of the media reports have taken up this narrative instead of looking into why Lenovo would do such things to their computers. There is no REAL issue with Linux not supporting these laptops other than the one Lenovo created. They need to make a BIOS patch that users can install, like other Ultrabook PC makers did, not more excuses.
What do you think of the allegation that Lenovo is blocking Linux installs on their Yoga 900 laptop? If this is true, would such a decision affect your decision to purchase their products? How important is it that you can install other operating systems on your computer? Let us know in the comments below!