Ubuntu 17.10 can brick Lenovo laptops, what about Ubuntu MATE?


#1

There’s a critical issue with Ubuntu 17.10 that seems to have appeared a few weeks ago, where the OS can write in the BIOS of some Lenovo laptops and brick them. The exact origin of the issue is currently under investigation but it’s serious enough for Canonical to have removed the download of Ubuntu 17.10 for now.

Bug on Launchpad: https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/linux/+bug/1734147
Article on OMGUbuntu: http://www.omgubuntu.co.uk/2017/12/ubuntu-corrupting-lenovo-laptop-bios
Article on Phoronix: https://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=news_item&px=Ubuntu-17.10-BIOS-Corrupter

What’s the status of Ubuntu MATE on this? The issue seems to be related to a bug with a driver in the kernel, so I guess all Ubuntu variants are at risk. It might be a good idea to remove the download of Ubuntu MATE 17.10 until it is resolved.


#2

@tsimonq2 informed us of this too – all flavours are affected.

I’ve put up a warning when choosing a release on the website. It will be up to @Wimpy as leader to decide what happens to the Ubuntu MATE 17.10 ISOs. Lubuntu for instance are exploring the possibility to respin the 17.10 ISOs.


#3

@lah7 Thank you. I was just about to do the same :slight_smile:


#4

Is it a total brick or can you or can you do a re-flash to recover?
Sounds like an array went out of bounds.
I’m running the latest Mate 16.04 on a Lenovo, updated yesterday.
Makes me nervous.

Thanks, Fred


#5

If you’re on 16.04, don’t worry, the issue is only with 17.10. Hopefully, it will be resolved before 18.04 so it’ll be safe to upgrade to the next LTS (but check that it’s the case before trying).

Now, for the issue itself, it seems to be a total brick, as support from Lenovo says that the only fix is to change the motherboard (the BIOS chip, to be more specific, but it’s not really the kind of thing a regular user would be able to do). It’s a brick to a certain extent, though, as the PC will still work but the BIOS won’t save settings anymore and USB boot will be gone forever, so it’s impossible to reinstall an OS afterwards.


#6

Hmm, so it is 3/4s of a brick, which is almost a total brick. :slight_smile: Thanks for the clarification.

The problem with Lenovo is they want your money first and foremost. There is really no good reason that motherboards can not be manufactured to allow the BIOS to be totally overwritten to recover from this situation.

Yes, I would have to have a special adapter plugged into one USB port or it could be a special code entered into the BIOS with another USB flash drive with the code to allow it to do so. They still would have control, they could still get money and we could not live in fear of a bricked machine.

But then I am not used to boxes, so I don’t need to think outside of them.

Cheers, Fred


#7

This must be what happened to me. I installed 17:10 on a Lenovo Yoga 300 2-in-1 notebook/tablet and it worked for a while - like half an hour - then the next morning, it failed to boot. Total brick. Luckily, it was under warranty and they (as far as I can work out) replaced the motherboard, re-installed Win 10 and sent it back.

Not knowing about this problem (although I did post it here somewhere), I have since re-installed Ubuntu Budgie 17.10, so far (2 weeks) without any problems.


#8

That’s odd, as it should also be the case with Ubuntu Budgie 17.10… Not sure how you can check if the intel-spi-* drivers are part of your kernel (maybe with lsmod but it doesn’t report them on my Ubuntu MATE 17.10).

Note that it’s possible that your model isn’t affected by the issue (the known list of models is incomplete − BTW, it seems to affect other brands than Lenovo) and the problem you had is unrelated, though it would be quite a big coincidence.


#9

That was my first thought (re. Budgie) but as you say, a remarkable coincidence if it was a different fault. I have installed many, many distros over the last 15+ years, on a wide range of laptops and desktops, and not once has there ever been such an issue.

Could it be Mate-specific?


#10

It’s definitely not specific to Ubuntu MATE as it was first identified in the main Ubuntu version (as said in my first post). In theory, it should affect every Ubuntu flavour, including Ubuntu MATE, but also Ubuntu Budgie, unless some of them included specific tweaks to avoid it (which is unlikely).


#11

I’m wondering if the reason my Yoga didn’t brick when I re-installed 17.10 after it came back from being repaired is possibly that Lenovo actually knew something was up with the BIOS and replaced it with a different version, as they must have had a number of machines returned with this fault under warranty. On the other hand, they had no way of knowing that I had installed Ubuntu over Win 10, I guess, unless they checked the HDD.

Speculating, I know.


#12

Well, thats a first. My lenovo laptop runs ubuntu mate 17.10. I can’t refrain from using it since its my production os. Any advice? Maybe postpone updates? Some list, at least of the laptops currently known to be affected?

EDIT: Nvm, found the list. Read it from smartphone and got a bit alarmed.


#13

Some news from OMGUbuntu: http://www.omgubuntu.co.uk/2018/01/ubuntu-17-10-lenovo-fix

Problem will be fixed in january on Canonical’s side with new ISOs (all flavours will have to rebuild images, obviously). But more interesting, there’s a possible fix in the article for those who encountered the issue (might not work for everyone).

Also, not sure if there’s something to do for people who already have Ubuntu installed: remove the faulty driver? is it even installed on systems that were upgraded from 17.04 or only on fresh 17.10 installs?


#14

Yes you can use Ubuntu Mate 17.10 but do one thing before start using MATE. Uninstall the existing driver and again install it and if this will not work then try to install previous version of driver. Sometimes updated applications create problems. If you still face the same issue then contact to Lenovo Support.