After protest, Lenovo brings Linux compatibility to Yoga 900 and 900S

November 23, 2016


Lenovo created a stir when it said the Yoga 900 and 900S hybrids would work only with Windows, not Linux. The company has now changed its stance, bringing Linux support to those PCs.

The PC maker earlier this month issued a BIOS update so Linux can be loaded on Yoga 900, 900S and IdeaPad 710 models.

The BIOS update adds an AHCI (Advance Host Controller Interface) SATA controller mode so users can load Linux on the laptops.

This is a Linux-only BIOS, meaning it should be used only by those who want to load the OS. If you want to continue with Windows, do not load the firmware.

“This BIOS is not intended to be used on machines running Windows operating systems,” Lenovo said.

The PC maker is not providing support for the BIOS, and users have to assume any risks of system problems.

Lenovo didn’t immediately say if loading Linux would invalidate the warranty of the laptops. But in some cases loading another OS on laptop can break a limited warranty.

The BIOS was created at the request of users, Lenovo said. Most people use Windows, so many won’t load the BIOS. Locking out Linux from Windows 10 PCs, however, sparked a heated discussion on Reddit.

Lenovo earlier argued that the Yoga 900 and 900S, which can fold into a tablet, were tested for Windows 10 — particularly the touch functionality and even the hinges. For example, when the laptop is folded into a tablet, a sensor driver identifies the change and loads the tablet interface of Windows 10.

Lenovo also said that the Yoga’s unique design led Lenovo to use a storage controller mode not supported by Linux.

“Beyond the controller setup limitation, other advanced capabilities of the Yoga design would likely not work with current Linux offerings,” Lenovo said at the time.

Lenovo has a list of laptops it has certified for Linux, but the Yoga 900 and 900S still haven’t been added to that list.

Locking specific hardware to Windows has emerged as an issue in recent years. For example, Intel’s Kaby Lake chips support only Windows 10, and so will AMD’s upcoming Zen chips.

Microsoft also stoked user anger when it tried to limit the support period for PCs with Intel Skylake chips running Windows 7 and 8 — this was viewed as an attempt to force people to upgrade to Windows 10. Microsoft ultimately changed its plan, extending support.

If you decide to load the BIOS update and Linux on the Yoga 900 or 900S laptops, there’s a good chance you won’t get help with troubleshooting from Lenovo’s tech support personnel, who feel comfortable with Windows. Linux is much different from Windows, and requires some technical expertise to load and operate.

Another option is to buy Linux-based laptops with the latest Kaby Lake chips, like System76’s Lemur laptop, which starts at $699, or Dell’s XPS 13 Developer Edition, which starts at $949.

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