A Reddit user earlier this week reported being unable to install Linux on a Lenovo Yoga 900 ISK laptop, appearing to make the laptop locked to the Windows 10 Home Signature Edition it ships with. Since then, a lot of speculation has done the rounds on the Web, in part due to Lenovo's rough handling of the matter on its product forums and in response to the customer on the Best Buy site. Now however, things are much clearer, with both Lenovo and Microsoft clarifying their positions to state neither company is intentionally blocking the installation of other operating systems.
To refresh, Microsoft last year unveiled its Signature Edition PC program, a promise that PCs with this branding would not feature any bloatware from OEMs. BaronHK stumbled upon the issue when he tried to install Linux on his Lenovo Yoga 900 ISK2 ultrabook. According to him, the issue persists in other Yoga devices which include Yoga 900S and Yoga 710S.
Since then, many Linux fans have expressed their disappointment on the message board on the difficulties of installing open-source operating systems on Lenovo, with the blame mostly pointed at Lenovo and how the company has configured the systems.
According BaronHK, the issues stems from Lenovo's propriety technology that locks the BIOS into RAID mode for the SSD storage onboad, with AHCI support disabled. All of the three combined essentially prevent users to install any other operating system that doesn't have driver and OS kernel support for a single SSD drive in RAID mode.
Early on, a Lenovo Product Expect replied to BaronHK 's review of the Yoga 900 ISK2 on Best Buy, claiming "This system has a Signature Edition of Windows 10 Home installed. It is locked per our agreement with Microsoft." This obviously started off quite a controversy on the Web, but if more recent statements from both Lenovo and Microsoft are to be believed, there is no such agreement - instead, the ability to install Linux and other operating systems on the affected laptops is dependant on Linux and other operating systems coming up with a driver and kernel that support the SSD RAID configuration.
A spokesperson for Lenovo told Tech Republic that the company was not blocking Linux installation deliberately, "To improve performance, the industry is moving to RAID on the SSDs and Lenovo is leading with this change. Lenovo does not block customers using other operating systems on its devices but relies on the alternative operating system vendors to release appropriate drivers."
A much larger statement was provided to Engadget, "As the world's number 1 PC company, we continue to focus on bringing value to the PC user, and creating unique and innovative form factors such as Yoga. Our consumer Windows PCs are specifically designed for and extensively tested on Windows 10. Yoga 900 / 900S with their 360 degree hinges are specifically designed to maximise the touch functionality of Windows 10. Our Yoga design requires very specific, complex and unique drivers that require even greater amounts of testing, to ensure class-leading performance with Windows 10. 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... Lenovo does not intentionally block customers using other operating systems such as Linux on Yoga or any of its devices and is fully committed to providing Linux certifications and installation guidance on a wide range of suitable products. These products are listed on our support page: https://support.lenovo.com/us/en/documents/pd031426"
Microsoft also provided a statement to Engadget, clarifying its position and the role of the Signature Edition, "Lenovo recently adopted RAID on SSDs in certain product configurations, which require additional steps to support all system features. More information can be found on their support page; https://support.lenovo.com/us/en/documents/pd031426. Recent claims about software installation issues related to Microsoft Signature are inaccurate."
For now, until a revised Linux OS kernel and drivers are released to support the new configuration, we suggest you steer clear of Lenovo's Signature Editions if you're looking in the market for a new PC to install Linux or other alternative mobile operating systems onto.