My Lenovo is now a brick

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My Lenovo is now a brick

Postby michaelbesselman » 2018-09-26 01:41

I attempted to install Debian on my laptop (A Lenovo W540). Now when the laptop is booted I get a list of hard drives/USB devices where I could start the system from. But when I select any of them, I just get reverted back to the same screen. Is there a way to re-partition everything on a laptop that will allow me to get past this point? Or did I create a brick?
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Re: My Lenovo is now a brick

Postby Head_on_a_Stick » 2018-09-26 05:10

I would remove the CMOS battery on the motherboard for half an hour and see if that resets the firmware.

There is no way that installing Debian would cause your machine to fail to boot USB sticks, it must be a coincidental failure.

EDIT: maybe I'm wrong then... :mrgreen:
Last edited by Head_on_a_Stick on 2018-09-26 05:11, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: My Lenovo is now a brick

Postby bw123 » 2018-09-26 05:11

found this searching internet for linux+Lenovo+w540
https://duckduckgo.com/html/?q=linux+Lenovo+w540
http://www.thinkwiki.org/wiki/Category:W540

ATTENTION!
Do not install Linux if you are using a BIOS version prior to 2.08! Depending on your BIOS settings this can break your mainboard.

https://forums.lenovo.com/t5/ThinkPad-P ... -p/1400393
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Re: My Lenovo is now a brick

Postby rivenathos » 2018-09-27 06:28

bw123 wrote:found this searching internet for linux+Lenovo+w540
https://duckduckgo.com/html/?q=linux+Lenovo+w540
http://www.thinkwiki.org/wiki/Category:W540

ATTENTION!
Do not install Linux if you are using a BIOS version prior to 2.08! Depending on your BIOS settings this can break your mainboard.

https://forums.lenovo.com/t5/ThinkPad-P ... -p/1400393


Ouch! I had assumed all Lenovo products were practically 100% Linux-friendly.I read all the info available. Interesting...
Currently running Debian 9 GNOME on a Dell OptiPlex 3010, Dell Inspiron 1545, and a Dell Inspiron 531.
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Re: My Lenovo is now a brick

Postby tynman » 2018-09-27 22:10

I would be interested to learn how any Linux operating system could break a computer's BIOS or UEFI firmware. The only thing I can think of where an OS routinely updates a motherboard's firmware is the setting of the boot order during installation on UEFI-based computers (the boot order must be stored somewhere "inside" the firmware). Also there is the efibootmgr utility available under Linux, which does the same function - I wouldn't surprised if the Linux installation programs don't use the efibootmgr program to set boot order. But even that "shouldn't" brick a computer, because you "should" always be able to override the boot order from within BIOS/UEFI setup screens during boot.

So while I can see it might be possible for Linux to muck with the BIOS/UEFI code, and break it, I don't see why it would. I would like to think Linux takes special care to avoid doing any such thing. Anyone have insights on this?
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Re: My Lenovo is now a brick

Postby debiman » 2018-09-28 05:48

OP, please check your BIOS version!

rivenathos wrote:I had assumed all Lenovo products were practically 100% Linux-friendly.

that was the old lenovo.
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Re: My Lenovo is now a brick

Postby FreewheelinFrank » 2018-09-28 09:02

Have I missed something here? Looking at the Lenovo forum link above, it seems that the original issue was installing *Windows* bricking the machine. It looks like installing any OS bricks this computer- some sort of issue with a specific SSD? Sorry if my casual glance at this thread has given me a mistaken impression, but this doesn't seem to be a Linux issue particularly.
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Re: My Lenovo is now a brick

Postby Ardouos » 2018-09-28 10:54

tynman wrote:I would be interested to learn how any Linux operating system could break a computer's BIOS or UEFI firmware.

I remember there was a time when rm -rf / would break computers, something with systemd and EFI systems. It has been patched now though. I remember it happened to someone I know.

Correct me if I am wrong though.
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Re: My Lenovo is now a brick

Postby Segfault » 2018-09-28 11:32

This is possible when efivars is mounted read-write. AFAIK all distros mount it ro nowadays as a precaution. Not sure about Debian, I stopped using it when Debian switched to systemd.
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Re: My Lenovo is now a brick

Postby kevinthefixer » 2018-09-29 19:12

Can you boot the system into its BIOS setup? This should (I say SHOULD) be possible even if there is no HDD present. If you can then maybe looking up the BIOS version is the first thing to do, then possiby much through it looking for security settings, boot devices etc. What does Lenovo supply for a BIOS update utility?
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Re: My Lenovo is now a brick

Postby Segfault » 2018-09-29 20:16

It won't boot even into setup if firmware was erased or corrupted via efivars mount.

Code: Select all
rm /sys/firmware/efi/efivars/*


^^ This will brick your board. You need to remount it rw beforehand.
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Re: My Lenovo is now a brick

Postby kevinthefixer » 2018-09-29 20:40

Segfault wrote:It won't boot even into setup if firmware was erased or corrupted via efivars mount.

Code: Select all
rm /sys/firmware/efi/efivars/*


^^ This will brick your board. You need to remount it rw beforehand.


"if firmware was erased or corrupted via efivars mount." Quite so. So if it does boot into setup that isn't the problem.
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Re: My Lenovo is now a brick

Postby Segfault » 2018-09-29 20:48

Thinking about it. Linux cannot brick the board because it does not write into efivars. But Grub2 can. When Grub install is run then one of commands issued is efibootmgr adding the entry. Now, if the firmware is not standards compliant then firmware corruption may occur.
So I believe it is probably possible install Linux without bricking this laptop and use some other boot method, like EFI stub kernel.

Here is shown how you unbrick it.
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Re: My Lenovo is now a brick

Postby Head_on_a_Stick » 2018-09-30 08:07

Segfault wrote:This is possible when efivars is mounted read-write. AFAIK all distros mount it ro nowadays as a precaution. Not sure about Debian, I stopped using it when Debian switched to systemd.

Code: Select all
empty@stretch:~ $ grep efivars /proc/self/mounts
efivarfs /sys/firmware/efi/efivars efivarfs rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime 0 0
empty@stretch:~ $

Does anybody dare me to
Code: Select all
rm -r /sys/firmware/efi/efivars/*

:mrgreen:

EDIT: that machine uses systemd-boot rather than GRUB.

EDIT2: did a bit of digging and it turns out that the efivars are all immutable and cannot be deleted with a simple `rm -rf`:

https://www.kernel.org/doc/Documentatio ... ivarfs.txt
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Re: My Lenovo is now a brick

Postby Segfault » 2018-09-30 13:16

Good to know. BTW, lsattr shows not everything is protected. Makes sense, too, otherwise invoking efibootmgr would be pain in the neck.
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