Net Neutrality At Risk

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Retro ThinkPad: It’s Alive!

(Image Lenovo)

At last!  Official word from David Hill that the Retro ThinkPad project is a reality.

Wonderful news!

Retro ThinkPad: It’s Alive

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Lenovo’s New ThinkPad Yoga 370 – It’s Silver!

yoga-370-full-better

Talk about an embarrassment of riches! Another Lenovo laptop has arrived! It’s a pre-production ThinkPad Yoga 370 – an advance sample of one of the new products due to be announced at CES 2017.

First things first: From time to time the nice people at Lenovo send me a gadget. They’re handy to have around – both for my own use and when trying to help out in the Lenovo forums. I do some testing and writing as well. I’m not otherwise compensated, and opinions are my own. I DO NOT speak for Lenovo.

I’ve done my best to gather correct specs here, but please keep in mind that the Yoga 370 is a pre-production unit. It’s not likely that things will change when it becomes available for purchase – but it’s possible. The specs available to me are also preliminary. Please verify anything you read here – about either model – before using it to make a purchase decision.

The TP Yoga 370 is a successor to the TP Yoga 260. Since I also have a ‘260 we’ll follow the same format used to introduce the (non-ThinkPad) Yoga 910 here and compare the two ThinkPads’ specs and features. Of course they’re both Yogas, with the poses, postures, and flexibility that implies.

(Images Lenovo)

Off the top, the main differences are Kaby Lake processors, larger display in a slightly larger frame with reduced bezel size, USB-C/Thunderbolt port, proprietary Ethernet port, deleted OneLink port (in favor of the USB-C port), deleted mini DisplayPort, and deleted volume buttons.

The specific pre-production unit that I received has an i5 7100U Kaby Lake CPU, 4GB of DDR4 RAM (single socket in this version – see below), a 128GB SATA SSD, no fingerprint reader, and a 1920×1080 display. This is at the low-spec end of the option list but reasonably well suited for the way I’ll use it: evening surfing, some media consumption, and writing. The below shows the range of specs, using the documentation available at this writing.

Did I mention that it’s silver? It’s a looker – but this will take some getting used-to. Aren’t ThinkPads supposed to be black? At least it has a TrackPoint. That’s not negotiable. Period. The end. Full stop.

Specifications

12 March 2017 update: TP Yoga 370 specs are now available.  Sales link still pending…

<370 sales link> ThinkPad Yoga 260
Processor
options
Intel Core i3-7100U
2.4 GHz no turbo
3MB cache

Intel Core i5-7200U
2.5-3.1 GHz
3MB cache

Intel Core i5-7300U
2.6-3.5 GHz
3MB cache

Intel Core i7-7500U
2.7-3.5 GHz
4MB cache

Intel Core i7-7600U
2.8-3.9 GHz
4MB cache

all: 2 cores, 4 threads

Intel Core i3-6100U
2.3 GHz no turbo
3MB cacheIntel Core i5-6200U
2.3-2.8 GHz
3MB cacheIntel Core i5-6300U
2.4-3.0 GHz
3MB cache

Intel Core i7-6500U
2.5-3.1 GHz
4MB cache

Intel Core i7-6600U
2.6-3.4 GHz
4MB cache

all: 2 cores, 4 threads

Operating
system
Windows 10 Pro Windows 10 Home or Pro 64, Windows 7 Pro 64, Windows 7 Pro 64 via downgrade rights
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 620
supports dual independent display
Max resolution: 4096×2160 (HDMI)@24Hz
Intel HD Graphics 520
supports dual independent display
Max resolution: 3840×2160 (Mini DisplayPort)@60Hz
4096×2160 (HDMI)@24Hz
Memory Non-WWAN models: 16GB max / 2133MHz DDR4, one DDR4 SO-DIMM socket

WWAN models: 8GB 2133MHz DDR4 soldered to systemboard

Non-WWAN models: 16GB max / 2133MHz DDR4, one DDR4 SO-DIMM socket

WWAN models: 8GB 2133MHz DDR4 soldered to systemboard

Storage Up to 1TB m.2 2280 SATA or PCIe SSD Up to 1TB m.2 2280 PCIe 3.0 x 4 SSD
Display FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS 13.3″ display 300 nits multi-touch HD (1366×768) or FHD (1920×1080) IPS 12.5″ display 300 nits multi-touch
Pen ThinkPad Pen Pro active pen for multi-touch display Some: ThinkPad Pen Pro active pen for multi-touch display
Camera HD 720p Camera 720p HD, 1.0 MP resolution, fixed focus
Audio support HD Audio, Conexant® CX11771 codec, Dolby® DAXII

stereo speakers, 2W x 2

dual array microphone

combo audio / microphone jack

HD Audio, Conexant® CX11852 codec, Dolby® Home Theater® v4

stereo speakers 2W x 2

dual array microphone

combo audio / microphone jack

Keyboard Full-size keyboard, backlight, 6-row, multimedia Fn keys Full-size keyboard, backlight, 6-row, multimedia Fn keys
UltraNav TrackPoint pointing device and multi-touch with 3+2 buttons click pad TrackPoint pointing device and multi-touch with 3+2 buttons click pad
G sensor, eCompass, Gyroscope 3D accelerometer and 3D magnetometer, 3D compass, 3D gyrometer 3D accelerometer and 3D magnetometer, 3D compass, 3D gyrometer
Ambient light sensor  Yes Yes
Fingerprint Reader Some: Touch style fingerprint reader on the keyboard bezel Some: Touch style fingerprint reader on the keyboard bezel
WLAN/WiGig Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC (2 x 2) 8265,
Bluetooth Version 4.1

Intel Tri-Band Wireless-AC 18265 WiGig + WiFi 2 x 2 AC + Bluetooth 4.1 M.2 Card

WiGig adapter is only available in selected countries

BCM: Broadcom Wireless-AC, 2×2, Wi-Fi + Bluetooth combo adapter, M.2 Card

no vPro: Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8260, 2×2, Wi-Fi + BT, M.2 Card

vPro: Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8260 with vPro, 2×2, Wi-Fi + BT, M.2 Card

Intel Tri-Band Wireless-AC 18260 WiGig + WiFi 2×2 AC + Bluetooth 4.1 M.2 Card

WiGig adapter is only available in selected countries

WWAN Optional

Qualcomm® 4G LTE-Advanced/DC-HSPA+/HSPA+/HSPA/UMTS/GNSS, M.2 card

WWAN models are only available with i5, i7 processores, 8GB soldered to systemboard memory

WWAN models not available in North America

Optional

Sierra Wireless EM7455,
Qualcomm® 4G LTE-Advanced/DC-HSPA+/HSPA+/HSPA/UMTS/GNSS, M.2 card

WWAN models are only available with i5, i7 processors,
8GB soldered to systemboard memory and FHD display

Battery Up to 12.5 Hours Up to 10 hours Li-polymer 4-cell 44Wh
Ports Two USB 3.0 (one Always On)

USB-C/Thunderbolt 3

microSD

HDMI

Combo audio / microphone jack

Rectangular “Slim Tip” charging port

Two USB 3.0 (one Always On)

Mini DisplayPort

HDMI

Onelink+ connector

Combo audio / microphone jack

Rectangular “Slim Tip” charging port

Weight From 3.03 lbs (1.37 kg) From 2.90 lb (1.32kg)
Dimensions 12.30” x 8.75” x 0.70” (313.5 mm x 222.2 mm x 18.2 mm) 12.20″ x 8.66″ x 0.70″ (309.9mm x 220mm x 17.8mm)
Color Black or silver Midnight black or silver

Photos

Yoga 370 on top, 260 on bottom.

Again, the 370 is a prototype. Ports and features may differ in production units, and units with different options.

Front and rear very similar. The 370 is slightly larger.

The size difference is more apparent in side view.

370: “slim” charging port, USB-C/Thunderbolt 3, proprietary Ethernet port, USB 3.0/always on
260: “slim” charging port, OneLink+, mini DisplayPort, USB 3.0/always on

370: power button, pen in pen silo, combo audio jack, micro SD card slot, (SIM slot WWAN models) USB 3.0, HDMI, security lock port
260: power button, volume up/down, pen in pen silo, combo audio jack, micro SD card slot/SIM card slot, USB 3.0, HDMI, security lock port

A look at the screens side-by-side, showing the 370’s larger display in a slightly larger frame on the right.

ThinkPad Yoga 370 Links

12 March 2017 update: TP Yoga 370 specs and some documents are now available.  Sales and user’s guide links still pending…

Hardware Maintenance Manual – ThinkPad Yoga 370

PSREF Page

Base Specification

ThinkPad Yoga 260 Links

ThinkPad Yoga 260 (sales site)

(English) User Guide – ThinkPad Yoga 260

Hardware Maintenance Manual – ThinkPad Yoga 260

PSREF Page

Base Specification

Random Observations

Device and Disk Managers, SSD performance: This TP Yoga 370 has a SATA m.2 SSD, not NVMe.

Operating System: this unit shipped with Windows 10 Pro Signature Edition.  It’s my understanding that production systems will also use a signature edition preload.  Signature edition preloads include much less (or no) bloatware.  That’s welcome news 🙂

Like other recent Lenovo offerings, it uses a PBR (Microsoft push-button reset) image.  There is a small recovery partition but it contains recovery tools, not the recovery image.  The recovery image files are incorporated in the C: partition, not in a separate partition.  They get updated when the OS updates, so recovery isn’t to as-shipped state, but to as-shipped if it had shipped with the updated OS.

Linux: Live Ubuntu Linux 16.04.1. No wifi out of the box. SATA AHCI-mode SSD (containing Windows 10) is visible to Linux.

Virtualization: VMWare Player and two VMs. Requires enabling VT-x in BIOS. Two VMs pretty much maxed the 4GB of RAM in this system. Configuring the VMs with less virtual RAM each would help, but it’s not really workable to run both at the same time with the RAM available in this particular laptop. They also consume a fair bit of the 128GB of main storage.

For any kind of serious VM work a configuration with more SSD, more RAM, and perhaps a stronger processor would be appropriate. For occasional/demo/experimental use, this one is fine.

Dongles: The ‘370 uses Lenovo’s proprietary Ethernet port, since the unit isn’t thick enough for a standard RJ45 port. The ‘260 made Ethernet available via the OneLink port – or with a USB dongle as described below.

There’s a Lenovo Ethernet dongle <part number needed> that provides a full-sized RJ45 connector.

It’s also possible to use an aftermarket USB-C or USB 3.0 to Ethernet dongle. I tested briefly with an Anker USB-C to USB 3.0/RJ45 mini combo hub. Also a StarTech USB 3.0 to RJ45 dongle. Both worked without requiring an additional driver. I mention them here as examples, not necessarily as recommendations.

Color: Did I mention that it’s SILVER? It’s also available in black…

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To the Nines – Lenovo Yoga 910

lenovo-laptop-yoga-910-13-work-play-3

(Image Lenovo)

Sleek, elegant, and powerful.  This beauty has it all – including one rather irritating problem.  Well, maybe two…

But first: From time to time the nice people at Lenovo send me a gadget.  They’re handy to have around – both for my own use and when trying to help out in the Lenovo forums.  I do some testing and writing as well.  I’m not otherwise compensated, and opinions are my own.  I DO NOT speak for Lenovo.

A year ago we had a look at the Yoga 900.   It’s still one of my favorite consumer-grade laptops.  Lenovo Yoga 900: not a ThinkPad, but not too bad…  It was a real improvement over the ground-breaking Yoga 3 Pro.  The Yoga 910 that recently landed at my front door continues that evolution in all ways:  updated CPU (7th gen Kaby Lake) and RAM, larger and faster SSD, and an optional 4k display.  The very slender bezel makes the most of the available real-estate with most of it dedicated to the display.  It goes without saying that it’s a Yoga, with multiple modes:  laptop, tablet, tent, stand…

The specific unit that I received had an i7 CPU, 16GB of DDR4 RAM (soldered to the mainboard), a 1TB NVMe SSD, fingerprint reader, and a 4k display.  Yow!

Let’s examine the evolution of the 910 by comparing it to the 900.  Specifications are derived from Lenovo documentation available at the time of this writing.  Please confirm anything you read here before making a purchase decision.  Also note that the Yoga 900 specs are for a -13ISK model.  That has been superseded by the -13ISK2 with an NVMe SSD.

Specifications

Yoga 910 Yoga 900
Processor Intel i5-7200U (2 cores / 4 threads 2.5 GHz 3MB cache)

Intel i7-7500U (2 cores / 4 threads 2.7 GHz 4MB cache)

Intel Core i5-6200U (2 cores / 4 threads 2.3 GHz 3MB cache)

Intel Core i7-6500U (2 cores / 4 threads 2.5 GHz 4MB cache)

Operating System Windows 10 Home or Pro 64 Windows 10 Home 64
Graphics  Intel HD Graphics 620  Intel HD Graphics 520
Memory 16GB max 2133MHz DDR4 soldered to system board 16GB max 1600MHz LPDDR3 soldered to system board
Storage Up to 1TB  m.2 2280 PCIe 3.0 x 4 SSD Up to 512 GB  m.2 2280 SSD
Display FHD (1920×1080)

UHD (3840×2160)

IPS 13.9″ 300 nits

QHD+ (3200 x 1800)

IPS 13.3″ 300 nits

Camera  720p HD, 1.0 MP resolution, fixed focus  720p HD, 1.0 MP resolution, fixed focus
Audio support HD audio, JBL branded stereo speaker with Dolby Audio Premium certification 2.0W x 2

dual array microphone

combo audio / microphone jack

HD audio, JBL branded Speaker with Dolby Audio Premium certification 2.0W x 2

dual array microphone

combo audio / microphone jack

Keyboard Full-size keyboard, backlight, 6-row, multimedia Fn keys Full-size keyboard, backlight, 6-row, multimedia Fn keys
Touchpad One-piece multi-touch touchpad Buttonless touchpad below keyboard, multi-touch
Ambient light sensor Yes Yes
Fingerprint Reader Yes No
WLAN 802.11ac, QCA61x4A 1×1 Wi-Fi + BT combo adapter

(Bluetooth 4.1 integrated in Wi-Fi + Bluetooth combo adapter)

One of the following, configurable by model:

11b/g/n+BT: 11b/g/n, 1×1, Wi-Fi + Bluetooth combo adapter, M.2 Card

11ac+BT: 11ac, 1×1, Wi-Fi + Bluetooth combo adapter, M.2 Card

Intel 8260 ac+BT: 11ac, 2×2,Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8260,
Wi-Fi + Bluetooth combo adapter, M.2 Card

(Bluetooth 4.1 wireless, integrated in Wi-Fi + Bluetooth combo adapter)

Battery Up to 15 hours Li-polymer 4-cell 78Wh Up to 9 hours, 4-cell 66 Watt Hour Li-polymer
Ports USB 3.0 x 1 (support always on charging)

USB 3.0 x 1 (Type C, support DP function)

USB 2.0 x 1 (Type C, support DC-in function)

audio combo jack x 1

optional HDMI port (via USB 3.0 Type-C to HDMI Dongle, sold separately)

optional VGA port (via USB 3.0 Type-C to VGA Dongle sold separately)

2 x USB Type A 3.0 1 x USB Type C 3.0 with Video-out 1 x DC-in with USB 2.0 Function

4-in-1 Card Reader (SD, MMC, SDXC, SDHC) Audio Combo Jack

Weight 3.04lb (1.38kg) 2.8 lbs (1.3 kg)
Dimensions 12.72″ x 8.84″ x 0.56″ (323mm x 224.5mm x 14.3mm) 12.75″ x 8.86″ x 0.59″ (324 x 225 x 14.9 mm)
Color Silver, champagne gold or gun metal Clementine orange, champagne gold or platinum silver

Photos

A look at the display and keyboard.

yoga-910-display-and-keyboard1

The Yoga 910 uses USB-C charging.  The charger has been tweaked – with the AC prongs at the corner – to avoid blocking both outlets of a North-American duplex, or multiple outlets in a plug strip.  An AC extension cord is also included.  A nice touch.

yoga-910-usb-c-charger

And now let’s compare the old and new.  The 910 is on top, the 900 on the bottom.  They’re similar … yet different.  The 910 has a USB-C charging port and no card reader among other differences. The details are spelled out in the links at the end of this article.  My apologies for the image quality.  Lenovo hasn’t sent me a phone yet…

yoga-900-910-front

yoga-900-910-rear

yoga-900-910-left

yoga-900-910-right

And finally, a display comparison.  The narrow bezel of the 910 on the right allows for a larger display in a nearly-identically sized laptop.

yoga-900-910-display

Yoga 910 Links

Yoga 910 (sales site)

(English) User Guide – Yoga 910-13IKB, Yoga 910-13IKB Glass

Hardware Maintenance Manual – Yoga 910-13IKB, Yoga 910-13IKB Glass

PSREF page

Base Specification

Sarbin’s Lenovo Forum Spotlight Snap-review: Yoga: The Next Generation – The Yoga 910!

Random Observations

Camera: it’s at the bottom of the screen (as viewed in laptop mode).

Devices, drive layout and performance: as-delivered Device Manager, SSD layout, SSD performance.

yoga-910-disk-dev-mgmt-ssd-perf-resized

Linux: Yes, the Yoga 910 will boot Ubuntu 16.04 live on a USB flash drive.  However – unless the SATA mode is toggled to AHCI in BIOS config the installer won’t be able to see the main drive.  Wifi also doesn’t seem to work out-of-the-box.

yoga-910-ubuntu-16-04-screenshot

Virtual Machines: VMWare Workstation Player (free) and a couple of my VMs copied from another laptop.  Requires enabling VT-x in BIOS.

This is an example of one of the drawbacks of an extremely high-res display.  Older software (like this Solaris VM) don’t know how to scale, and become tiny.  Newer software generally can cope – but some older stuff may be unusable.

yoga-910-virtual-machines-resized

The Problem(s)

Well, I guess you’ve all been waiting for this… fan noise 🙁  2-in-1 ultrabooks are a challenge to cool.  Add a high-end mobile i7 CPU and it just gets worse.  Then try to hide the vents in the watchband hinge…

It’s understandable that there’s some fan/air noise given the above.  It can become objectionable if the fan runs too often, runs unnecessarily, or just plain sounds nasty.  All of these have been discussed by unhappy forum members.  My particular unit has a fan whine that I find rather obnoxious.  It’s not clear that they all do that.

Lenovo is working on BIOS and driver mods to address some of these aspects.  Forum members are already doing some testing, with mixed results so far.

Part of the problem is “rogue” processes increasing CPU loading (in the background independent of user activity) and causing the fan to run more than it should.  A major player is Windows Update and the associated Trusted Modules Installer.  With Windows 10 Home (the typical OS on these machines) those processes pretty much run when they feel like it, and can disrupt a quiet meeting room, or just aggravate the user.

It’s possible – likely even – that considerable improvements in fan noise are on the way, at least as regards frequency of operation and RPM.  The “tone” of the fan is another issue IMHO – and a troubling one.  Stay tuned…

Oh yeah, the other “problem”… the right SHIFT key.  Sheesh.  What were they thinking?

Update 2017.01.27  My Yoga 910 has gone back to Lenovo for analysis, and I’ve received a replacement.  The replacement still has a fairly “active” fan, but doesn’t screech like the first one did.  It’s a very different experience, even before making the Lenovo-suggested BIOS and driver changes in the link below.

My guess is that one fan vendor’s product that has the severe noise problem – and that’s on top of whatever excess fan activity is caused by BIOS, drivers, and general Windows 10 background activity.

For reference, the thread on the Lenovo forums:  Yoga 910 crazy loud fan even when CPU at <35%

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X1 Mouse in the House…

x1-mouse-and-logo

The same old boilerplate:  From time to time the nice people at Lenovo send me a gadget.  They’re handy to have around – both for my own use and when trying to help out in the Lenovo forums.  I do some testing and writing as well.  I’m not otherwise compensated, and opinions are my own.  I DO NOT speak for Lenovo.

You’d think the humble mouse was fully evolved by now.  Nope.  Lenovo has managed to find ways to refine even the venerable rodent.

Behold the ThinkPad X1 Wireless Touch Mouse.  It’s a highly capable and innovative gadget.  The “buttons” are touch-sensitive, with the actual “click” located on the bottom.  It’s also quite compact.   Perhaps a little too compact for all-day use on the desk in my big paws, but an excellent companion to my ThinkPad X1 Yoga on the road.  Maybe an even better companion to the TrackPoint-absent non-Think Yoga series like my 900 where a small external mouse really makes a difference.

Please note that the X1 mouse supports Bluetooth 4.0 and won’t work with older laptops like my ThinkPad T420 that use an earlier Bluetooth version.  For those cases use the mouse in RF mode with the included USB dongle.

Lenovo’s specs and some images below, but first, here’s a nice bonus: a discount code for the Yoga Mouse. A somewhat different critter than the X1 and looks very nice in its own way. (I haven’t had a chance to try it myself.)

Lenovo YOGA Mouse(Black)-NA

Note: discount code currently for North American customers only.

Part number:
Lenovo YOGA Mouse(Golden)-NA – GX30K69569
Lenovo YOGA Mouse(Black)-NA – GX30K69565
eCoupon : INFLUENCER
% off : 25%
Start date: 10/25/2016
End date: 12/31/2016

Lenovo X1 Mouse link, specs and images:

ThinkPad X1 Wireless Touch Mouse

Dual wireless: Bluetooth 4.0 and 2.4GHz
Rechargeable internal battery (380 mAh)
Multiple LED battery life indicator
Capacitive touch scrolling
Touchpad presenter
1000 DPI

x1-mouse-details

 

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Windows 7 Installation Hacks: One Post to Bind Them…

After 31 October 2016  OEMs will no longer be allowed to ship computers with Windows 7 Pro. What better way to mark the end of an era than a series of articles about installing Windows 7?

14 November 2016 Correction:  OEMs are able to ship Windows 7 preloads after 31 October if they have an inventory of previously-purchased licenses.  Lenovo, for example, still has Windows 7 machines available as of this date.  Apologies for the misinformation!

I’ve gathered some information here based on my recent experience with a Lenovo X1 Yoga.  I wanted to purchase it while Windows 7 was still an option.  Even though it would have downgrade rights (as explained in an article linked below) I wished to have an actual Lenovo ‘7 preload to archive in case it was ever necessary.  True, Windows 10 makes much more sense on a touch-enabled laptop, but the Win 10 forced update policy is nearly intolerable.  I wonder how many trains, buses, and dentist’s appointments have been missed when a laptop decided to do an update instead of just shutting down?

Full disclosure: I’m running ’10 on the X1 Yoga now.  The group policy editor allows setting the update policy to notify only, but that’s a story for another day.

Lenovo machines shipped with Windows 7 Pro preloaded via downgrade rights come with a coupon for a Win 10 Lenovo image that can be downloaded.  With the Lenovo ‘7 recovery image created and archived, the Lenovo ’10 image downloaded and archived, and a clean Windows 10 downloaded from the Microsoft site, I’ve got all the bases covered – I hope.

Back to Windows 7: this seemed like an opportunity to test a clean Windows 7 install on the X1 before going over to the dark side and installing ’10.  Below are 4 little articles on installation hacks (plus a bonus on fixing Windows update) that came up as I tested a clean install.   They’ve been covered fairly extensively elsewhere but I’ve gathered them here in one place for my own information. Hopefully yours too 😉

Convert Windows 7 Install Media to All-Version  Take a single version install medium (Pro only for example) and enable the other versions hidden therein.

Windows 7 UEFI Installer on Flash Drive  Modify Windows 7 media to allow a UEFI-mode installation from flash.

Activating a Windows 7 Downgrade  Windows 8.x Pro and 10 Pro include downgrade rights to Windows 7.  Activation is tricky.

Adding USB 3.0 and NVMe Drivers to Windows 7 Install Media  Lack of USB 3.0 drivers will result in the dreaded and confusing “A required CD/DVD drive device driver is missing” error.  An NVMe SSD target drive will be invisible to the installer without proper drivers.

Fixing Windows 7 Update Hangs  Bonus: it’s becoming more and more common for Windows 7 Update to spin for hours (or days…) on “checking for updates“.  It can and does happen with new installs, newly purchased OEM preloads and recovery images, and even otherwise fully-updated machines. There are many “fixes” on the interwebs.  This one worked for me.

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Adding USB 3.0 and NVMe Drivers to Windows 7 Install Media

You know what they say about watching sausage getting made.  It may be worse watching install media being modified.  Those with weak stomachs may want to look away…

This is the 4th and final (for now…) in a set of small articles on modification and use of Windows 7 install media:  multi-version, UEFI boot, driver injection, and downgrade activation.  The focus will be on USB flash media.

It’s the same old story:  hardware marches on, and operating systems play catch-up.  This has become more of an issue lately with Windows 7 installs and contemporary hardware.  Lack of USB 3.0 drivers can make the install media unbootable (past the initial boot) and lack of NVMe SSD drivers can render the target drive invisible to the installer.  OEM images like Lenovo’s preload and recovery media will include appropriate drivers but Microsoft media will not.  This makes a “clean” install impossible without some work.

Many, if not all laptops these days are USB 3.0 only.  The chipsets don’t support plain-old USB 2.0 sockets.  The strange outcome of this is the misleading “A required CD/DVD drive device driver is missing” error.

windows-7-required-cd-driver-is-missing-cropped

This can be a little startling, especially if you’re installing from a flash drive.  What it means is that the installer is missing the driver it needs to access the flash drive.  Huh?  You’ve already booted from the flash drive, so how can that be?

What happened is that the initial boot was done via BIOS functions.  At some point the install drive access is handed over to the newly-booted install code, which doesn’t have 3.0 drivers.  Fail.

The old-school fix for this is to put the necessary drivers on media and do an “F6” driver add during the install process, but… since we only have USB 3.0 ports we can’t read flash media.  It might be possible to stash the drivers on some other medium (if it’s readable somehow) or even on the target main drive.  This article explores how to add the drivers to the install media so they’re already in place when needed – and the same media can be used for later/other installs as well.

Intel provides a nifty utility that can modify an existing Windows 7 SP1 install setup that’s already on a flash drive and plug in the appropriate drivers.  I’ve tried it and it works.  It’s a little fussy and fragile: it won’t run on a Win 7 host, wouldn’t work for me in a Win 10 virtual machine, and on a native Win 10 laptop it barfed when the laptop went to sleep during the process (and it’s a long process…).

Windows 7* USB 3.0 Creator Utility

If that’s all you need – you’re done 🙂  If you also need NVMe SSD drivers, it makes more sense to integrate those and the USB drivers at the same time.  There is at least one free tool available that can help automate the process: NTLite.  I gave it a good try but never got a result that loaded the USB drivers correctly.  I’ll admit it was probably PEBKAC, so check it out and give it a try if you’re so inclined.  Here, we’ll do it the old-fashioned way.

First, round up the appropriate drivers:

Update to add native driver support in NVM Express in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 will get the Microsoft NVMe driver.  For some reason MS requries clicking on the Hotfix Download Available button, then filling out a form.  A link to the actual download will be emailed once the form is submitted.

477475_intl_x64_zip.exe is a self-extracting executable that will extract Windows6.1-KB2990941-v3-x64.msu to a folder of choice.  Either stash it somewhere for now or wait until the working folders are created as described below and extract it there.  The .msu could also be extracted from the .exe with an archiving utility like 7zip.  (Might as well go get it, you’ll need it now … or later:  http://www.7-zip.org/)

The USB 3.0 drivers can come from Intel or an OEM (Lenovo in my case).  The Intel USB 3.0 creator linked above is a zip file that contains the drivers – among other things.  Open it with Windows explorer or 7zip and drill down to the appropriate drivers – 64 bit for this exercise.  Stash them too, or wait and extract to the folder created below.

extracted-intel-usb-3-drivers

The Intel USB 3.0 drivers available from Lenovo are embedded in an installer.  This driver installer is from the X1 Yoga driver matrix: Intel USB 3.0 Driver for Windows 7 (32-bit, 64-bit) – ThinkPad.

Run it to the point that it wants to do the final install but un-check the “install” checkbox before hitting “finish”.  Drill down in the folder chosen for the driver extraction and pull out the 64-bit USB 3.0 drivers.

lenovo-driver-dont-install-arrow-cropped

extracted-x1y-usb-3-drivers

Now to the real sausage making:

The actual install media manipulation requires using Microsoft’s Deployment Image Servicing and Management tool (dism, the dismal tool) and the command line image creation tool (oscdimg) if an ISO is the end result desired.  If the target is a USB flash drive installer an ISO shouldn’t be necessary (note: I didn’t test that directly – I made an ISO and later  flash drive from the ISO) but may be a convenient way to archive the result.

On my machines dism is available in the stock operating system, but the Windows 7 version doesn’t include the necessary image manipulation commands.  The Windows 10 version does. Neither includes oscdimg.  If a flash drive installer is the goal a stock Win 10 should be sufficient as a host OS.  If an ISO is the desired end result, or Win 7 is the available build platform an additional download will be required.

Download the Windows ADK

Note the different versions for different operating systems – and OS versions.  Use the 8.1 ADK if working in a Win 7 OS.  It’s a large download.  The direct link to the 8.1 ADK is here:  Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (Windows ADK) for Windows 8.1 Update

Once it’s downloaded and installed use the newly-created CMD prompt option in Windows Kits -> Windows ADK  to access the new dism and other tools in the correct environment.

window-7-desktop-launch-dism-cropped

So much for the easy part.  Actually modifying the install media is a PITA with many opportunities for error.  Below are links to Microsoft and Lenovo guides.  I find the Lenovo version easier to read and understand.  I’d recommend creating the working folders exactly as specified – based in C: – rather than setting up your own workspace.  This will allow grinding away with copy-and-paste and should avoid many opportunities for error.  I did it … so can you 🙂

As directed, copy the source install media from Windows 7 SP1 DVD or use 7zip or other archiving/mount tool and extract the source files from an SP1 ISO.

Lenovo: How to prepare the Windows 7 installation ISO image with USB3.0 driver and NVM Express (NVMe) driver

Microsoft: Update to add native driver support in NVM Express in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2

Patience, fortitude, and good luck 🙂

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Activating a Windows 7 Downgrade

This is the 3rd in a set of small articles on modification and use of Windows 7 install media:  multi-version, UEFI boot, driver injection, and downgrade activation.  The focus will be on USB flash media.

Well, 31 October, 2016 brings the end of an era.  OEMs like Lenovo will no longer be able to ship machines with a Windows 7 Pro preload.  Fortunately downgrade rights will persist.  Windows 10 Pro users will be able to downgrade to Windows 7 Pro.   (NOTE: everything I can find online says that’s the case. I can’t personally guarantee it.)

14 November 2016 Correction:  OEMs are able to ship Windows 7 preloads after 31 October if they have an inventory of previously-purchased licenses.  Lenovo, for example, still has Windows 7 machines available as of this date.  Apologies for the misinformation!

Finding Windows 7 install media may or may not be a problem, but activation can be an issue.  OEM preloads, factory media, and user-made recovery media shouldn’t need activation, but clean installs from Microsoft media will.  This will apply to clean installs on machines that originally had ‘7 Pro installed, and to first-time clean installs to machines that shipped with ‘8.x or ’10 Pro.

Microsoft’s downgrade activation is … odd, to say the least.  I’ll try for a TLDR translation here.  Links to MS documents are below.

So:  Run your install from MS media.  Use an existing – already in use – activation key for Windows 7 Pro.  That will probably fail but you should be offered a phone number to use for activation.

You have to use a legitimate key in order to get far enough into the activation process to be offered the phone number.  A made-up key will fail too early.  If you use a key that hasn’t been used before, it will be consumed by the activation, and wasted.  Probably not what you want.

My own experience in several of these downgrade activations has been interesting.  They were all on Lenovo ThinkPads.  I used the key from the battery compartment of my T420 and it just activated immediately online with no call required.  There may be something to using an OEM key from the same manufacturer as the target machine.  I can’t be sure that it will avoid the extra steps, but it has for me.

Some Microsoft documents:

Understanding downgrade rights

Downgrade rights (PDF)

 

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Windows 7 UEFI Installer on Flash Drive

This is another of a set of small articles on modification and use of Windows 7 install media:  multi-version, UEFI boot, driver injection, and downgrade activation.  The focus will be on USB flash media.

It is possible to install Windows 7 in UEFI mode, but it takes some work. Patience, grasshopper, and read on…

Why bother?  Good question.  Perhaps to take advantage of GPT drive formatting, or to co-exist with another OS that boots in UEFI mode.

First, prep a flash drive for UEFI boot as described here:  A FOB STORY: Preparing the flash drive  (TLDR: a single FAT-32 formatted partition, active flag not set.)

If you don’t already have it, go get 7zip.  It’s an incredibly useful archive manipulation tool.  http://www.7-zip.org/  You’ll also need a Windows 7 SP1 DVD or ISO.  Copy the contents of the DVD – or use 7zip to extract the ISO contents – to the prepped flash drive.  The extracted contents should look like this:

win-7-pro-64-iso-extracted-to-flash

Open the “efi” folder and create a new folder there: “boot”.

Navigate up and then down into the sources folder and find install.wim. Open it with 7zip:

win-7-pro-64-flash-install-wim-open-in-7zip

Then drill down into folders “1” -> “windows” -> “boot” -> EFI and locate the file bootmgfw.efi.

win-7-pro-64-flash-install-wim-down-to-bootmgw-in-7zip

Extract that file to the previously created \efi\boot folder on the flash drive.  (use the extract function or simply drag it from 7zip to that \efi\boot folder.)

Rename bootmgw.efi to bootx64.efi.  That’s it.

win-7-pro-64-flash-extracted-to-temp-bootx64-created

To boot the created USB flash drive: in BIOS configuration turn off Secure Boot, make sure UEFI booting and USB booting are enabled, and enable CSM (compatibility support module).

If CSM isn’t enabled the installer will boot but typically hang on the Windows + dancing balloons splash screen.  An installed UEFI Windows 7 will also hang in the same way if CSM support is OFF.

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Convert Windows 7 Install Media to All-Version

This is the first of a set of small articles on modification and use of Windows 7 install media:  multi-version, UEFI boot, driver injection, and downgrade activation.

This has been discussed extensively elsewhere, but I’m gathering it all here to document my recent experience – and maybe help a few others.

The articles will focus on flash media.  It’s almost certain that a computer that needs any of these mods will be able to boot a flash drive – and may not even have an optical drive.

To the topic…

The Windows 7 SP1 install media I have access to is single-version.  That is, a given DVD or ISO will install either Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, or Ultimate.  The version available is determined by the particular ISO or DVD in hand. That can be changed 🙂

The image below is a screen shot of a Window 7 SP1 Pro 64-bit ISO extracted to a flash drive by the 7zip archiving tool.  The folders and files will look the same if copied from a DVD.

7zip is free and amazingly useful.  You need it.  Get it here:  http://www.7-zip.org/  You won’t need it today if working from DVD media, but you will need it in the future.  Trust me on that 😉

win-7-pro-64-iso-extracted-to-flash

If you examine the sources folder, it looks like all four versions are there, but something restricts the media to a single version at install time.  Turns out that something is the ei.cfg file in the sources folder.  See the image below.

win-7-pro-64-flash-sources-file-list-partial-ei-cfg-highlight

The contents of this particular ei.cfg are:

[EditionID]
Professional
[Channel]
Retail
[VL]
0

Note “Professional”.

If one deletes or renames ei.cfg (to ei.cfg.OLD, for instance) the install media will offer all four versions.  Why would you want it to do that?  You have a license for one version but only media for another maybe.  You’d like to have a single copy in your kit – flash drive or DVD – but be able to install any version as needed.  The possibilities are endless…

So, copy the contents of the DVD to a flash drive or temporary workspace – or use 7zip to extract the contents of an ISO to same – and rename ei.cfg.  Hey presto!  an all version installer – or at least the files for one.

win-7-all-version-install-menu

Note: the 64-bit installer contains the above options once ei.cfg is modified.  The 32-bit version also includes Windows 7 Starter.

How to format the flash drive (or in the complicated case remake a DVD) is beyond the scope of this particular little article.  Flash drive prep is covered elsewhere on this blog:  A FOB STORY: Preparing the flash drive  (TLDR: a single FAT-32 formatted partition, active flag not set.) Either do that in advance of making the mods if working directly on the flash drive, or copy the workspace files to the prepared flash drive after making the mod.

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