Setting up the Lenovo T440p Laptop

Published by marco on

Updated by marco on

I recently got a new laptop and ran into a few issues while setting it up for work. There’s a tl;dr at the end for the impatient.

Lenovo has finally spruced up their lineup of laptops with a series that features:

  • An actually usable and large touchpad
  • A decent and relatively sensibly laid-out keyboard
  • Very long battery life (between 6-9 hours, depending on use)
  • Low-power Haswell processor
  • 14-inch full-HD (1920x1080)
  • Dual graphics cards
  • Relatively light at 2.1kg
  • Relatively small/thin form-factor
  • Solid-feeling, functional design w/latchless lid
  • Almost no stickers

I recently got one of these. Let’s get it set up so that we can work.

Pop in the old SSD

Instead of setting up the hard drive that I ordered with the laptop, I’m going to transplant the SSD I have in my current laptop to the new machine. Though this maneuver no longer guarantees anguish as it would have in the old days, we’ll see below that it doesn’t work 100% smoothly.

As mentioned above, the case is well-designed and quite elegant. All I need is a Phillips screwdriver to take out two screws from the back and then a downward slide on the backing plate pulls off the entire bottom of the laptop.[1]

At any rate, I was able to easily remove the new/unwanted drive and replace it with my fully configured SSD. I replaced the backing plate, but didn’t put the screws back in yet. I wasn’t that confident that it would work.

My pessimism turns out to have been well-founded. I boot up the machine and was greeted by the BIOS showing me a list of all of the various places that it had checked in order to find a bootable volume.

It failed to find a bootable volume anywhere.

Try again. Still nothing.

UEFI and BIOS usability

From dim memory, I recalled that there’s something called UEFI for newer machines and that Windows 8 likes it and that it may have been enabled on the drive that shipped with the laptop but almost certainly isn’t on my SSD.

Snooping about in the BIOS settings—who doesn’t like to do that?—I find that UEFI is indeed enabled. I disable that setting as well as something called UEFI secure-boot and try again. I am rewarded within seconds with my Windows 8 lock screen.

I was happy to have been able to fix the problem, but was disappointed that the error messages thrown up by a very modern BIOS are still so useless. To be more precise, the utter lack of error messages or warnings or hints was disappointing.

I already have access to the BIOS, so it’s not a security issue. There is nothing to be gained by hiding from me the fact that the BIOS checked a potential boot volume and failed to find a UEFI bootable sector but did find a non-UEFI one. Would it have killed them to show the list of bootable volumes with a little asterisk or warning telling me that a volume could boot were I to disable UEFI? Wouldn’t that have been nice? I’m not even asking them to let me jump right to the setting, though that would be above and beyond the call of duty.

Detecting devices

At any rate, we can boot and Windows 8, after “detecting devices” for a few seconds was able to start up to the lock screen. Let’s log in.

I have no network access.

Checking the Device Manager reveals that a good half-dozen devices could not be recognized and no drivers were installed for them.

This is pathetic. It is 2014, people. Most of the hardware in this machine is (A) very standard equipment to have on a laptop and (B) made by Intel. Is it too much to ask to have the 20GB Windows 8 default installation include generic drivers that will work with even newer devices?

The drivers don’t have to be optimized; they just have to work well enough to let the user work on getting better ones. Windows is able to do this for the USB ports, for the display and for the mouse and keyboard because it would be utter failure for it not to be able to do so. It is an ongoing mystery how network access has not yet been promoted to this category of mandatory devices.

When Windows 8 is utterly incapable of setting up the network card, then there is a very big problem. A chicken-and-egg problem that can only be solved by having (A) a USB stick and (B) another computer already attached to the Internet.

Thank goodness Windows 8 was able to properly set up the drivers for the USB port or I’d have had a sense-less laptop utterly incapable of ever bootstrapping itself into usefulness.

On the bright side, the Intel network driver was only 1.8MB, it installed with a single click and it worked immediately for both the wireless and Ethernet cards. So that was very nice.

Update System

The obvious next step once I have connectivity is to run Windows Update. That works as expected and even finds some extra driver upgrades once it can actually get online.

Since this is a Lenovo laptop, there is also the Lenovo System Update, which updates more drivers, applies firmware upgrades and installs/updates some useful utilities.

At least it would do all of those things if I could start it.

That’s not 100% fair. It kind of started. It’s definitely running, there’s an icon in the task-bar and the application is not using any CPU. When I hover the icon, it even shows me a thumbnail of a perfectly rendered main window.

Click. Nothing. The main window does not appear.

Fortunately, I am not alone. As recently as November of 2013, there were others with the same problem (Lenovo Community).[2] Unfortunately, no one was able to figure out why it happens nor were there workarounds offered.

I had the sound enabled, though and noticed that when I tried to execute a shortcut, it triggered an alert. And the System Update application seemed to be in the foreground—somehow—despite the missing main window.

Acting on a hunch, I pressed Alt + PrtSc to take a screenshot of the currently focused window. Paste into an image editor. Bingo.

 Ready for download

Now that I could read the text on the main window, I could figure out which keys to press. I didn’t get a screenshot of the first screen, but it showed a list of available updates. I pressed the following keys to initiate the download:

  • Alt + S to “Select all”
  • Alt + N to move to the next page
  • Alt + D to “Download” (the screenshot above)

Hovering the mouse cursor over the taskbar icon revealed the following reassuring thumbnail of the main window:

 Thumbnail of download/install progress

Lucky for me, the System Update was able to get the “restart now” onto the screen so that I could reboot when required. On reboot, the newest version of Lenovo System Update was able to make use of the main window once again.

Recommendations

  • If you can’t boot off of a drive on a new machine, remember that UEFI might be getting in the way.
  • If you’re going to replace the drive, make sure that you download the driver for your machine’s network card to that hard drive so that you can at least establish connectivity and continue bootstrapping your machine back to usability.
  • Make sure you update the Lenovo System tools on the destination drive before transferring it to the new machine to avoid weird software bugs.


[1] I’m making this sound easier than it was. I’m not so well-versed in cracking open cases anymore. I was forced to download the manual to look up how to remove the backing plate. The sliding motion would probably have been intuitive for someone more accustomed to these tasks.
[2]

In my searches for help, manuals and other software, I came across the following download, offered on Lenovo’s web site. You can download something called “Hotkey Features Integration for Windows 8.1” and it only needs 11.17GB of space.

 Hotkey Features integration pack