Installing a new wireless miniPCI-Express adapter on your Lenovo laptop is a pain in the ass not always as straightforward as 1-2-3 (normally, you'd open the back panel, chuck-in your new fancy wireless ac adapter and configure its drivers).

This is because Lenovo has adopted "draconian" security measures (within their BIOS) to prevent you from installing wireless adapters that haven't been "whitelisted" (by Lenovo).

In other words, if you were considering of upgrading your Lenovo laptop wireless adapter (say because you got a fancy new ac router), you'd have to source a device that would've been compatible with your Lenovo Laptop BIOS "approved vendors".

So what happens If you did install a non-whitelisted wireless network adapter? Upon Start-up you'd experience the dreaded BIOS error message:"1802: Unauthorized network card is plugged in - Power off and remove the miniPCIE network card (8086/422C/8086/1321). System is halted".

Why is that? Take it with Lenovo (it is their policy after all - their forums are full of people whinging about this).

Please Note:

  • If you choose to follow the instructions hereby described, you will almost certainly void your Lenovo laptop warranty (if any left).
  • Removing the Lenovo whitelisting lock comes with an added Bonus - Your BIOS' Advanced menu options will be unblocked too (this way you can muck around with all your CPU settings)!
  • I take no responsibility and cannot be held liable for any issues that may occur to your laptop because of this article. This process has been thoroughly documented for (personal) informational purposes only and I do not explicitly recommend or invite you to proceed as described.

With that taken off my chest, keep reading if interested

 

Ingredients.

You'll have two consider two options on how to go about unblocking your BIOS menus and unlocking your wireless potential.

  • The easy route is "don't" - you might be better off selling your Lenovo laptop and replacing it with a laptop that natively supports whatever wireless miniPCIE network adapters you throw at it - that'll be a nice slap in Lenovo's face.

If you'd still like hang on to your Lenovo laptop ("take the red pill"), there's another way to slap Lenovo - you may do what I've described here to remove the Wi-Fi whitelisting and unblock your BIOS Advanced menu - all you need is:

  1. Time.
    In my case, this was a 4h-job.
    Had I had the following pre-conceived knowledge, I could've done in half the time, so consider this guide as my gift to you (if you feel like this guide was useful to you in any way, feel free to share it with your colleagues!).
  2. Confidence with pulling your laptop apart and reassemble it back without breaking anything (some manual work definitely involved - no soldering required unless you "break stuff").
  3. You'll also need a few cheap tools - a USB SPI Programmer and a SOIC8 SOP8 cable (it's got some sort of alligator clip).
    You may get these tools online (eBay, AliExpress, etc.).
  4. Knowledge - this will be supplied to you by a combination of this guide and some external help.
  5. Oh, did I mention you'll also need one good Mini PCI Express wireless adapter that is better than your default Lenovo?
    My choice was an Intel 7260 wireless adapter.
  6. Finally, you'll also need your girlfriend's computer an alternative Windows computer to dump your Lenovo's laptop BIOS.
  • All in all, with a budget of $100 or thereabouts you may be able to suss it out (this excludes the value of your time of course).

 

Recipe.

Given the above requirements, I'll spare you the details on how to pull your Lenovo laptop apart - after all this is a puzzle you'll have to solve on your own.

That said, I bet there's a video which documents how to disassemble your Lenovo laptop just waiting to be discovered.

Please note - no-one is going to be held responsible (other than you) if you damage your own laptop during this process.

 

Still with me? Great - the high level process is as follows:

  1. Open your laptop and extract its mainboard (in order to locate and dump its BIOS image to your other PC).
  2. Upload your BIOS image dump to a person capable of removing Lenovo's BIOS locks (this is not me, 'though I'll refer you and they'd expect you to politely donate them some money).

  3. Re-Flash the unlocked BIOS back to your Lenovo laptop mainboard and test!

 

This is absolutely doable as long as you're a half-skilled computer-literate person. That is not to say that everyone can do it - ultimately the decision lays upon you and at this stage no-one cares anymore (other than you) about what you're trying to achieve(!).

 

HOW-TO.

  1. Register on https://www.bios-mods.com/forum
  • Go to https://www.bios-mods.com/forum/Forum-WiFi-WWAN-Whitelist-Removal and search for a pre-existing post that applies to your laptop model (or open a new request if you can't find your laptop model).

  • Follow the Expert's advice (most likely via private email exchange).

  •  

    A personal experience.

    My experience has been documented in this thread:

    Thread-REQUEST-ThinkPad-E430-BIOS-Version-2-58-H0ET98WW

    The Original Post was opened by another User (likudio), who had the same Laptop as me (Lenovo E430).

    I joined the thread by requesting for advice and the User Dudu2002 guided me over the whole process (via private email).

    The whole process included asking really dumb questions (from my end) and I've appreciated Dudu2002's patience in dealing with me :)

     

    • It all started with Dudu2002's advice of procuring one "USB SPI Programmer" and one "SOIC8 SOP8 cable".

     

    Dudu2002 originally recommended me to get these:
    http://www.ebay.de/itm/25-SPI-Serie-24-EEPROM-CH341A-BIOS-Writer-Routing-LCD-Flash-USB-Programmierer-S7/282248666466?_trksid=p2047675.c100011.m1850&_trkparms=aid%3D222007%26algo%3DSIC.MBE%26ao%3D1%26asc%3D42849%26meid%3D01ae9da74f4f4c93a1270e4bf7c08b36%26pid%3D100011%26rk%3D1%26rkt%3D3%26sd%3D141466709787

    http://www.ebay.de/itm/SOIC8-SOP8-Flash-Chip-IC-Test-Clips-Socket-Adpter-BIOS-24-25-93-Programmer-MF/182230151497?_trksid=p2047675.c100011.m1850&_trkparms=aid%3D222007%26algo%3DSIC.MBE%26ao%3D1%26asc%3D42849%26meid%3D01ae9da74f4f4c93a1270e4bf7c08b36%26pid%3D100011%26rk%3D2%26rkt%3D3%26sd%3D141466709787

    Due to AU postage constraints, i got these instead:

    http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/351563049962

    http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/371599187822

    The items were shipped to me in 14 days.

    Fast forward to 14 days later.

    So, with your Lenovo Laptop Motherboard in your hands, your first step is to identify the Laptop's BIOS chip.

    To identify the BIOS chip, you'll have to take good high quality photos of your mainboard (my low-end Lumia 640 Windows Phone sucks badly at this, so I had to use my wife's half-decent camera phone), then share the photos with the Expert that is assisting you.

    • To identify the BIOS on the Lenovo Mainboard, I've noticed that among all the black squares there were some chips slightly bigger than the other chips, 'though I couldn't have found them by my own if it wasn't for Dudu2002's advice.

    Here they are, in all its splendour (circled in red):

    WP_20170427_21_53_50_Pro-Inked

    • In the above image, Dudu2002's knowledge was critical in advising which of the two chips was the BIOS.

     

    Operate the lever.

    Once I did find the BIOS' chip location, Dudu2002 solicited me to "get down to Business".

    More specifically, he's explained me how to connect the clips' cable to the SPI Programmer (on one end).

    Here's a snap of how I connected it:

    WP_20170427_22_39_26_Pro

    You will notice that the cable's Pin 1 goes into the left-hand side (Pin 1 is the red cable).

     

    Dudu2002 then advised re which pin represented the BIOS' "Pin 1".

    Note: failure to detect Pin 1, won't allow you to detect the chip and therefore dump a BIOS image.

     

    Lenovo-E430-BIOS

    • The camera flash highlighted the tiny labels written on the BIOS.
    • Pin 1 seems to be located to the opposite side of the label (ie. below the "W" as represented by the Winbond label).
    • My Lenovo's E430 chips labels were "25Q64FV" (aka W25Q64FV) and "25Q32BV" (aka W25Q32BV), with the BIOS located within W25Q32BV.

     

    Once you've figured the proper connections (especially in regards to Pin 1), you'll now be able to proceed to the next stage - connecting the crocodile clips to the BIOS chip itself.

    This is a case of "easier done than said", so here's how you do it:

    WP_20170427_22_41_27_Pro

    In the above picture, you'll notice how I connected the clip to the chip labelled W25Q64FV.

    It takes some fiddling to get it right, paying extra care not to damage the tiny contacts of the chips themselves while also making sure the clip's pins are perfectly aligned.

     

    CH341A_c-CH341A_Programmer-2017-04-28_00-05-49

    With the cable in position and the USB SPI Programmer connected to your other computer (you'll need to have the computers close one another due to the short cable), Dudu2002 shared with me a link to a Windows program (named CH341A) that allowed me to "Detect" the BIOS Chip and therefore be able to dump it to my alternative computer's hard drive.

     

    Push the Buttons.

    • So Download and Open the program shared with you by your expert (remember to Right Click and Run As Administrator).
    • (On the program's GUI): Click on the "Detect"-Button to have the CH341A windows program identify the chip to which your SPI Programmer is currently connected to.

     

    In my case, I was presented with a new popup window that presented a few similar chip names to choose from.

    I selected the chip name that closely matched my respective BIOS chip's label (W25Q32BV).

    What you're supposed to do next is:

    1. Connect croc-clip to first chip then Detect-Read-Save (dump) into a file.
    2. Connect croc-clip to second chip then Detect-Read-Save (dump) to a file.
    3. Upload both dump files to your Expert for wireless whitelisting (& BIOS Options Unlocking!).

    Note:

    My Lenovo E430 laptop came with 2 chips - W25Q64FV & W25Q32BV.

    Only one of the two is the BIOS chip (W25Q32BV), while the other chip is the Region Descriptor and the Intel Management Engine (W25Q64FV).

     

    W25Q32BV Chip Reading Example.

    With the clip connected to W25Q32BV and the chip detected by CH341A, I pressed on the "Read"-Button to dump its content to a file.

    CH341A_c-CH341A_Programmer-2017-04-27_23-33-53

    "Read Chip" reads the chip's content into Memory.

     

    W25Q32BV Chip Dumping Example.

    CH341A_c-CH341A_Programmer-2017-04-27_23-34-22

    Press on the "Save"-Button to save the W25Q32BV Chip Dump into a (Bin) File.

    On the above screenshot, you'll notice I did already dump the other chip and I was about to save the dump of the second W25Q32BV chip.

     

    • Once you have both dumps, you'll have to Upload them to your Expert for the effective mod to happen.

     

    Your Expert will advise "which BIOS chip is the one that'll get modded" - in my Lenovo E430 case, Dudu2002 modded my W25Q32BV BIOS Chip dump image.

     

    • A few mins. later, I received another email with the link to the modded BIOS image.

     

    Please note: the modded BIOS image is personal (therefore I won't be able to share mine) - According to Dudu2002's advice:"your dump contains your laptop's personal data - your laptop's serial numbers (which has to be unique), your BIOS password (if any), your laptop's Windows license key (aka SLIC) and maybe other -  if someone else uses your dump, it will get spoiled ("bricked"?) laptop....discrepancy bios data and EC data".

     

    At this stage it was a matter of flashing the new (modded) BIOS image back, so reconnect the alligator clip (if not already connected) to the right chip and Re-Detect the chip to make sure you're programming the right BIOS chip (check with your expert if in doubt).

    Now proceed as follows:

    1. Click on the "Erase"-Button to erase your Lenovo Laptop mainboard BIOS first - this will literally obliterate your Laptop's BIOS (trust me on this - after bricking it for the first time b/c I skipped this step, it got easier to do it for a second time!).
      This is relatively high-risk operation - not as bad as when you're flashing your BIOS via software under DOS - here, in the worst case scenario, you may simply re-erase a corrupt image then reflash it.CH341A_c-CH341A_Programmer-2017-04-28_00-04-51
    2. Now Click on the "Open"-Button to Load the Modded Image (supplied to you by your expert).
      Once loaded, the Modded Image gets ready to be written back to your Lenovo mainboard.CH341A_c-CH341A_Programmer-2017-04-28_00-05-07
    3. Click on the "Write"-Button to start the "Writeing" process of putting the modded image without the wireless whitelisting to your Lenovo laptop mainboard.CH341A_c-CH341A_Programmer-2017-04-28_00-05-58

     

    "Magic" happens?

    • (Optional): Once the Writing process has been completed, my recommendation is to also "Verify" it (by Clicking on the "Verify"-Button).CH341A_c-CH341A_Programmer-2017-04-28_00-45-43
      If all good at this stage, you may now re-assemble your Lenovo Laptop back (don't forget to add the new wireless adapter!) and donate a reasonable figure to the Expert.

    Re donation, my personal rule was to give back anything that was left out of my Original ($100) Budget.

    So now that your Lenovo laptop BIOS has been unblocked, what are your favourite "Advanced" BIOS Options?

    Senior Professional Network and Computer Systems Engineer during work hours and father when home.

    Andrea strives to deliver outstanding customer service and heaps of love towards his family.

    In this Ad-sponsored space, Andrea shares his quest for "ultimate" IT knowledge, meticulously brought to you in an easy to read format.

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