From the Help Desk: Rescuing a Laptop from BitLocker and Lenovo’s SecureBoot

From the Help Desk: Rescuing a Laptop from BitLocker and Lenovo’s SecureBoot

I’m putting this here to help anyone who ends up in the same place I was last night at a bit after midnight. I know you’re out there… I’ve seen your panic-stricken posts to the Lenovo forums (fora?).

The Problem: Lenovo-crippled firmware

As the de facto “IT person” for the greater portion of my and my wife’s families, I get to do a lot of strange repairs on a lot of strange, often cheap Windows devices.

The latest in this saga was a Lenovo Miix 320—a dockable “tablet” (no stylus) Windows PC with touchscreen.

My wife’s cousin (don’t worry, he’s cool, and I enjoyed getting to help) brought it by a couple months ago, saying a friend had given it to him as a lost cause. The SSD had been protected by something called “BitLocker,” and the original owner had lost the password. Even after a call to Microsoft they’d concluded nothing could be done.

I poked around at it several times. All the Windows recovery options were available, technically, but all of them would fail when tried. No fixing the MBR, no booting from another volume (there were apparently two installations of Windows on the SSD)… nothing.

Eventually I downloaded a Windows 10 ISO and put it on a USB drive to try to wipe and re-install, but was thwarted. The Lenovo firmware (despite attempts to disabled “Secure Boot” and anything that sounded similar) would NOT boot from the USB drive. Even holding F-12 during boot up to get the boot options menu ONLY showed the SSD as a boot option. Trying to get the recovery menus to boot from a USB drive would result in this lovely error screen:

“System doesn’t have any USB boot option.” Well, at least they’re using contractions to make it fun!

After a couple hours of hapless googling, I found nothing more than numerous other Lenovo users reporting the same problem. No EFI USB booting… No network booting… No booting to anything but the useless recovery tools and crippled Lenovo firmware.

The solution

When I as just about to give up, though, I had one thought: the command prompt. I had noticed during my poking around that the Windows recovery tools offered a command prompt as part of the recovery tools suite. Launching the prompt I tried to see if I could “see” the USB drive from that context, trying a “d:” command.

It worked!

From there, it was actually as simple as executing “setup.exe”. The Windows installer from the ISO loaded up and allowed me to re-format the SSD and install a fresh copy of Windows. Problem solved.

This solution SOUNDS really simple, but I spent hours—an hour or two at a time across a couple months—finding it, and so far have not found anyone else reporting success. I hope this helps someone.

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