Adding hard disk to Lenovo Yoga 300-11IBYSat 09 March 2019 #technical #hardware
First, let me introduce the machine. This is a very cheap laptop, definitely from the lower end of Lenovo Yoga series. This doesn't mean that it is not a damn good and usable machine. Here are the specs in the original configuration that it came to me (as found on the manufacturer website):
- Internal storage: 32GB eMMC
- Display: 1366x768 11.6" capacitive-type multi-touch, supports 10-point
- Hinge: 360° rotation, four modes: Laptop, tent, stand and tablet
- CPU: Intel Celeron N2840 @ 2.16GHz
- RAM: 2GB
As you can see it only had 32GB eMMC internal memory and given the 360 degree display and low powered, passive cooling cpu it could be taken as a tablet with physical keyboard rather than a laptop :)
Running Linux on Yoga 300
I had it for a year and it worked marvelously running Debian. Of course, not all of the hardware was working, from the top of my head:
- the screen didn't reorient itself with changes in position (accelerometer isn't supported?)
- there was no way to map the key that would allow to disable the physical keyboard in order to use it as a tablet
Yet overall this was a very decent configuration for writing, browsing the web & as an occasional movie player. The performance compared with the Windows 10 that came preloaded strongly favoured the Free OS.
The default graphical environment on Debian -- Gnome 3 that supported (not in all cases) usage of onscreen keyboard was already faster then the bloated operating system from Microsoft. But loading this machine with lightweight XFCE was a godsend for increase in usability of this laptop and truly showed where the open source software shines. Without the bloat the machine turned into a comfortable and fast everyday laptop.
The problem with eMMC internal storage
This unfortunately ended when the eMMC seemed to be failing and I needed to find some better disk to use with this machine. Fortunately, as it turns out there is a possibility of adding a disk. Because failing eMMC that is soldiered on to the motherboard would require significantly more electronics knowledge than I posses.
Everything started with after one update when the system simply wouldn't boot. Fortunately, all of the files could be recovered with a live USB distro and a storage card.
Now to tackle the problem I needed to order the "New Lenovo Yoga 300 flex 3-1120 3 1120 HDD Hard Drive Caddy Bracket + HDD Cable" from eBay, which to translate from keyword to plain English is a SATA cable that fit into the motherboard as well as brackets for holding the disk down. The price wasn't very good as I had to pay ~36$ for those small parts. But that is still cheaper than buying a new laptop.
Then I looked for a disk. Since this machine was working fine on 32GB previously I didn't look for something big. In the end I settled on a 120GB Crucial SSD. It's worth noting that it needed to be a 7mm thick since there isn't a lot of room in the chassis of this laptop (this was another ~25$).
Assembly was very easy. I found a video that really helped me along the way - you can find it here:
This is not exactly my configuration since there is a proper disk there but it certainly helped me to figure out how to position the disk inside.
Installing new system
Unfortunately, installing Debian on the SSD wasn't feasible for me. I blame the UEFI weirdness. After several failed attempts with different setting for UEFI I gave up and loaded a Fedora XFCE spin on my USB to see if it would work.
The installation went smoothly. It notified me that installation of grub failed, which irritated me a bit. With resignation I allowed the installation process to continue, thinking - that I'll sort out the issue afterwards.
Fortunately after reboot the UEFI found the system on SSD and booted. Finally I can claim partial victory, but I need to pay close attention to the next updates to see if it can potentially mess with UEFI again.
I hope this helps anyone who might want to upgrade their machine or has UEFI related problems with Linux.