Ubuntu 17.10 'Artful Aardvark' burrows into PC BIOSs causing boot issues
A bug report filed on Ubuntu's bug tracker, Launchpad, has many users of the popular free OS complaining about corrupted BIOSs after updating their notebooks to the latest Ubuntu 17.10 'Artful Aardvark' release. The affected laptops primarily included Lenovo models and a few ones from Acer. Users complain of a host of firmware related problems after installing the OS viz. the BIOS, or more precisely the UEFI, is no longer able to save settings, not being able to exit the BIOS settings, or even not being able to boot from USB. Following the gravity of the complaints, Canonical has temporarily halted seeding downloads of Ubuntu 17.10 desktop and said that a fix is being worked upon. The original description of the bug report, which can be found here, reads —
Basically on Lenovo Y50-70 after installing Ubuntu 17.10, many users reported a corrupted BIOS.
It's not possible to save new settings in BIOS anymore and after rebooting, the system starts with the old settings.
Moreover (and most important) USB booting is not possible anymore since USB is not recognized. It's very serious, since our machines do not have a CDROM.
Lenovo forums at the moment are full of topics regading this issue.
Reading through the bug tracker reveals that the Intel-SPI drivers in the kernel have been shipped before finalizing leading to the affected BIOSs becoming write-protected i.e. it prevents any new setting changes. This can have serious repercussions such as not being able to change boot options during startup, or in the worst case, a corrupted BIOS leading to a bricked laptop. Although the Intel-SPI driver is not part of the standard Linux kernel, Canonical has included a modified version of the driver in the kernel. The company is now planning to re-release 17.10 without the said driver.
Right now, the only way out of this mess is to either reflash the BIOS (Lenovo does not have a Linux BIOS flashing tool), remove the BIOS chip if possible (mostly unlikely), or replace the whole motherboard. None of the above procedures are for the faint of heart and could further complicate the issue. In case you're wondering, replacing the CMOS battery does not solve the problem.
The other 17.10 editions seem to be fine, so are other Debian-based variants, and many other distros such as openSUSE and Fedora. The bug tracker reports that the issue is fixed and has been tested. If you're affected by this bug, as a temporary workaround, try installing the Ubuntu kernel update utility (Ukuu) and follow the instructions in this thread. Do remember that new kernels downloaded via Ukuu are kind of 'raw' and it would be better to roll back to a stable Ubuntu kernel at the earliest. Or better still, wait till Canonical re-releases 17.10 with the appropriate bug fixes.