Lenovo Q150 Restoration Utility

The general idea was to put the old Lenovo Q150 to work as a dedicated Superformula generator attached to the HP 7475A plotter: connect the serial cable, fire ’em up, and It Just Works. As part of the first pass, I installed Mint Linux atop an old Ubuntu install, got Python & Chiplotle set up, and That Just Works:

Lenovo Q150 with HP 7475A

Lenovo Q150 with HP 7475A

However, the Q150 sports a dual-core Intel Atom, underpowered even back in the day, that hasn’t gotten any peppier over the years. The Lenovo-installed Windows 7 pushed the CPU hard enough to require full-throttle fan whine, even at idle, and mysterious issues with memory usage (something involving a memory leak in svchost.exe or perhaps over-aggressive Windows Update prefetching) reduced performance to a crawl as the system paged its brains out to the 5400 RPM laptop-style drive (*). As part of this adventure, I figured I’d boot the Lenovo restore partition and burn Win 7 back to bedrock before installing Mint.

Turns out that the Lenovo restore utility doesn’t work when the drive has an unusual partition structure; it tells you to repartition the drive and try again. So I blew away the Ubuntu installation’s extended partition (containing swap, main, and spare partitions), then rebooted, only to discover that, of course, the missing partitions contain Grub’s later stages. Having previously wasted far too much time trying to resuscitate various half-dead Grubs, I created a fourth partition, installed Mint Linux (ignoring its strenuous objections about not having a swap partition) to refresh Grub, booted the Lenovo restore utility, and ended up at a raw Windows terminal emulator box atop a picture of some weird tropical greenery. Apparently the restore utility depends on something that got blown away during all the flailing around.

So, just for completeness, I shrank Mint a bit, added a swap partition, and got the results shown above. One core runs at 100%, probably dribbling bytes to the USB-to-serial adapter, but the thing runs much cooler. In this context, it should be noted, a 110 °F surface and 140 °F exhaust temperature counts as “cool”; the fan isn’t at full throttle, but it’s surprisingly noisy for a computer billed as a multimedia streaming device.

I actually have a complete backup of the original contents of all three partitions, so I could whack it back to mid-2011. Modulo, of course, resetting the actual partition sizes and positions and suchlike, which I’m sure will be vital to having the restore utility do its thing. Maybe that’s worthwhile just to remind me why it’s such a terrible idea.

(*) Blowing $50 on an SSD is so not happening, OK?



  1. #1 by madbodger on 2015-12-13 - 11:13

    How much HD space do you need? You can use an IDE-CF adapter and an old CF memory card to get a small SSD for peanuts. Alternatively, grab something from the pile o’ drives. Even “retired” drives that still work would be fine for this. If one dies, grab the next one. It’s not like it’s holding data you don’t already have elsewhere.

    • #2 by Ed on 2015-12-13 - 11:54

      The heap disgorged a 4 GB CF card and a SATA adapter: a bit snug for Mint. Sooo I trawled Tiny Core for a while and came to my senses: that’s way more effort than the plotter deserves, even for pedagogic purposes.

      I’ll do a Win 7 bare-metal restore for practice, re-do Mint + Chiplotle, and let the Win 7 install remain untouched forevermore…

  2. #3 by david on 2015-12-13 - 12:37

    “a bit underpowered” to drive a plotter introduced when an 8MHz 80286 was state-of-the-art and the 80386 was just a gleam in Intel’s eye? :)

    • #4 by Ed on 2015-12-13 - 15:04

      No, a bit underpowered to run Windows 7, which Microsoft insisted that Lenovo install on everything, regardless of CPU horsepower.

      But Firefox on Mint pretty much redlines one of the CPUs, too; the Q150 cries out for a command-prompt interface that doesn’t tempt you to do anything the Atom can’t handle…

  1. Lenovo Q150: Opening the Case For an SSD | The Smell of Molten Projects in the Morning