About ten days ago I posted about a problem with Samsung laptops getting bricked when trying to boot Linux using UEFI. There was a fair amount of commentary on the problem, and we later updated the article to indicate that it appears the problem is in the NVRAM and that removing the CMOS battery and power is enough to clear the problem. That's certainly still a major bug, and the best thing to do is to simply avoid using UEFI with Linux on Samsung laptops. Except, the bug appears to be quite a bit deeper than just a Linux driver.

According to Matt Garrett, the problem is that the "UEFI Black Box" is supposed to take certain actions when specific conditions are met, but the UEFI code or some other aspect of the firmware is misbehaving. Bugs in firmware can be some of the most damaging, and in this case the bugs appear capable of bricking a laptop, even when what you're doing is done according to written specifications.

Matt explains, "This is pretty obviously a firmware bug. Writing UEFI variables is expressly permitted by the specification, and there should never be a situation in which an OS can fill the variable store in such a way that the firmware refuses to boot the system. We've seen similar bugs in Intel's reference code in the past, but they were all fixed early last year. For now the safest thing to do is not to use UEFI on any Samsung laptops. Unfortunately, if you're using Windows, that'll require you to reinstall it from scratch." Additional details are available in Matt's post.

What's not clear is whether the data that's written that causes the laptops to fail to boot is battery powered (i.e. removing the CMOS battery will clear the error) or if the problem is being written to NAND in some cases. If the latter is happening, the only way to fix the problem would be to send the unit to Samsung for service (or buy a new motherboard). We'll update if there's any additional information.

Source: Matthew Garrett

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  • MrSpadge - Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - link

    The article quotes:
    "Unfortunately, if you're using Windows, that'll require you to reinstall it from scratch."

    There's a program from Paragon called "Migrate to SSD", which can copy an entire system drive over to a new SSD / HDD and do some resizing if neccessary. It costs about 20€, though, if I remember correctly.
    Reply
  • marc1000 - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    and that's a good reason to keep my current mobo with the old fashioned BIOS. The long boot time bothers me a little, but nowhere near the fear of getting a bug like this. Reply
  • AceG - Monday, March 11, 2013 - link

    I have a Samsung Series 7 Chronos Np700Z5B whose build date is, I think, April 2012. Back in September, I decided to install Mac OS X Mountain Lion on it and so I reformatted my HD to GPT, installed OS X and reinstalled Windows 7. Windows worked great and booted fine and Mac OS needed some kext work, but also booted.

    Then I installed Ubuntu into the next partition (I think it was the 5th or 6th one due to the various GPT overhead partitions used by Windows and OS X). The Grub boot process worked fine for Ubuntu, but Windows was "broken", so I used the Ubuntu Windows boot fix (the exact method I used escapes me right now) and was able to boot all the OSes again.

    Everything was fine for a couple of weeks and then I installed some updates to Windows and the machine started to reboot. Instead of going to black screen, then the firmware splash screen, the machine powered off right before it would have shown the Samsung logo. From that point forward, when I pressed the power button, the machine would light up the leds and then power off again after 1-3 seconds.

    So I went to Google and read about this problem, but I kept thinking that these symptoms could indicate that the machine was acting as if the heat sinks were loose. So I opened 'er up, cleaned the CPU and GPU, applied Arctic Silver and put everything back together. *And it worked!*

    The machine was fine for about three hours, and several more reboots, and then it went to sleep and when I tried to wake it up the same thing happened. Since I hadn't replaced the screws yet (not wanting to tempt Murphy), I opened it up, loosened some of the heatsink screws and the machine worked solidly for a week or so. But, every time I tightened those screws it would malfunction as before!

    I assumed that the BGA CPU and/or GPU adhesion had some problems on this motherboard, so I sent it back for warranty repair. And, even though it took a total of 3 replacement MBs (and eventuallyalmost every other part except the ottom cover and the optical drive) to fix the problem, I finally got a working Series 7, but I'm not so sure that I trust it!

    My point here is that the Ubuntu 12.04 UEFI install worked fine on my machine with it's freshly updated BIOS and caused no problems whatsoever with that particular Samsung S7. (Other than the known Windows 7 boot problem and related fix.) So I suspect that there is more to this situation than meets the eye - but since I got the machine back, I installed Windows 8 in UEFI mode and I'll confine my Mac OS X and Linux booting to VMware... for now.

    But, I'll probably yield to temptation and install one or both into the partitions that I've reserved for "future expansion", LOL.
    Reply
  • acand - Thursday, April 11, 2013 - link

    hi, I have a problem with a Fujitsu lifebook A532, I have changed the screen that was cracked having beaten with an object, practically does not see 1\3 to the left of the screen. I ordered a screen with the same features, serial number and everything. I installed the new screen and it works, but only after nearly loaded windows; the bios and the initial part of the loading windows 8 cause no reaction on the screen. If I enter the bios with f2 or restart Windows in Safe mode, the screen stops working and I can not see anything even off everything and starting normal. I should replace the old broken screen and everything is back to work and I can replace the new screen again and as before that only works after almost loaded windows 8. I also tried to use a external display, 1 asus lcd 16 "and 1 Philips CRT 17", and both work fine just once almost loaded windows 8.
    Maybe it could be a consequence of the secure boot of windows 8 pro, maybe this mode don't use the new screen because don't recognise the firmware of the new screen. I know from windows that this mode is activated; I don't know as I may turn off this secure boot in the A532 ;
    Reply
  • Ab S. - Thursday, May 02, 2013 - link

    Brand new Samsung NP540-U3C. I installed Windows 7. Everything seemed fine. BTW machine ran just as fast as Windows 8. Yesterday machine locked on wakeup, I hit power, brief blue screen about a driver crash. Now bricked. Boots to boot option screen, goes no further. Back to Best Buy to look at an Asus. Reply

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