Ubuntu 11.04 on Lenovo E420

Update: 16 October 2011 – Ubuntu 11.10 works better. http://wp.me/p9bZ0-1Q

I recently got a Lenovo E420 laptop, and I just went ahead and installed Ubuntu 11.04 on it. Few are some of the things that may help those who’re facing issues with it. I got 4 GB RAM on Core i5. It’s 64bit processor, so I preferred 64bit Ubuntu instead of 32bit pae kernel.


The machine has rtl8188ce chipset, and the Realtek drivers available from Realtek’s website don’t work well. You just need to blacklist acer_wmi module

Edit /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf and add

blacklist acer_wmi

Save and reboot. This won’t work if you’ve compiled Realtek drivers and installed them. It’ll work only in the default install. Here’s more detailed link –  http://askubuntu.com/questions/53625/wireless-on-thinkpad-edge-e420s

Random screen lockups

I am not sure why it occurred – due to the kernel or due to the compiz settings. I did both. Installed Kernel 2.6.39 from http://kernel.ubuntu.com/~kernel-ppa/mainline/v2.6.39-rc4-natty/

Also, I installed CompizConfig Settings Manager (ccsm) from Ubuntu Software Center, and then disabled this option

General -> OpenGL -> Sync to VBlank (uncheck this)

Reboot. The system may not hang. http://www.preshweb.co.uk/2011/05/ubuntu-11-04-x-freezing-after-screensaver-active-laptop-lid-closed/

Update 26 July 2011: There are still instances of system hanging 😦 Unable to identify the cause as yet. However, this time the system just hangs with no mouse movement at all. This behavior I experienced in 32bit-pae kernel too and usually happens when system has gone through more than a few standbys. Will diagnose and update further.

Update 2 – 30 July 2011 : I updated the BIOS to v1.16 (earlier it was 1.10), but it didn’t do any good. The system still got hung. It is not due to standby also as I disabled the “Suspend” option from Power Management section and rebooted the computer and used it for around 3 hours after which I got a Kernel Panic. Realtek has put a new version of their drivers for rtl8188ce chipset – I’ve just installed those and rebooted and it seems to be working. Will update later if it has cured the hanging problem.

Update 3 – 31 July 2011 : After installing the realtek rtl8188ce drivers as mentioned in the post above, I’ve not rebooted the machine since more than 24 hours. Had suspended it more than a few times, and did various experiments which earlier eventually led to a freeze. But I’m happy to report that till now all has been good and it has not yet hung. I’ll keep working on it for next few days and see if there has been a proper resolution.

Indicator icons for unsupported apps

I installed gnome-do and I was unable to see the indicator icon for that. Installed dconf-editor from Ubuntu Software Center.

Got the name of the application from .xsession-errors file (TrayChild). Opened dconf-editor and added ‘Do’ in there. Logged out and logged back in and all is well.


Don’t set systray-whitelist to “all” as that may lead to the icons in indicator being unclickable.

To be honest, it was horrendous to use Ubuntu 11.04 due to severe productivity issues for the first week. I installed 32bit pae kernel so that the 4GB RAM could be supported. But I couldn’t upgrade it to 2.6.39 as no pae kernel was available for 2.6.39. I rather installed 64bit Ubuntu, and updated it immediately and rest did what I mentioned above. No more hangs till now, and life has been happy.


32 thoughts on “Ubuntu 11.04 on Lenovo E420

  1. I’ve been looking at the E420, but based on posts like this and others, I’m nervous about purchasing it to install Ubuntu on. Overall, would you recommend the e420 for someone who is trying to run Ubuntu as the primary OS for the first time?

    • I personally don’t think it’d be a good idea. It’ll be a painful start. Someone had mentioned instead of E420, the T420 is better but I’m not sure of the cost difference. Maybe you can wait for Ubuntu 11.10 (sometime in October 2011).

  2. I have E420 and Ubuntu 11.04 and only problem left is low battery life (around 3 hours) but all other things seems to work great, so if you have some questions i’ll try to answer even with my bad english 🙂
    PS: first little advice – you should install 32bit version of ubuntu many of your problems will be solved inmidietly

    • Hey – thanks for this. I can’t use 32bit as I have 4 GB RAM, and the ‘pae’ kernel does not work well for me as I also do KVM virtualization.

      I’ve resolved all issues with Ubuntu 11.04. The only problem recently being encountered is that occasionally my machine does not resume from suspend, and after a hard reboot I see “Thermal sensing error” and the machine shuts down again. Subsequent reboot resolves the problem.

      What kind of issues you faced with your setup? Also do you use Unity or Ubuntu Classic desktop?

  3. i have switchable graphics so i had a lot of issues with it and unfortunately still have one – when booting with switchable graphics allowed in BIOS, sometimes after GRUB dissapears my monitor just turns off and nothing else happens, it’s a shame because i finnaly learn how to switch graphics cards in ubuntu.. then i have some issues with CPU scalling which completely didn’t work, then wifi, trackpoint middle button and some other but not so important.. last time i spent some time witch touchpad because when I were using trakpoint my cursor was still a little bit discomposed. so i made a hotkey to turn on/off the touchpad and now everything seems to work great
    i also remember i saw your “Thermal sensor error” in some log file but it never cause any problem during startup for me.
    it’s good to hear that 64bit version works fine, it’s quite a long time since a have tried it and it had really poor performance.
    what is your average battery life? i have dualboot with Windows 7 in my E420 and with windows i have battery life almost 5 hours but with Ubuntu only 2,5 – 3 hours
    I use Unity. the change from classic Gnome style wasn’t easy but now i think I’m not going to change it

    • @Ge65 – Thermal sensor error I think is given during POST. I couldn’t find it in the error logs anywhere. This only happens if I resume from standby and find that the system’s hung and within a few seconds the laptop’s fan starts which I think indicates CPU overload.

      I didn’t face any other issues whatsoever after I added the realtek drivers. Just for info, I’m using E420 with i5 2.4Ghz (2410M) and 4 GB RAM.

  4. vivek & ge65,

    thank you for your discussion — i am finding it really helpful. I am receiving an E420 in about a week, and will be installing Ubuntu. I’m following your conversation to decide whether to install 32 or 64 bit.

    This battery life question is alarming. Vivek, what has been your experience? ge65, have you you run *top* or another diagnostic tool to see if you have an errant process?


    • @Shiraz – I’ve not looked into the battery life nor compared with Windows as only Ubuntu is running on it. I can get around 3 hours from it which is fine with me.

      With just the change to realtek’s drivers and disabling acer_wmi, the system has become extremely stable; but recently a problem has started to appear when I resume from standby. It doesn’t happen always, but most of the times. The screen just goes blank and the laptop’s fan starts (which indicates CPU is at 100%). I just have to hard reboot.

      This is not because of realtek and fingerprint scanner as I’d disabled both and still the issue persisted. I suspect it is due to the frequent hard reboots that I did earlier which possibly led to some file corruption. Am too busy to test it again – for the time being I don’t put the system to standby.

  5. Did you try to install ThinkPad TP SMAPI & HDAPS? It should be battery maintence and HDD active protection for ThinkPads, but they don’t work for me. I always get “No such device” error.

  6. Vivek: Thanks for your reply. I installed Ubuntu 11.04 64-bit yesterday on my new Lenovo E420. The only thing I’ve needed to do is block the acer_wmi in order for wireless to work. I haven’t had *any* crashes or stability issues.

    I did try checking out the realtek drivers you linked to, but strangely the rtl8188ce drivers are not in the download that you linked to — it says rtl8188ce in the link but the actual files in the archive are for a different chipset (?). Also, I couldn’t figure out how you determined that the wireless chipset is rtl8188ce. All I could see from the various commands was Intel Centrino Wireless N. Anyhow, my system seems stable, including from hibernate and standby so I’m not concerned about that yet. I’m not sure what would be the cause of your own issues (the frequent hard reboots seems like a good guess), but I thought I’d let you know about my experience thus far. If I do start having issues, I’ll post back here. If you don’t hear back from me, it’s because my system has been stable — which you might consider an argument for a fresh install if you continue to have issues. Also just FYI, I have automatic updates enabled.

    Ge65: I’m on an SSD so HDAPS is not a concern for me. With respect to TP SMAPI, what compelled you to install it? Do you know if it’s actually intended for the E420? I wonder if it’s not written for older thinkpads. Do you have any links? If I feel confident in it, I can install it and let you know my results. Currently I haven’t taken the system off of AC so I can’t comment on battery use. I’d love to get more like 5 hours than 3 hours if it was possible.


    • @krishnan – I’m not sure about the hanging issue you’re facing. E420 is a Lenovo Thinkpad series. Usually the hang-ups happen due to
      a) Graphic card driver issue (X server issue)
      b) Memory issue
      c) Some unsupported hardware issue

      You can start your system, and while on the login screen, select “Ubuntu Classic” from the options specified. Go into System -> Preferences -> Appearance and turn off all special effects. Maybe that’ll help.

  7. Thank you very much for the thinkpad E420 wireless driver comment, it was very helpful. Works right after reboot. (Ubuntu 10.10 32bit).

  8. Hi Vivek – I have an E420 and am experiencing annoying hangs. I’m finding the solution a little hard to follow. Is it necessary to install the 64-bit kernel AND upgrade the Realtek driver to solve the problem, or is just installing the 64-bit kernel enough?


    • @Ray – only if you have >= 4 GB RAM should you go ahead with 64bit Ubuntu. You can’t just install 64bit kernel – you’d need to re-install Ubuntu 64bit edition.

      If you have <4 GB RAM, then you can easily go ahead with 32bit Ubuntu. For wireless to work, in all circumstances, adding the 'blacklist acer_wmi' would do the trick. I cannot say how reliable it is, but it would work fine.

      The hangs can be caused by wireless drivers. In that case, download the latest realtek drivers (as mentioned in the link in the post), extract them, and do
      sudo make
      sudo make install

      This will get them installed. Reboot and you may not experience hangs. Please comment if it resolved the issue. You may need `build-essential` to be installed prior to doing `sudo make`.

    • @Bryan – it did fix the hangup somewhat, but the wifi took a long time to connect and kept on disconnecting. Once my keyboard wasn’t detected as I resumed from Standby. So uninstalled it – I am starting to doubt that is it my machine/hardware issue or a software issue.

  9. Also have a Lenovo E420 and it is seriously unstable running natty. Unity and X crash several times a day, and the whole machine will lock up at least once a day. Firefox crashes repeatedly so I have to use Chromium. Also issues where mouse cursor gets stuck on left or top side of screen. In most cases I can’t precisely trigger the same crash. Happy to do some legwork to try to debug this, but not sure how to proceed. I’d advise anyone not to get the E420 if you are planning to run Ubuntu.

  10. i’d just like to reiterate that i have Natty 64-bit running wonderfully on my E420, after having done the simple acer_wmi block as noted earlier. Serious issues: none. Minor issues: occasionally need to restart Bluetooth, multi-monitor not so intelligent handling unplugging HDMI (should go away in 11.10, which is getting improved handling in this regard) — neither of which I believe are specific to the E420….

    … just as an alternative perspective to skyeblend.

  11. I’ve done a fresh install of Ubuntu 11.10 and it works wonderfully
    – no system freeze
    – no graphic card related issues
    – no standby / resume issues
    – wifi works perfectly

    The only problem was still the “acer_wmi” part. A separate post on that available here – http://wp.me/p9bZ0-1Q

  12. 11.10 runs great … but there is still battery issue … i think its cause 2 graphic cards and sometimes a i have problems with fn + f6 when connected through hdmi

  13. Hey Samrat and everyone, here are some battery fixes which took my battery life from 2 hours to 4 hours!!!

    1. install powertop
    2. add these boot parameters to grub: pcie_aspm=force i915.i915_enable_rc6=1 i915.lvds_downclock=1 i915.i915_enable_fbc=1

    the first is an app which downcycles your cpu and puts your wifi into low power mode, and stuff like that when you unplug

    the second is a problem for on a huge array of ubuntu installs for the last few versions, to the extent that i’m surprised it’s not more talked about (but if you google those parameters you’ll see a lot of hits)… anyhow, add that to your boot parameters — it’s good for all Edge thinkpads i think, and definitely for our e420s…

    to say it again, between those two i doubled my battery life!

  14. Hi ,
    I have bought e420 and installed ubuntu along with windows 7. I am having terrible time with ubuntu. Basically, drivers are not installed . I am able to get wirelests. But, my mouse driver is not installed I feel. Its response is bad. I am not able to change monitor resolution also. Please help me!!

  15. Lenovo E420 1141DUQ running Ubuntu 11.10. I am unable to control fan – it seems to be running too slow, may be automatically controlled by the hardware. Unable to find temperature display applets to see whether the temperature is under control. Have any of you got your fan control program and temperature display applet working? Any inputs will be very helpful. Thanks!

  16. I’ve been running Linux Mint 11 on my Lenovo e420 without a problem for about 6 months, then for some reason my wifi stopped working. What a headache! I’ve spent a week researching various HowTos and downloading drivers and newer versions, all without success. Then I stumbled across this blog. Editing blacklist.conf finally solved the problem! I can’t tell you what a relief that is!

    BTW, for the most part, I have been very happy with the Lenovo/Mint combination. With exception of the recent wifi issue (which may have been my fault) it has been flawless.

  17. just a heads up — the battery issue that was resolved with my suggestion above, enable_fbc=1, introduced graphic rendering issues due to an intel graphics bug. that bug was addressed in the 3.2 linux kernel, which is deployed with ubuntu 12.04. so i highly recommend upgrading to 12.04 (currently late stage beta). the upgrade also resolved the multiple monitor issues i was having. they were my latest big thing. the system is now very stable, with good battery life, without any tweaks.

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