Installing Ubuntu on the lenovo ideapad S205

My girlfriend’s laptop died recently, and as her birthday was coming up I thought I’d buy her a new netbook to get her up and running again (well, really, to get my mac back).  For £300 from Amazon, we had a machine that was much like her old laptop; it’s amazing what you can get for so little money these days.  However, there were two things I didn’t realise: one, the ideapad-S205 lacks an optical drive (whoops).  The second was that it’d take me basically a whole day of dicking around to get Ubuntu to dual boot with Windows 7.  I hope this guide will help people out with the second problem (and I solved the first one by buying a USB DVD drive for another £30).

1. download and install Ubuntu 11.04 on a USB key
– I used the Startup Disk Creator on another Ubuntu machine to create the bootable USB key.

2. Put in the bootable Ubuntu USB key and boot the ideapad.  Press Fn-F11 to get the boot menu, and choose the USB boot device.  The screen will be garbled, seems like an issue with the kernel framebuffer driver.  Just hit enter, and the Ubuntu setup process will start fine.

3. Connect to an ethernet cable as wireless doesn’t work (says that it’s disabled by hardware switch despite not being, needs more investigation).

Update: Turns out that wireless works in 10.10… OK I have found a workaround for the wireless.  It even works with suspend/resume. Update 2: there’s an even simpler method in the comments, though I’ve not tested it myself.   Here’s how you can connect using wireless:
– connect via the wired ethernet port
– apt-get install wicd
– apt-get remove network-manager
– disconnect the wired ethernet port
– rfkill unblock all
– start wicd from the applications menu, then use it to connect to your wireless connection.

You can have the “rfkill unblock all” command run automatically on startup  by adding it to /etc/rc.local above the “exit 0” line.  That’s all you should need to do to have the wireless connection come up automatically when you log in.

Seems like this might be the combination of a couple of bugs, one a configuration problem that necessitates the use of rfkill unblock all, and the other a bug in network-manager.  I will file some bug reports when I get time and post an update here.

4. After the Ubuntu 11.04 environment starts up, double click on the desktop icon to start the install process.  You’ll eventually read the message: “This computer currently has Windows 7 on it.  What would you like to do?”
– I first did the “Install Ubuntu alongside Windows 7” option and shrunk the windows partition.  As I later learned, this doesn’t work because GRUB 2 fails, we need to set up the partitions in a GRUB legacy friendly setup (it requires a boot partition, formatted ext2, as it doesn’t understand ext4 yet; I’m not sure what the status of its ext3 support is).  So I restarted the install process and:
– chose the “Something else” option.  I deleted the ext4 and swap partitions from the previous install and then used the resulting empty space to set it up like this:
– /dev/sda6 ext2 /boot 255MB
– /dev/sda7 ext4 /    13684MB
– /dev/sda8 swap
– device boot loader installation: /dev/sda6
– proceed through the install, setting up your location and user details, etc.

5. Once the install completes, you will be prompted to restart, however we need to set up GRUB legacy first, so:
– start a terminal (click the button in the top left, type terminal and hit enter, or try ctrl-alt-t).  Then use the following commands (these assume my partition setup from above, modify them if yours differs):
– sudo su
– mkdir /mnt/sda7
– mount /dev/sda7 /mnt/sda7
– cd /mnt/sda7
– mount /dev/sda6 ./boot
– mount –bind /sys ./sys
– mount –bind /proc ./proc
– mount –bind /dev ./dev
– chroot .
In plain English, what we just did was mount the new partitions that we created, in the same configuration that they will be in the new system.  Then we bound all the special filesystems into this, and then we used “chroot” a magical command that moves our terminal into our newly setup system, almost as if we’d just booted into it.  So all our following commands will affect the new system instead of our temporary live USB boot.

6. Follow these instructions to download to grub legacy:
– apt-get update ; apt-get install grub
– update-grub
– yes to generate list
– grub-install /dev/sda6
We’ve now installed grub legacy in /dev/sda6, which is our ubuntu /boot partition.  We now need to get the Windows 7 bootloader to chain-boot this.  We do this using a little utility called EasyBCD, though it’s possible to modify the Windows config files manually if you prefer.

7. Reboot into windows 7.
– download, install and run Easy BCD
– Add new entry
– Linux/BSD tab
– Type: GRUB (Legacy)
– Name: Ubuntu 11.04
– Partition 5 (Linux -244 MiB)
– Click Add Entry
– Edit Boot Menu
– Boot default OS after: change to 4 seconds.
– Save Settings.

8. Reboot, and you should see a boot menu with Windows 7 and Ubuntu 11.04.  Done!

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80 Responses to Installing Ubuntu on the lenovo ideapad S205

  1. tetris11 says:

    @Bert – sorry for the late reply – yup typo!

    I’m using standard grub, not grub2 (grub-pc).

    BCDEdit seemed to have no problems with handling it in Windows.

  2. MarylandBill says:

    I have that exact same problem with my E-350 based version of the s205. Actually, it does peak much higher at the beginning of a file download, so for most web browsing the problem is not really a big issue. But after a few seconds it settles down to the lower rate. So streaming via wireless is effectively impossible.

  3. mote says:

    I found a solution that works well for me, and some others to.
    Post #20

    I wrote it as Moteprime.

  4. GrandToast says:

    I’m beginner. I have Windows and Ubuntu installed, but after installing Ubuntu, i can’t get to Windows. In your final step you say just “reboot to Windows”. I don’t know how to do that:).. When i start my computer, i get the grub screen, but with no Windows there – only Ubuntu. Can somebody help me with this stupid problem?:)..

  5. Richard says:

    I also had trouble with this: I erased Windows entirely, and installed Lucid (10.4) from a USB stick. After this, I found that the HDD installation wouldn’t boot, though I could still boot from the installer. The solution is to use grub-legacy, as per:
    after having first done a bind/chroot (your step 5 above).

    Note that for Lucid that grub-legacy has been patched to work with ext4; I didn’t need a special partition for grub-legacy/ext2.

    Thanks very much for your site; no thanks to Lenovo!

  6. dMan says:

    I am using an xp partition and would like to install ubuntu next. How would the installation differ from the windows 7 install. I imagine that everything stays the same up until the reboot after the ubuntu install.

    Any comments would be great.


  7. Martin says:



  8. Nicoletto :'( ) says:

    Thank you mate!
    After 4 days of tries I finally managed to have my s205 dual-boot with the crappy Windows8 (still need to use Office for work :'(

    Well done!


  9. alex says:

    Thank you so much for this guide! I would never have been able to figure this out on my own! I have just finished installing Linux Mint 12 using the same procedure, and it worked perfectly!

  10. alex says:

    Also, I found a possible workaround for the wifi without using wicd on the ubuntu forums. Run the following commands:

    sudo rfkill unblock wifi
    rfkill unblock all
    sudo modprobe -r acer_wmi

    And the wifi will start working. I tested this using Linux Mint 12, and it works! There is a lot of information on how to fix various bugs on the s205 in the following thread:

  11. Alistair says:

    OK, I bought an S205 2 days ago, and since then I’ve been struggling to get this working. I don’t know why I seem to be the only one your method’s not working for! It’s seriously stressing me out.

    I followed the partition instructions to the letter to dual boot with XP, but when I restarted the computer, the GRUB menu didn’t have XP on it. Now, I can only get to XP if I boot from my USB stick.

    Can anyone give me some advice how to change the OSes listed in GRUB? I’m sure it’s not that hard, I’m just too noob at this to know what I’m doing.

  12. Alistair says:

    I’m trying this with 10.04 now, purely because I don’t like Unity and I thought I mgiht avoid some of the problems with that install.

    When I try to execute the command “mount /dev/sda3 /mnt/sda3” (sda3 is the ext4 partition where Linux is installed) I get the error message “mount: you must specify the filesystem type”. I had the same error when I tried it with 11.04. Does anyone know why this could be?

  13. Miguel says:

    Thank you very much for this post I’ve been the whole weekend try to do it by myself. The part of the wifi is better to fix just adding those three lines to the /etc/rc.local file.

  14. Pingback: Windows 7 64bit UEFI-Bios (GUID Partition Table), Ubuntu Dual Boot

  15. Pavel says:

    hi there, thank you Alex for the hint about wifi!!!! it works great!!!
    we solved the dual boot win7/ubuntu installation problem as follows:
    simply make a usb stick with linux setup disk, boot from it and install linux
    without messing up with the primary boot sector (mbr). put grub into
    the linux’s own partition only. so you can still boot win7 – unfortunately
    only that, haha :). but do not worry. run live linux from the setup
    usb disk again, copy the boot sector from the linux’s partition
    into a file, and put that file into windows partition. then edit the
    windows boot menu so that it will load the linux’s boot sector
    from file which will boot the linux (start the grub from the
    linux’s partition). that worked like charm after four days
    of killing my precious time….. kick those ubuntu guys
    for me too, please…. thanks. we used latest november 2011 ubuntu version.
    you find detailed instructions of how to prepare this at many
    places on the net (use dd to create the linux.bin file, and then edit the
    boot options for windows in some way…) we did not need to mess up
    with different versions of grub this way.

  16. Arla says:

    Hi. Just a quick note for now: Before chroot:ing, I had to copy over /etc/resolv.conf to /dev/sdaX/etc/resolv.conf for my wired connection to work in the chroot:ed environment.

  17. messy says:

    Many thanks! You rescue my life! Okay… not so extreme, but a piece of my life.
    Now I’m happy with my lenovo S205 and Win7/Linux Mint.

    Have a good day

  18. Icey says:

    Ubuntu 12.04 64bit / Windows 7 Ultimate 64bit dual boot on Lenovo S205 (E-450).
    I tried to dual boot 2 days in a row, trying so many solutions, this is what I finally came up with this:
    1. Install Ubuntu: 1 – EFI partition 100MB, 1 – EXT4 partition, the rest is free space for W7. Boot device – sda1 (efi).
    2. After install you will have a boot option in your boot device order “ubuntu”. You have to put it second option or last maybe, otherwise the Wireless WON’T WORK! 🙂 Yeah.. pretty nice tricks (internet connections/boot order..)
    3. OK now you have Ubuntu up and running without any problems, next: install windows in the free space, then you can boot windows or select Ubuntu from boot order (remember?). It will work this way, but you can do more!
    4.Use Easy BCD: NeoGrub tab -> Install -> Configure -> paste this accordingly:
    default 0
    timeout 10 # number of seconds

    title Ubuntu
    root (hd0,4) # 0-hdd / 4-hdd partition with ext4
    kernel /boot/vmlinuz-3.2.0-24-generic root=/dev/sda5 # partition number +1
    initrd /boot/initrd.img-3.2.0-24-generic

    Tips: you cand boot in linux and find out what vmlinuz/initrd you have by typing in a console (ctrl+alt+t): “uname -a”. Also you can check what sda partition number you have by using “gparted”.

    Additional: I believe that you can install Linux after Windows, following the same steps! You need: EFI loader (default in S205) and MSDOS partition table (I believe default by Windows).

    Good luck!

  19. mroctopus says:

    It took me sooooo long to figure this out, but the fix for the BIOS, Grub Legacy incompatibility is a lot easier than it seems. What I did to get Linux Mint to boot on a Lenovo S205 was to put a fat16 windows partition before all the Linux partitions. Apparently the folks at Lenovo made it so that their BIOS expects to find a windows partition first. What I did was 50mb fat16, 446gb ext4 / , 4gb swap with the bootloader installed on the / partition. Everything installed smoothly and it booted up straight to Mint. Oh yeah, also I am only booting Mint, no dual booting…

    I hope this helps someone!

  20. mroctopus says:

    Mint 13 made things a lot easier for the S205.

    To install do this:
    In the installation menu choices choose either “Erase Completly” and then choose advanced partitioning, or choose “Something Else” and then in either case manually set up the partitions as follows (or your own version of it):

    /dev/sda1 256Mb Primary, Set to: EFI
    /dev/sda2 481852Mb Primary, Set to: /
    /dev/sda3 7999Mb Primary, Set to: swap
    intall the bootloader to /dev/sda

    Also, set the new partitions to be formatted

    To fix the wifi not working go into the system BIOs and take “mintlinux” out of the first position in the boot sequence.

  21. ram17769 says:


    I installed Mint 13 (no dualboot) and those two right side USB ports doesn’t work at all.
    Has anyone a solution for this problem? What about internal mic. I didn’t try yet but someone reported on web it doesn’t work with Mint!

  22. alex says:

    I can confirm what mroctopus posted. Linux Mint 13 works like a charm on the s205. I didn’t have any wifi issues that needed fixing though, everything just worked out of the box!

    Also, I used a dual-boot setup using the same partition setup that rwh described in the original blog post. Works perfectly!

  23. Pingback: Linux Mint Installationsproblem

  24. puod says:

    So I’ve tried ubuntu after few months on my s205 and it grew up very well. I didn’t have time to that fight with grub. But now I can confirm that Ubuntu 12.04 LTS 32bit works out of box with almost no problems. I did full instalation, no dual boot (no need for windows), from USB stick live desktop version. Wifi, USBs, sound, graphic, suspend, even my 22″ external monitor works great with 1920×1080.

    I’ve found only one problem so far and that is internal microphone, doesn’t work. I’m trying to find out a solution, but i’m possitive about it. Couldn’t be so hard to figure it out.

  25. Nana says:

    first of all I want to thank for your guide. After following all the instructions I was able to dual boot my uefi thinkpad BUT now I get lotsa bad target messages when grub boots. Ubuntu 12.04 loads fine after that but I’m still a bit puzzeled by those messages. Do you know why I get those messages and if it’s safe to ignore them or a way to fix em.

    Thanks again


  26. tim says:

    This is the reason why I ditched Linux. I really tried, but this kind of stuff kills it for me.

  27. rwh says:

    It’s sad that a manufacturer’s lack of openness has made you see Linux in a bad light. Your loss, and ultimately the world’s loss.


  28. st says:

    Where is the location of the boot partition(ext2) on the disk?After or first the partition of windows?


  29. noblegrunty says:

    If you’re having trouble with the Wifi, go into the BIOS menu and make your HDD #1 and the mysterious “ubuntu” entry #2.

    Messing with the drivers and modprobe never worked for me. (Ubuntu 12.10)

    If you’re having trouble with the installation, follow this guide:

    This blog is from 2011, and might not work on the current Ubuntu 12.10. (It didn’t for me)

  30. Gerard Cunningham says:

    Followed these instructions (except Linux Mint 14, not Ubuntu) but when I try to boot to Mint I get a flashing cursor. Windows boots okay. Any suggestions?

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