Lenovo T420 with Windows 10 not recognizing USB dongle

4 replies [Last post]
Joined: 01/04/2015

Aabout a year ago I burned a Verbatim 18GB USB flash drive with a view to repairing
a desktop PC with a broken Trisquel install. It works fine with my present T420, but
that laptop has developed some serious mechanical issues (letters worn off the keyboard,
DVD drive door won't stay latched, huge numbers of SATA error messages in the dmesg
outputs, too mauch dust inside the case) so I bought a refurbished T420 with
Windows 10 pre-installed, and now I want to run Trisquel_8 with the same hardware,
but as an external HDD (already installed on a 1TB desktop-style HDD). My dilemma
is that the USB-connected drive is not getting recognized and isn't booting up.

I've been attempting bootups with the 18GB flash drive, but all I've managed is to
get Windows 10 to recognize the Verbatim dongle as the E:\ drive, but windows does
not recognize the file system of the dongle.

So far, I've made the BIOS settings in the recently acquired T420 the same as those
in the fading T420, but that dongle with its Trisquel_8 trial version is not booting,
even in the same USB port as what works on the old T420.

My backup plan is to take out the 180GB SSD out of the newly acquired T420 and put
in a blank 1TB mechanical HDD in its place, then use the USB dongle to partition the
1TB drive, which I bought from the same store to match the SATA spec's that the T420
expects to see. That will leave the original 180 GB drive to plug back in to the
T420 (for resale) in case I can spring for a proper T400.

Is there a BIOS setting that can be made to facilitate this effort ?

George Langford

Joined: 09/13/2010

...Trisquel.. already installed on a 1TB desktop-style HDD...

I don't think Windows has built-in support for the file systems like ext4 and whatnot used in the GNU/Linux world. Maybe there's a third party program that might be usable if you want to be able to access the drive from within Windows. I don't know...

Also, it's not entirely clear to me what's supposed to be on this 18GB USB flash drive...

Joined: 05/01/2018

There is a workaround: remove the optical drive and purchase a 2nd HDD adapter, and subsequently install the HDD with Trisquel in said adapter. T420 accepts optical drives/2nd HDD adapters with thickness up to 12.7 mm, so every SATA-based HDD adapter fits in its optical drive bay (Ultrabay enhanced).

One thing to mention is that Sandy-Bridge-based ThinkPads (X220, T420, W520) don't boot from GPT disks using Legacy BIOS mode provided by original UEFI firmware. You may need to flash coreboot to replace the UEFI. Thankfully, it doesn't have Boot Guard. For most ThinkPads, I'd like to use GPT but install OS using Legacy mode (with a BIOS Boot partition). However, this doesn't work on some platforms, including (but may not limited to) Sandy Bridge and Skylake.

Joined: 01/04/2015

Here's my workaround, which only works with an official Win10 installation and the
original hardware of the host computer (mine is a refurbished Lenovo T420). The end
result is an intact unaltered computer that will run either its original Windows or
the Trisquel flidas operating system, now in a USB-connected external HDD:

1. Remove the Win10's SSD from the T420 and replace with a blank HDD (mine is 1TB).

2. Install TQ8 on the newly installed HDD, using the USB flash drive that has the
TQ8 installation software on it (guard this dongle with your life !).

3. Place the orphaned Win10 SSD in a 2-1/2 inch USB caddy.

4. Connect the USB caddy and restart the T420; TQ8 will recognize the Win10 but
won't do any more than list the contents of the Win10 SSD.

5. In TQ8 run sudo update-grub to create a boot loader for both operating systems.

6. Change the T420's BIOS setting for boot order so the external USB-connected
drive will be recognized first; for my T420 the setting is "USB HDD ASMT 2115."

7. Power off the T420 and swap the two drives again, so the TQ8 HDD is in the USB
caddy and the Win10 SSD is back in the T420.

8. Restart the T420; you will see GRUB and the choice of the two operating systems.

9. Either OS will now boot up with no further hassle.

10.You can set up a Data folder in the Win10 SSD into which you can place files
on which you can do further processing with TQ8 after restarting into that
preferred, superior operating system that is free of proprietary software.

11.I recommend keeping the Win10's Internet connection "off" and using only the
TQ8's Internet connection.

12.This procedure leaves the Win10 operating system and internal hardware unchanged;
the T420 is still the way it came from the refurbisher's factory.

George Langford

Joined: 01/04/2015

Followup: Will this Trisquel_8 usb-connected operating system boot up in another computer ?

Answer: Yes, at least on another T420 (the "sick" one that is falling apart), where I just
plugged the USb cable in and started it up. Zero hassle, permitting me to migrate many GB
of data into the newly born flidas data partition.

I dunno about a different computer, with different hardware.

And yes, it still boots into Win10 on the other T420.

No, I did not run update-grub on the "sick" T420, as that would have jettisoned the boot
entry for the other T420's windows OS.

George Langford