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BIOS-Approved PCI Cards For Laptops 482

derek_farn writes "First there were printers that would would only work with vendor annointed ink cartridges; now we have laptops that will only boot with vendor annointed PCI cards. Keeping a list of approved PCI cards in the bios is one way of ensuring that customers renew their maintenance contracts. How else are they going to be able to plug in a PCI card released after the last BIOS update?" My HP laptop is several years old; can anyone confirm this?
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BIOS-Approved PCI Cards For Laptops

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  • by explorer ( 42481 ) on Monday February 21, 2005 @03:06PM (#11737909)
    My older Thinkpad T40p has a whitelist, too. Luckily the Cisco 350 mini-PCI card I needed to connect to the corporate wireless LAN is on the whitelist. IBM actually sells the Cisco card with an IBM part number.

    But forget trying to buy a random 802.11 a/b/g card and plug it in.
  • by n6mod ( 17734 ) on Monday February 21, 2005 @03:10PM (#11737941) Homepage
    I have an old NetServer LPr that I use as a Debian server. It's built like a tank, and has been fairly reliable, save for one issue:

    Since I got it (used), it always printed a warning that non-HP DIMMs were detected, and HP's on-site warranty didn't cover problems caused by non-HP memory.

    Then two of the DIMMs failed, so I popped the lid.

    You guessed it. HP memory.

    At least the motherboard was kind enough to turn on a flashing light next to the bad DIMMS. (Seriously)
  • by radiojock ( 542397 ) on Monday February 21, 2005 @03:10PM (#11737944)
    Many people who run corp laptops have found out that aleast since the T30, IBM laptops will not boot with a non IBM card, Well, if you have the utility you can put any mini-PCI card in there.... They make alot of money with there cards, so you can understand why they would do this.. What I don't hear about is apple and there slots not taking anything but "AIRPORT" cards? why is nobody bitching about that?
  • by VargrX ( 104404 ) on Monday February 21, 2005 @03:13PM (#11737983) Journal
    From TFA:
    I bought a Compaq/HP nx9110 a year ago, and recently upgraded my Mini-PCI Wireless card from non-OSS friendly Broadcom 11b to an 11g card. It's an HP Laptop. According to their marketing, I shouldn't have had to buy non-HP parts to be linux compatible.

    The HP BIOS for most models of laptop now have a whitelist of allowed Mini-PCI cards that can be installed in the laptop. If your new WiFi card isn't on the (very small) list of allowed cards for that specific model of laptop, then your laptop won't boot.

    Good reason not to purchase ANY HP/Compaq product from the Carly era, isn't it. Tough break there, but when you purchase something that's supposedly 'commodity', and then realize that it has a very, very short list of 'accepted' expansion options, you've done this to yourself.

    Personally, I'm a big IBM Thinkpad fan, plug in all type's of card's into them, and as long as I have driver support, I have no issues, be it XP, Linux, or any of the BSD's (of course, this changes with what hdd I plug in the laptop at the time).
  • by DavidNWelton ( 142216 ) on Monday February 21, 2005 @03:13PM (#11737985) Homepage
    There is a list of hardware that is not very Linux friendly here: [] - perhaps this stuff would make a good addition to the list.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 21, 2005 @03:14PM (#11737992)
    From what I've read this is because the FCC approval for the wireless is the combination of the card and the antenna (which is built into the screen). Obviously it's not really in IBM's (or any other manufacturer) interest to test every possible wireless card with their kit. They probably lock them to keep the FCC happy.
  • Linuxbios? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by moderators_are_w*nke ( 571920 ) on Monday February 21, 2005 @03:14PM (#11737993) Journal
    Wasn't there a project a while back to produce a GPLed BIOS for booting Linux? Not sure how much success you'd have with a laptop, but might be worth a go? I'm sure another /.er will put me right.
  • by VargrX ( 104404 ) on Monday February 21, 2005 @03:16PM (#11738008) Journal
    Hate to argue this, but, no. I've got a T40p, and an R40, and have plugged in all sort's of card/mini-pci based device's into them, and have not had any issue's beyond finding proper driver's for the OS that I'm using at the moment
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 21, 2005 @03:17PM (#11738017)
    Intel Technology Journal: []
    The PCI Express Mini Card specifically targets addressing system manufacturers' needs for build-to-order (BTO) and configure-to-order (CTO) applications rather than providing a general end-user-replaceable module. This form factor has characteristics more typical of an "embedded" application including the platform integration of the media interfaces such as communications connectors or wireless antennas.
    Cisco MPI350 FAQ: []
    The Cisco MPI350 cannot be sold as an aftermarket adapter because ... Regulatory certification is based on the MPI350 being coupled with a particular antenna. Although modular regulatory approvals are available, they only apply to the original equipment manufacturer (OEM), who is responsible for embedding similar antennas in different devices. Modular regulatory approval does not eliminate the restriction on aftermarket sales since the end user might embed the adapter in devices with unapproved antennas.
    Basically, these companies are using FCC regulations as an excuse for limiting Mini-PCI cards (not just on these particular laptop models, but all Mini-PCI cards in general) to OEM installation only.
  • Linksys knows (Score:2, Interesting)

    by way2trivial ( 601132 ) on Monday February 21, 2005 @03:18PM (#11738025) Homepage Journal
    Linksys does "mac address cloning" for ISP's that don't allow routers.

    Can anyone make the connection?
  • by Politburo ( 640618 ) on Monday February 21, 2005 @03:19PM (#11738039)
    What I don't hear about is apple and there slots not taking anything but "AIRPORT" cards? why is nobody bitching about that?

    I think this is simply because we don't expect openness with Apple. Their hardware is generally proprietary, while PC hardware is not.
  • This will lead to... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mister Transistor ( 259842 ) on Monday February 21, 2005 @03:19PM (#11738041) Journal
    This will only cause a proliferation of web-based collections of hacked BIOS'es, just like is now for DVD player firmwares. All the nasties hacked out for your convenience.

    For all of you about to say: "Well, that's against the DMCA...", true, but that hasn't stopped the widespread distribution of region-free hacked DVD firmware has it?

    Flash - gotta love it!
  • by green pizza ( 159161 ) on Monday February 21, 2005 @03:26PM (#11738090) Homepage
    Apple calls their slot an "Airport Express slot" and they call their wirless card an "Airport Express card". They've never promised that it could do anything else.
  • by SupremeChalupa ( 547765 ) on Monday February 21, 2005 @03:27PM (#11738094)
    Like the CD-ROM protection schemes that made the discs nonstandard, are these laptops far enough from the device standard that they could be forbidden from using the mini-PCI brand/logo/classification?
  • Compatibility (Score:2, Interesting)

    by RaguMS ( 149511 ) on Monday February 21, 2005 @03:31PM (#11738122) Journal
    From a compatibility standpoint, this isn't a terrible idea. After all, we're talking about laptops, NOT desktop systems. Most laptop users aren't trying to stick all kinds of PCI cards in their laptops. In my experience, many laptops are only compatible with a small number of cards made by few manufacturers anyway.
    Restricting add-on cards in a laptop to approved cards will ease support issues, by assuring that a laptop will work with that card (as opposed to a support technician requiring you to remove your add-on cards before you get support). In the end, customers get a more reliable laptop with some expandability choices.
  • by Zone-MR ( 631588 ) * <> on Monday February 21, 2005 @03:48PM (#11738260) Homepage
    Yes - this has pissed me off. I bought a 802.11b/g combo card to replace the 802.11b card in my Thinkpad T41. Little did I know that the laptop BIOS is deliberatly crippled, and refuses to boot with minipci network cards which aren't approved by IBM (often exactly the same cards, made by exactly the same manufacturers, but have a different hardware ID - a privelage you are supposed to pay 2x the price for).

    After a bit of research I managed to patch my BIOS to get around the problem - at least till I apply a BIOS update in the future.

    If I had know of this beforehand, I would have seriously considered a different laptop. The problem is there are no warnings, and the specs claim the laptop has a miniPCI slot - which would make one assume it is compatible with any card which follows the miniPCI standard.
  • Re:Confirm? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by soceror ( 457881 ) on Monday February 21, 2005 @03:54PM (#11738307)
    This is still being performed. One of the reason is to prevent OEM/ODM use invalid parts. (I know cuz I used to work for one, Compal Electronic, Inc, Second Largest laptop manufacturer OEM/ODM). And it just happen that I was a BIOS enigineer for HP products) Cheers!
  • Re:Workaround (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Fluffy the Cat ( 29157 ) on Monday February 21, 2005 @03:57PM (#11738333) Homepage
    There's an easier way. See this page [] for a utility that disables the check without requiring BIOS modification.
  • FCC (Score:2, Interesting)

    by terminateprocess ( 812697 ) <terminateprocess @ g m a i l . com> on Monday February 21, 2005 @03:59PM (#11738361) Homepage
    This is also a known problem with a lot of Compaq Presario R3000 Series laptops. The have the same issue, with the non-OSS friendly Broadcom 802.11g mini-PCI cards pre-installed. Apparently, the BIOS is built to only allow that card becasue the FCC-ID for the wireless device is for the card and the internal antenna *together*. When you change the card, the system is no longer legal, according to the FCC, so they put in BIOS protection to keep you from breaking FCC rules.
  • x1000 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by exnuke ( 734919 ) on Monday February 21, 2005 @04:13PM (#11738539) Homepage

    It happened to me when I upgraded from an intel 2100 wireless card to an intel 2200 wireless pci card in an eight month old Compaq X1000 laptop. Rolling back to an older bios "fixed" the problem.

    More info here: 9 []

    Today's lesson: Don't buy Compaq.

  • by Graemee ( 524726 ) on Monday February 21, 2005 @04:13PM (#11738549)
    Example of this is Pontiac Sufire = Asuna= Chev Cavalier All three are the same car, but with different trim and styling. They all cost, last time I bought one 1998, about the same. I went for the Cav because that dealer had a model with ETS and a four speed automatic. Sometimes they market the same car with different names, the 1960's GTO was a Beaumont in Canada. It's the Chrysler Intrepid not Dodge.
  • Wrong (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jht ( 5006 ) on Monday February 21, 2005 @04:21PM (#11738622) Homepage Journal
    No - that's not why every generic card wouldn't work in a Mac. It's because the firmware was typically processor-specific on a (PCI, AGP, etc.) card back in the day. 68k/PPC chips use a different endian mode than x86 does, and so if you didn't put appropriate firmware on the card, it wouldn't work. There are cards out there nowadays that work on both platforms just fine (for instance, a lot of ATA controllers work just fine cross-platform - same with networking cards and plenty of other stuff).

    In some cases, the card would work fine if there were an OS-specific driver for it. The vendor's decision not to write one isn't Apple's fault.

    I'm not striving for unrestrained Apple fanboydom here, but let's get real. The fact that Apple doesn't build generic x86 computers that are interchangeable doesn't make them proprietary - they've just made different architectural choices that impact what will work with their products. NuBus wasn't proprietary, for instance - it was industry standard. It just wasn't used by x86 vendors. But it was technically superior to 8/16 bit ISA, so Apple used it until it made more sense to move to PCI. They also used SCSI to gain an technical advantage over older-generation PC drive technology - there were clear speed advantages to SCSI for a long time until newer ATA implementations caught up. At which point Apple switched and lowered their costs in doing so.

    They also helped drive the move to USB, popularized Firewire, added standard Ethernet on everything before any x86 vendors, and added a dedicated slot and antenna for wireless before anyone.

    There's plenty of useful stuff to rip on Apple about without the misinformed "proprietary hardware" red herring.

    There. I feel much better now ;-)
  • by CdBee ( 742846 ) on Monday February 21, 2005 @04:22PM (#11738625)
    However if you only have USB 1.1 (12mpbs) and Mini-PCI, an 802.11G (54mpbs) USB device is about as much use as a chocolate teapot.

    I take an interest as one of my machines is a 2000-built designer PC (AST Century City) which only has mini-PCI and USB 1.1... hoping Intel BIOS from the time doesnt have whitelisting!
  • bios updates (Score:1, Interesting)

    by nilbog ( 732352 ) on Monday February 21, 2005 @04:54PM (#11738893) Homepage Journal
    ...Bios updates are free from HP's site. You don't need to have a service contract to get them. Go to and type in your model number.
  • by Karma Farmer ( 595141 ) on Monday February 21, 2005 @05:00PM (#11738953)
    The last time I bought a laptop, none advertised that they were compatible with Mini-PCI cards. They all had the option of including factory installed Mini-PCI card, but none made any claim that it worked with anything other than the card that came with the system.

    I've very suprised that companies have begun to advertise otherwise, especially if they're required by the FCC to lock out untested wireless networking cards.
  • Re:Yes, by all means (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Firehawke ( 50498 ) on Monday February 21, 2005 @05:45PM (#11739325) Journal
    Well, this ties back into my old statement, but not everyone needs top line performance.. and when top of the line is running at a minimum of $4k (1992 price for a 486/33 with 8MB RAM-- I remember this specifically as a friend bought a second tier (out of four) computer from ZEOS in 1992) you cut where you can because that's a hell of a lot of money. Most of these people running Lotus 1-2-3 didn't particularly care about the video or disk controller performance because price/performance ratio-wise you saw serious dropoff at the medium-high end of the spectrum that wasn't paying off in productivity.

    I won't argue that many clones were pretty shoddily made, though.
  • by marshall_j ( 643520 ) on Monday February 21, 2005 @06:36PM (#11739695) Homepage
    That and also it's not Centrino if it doesn't have cards that are built to Centrino specification.
  • by thelizman ( 304517 ) <hammerattack AT yahoo DOT com> on Monday February 21, 2005 @06:36PM (#11739704) Homepage
    Under 15 USC 50 2304 (Magnussen Moss Act []), HP has violated the terms of your warranty by disallowing you from using compatible hardware. When you purchased the laptop, one of the stated features was a PCMCIA slot - theimplied warranty is that it was interoperable with aftermarket componants which conformed to the PCMCIA standard.

    In short, you have the makings of a class action lawsuit on your hands. Get the to a slimy lawyer. They'll be in the phone book under "D" for democrat.
  • Dumb reasoning (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 21, 2005 @07:03PM (#11739892)
    These laptops often still have USB ports and cardbus slots. This doesn't seem to cause any problems with support.

    Any user who goes to the trouble to replace a miniPCI card knows they are taking out SUPPORTED HARDWARE and replacing it with UNSUPPORTED HARDWARE. A user would not expect support from HP regarding the operation of an Apple iPod nor should he expect support for hardware that didn't come with the computer.
  • by wernst ( 536414 ) on Monday February 21, 2005 @07:12PM (#11739957) Homepage
    Why is anyone getting all bent out of shape over this? The MiniPCI slot isn't intended to be user-servicable. That's what we have PCMCIA (aka PC Card) slots for. You want new technology? Just slap in a PCMCIA card and you're in business! No limitations there.

    Honestly, the things we get worked up over...

  • by http101 ( 522275 ) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @10:48AM (#11744260) Homepage
    At least my engine isn't shrouded in plastic, composed of styrofoam, and the chassis held together with scotch tape or gum-drops.

    The Corvette Z06 just falls off the road according to recall number 04V273000. The steering linkage simply falls apart and causes the driver to lose control of the car.

    The lower control arm ball stud/nut washers were made of defective materials and disintegrate, thus leaving the Corvette to slam down on its own wheels and at 120mph, a VERY bad thing. It may also cause the wheel to seperate completely from its attachment.

    In recall notice 04V060000, the steering column locks and due to an unchecked circuit, voltage is not read correctly and enables the Corvette to accelerate while failing to shut-off the fuel pump and the steering columns is locked in any position. If the brick wall doesn't stop you, maybe the crappy steering linkage will!

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