Install Windows 10 on ThinkPad X201

My wife loved her ThinkPad X201, kind of out of dated but still functional and lightweight enough to carry. Recently, she started to complain the lack of responsiveness of the system, so I decided to throw the following components to revive the machine:

For the record, Windows 10 is not officially supported by Lenovo, but I would like to give a try.

With Windows install media creation tool, you can get a bootable USB drive to for a clean install. In about 20 minutes, I was challenged by the Microsoft Account credential. The password was simply not working, even I was able to login to my Microsoft Account successfully in another machine! So I rebooted the machine and wished a better luck in the second attempt.

The system booted into a black screen with a mouse cursor. There are basically two interpretation for this symptoms.

Windows 10 sometimes may get confused by the external display, try connect/disconnect an external display, and press Window key + P, then try all the options, — PC screen only, Duplicate, Extend, Second screen only, — to bring the login Windows back.

Nothing.

The official solution considered a potential display driver conflicts, and the proposed solution is to boot to the safe mode, and resolve the driver issue in device manager. In this particular situation, I need to reboot the machine with Windows 10 installation media:

  1. Click “Repair your computer” in the welcome screen
  2. Click “Troubleshoot”
  3. Click “Advanced Options”
  4. Click “Command Prompt”

In the command line, execute the following command:

bcdedit /set {default} safeboot network

It will govern the next system reboot to the safe mode with network, see here for more details about bcedit.

It did not work, in the next reboot, the Windows complained the system could not boot into safe mode before the installation completed.

That leaves us no more choice, but restart from the scratch. This time, I successfully logged into my Microsoft account, and see the blue screen with gradient:

It’s taking a bit longer than usual, but it should be ready soon.

In the internet, some argued that you should wait, maybe even overnight; some said it is OK to reboot the machine, and the installation will pick up where it gets stuck last time. After the reboot, the machine booted into the black screen with mouse cursor, again.

But this time, I was able to summon the Task manager via Ctrl-Alt-Delete, and then I could run a new application from File | Run new task menu. Running the explorer.exe bring the familiar Windows shell, but the start menu is not responsive, neither did Windows search; Windows complained that ms-settings:display is not recognized; the device manager invoked as devmgmt.msc from command console showed that the display adapter as “Microsoft Display Driver”. Overall, the system is in a very weired state.

The official answers is to run a full system file check: sfc /scannow. Run the following command if any error is found:

DISM.exe /Online /Cleanup-image /Scanhealth && DISM.exe /Online /Cleanup-image /Restorehealth

Note: the above commands MUST run in the elevated privilege. Since we don’t have start menu, we can navigate the explorer to $WINODOWS$\system32, and right click cmd.exe as Run as administrator.

Both commands failed, more concretely dism.exe failed with Error 1726.

Then the Windows update kicked in and rebooted the machine. In the next reboot, the familiar start menu is back, and the display driver is recognized as Intel HD graphics, everything just works.

In the retrospect, I appreciated that Windows 10 trying hard to get the system back to its foot under the hood, but I do wish Windows 10 could provide more introspection for better troubleshooting.