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Interesting Windows 8 Issues on Lenovo X220 Tablet

All in all, I’ve been pretty impressed with the X220 Tablet PC from Lenovo. It ran Windows 7 like a champ with good performance and touch response. Once I learned that a clean install of Windows 8 actually works better than an upgrade install from 7 to 8 in terms of drivers and touch, I have come to feel the same way about this machine running the Windows 8 Customer Preview as well.

But I have hit several interesting glitches on this machine, some merely annoying others somewhat more serious. After several long half-day sessions dealing with drivers, I realized that the best approach to bringing the system up to snuff works like this:

  • Install Windows 8 from the ISO (I used the Windows 7 USB DVD Download Tool to take the Windows 8 ISO and create a bootable USB Flash Drive aka UFD from which I installed the OS).
  • Run Windows Update until no new updates are available (easiest way to do this is to enter Windowkey-R to open the Run box, then type “wuapp” into that box to launch the program).
  • Download and install the latest Intel chipset utility files (for the nonce that’s version, though Lenovo now has a Windows 8 download page up where you can grab version, along with other Windows 8-specific goodies.
  • Use a driver scanner/update service to catch and fix other missing or outdated drivers. Five items show up as missing drivers after Windows 8 install: the Ricoh card reader, three items related to the Intel Management Engine Interface (which uses a Serial on LAN, or SOL, connection to do sideband communications with devices that can’t even boot into an OS successfully), and the Integrated Web Camera. Between DriverAgent’s recommendations (that the driver scanner service I use) and the downloads available from the Lenovo support pages, I was able to find and fix pretty much everything.

But I have hit a few less tractable snags on the X220 Tablet. First and worst, the built-in Windows Backup doesn’t work on this machine. I tried half-a-dozen different remote storage options (multiple USB external drives, network drives on other hosts in the same homegroup, and so forth) during each of which I would get the error message that “Windows backup skipped backing up system image because one of the critical volumes is not having enough free space. Free up some space by deleted unnecessary files and try again.” All of the target machines I chose to store the backup had at least 0.5 TB of storage available, so I knew that wasn’t the problem. I am using an SSD as the primary drive in this test machine, and it currently has about 80% free space, so I’m mystified as to how it might be the problem, either (but that could be it). The system drive has a couple of other partitions on it: first, the Lenovo Recovery Partition is 9.45 GB of which 8.8GB is in use; and second, there’s an SYSTEM_DRV partition as well: it’s more or less invisible to Windows, though you can see this 1.17 GB partition with the Windows Disk Management utility. Right now, I can’t use either Windows Backup (through the Windows 7 File Recovery control panel item, where it lurks under a misleading item identifier) or Lenovo Rescue and Recovery backup on this machine. Fortunately, Acronis True Image Home 2012 works fine, so I’m using it instead.

I also had to do some dithering about to get the Wacom pen working properly on the X220 tablet. The Lenovo ThinkVantage utilities have enjoyed mixed success on this machine running Windows 8, too. The console works, and so do the system scans. Rescue and Recovery doesn’t work (nor backup, as already mentioned), nor does the built-in software and driver update utility named ThinkVantage Update. I am sure this simply reflects the lack of catch-up to Windows 8 at PC Tools, which is the company that builds the ThinkVantage stuff for Lenovo as far as I can tell. So, I’ve put a call into my contacts there to see if I can learn more about what’s up.

[Follow-up Note: 2:00 PM 4/6/2012]:More research into the error code 0X81000033 (thrown by my failed backup in Windows 8 ) shows that a too-small first physical partition on the hard disk can provoke this error condition. I used WinDirStat to check the contents of the SYSTEM_DRV partition and, sure enough, it contained three huge WIM (Windows Image) files for various repair and recovery scenarios. What I needed was more free space in this partition, but Disk Management wouldn’t let me expand the partition, only shrink it!

But after a quick Skype session to my friendly and supportive Paragon Software press person, Katia Shabanova, who works for them in Germany (fortunately for me she was still at her desk), I obtained a copy of that company’s Hard Disk Manager 12 Suite. In 15 minutes, after downloading and installing the software, I was resizing the initial partition from 1.7 to 3.9 GB (I doubled its size, figuring that would be enough for scratch files during backup). On my next attempt, Windows Backup completed successfully and all was well I hope the Lenovo guys are reading my blog because they apparently need to change the disk layout for their Windows 8 builds, to increase the size of the SYSTEM_DRV partition somewhat. It may not be necessary to grow it to nearly 4 GB as I did, but I’m sure they can figure out exactly how big to make it. I just didn’t want to bother with the trial-and-error or experimentation necessary to set the size more precisely. Nevertheless, I’m glad to have another bump in my Windows 8 road out of the way!

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