Corebooted Thinkpad x230 with hardware mods

3 minute read Modified:

Say goodbye to your personal NSA agent and hello to a cheap and powerful laptop
Table of Contents

The why and how

Ever since the end of the bush era 2008, every Intel chip comes with an embedded subsystem called the intel management engine. Every i3, i5, i7 and i9 processor has this engine. It is a black-box and has access to every peripheral device like RAM, camera, microphone hard drive, … even when the main processor is turned off. Some say this is a backdoor for the NSA, some say this is pure paranoia. Anyway I don’t want this bloat in my house, thats why I bought a Thinkpad x230 on eBay for 97€. The x230 line is at the moment one off the last models that can be hacked to get rid of the intel management engine. Modern businesses do not have any use for their x230 anymore so you can get them relatively cheap. I used this sniping tool to get it for 97€. This tool waits one second before the auction finishes and bids one euro more than the highest bidder. The x230 is greatly loved by enthusiasts and hackers a like. Thats why their are so many mods available for this beautiful device. For example you can install the keyboard of the x220 on the x230 if you flash a custom bios. The x220 keyboard is a very nice classical keyboard. I am typing right now on it and i feel like god himself kisses my fingers every time I press a key.

Flash custom bios and install the x220 keyboard

Update your bios to the latest version lenovo provides and then flash this custom bios. It remaps keys that are positioned differently on the x220 keyboard to work with the x230. Then follow this guide to install the classic keyboard. If you have problems flashing a bios on linux follow this guide.

Coreboot the thinkpad and get rid of the intel management engine

I am not gonna say a lot to this. Basically just follow this guide and flash skulls. Releases of skull ar available here. I’ll pray for you, if you succeed you will join the ranks of the great men.

Install a custom bios splash screen

Git clone this and then run

$ git submodule update --init
$ make && sudo make install

After this follow the tutorial in the readme. When you are finished edit /etc/default/grub and append iomem=relaxed to the GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT variable so mine now looks like this: GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet iomem=relaxed". Finally I ran:

$ sudo grub-mkconfig -o /boot/grub/grub.cfg

Either you have now a piece of garbage or a piece of art.

Install atheros Wi-Fi card, IPS display, hard drive and RAM

The AR9380 by atheros has great compatibility with linux, huge range and supports monitor mode. This means you do not need an external Wi-Fi adapter anymore to hack your access points. It is a bit pricey but considering the initial price of the laptop, it won’t break the bank. You can also upgrade your display to an IPS one for better colors and viewing angles. One upgrade you probably have to do is to buy an ssd and some sweet ram.

Thats it. I hope you did well.