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Old June 11 2013, 12:28 AM   #1
Gary7
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Location: Near Manhattan иии in an alternate reality
Thinking of a new laptop? -- DON'T BUY HP (see why inside)

I don't normally start threads like this. Not all product manufacturers are created equal and some are notably better than others. But what bothers me is when a company makes a very decent product and then in a covert manner, cripples it as a means to gouge/fleece the consumer. I contacted HP about this issue and was politely told "thank you, we'll take it under advisement" and that was it. Based on what I've read thus far, I'm confident I will not see any actions taken on the issue I raised.


So, with that out of the way I'll get right to the point:

Hewlett-Packard has been putting a "white list" in their computers (in the BIOS). They started this sometime in 2010. What is it? It's a list of "acceptable hardware" that may be installed in the computer. The most common internally installed piece of hardware is the network card. While many laptop motherboards have the graphics card (GPU) soldered directly in place, the network (WiFi) card is an optionally installed device that goes in an internal PCIe slot.

The devious thing that HP did was that if you go out and buy a newer/better WiFi card and install it, upon cold booting the computer will check to see if that WiFi card is in the "white list". If it isn't, the computer WILL NOT BOOT.

Now, HP claims they did this in the "best interests of the consumer", because they supposedly test the best WiFi cards of the day and put those in the white list. However, networking technology has been moving at a rather rapid pace, making network cards from 2-3 years ago about half as fast as the latest offerings. Thus a 150Mbps card is now rather slow compared to a 300Mbps or even 450Mbps card. NOT ONLY THAT, but it turns out that HP has made numerous mistakes with the white list, and the list is often shorter than what is described in the service manual. Meaning, you can very easily end up buying a WiFi card that is supposed to be supported but is not.

If you search the Internet about "wifi card white list" you will find thousands of hits. HP is not the only computer manufacturer to do this, HOWEVER, they are the most aggressive at preventing the consumer from overriding it. In more recent laptops (2011 and later), HP loads an RSA signed BIOS into the computer, whereby any attempt to load a modified BIOS will result in a semi-bricked computer. Even changing just one bit in one of the files will cause the RSA signature to fail. They did this to prevent the hacker communities from coming up with a workaround.


I am posting this a as a warning to prospective HP laptop buyers. Now, something like a WiFi card may not be an issue for you if you frequently use your laptop in fairly close range to your wireless router. You may also be the kind of person who changes out their laptops every 3 years or so. But if being able to upgrade your wireless card as newer/better ones emerge on the market is important to you, I strongly advise against getting a Hewlett-Packard laptop.

I really wish I didn't have to post this, because HP does make very decent laptops for the money. I have had 3 of them. But upon getting the 3rd, I discovered this glaring issue that has completely shaken my loyalty to the brand. You can bet I will not return to Hewlett-Packard unless I hear confirmation of them rescinding the white list program.
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