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Windows 7: Beware the dreaded "white list" -- HP is guilty as charged


10 Jun 2013   #1

Windows 7 Home Premium x64
 
 
Beware the dreaded "white list"

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.


NOTE: Please read the RESOLUTION to this issue.

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10 Jun 2013   #2

Win 7 Ultimate 64 bit
 
 

I've already been boycotting all HP products for several years now because of their poor customer service and their policy of abandoning older products, etc. Up until this, their latest outrage had been the smug announcement that their newest machines that came with Win 8 installed would not be backwards compatible with Win 7 because they had no plans to make drivers for it. They pulled a similar stunt when Vista came out and the refused to update the drivers for many of their older printers.
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10 Jun 2013   #3

Win7 Pro SP1 64
 
 

I have an HP printer in the closet as I am not going to pay for the ink. The cartridges costs more than the printer.
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10 Jun 2013   #4

Windows 7 Home Premium x64
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Lady Fitzgerald View Post
I've already been boycotting all HP products for several years now because of their poor customer service and their policy of abandoning older products, etc. Up until this, their latest outrage had been the smug announcement that their newest machines that came with Win 8 installed would not be backwards compatible with Win 7 because they had no plans to make drivers for it. They pulled a similar stunt when Vista came out and the refused to update the drivers for many of their older printers.
I haven't had problems with HP giving poor customer service (I actually had a very good experience the last time I called upon them), but I did hear about the whole Windows 7/Win8 fiasco with their hardware. That's partly why I stuck with a Windows 7 laptop for my subsequent purchase.

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Gary View Post
I have an HP printer in the closet as I am not going to pay for the ink. The cartridges costs more than the printer.
Unfortunately, this is not a unique problem with HP, as Canon and others charge outrageous amounts for their ink cartridges. Thankfully the 3rd party aftermarket cartridge makers have made decent progress, and so you can cut your costs by more than half. But, there's still room for improvement in terms of color accuracy.
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10 Jun 2013   #5

Windows 7 Professional 64bit SP1
 
 

My best friend has a Toshiba laptop with a "white list" identical to what HP is doing. I don't know if all models have it, but the mid-range models as of 3-ish years ago had it. He ran into the problem upgrading to a newer wireless card and found a workaround, but that is not the point......there shouldn't be a need to "rig" something like that up.
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11 Jun 2013   #6

Windows 7 Home Premium x64
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by kbrady1979 View Post
My best friend has a Toshiba laptop with a "white list" identical to what HP is doing. I don't know if all models have it, but the mid-range models as of 3-ish years ago had it. He ran into the problem upgrading to a newer wireless card and found a workaround, but that is not the point......there shouldn't be a need to "rig" something like that up.
True that, but at least in the case of Toshiba there was a work around. Sometimes it's a simple matter of going into the BIOS and finding a hidden menu or something to that effect. With HP, there was a period where an enterprising programmer could "hack" the white list code and either completely bypass the need to check it or introduce the codes for the desired WiFi cards. But then HP decided to RSA sign the BIOS, which essentially cripples the ability to do this. Granted, most of HP's consumers wouldn't know about this or even feel confident to trust 3rd party software to do this, but they've managed to impede people who would have the wherewithal to do it. The deliberate RSA signing wasn't meant as a protection against malware or other forms of potential abuse--it was specifically targeted at the developer community to prevent them from editing the BIOS. There is no license agreement made when buying the laptop that you must use it precisely according to HP's wishes. HP is guilty of a practice that has "class action lawsuit" written all over it.
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11 Jun 2013   #7

Windows 7 Ultimate (x64)
 
 

As long as they don't hide the existence of this "white list", I don't see the problem. I've changed many laptops over the years and I never even thought about a possibility of changing the Wi-Fi card. Honestly, as far as my own laptop is concerned, I have no idea whether there is a separate card, or it's onboard. I know that in my desktop the network controller is indeed onboard, making any additional network card useless. If you don't like them - don't buy from them. I don't.

On the other hand, my printer is from HP. I bought it 5 years ago and it still works as advertized. I don't print too much at home, so I order ink once or twice a year. On that schedule I don't think their price is excessive.
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11 Jun 2013   #8

Win7 Home Premium 64x
 
 

Thank you for this info cytherian. I will keep that in mind if I need a new laptop as I value the ability to change out parts if anything breaks and I don't like being stuck with having to buy from the manufacturer at 3x the price vs. getting a better product elsewhere.

besides that point, I don't like supporting companies who implement unnecessary policies or restrictions with the intention of hindering the very customers they rely on.
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11 Jun 2013   #9

Win 7 Ultimate 64 bit
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Thorsen View Post
...I don't like supporting companies who implement unnecessary policies or restrictions with the intention of hindering the very customers they rely on.
Welcome to the club!
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11 Jun 2013   #10

Win 7 Pro 64-bit 7601
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by cytherian View Post
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.
Which is an obvious blatant and outrageous lie. They just want the customer to buy a more expensive laptop.

Quote:
There is no license agreement made when buying the laptop that you must use it precisely according to HP's wishes.
Frankly, while it's a A++ grade asshole move (mainly because they shut down bios modding for the hell of it, not like they were losing any money over it as they live off companies mostly), they aren't doing much differently than say Apple. As they are exploiting less-than-tech-savyy people to make more cash.

Quote:
Honestly, as far as my own laptop is concerned, I have no idea whether there is a separate card, or it's onboard.
99.99% of modern wifi is in a mini pci-e card due to mass-production cutting costs. I'm pretty sure that even Apple stuff uses that method even if it's not compatible with anything else (as usual).
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 Beware the dreaded "white list" -- HP is guilty as charged




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