Does your Lenovo Ideapad U400 run hot under Ubuntu 11.10 or 12.04? (And switch-able graphics info)


Update (2012-04-26): I have confirmed that the steps listed here still work in version 12.04.

It turns out the excessive heat and constant fan on my Ideapad U400 was being caused by the switchable graphics, which so far have proven themselves to be more effort than their worth. The situation isn’t even that much better under Windows, not being able to play more graphically intensive OpenGL games like Minecraft (yes, I just that about Minecraft). Maybe the Nvidia cards are better off, but next time I won’t take that chance and just get a laptop without any kind of switchable graphics if I can.

I haven’t yet figured out how to get AMD card working at all under Linux, so if that’s what your looking for, sorry (update! I did get it working finally, see below). The integrated card has worked surprisingly well for me though, so long as I stick to graphically simpler games. Minecraft even works well enough with it, maybe even better than it ran with the integrated card in Windows.

This article might also apply to other laptops with switchable AMD graphics that are running Ubuntu 11.10 (and anything based on Ubuntu). So if you have a laptop like that which you want to run cooler, keep reading.

What we need to do is disable the AMD card by using something known as vga_switcheroo, this makes the situation much more manageable, but still not perfect. At least I no longer get burnt by my laptop, and the fan runs a bit quieter, although still constantly.

During my searches I came across this page on the Ubuntu wiki. I tried to follow it but found some important steps were omitted, like you already knew what you were doing.

Update (2012-08-12): I just came across a forum post which describes how to get the AMD GPU to work under Ubuntu 12.04. I’m not sure yet it if it will address the heat issues or not, but if you want to use the AMD card, take a look. So far the heat seems to be OK until I start up a game, but I’ve only been using it for about an hour.

Here’s what you need to do:

Open up /etc/default/grub:

sudo nano /etc/default/grub

In this file you need to add the modeset=1 option to the line with GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT. That line will end up looking something like this:

GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet splash modeset=1"

Save that file (in nano, Ctrl+O), then close (nano: Ctrl+X). Now run the command:

sudo update-grub

Now, restart. If everything was successful vga_switcheroo should now be active and you should be able to turn off your AMD card.


Now that all of that is done, to manually turn off your AMD card:

Open up your terminal and run the following sequence of commands:

sudo su
echo ON > /sys/kernel/debug/vgaswitcheroo/switch
echo IGD > /sys/kernel/debug/vgaswitcheroo/switch
echo OFF > /sys/kernel/debug/vgaswitcheroo/switch

This turns on both cards, selects the integrated graphics card, then turns off the card that wasn’t selected (your AMD card).


If I’ve correctly written out all the steps, you should no longer have your AMD card turned on, and your laptop should be rapidly cooling down, and another interesting side effect of this is improved battery life. If you’re still having trouble, take a look at that wiki page I linked to earlier. It has more information, but it’s spread out in a way that’s hard to make sense of unless you already have an idea of what needs to be done. If I’ve accidentally missed a step, head to the forums and tell me about it so I can fix the article.

Hope this helped you, and if I find a way to get the AMD card working at all, I’ll write about it.

If you need help figuring out your wireless connection, take a look here.

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  • Jack Lonsdale

    I was wondering whether you have the cypress or synaptics touchpad? Does multitouch work in linux or not? Thanks

    • Anonymous

      Hey Jack,
      I’m pretty sure I don’t have a synaptics touchpad and multitouch isn’t working for me. I haven’t made any attempt to get it working, though. I had multi touch working in Linux on my last laptop, it did have a synaptics touchpad.

  • CStoddard

    Really clever, thanks for posting. I can’t seem to be able to get it stay switched off after a restart, but will post once I do. Keep the fixes coming!

  • Andrew Milkowski

    Thanks!, the instructions worked well, core temperature dropped significantly (below)

    Question however, fan is constantly on even when temp is < 50 C , did anyone discover a way to control thermal sensors in Lenovo U400? (no Bios update is available at the time) and reading of message log, reports

    Thanks in advance!

    [root@localhost amilkowski]# dmesg | grep -i fan[    1.708951] [drm] Internal thermal controller without fan control[root@localhost amilkowski]#(sensors output now gives:[amilkowski@localhost ~]$ sensors
    Adapter: Virtual device
    temp1:        +50.0 C  (crit = +98.0 C)
    temp2:        +42.0 C  (crit = +126.0 C)

    Adapter: PCI adapter
    temp1:       -128.0 C  

    Adapter: ISA adapter
    Physical id 0:  +51.0 C  (high = +86.0 C, crit = +100.0 C)
    Core 0:         +49.0 C  (high = +86.0 C, crit = +100.0 C)
    Core 1:         +51.0 C  (high = +86.0 C, crit = +100.0 C)

    [amilkowski@localhost ~]$ 

  • colbyj

    Just for reference, I booted up my U400 into Windows the other day to play Diablo 3 and the fan spun continuously there as well. Kind of leads me to believe it’s a hardware/firmware issue.

  • Michael Fitzen

    Hi and thanks for this manual. Is it required to repeat the last steps (ON/IGD/OFF) after every reboot?

    And another question: How can i disable right-click on double tap? I would like to use the touchpad like in windows. left click->left part of touch pad ; right click -> right part of touchpad? Is there any solution for this?

    • colbyj

      Yes, you have to repeat the last steps every reboot. It should be possible to have a script that runs and executes them for you on start up, but it’s not something I’ve looked into at all.

      Sorry, but I have no idea on the touchpad question. Mine seems to behave the same in Linux as it does in Windows.

    • Michael Fitzen

      Hi colbyj!
      The touchpad thing is really bugging me. I also can´t disable it.

      To avoid run above commands after a reboot i now have a solution:
      Open Terminal and type

      gksudo gedit /etc/rc.local

      In this file add the 3 echo lines right before “exit 0″ and save the file. Now these commands run automatically on startup.

    • colbyj

      Hey, neat! I knew it wouldn’t be too hard to figure out but it never bothered me. I’ll have to try that out, thanks.

    • Michael Fitzen


      In the meantime i recognized something weird. Sometimes the script started well, but if i play a video file or start a game it seems that the script stops working and the fan is spinning all the time again. Do you have any idea why this is happening?

    • colbyj

      I would almost be prepared to say that that’s normal. This laptop can get pretty hot when you’re pushing it to it’s limit.

    • Michael Fitzen

      The problem isnt the spinning fan. The problem is, that the radeon card seems to turned on by itself. I use PSensors to watch temperatures. When radeon is deactivated through the script PSensors shows me a constant temperature of -128°C for this card (because its turned off). But sometimes the card seems to be activated in the background again (without my doing). PSensors then shows normal temperatures (around 50 or 60°C) 

  • evuraan evuraan

     hello, does its microphone work for you? could pls clarify?


    • colbyj

      What is it you want me to clarify? And I’m not in a position to test the microphone right now, so I can’t comment. I’ve temporarily swapped in my original hard drive with Windows on it so I could let others play Diablo 3 on it.

    • evuraan evuraan

      I wanted to know whether Lenovo u400′s mic work under linux.

      For me, it does not work, on precise. (12.04 LTS) . Thanks nevertheless for your response.

    • Zahra

      For me, the microphone works in Ubuntu (12.04) but the sound is very weak. In windows it’s ok.

  • Pingback: Lenovo IdeaPad U400 – Weil´s so schön ist… |

  • Michael Fitzen


    Another question related to ubuntu 12.04 and the lenovo u400: Fullscreen video playback and fullscreen flash animations causing the u400 to reboot. I dont know why this happens. Sometimes it reboots after 5 minutes of playback, sometimes after 40 minutes… Any idea? On askubuntu someone reported the same issue but with proprietary ati drivers enabled. I don´t have them activated but also this problem. :(

    • colbyj

      Is the laptop hot when it reboots? (or is it reporting that it’s hot?)

      I can do fullscreen video playback for hours without any issues on my U400, ATI card disabled. I’m running Xubuntu, so it’s possible that it’s the combination of 3d-rendered desktop effects and fullscreen flash that’s causing the issue.

    • Michael Fitzen

      No, it´s not hot. Temperatures between 40 and 50°C. Today i´ve done a complete reinstallation of ubuntu. That seems to fix it. I could watch 2 full length movies without a reboot. I didn´t tried flash yet. Maybe something went wrong with the previous installation…