‘We have not confirmed any instance of Vanguard bricking anyone’s hardware’ following its League of Legends rollout, Riot says, but there are definitely problems for some players

In response to multiple complaints of hardware failure following the rollout of its Vanguard anti-cheat software to League of Legends, Riot Games says it has “not confirmed any instance of Vanguard bricking anyone’s hardware” but acknowledged that some BIOS settings could be causing headaches for a small number of players.

The controversial Vanguard anti-cheat software has been live in Riot’s shooter Valorant since the game launched in 2020, but it didn’t come to League of Legends until earlier this week, as part of the 14.9 patch. Reports of serious trouble quickly followed: Players said their PCs were crashing, stuck in reboot loops, and in some cases “bricked”—rendered completely inoperable—following the update.

In response to the complaints, Riot said on Reddit that “overall, the rollout has gone well,” and that “fewer than 0.03% of players have reported issues with Vanguard.” It also said that after resolving “a few of the major threads” about PCs being bricked, it has confirmed that Vanguard wasn’t actually the cause.

“About ~0.7% of the playerbase bypassed Microsoft’s enforcement for TPM 2.0 when they installed Windows 11, but the rollout of Vanguard requires that those players now enable it to play the game,” Riot said. “This requires a change to a BIOS setting, which differs based on the manufacturer. Vanguard does not and cannot make changes to the BIOS itself.”

TPM (Trusted Platform Module) 2.0 is a security feature that was made mandatory for Windows 11—sort of. There was initially confusion about whether “older” PCs would support it and if TPM 2.0 was actually required at all ahead of the Windows 11 rollout, and then Microsoft muddied the waters further by telling people how to bypass it completely while upgrading from Windows 10 to Win11. As we noted at the time, the whole thing was confusing and frustrating, but it did open an avenue to a Windows 11 upgrade for people who didn’t have, or didn’t enable, TPM 2.0 support on their PCs.

Unfortunately, that avenue has now led here. Microsoft allowed people to bypass TPM 2.0, but Riot will not: The League of Legends support page states that “if TPM 2.0 is disabled in Windows 11, League of Legends will not properly launch, and players will be greeted with a VAN9001 error.”

Complaints about hardware being bricked are a rare occurrence that arises from a couple of very specific scenarios, according to Riot. Many motherboard manufacturers prompt users to switch to UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) mode when TPM 2.0 is enabled, but if your Windows 11 install is on an MBR (Master Boot Record) partition, it will not boot when that switch is made: To support UEFI mode, Windows 11 must be installed on a GPT (GUID Partition Table) partition. The good news is, Microsoft offers a free tool that will convert MBR disks to GPT in most cases without requiring a reformat.

There’s also an issue with Secure Boot, a technology meant to ensure that unvalidated software and firmware won’t load. Vanguard uses the Secure Boot feature for Valorant but Riot opted not to enable it for Vanguard in League, because so many players of that game have older PCs (don’t forget, League has been around since 2009) which have Secure Boot compatibility problems. 

As an example, Riot said that if a GPU’s option ROM isn’t signed, enabling Secure Boot—as at least one player apparently did—will prevent it from rendering anything. If that happens, the only solutions are to connect your monitor to your integrated graphics card (if you have one) and then disable Secure Boot in the BIOS, or to pull your CMOS battery in order to reset everything back to default settings.

As an old-timer this all has a very “yes, PC gaming” vibe to it, but for anyone not familiar with the joys of wrangling jumpers to avoid IRQ conflicts (ie., most people), it’s a very real roadblock (and annoyance) to run into one of these issues. Finding solutions is a challenge in itself, especially if your PC isn’t working, and even when potential fixes are found, fiddling with BIOS settings and yoinking CMOS batteries aren’t things that everyone is going to be comfortable doing. As one redditor put it in response to Riot’s guidance, “Holy hell, how is a regular player supposed to understand this?”

(Image credit: LSXYZ9 (Twitter))

Riot actually addressed this possibility a few weeks ago in a blog post ahead of Vanguard’s arrival in League, saying that while Microsoft’s enforcement of the TPM 2.0 requirement in Windows 11 is “relatively weak and easily bypassable.” Riot opted to be more serious about it: “So, a select few Windows 11 users may find their ability to play League is impacted,” Riot wrote, “especially if you modified registry keys to bypass this requirement.”

And there’s apparently no intention of walking it back. In response to a player who said their only option to continue playing League is to either downgrade to Windows 10 or buy a whole new PC, Riot said simply, “It is required to have TPM 2.0 enabled on Windows 11.”

As for why Riot has opted to add a new and very unpopular anti-cheat technology to a 15-year-old game, the studio said in the pre-release blog post that while League “is a fairly secure videogame,” scripting is a persistent problem: Globally, 1 in 15 games were found to have a botter or scripter in it in recent months, and Riot said that percentage is much higher in some regions. 

“Increased client security and less scripting means that the League team will be able to leverage more mechanically rewarding designs, like combos, timing windows, and executes,” Riot said. “Ranked statistics won’t be as poisoned by scripters, facilitating easier balancing of high risk-and-reward champions, and games ruined by cheaters can eventually be ‘undone,’ returning LP to those affected.

“I know it’s hard to be delighted about new anti-cheat, but this is the hardest part. It’s only up and to the right from here.” Well, for most players, anyway.

In the same thread, Riot said Vanguard “does not take a screenshot of your whole computer/multiple monitors,” although it will take a shot of game clients “for suspicious activity related to ESP hacks,” something it said almost all anti-cheat software does and that’s in full compliance with regional privacy laws.

I’ve reached out to Riot for more information on how it aims to address these problems going forward and will update if I receive a reply.

PCGamer.com