My laptop died… Now what?




Last week when I opened my mid-2012 MacBook Pro I was greeted with question mark icon. From this I made fast diagnostic and I bought a new SSD, but it did not do any difference. Maybe the problem is the motherboard or SATA-cable?

I decided to buy a new laptop. Requirements were low price and good quality. These two do not usually meet. But from my work I had experience with Lenovo laptops. There is a large market of second hand Lenovo business computers, Thinkpads. Thinkpads are well made and durable business laptops. From a Finnish online flea market, I found a local seller of Lenovo laptops and made an appointment and bought a Lenovo Thinkpad T420. Now I had an old Thinkpad but there was room for improvements.

Here is the list of materials and components I purchased for the upgrade:

Lenovo Thinkpad T420 200€

Kingston V400 SSD 150€

Kingston 4GB DDR3 SODIMM 29€

Total: 379€

Memory upgrade

Memory slots are located at the bottom and under the keyboard. Upgrading memory was easy by removing the battery,  opening the door at the bottom and installing ram stick into the empty slot. It’s possible to upgrade the memory to 16gb by using two 8gb SODIMMs. But I only need 8gb so adding an another 4gb SODIMM is enough. The second memory slot is located under the keyboard.




SSD upgrade

Traditional mechanical hard drives are slow. To have more responsive and faster system I replaced the HDD with an SSD. The hard drive is located on the side. The door is secured with one screw. Under the door, there is the hard drive in a caddy. Replacing the drive was easy by pulling the caddy out and replace the drive in the caddy and sliding it back.




The software

After installing memory and SSD I installed Linux Mint. I don’t do gaming and my main use is office applications (Libre Office) and a web browser. The Windows and OSX platforms also feel a bit restricted compared to what Linux Mint can offer. In Linux Mint everything worked out of the box except the fingerprint reader. I made some adjustments to SSD management, made fingerprint reader working with Fingerprint GUI, installed Thinkfan to manage the loud fan, installed and configured TLP and Powertop to better manage power consumption. I also had an old mini dock in stock to attach monitor, mouse, keyboard, external hard drive and speakers.


Upcoming upgrades

Thinkpad T420 has a DVD-drive but there isn’t that much use for it. I ordered an HDD/SDD caddy for the drive bay from Aliexpress. I will replace the DVD-drive with the old mechanical hard drive to get more storage. It’s also annoying how the DVD-drive pops out time to time when I accidentally press it.



Thoughts after a one week

Lenovo T420 works surprisingly well, the system is snappy and there are all the connections needed. The hardware feels solid and price versus quality ratio is good. The keyboard is excellent for typing, better than in MacBook. There are some minuses: Battery life could be better, the screen has little bit narrow viewing angles and the trackpad is small, there is no USB3 (except in the dock). In the end: used, old Thinkpad delivers better user experience than new lower priced laptops and for the same price or even cheaper (my opinion).


Originally posted 2017-01-15 19:23:06.

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