Update, November 2012: This is an archived blog post and has been salvaged from an earlier instance of this site. The contents below is outdated (July 2007). Read on your own risk.
Update: Read the followup here
My Thinkpad that I bought used a year ago has the dreaded memory slot failure that results from a design error in the memory slot design found in almost every T30 manufactured. What happens is that after some time of usage and heat generation one of the memory slots cease to function. Since the T30 only has two slots from the beginning, this severely restricts the amount of memory that can be installed now. 512 MB of Ram is getting a little to slim because I heavily use VMWare on my computer, running one guest operating system as well as my Linux host system.
IBM did replace these faulty motherboards for a time, warranty or not, but that service ceased in the middle of 2005. Since the warranty on the machine expired in May 2006 and I bought it in August, I’m a bit annoyed of having to live with this problem. The previous owner apparently did not know about the free replacement if still under warranty.
After having spoken to a lot of support technicians on IBM/Lenovo the last week there is apparently no chance whatsoever of me getting a free/cheap motherboard replacement. I have tried to use stacked paper under the memory cover, but this does not work well enough. I finally called the Swedish spare parts office at Lenovo to find out what it would cost to replace the motherboard, just for the fun of it.
Luckily, the guy on the spare parts division was just the person I needed to talk to. This was an experienced, friendly technician who works more with the actual machines more than talking to the customers. He really knew about the problem with the model and confirmed what I had observed. He explained the problem to me:
- First, there is to little space between the memoy cover and the memory modules, not giving the modules enough space to cool
- The small space also means that having the laptop in your lap puts pressure on the memory modules themselves
- There is a minor design error in the hard drive sled which is located just above the memory that also contributes to overheating
- There is a blue plastic shock damper deep inside the computer that puts too much pressure on the memory modules from underneath, eventually loosening the solders between the memory slot and the motherboard.
He told me that what I could do is to get the machine to an experienced solderer to solder up the connectors on the motherboard. He pointed out the group of connectors that is affected. The problem can be seen if looked through a magnifying glass and pushing on the memory slot. Let the solderer put on quite a lot of solder, preferably of the lead-based type and not the silver-based one since lead makes the solder more soft and flexible. He also sent me the new type of hard disk sled and a new design memory cover for free!
This solution will last some time, but the main culprit is the blue plastic shock damper. Even with a re-soldered motherboard it will just be a matter of time until the solders get loose again. What really should be done is to take apart the whole machine to get deep inside, remove the plastic shock and put it all back again. He told me it would be a big job to do, and since the machine probably will last another two years without it. Still, I’m not sure what to do here.
For all of you out there who have a malfunctioning T30, there is still hope outside the warranty. If your warranty is out; Sorry, no free replacement form the support team. Document MIGR-44772 does no longer exist on the Lenovo servers since they apparantly have removed it. (MIGR-44772 was an internal IBM/Lenovo document describing that the T30 owner shoud get a free repair).
Most of all I am happy that I was able to speak to a guy at the spare parts division that really knows what he is talking about, and that he sent me these parts for free. He even gave me the address to a local shop here in Västerås that is really good at doing these soldering jobs for a low price.
This afternoon I am going to the shop to check out what they can do. Right after that I am buying myself a new battery that my job pays for. Finally being able to work unplugged! Wee!