T60p Repair

I opened up my old T60p for some repairs the other night, just posting to share what I did now that I’m reasonably certain it worked. The objective of this project was to do something about the relatively high temperatures and annoying buzzing noise coming from the cooling system. This particular machine is on it’s third cooling assembly (the assembly was replaced twice under warranty), and based on comments on from other owners, thermal issues and rattling fans are endemic to the model, mostly thanks to a few poor design decisions.
The surgery:

  • * Oiled (I used BSB Speed Bearings Lube, which is probably Sililcone oil with some adulterants to make it Shear thinning) the fan assembly, basically following msb0b’s guide. The only major deviation is that instead of cutting the aluminized tape, I just used it as a hinge and folded back the jacket. I also note that there is some foam insulation tape on my heatsink assemby, presumably added in later manufactured asssemblies to help with vibrations.
  • * Bent (compound bend) the heatpipe to lower the GPU section about 2mm, as some of the folks in this thread suggest. Basically, I put some thermal paste on the GPU, and bent and reseated until the contact area was appropriate. I was a little afraid bending the heatpipe would harm it (efficiency wise), or crack it from metal fatigue, but nothing was damaged and the contact is better. This is a logical fix- those thermal pads never provide very good conductivity, particularly where they are reasonably thick.
  • * Replaced the CPU thermal compound and GPU thermal pad with Arctic Silver Ceramique (my favorite for almost all thermal-conductivity needs). I left the thermal pad on the north-bridge intact, as there don’t seem to be any major thermal issues with that component, and the pad over it wasn’t damaged.

Based on some cursory tests, the system is running cooler (Both overall and CPU-GPU delta) than it did even with a new cooling assembly. Idle, I’m seeing 43/41c (5-10 degree reduction), and a half-assed “Stress Test” running SupCom for a few minutes only produced temps in the low 80s, with the GPU about 5deg hotter than the CPU– my recollection is that the GPU tended to be in the high 90s under similar conditions, and the CPU in the mid 80s. The big win is on noise; the irritating rattle is gone, and the fan is at most a tiny bit louder than a new one, based on a procedure I should be able to replicate for free.

The wonderful thing about Thinkpads is that they are designed to be mostly user-serviceable (Lenovo cooperatively provides the service manuals as PDFs online, and even allows FRU orders), and they are very common machines, so there are lots of other people playing with them and sharing their experiences, making things like Linux support and after-market mods particularly well explored and documented. Even with the slight design issue, the T60p was a solid machine for 3.5 years, and I far prefer serviceable and working well to being unserviceable and being “slicker… until it dies”. Speaking of vendors of unserviceable hardware, I’m considering setting it up as a hackintosh (at least on one partition) just for fun when I get some time…

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