Michael Andrew Ellis

Writings, Homilies, and Parthian Shots

11 Aug 2022

Replacing Fan in ThinkPad x220

The Problem

In June 2020, I bought a used Lenovo ThinkPad x220 off eBay. I upgraded the BIOS to the latest version, switched out the SSD drive for a bigger one, popped in an mSATA SSD drive for more storage, increased the RAM to 16GB, added some USB ports, and installed Slackware Linux. Despite being ancient (the x220s came out in 2011 or so), the laptop has run great and fulfilled my needs.

Then a couple weeks ago, the fan started making weird noises and the laptop began crashing from overheating. Evidently, when it starts running hot, it automatically hibernates. I researched the issue and found out that I needed to replace the fan. In a desktop, this might have been easy, but this was a laptop! Not only that, but I learned that in order to switch the fan out, I would need to take the laptop completely apart to lift the motherboard out and access the fan.

I had become very attached to this laptop and didn’t want to mess it up. I wasn’t sure if I trusted myself. I called up a local computer repair shop and asked how much it would be if they replaced the fan for me if I brought them the part. They said that because of the complexity of the process, it would be $120 at least. I didn’t want to spend that much to do what the guy in the video did within 15 minutes, so I decided I would try it.

The Tear Down

I set up my table and grabbed my tools. I watched this video by Yanko Goshev on my daughter’s Windows computer and followed each step exactly. Since the testimony of two witnesses is so important, I supplemented Mr. Goshev’s video with this one by KrupsFilms.

Bare ThinkPad x220

Bare ThinkPad x220

It was exhilarating and nerve-wracking. The trickiest part was applying the thermal paste and affixing the fan apparatus to the CPU. I then watched the first video backwards by steps and re-assembled my laptop.

The moment of truth came. I booted up. It worked, but the fan was still making noises. After researching more, I realized that I may have put too much thermal paste on.

So I took it all apart again.

All Laid Out

All Laid Out

This time I used the finger-in-the-plastic-sandwich-bag trick to apply a thin coat of thermal paste evenly to the CPU. I put everything back together and, once again, it worked!

The only remaining problem is that the fan I got has a very small dent in the the silver casing on one side. When the laptop is level, the fan doesn’t make any noise, but when I tilt the laptop one way or another, the fan nicks that tiny bump in the casing and makes noise. I have ordered two more fans and will replace this one when I feel I have gotten enough use out of it.

Now I’m back in business and I’m keeping a close eye on the temps!

Wise words: "Always force yourself to do what you know you should do, especially when you don't feel like it."