Lenovo ThinkPad W520 Saga

Posted by Paul Braren on Sep 15 2011 (updated on Dec 10 2012) in
  • Laptop
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  • thinkpadw520saga

    I'm very happy to have finally received my ThinkPad W520.  Set original preload drive aside for a bit, to play with Windows 8 Developer Preview for a bit fun first, seen here:

    Now back to getting this laptop ready for work.

    1) Memory
    I needed to upgrade to 16GB, figured I'd get the slightly faster Kingston SO-DIMMs, and yep, they work (at the faster speed)!

    Was a bit tough to get the keyboard lifted to remove the one of the two 4GB DIMMs it came with. Putting these tight-fitting 4 SO-DIMMs in all 4 slots, I had to manually slide the little retainers, as their a bit thick, but they work great, using two 2x4GB kits, the Kingston KHX1600C9S3P1K2/8G
    I have "davidhbrown" to thank for knowing it'd work ahead of time, note he's from, appropriately enough, Kingston, RI:

    2) Disk drive
    My trusty 2nd generation, stable firmware Kingston SSDNow V+100SSD 96GB drive works fine, and sure boots fast (about 10 seconds for Lenovo POST, then another 10 for Windows 8).  But I had a new, venerable Sanforce SF-2200 controller based Corsair SATA 3 60GB Force GT SSD to test (for another project, probably Intel RST or LSI RAID caching).  And I figured I'd slip it into the W520 and flash it with a boot CD.  I figured wrong.  So begins many a story!

    Trying to install Windows 8 beta and Windows 7, the system wouldn't even finish POST (booting).  Flashed Lenovo BIOS 1.30 from Aug 30 2011, better, finishes POST and boots from Windows 7 install media.  But when Windows 7 (or Windows 8 ) goes to format the SSD, it hangs.  Time to pull the Corsair out and flash to latest BIOS in my Z68 based system, using Intel SATA port instead of Marvell SATA port.  Yep, it matters (can't flash from Marvell ports), and nope, there's no simple boot CD out there to simply flash the Corsair, so I needed a system with an operating system already, and an available SATA port, to get from firmware 1.2 to 1.3.  An hour later, I'm there on 1.3, confirmed the old-school way, checking the drive properties in device manager.

    Next, I put the Corsair SSD back into the ThinkPad W520 and try again.  Boo, it still hangs.  Sometimes with the common 0x80070570 error about "Windows cannot install required files"

    Scouring Corsair forums begining with the Firmware Update Ver 1.3 page, it looks like it's time for a secure wipe using Parted Magic using this procedure http://blog.corsair.com/?p=4484

    Also found some really interesting tales here at these 3 sites:
    mSATA SSD Success! (and info)
    "Delivering fast boot times in Windows 8" by Steven Sinofsky 8 Sep 2011 7:00 PM
    W520: Clean WIN7 install w/ UEFI and GPT Questions

    mSATA with speed sounds great (but costly):

    Visit this site again, many more details & revisions to come!

    Next stop, how to move 1TB of data for my D: drive.  I currently have a Dynamic Volume that is made of two 500GB drives in a software RAID0, and I need to copy this to a single 1TB 2.5" drive, but how?

    This looks promising:

    here's a video showing how much faster and more efficient the W520 is at rendering video:

    Dec. 09 2012:
    Happy ending to this saga, seen here:

    How to enjoy Windows 8 on your Lenovo ThinkPad W520 laptop, with 3 external monitors, and an external keyboard and mouse