October 26, 2017

Cool it

My ancient IBM Thinkpad T42 came through another operation with only the slightest of glitches. Pouring pour new (well, used) wine into a very old bottle, I replaced the cooling fan in the ancient XP machine, now a dozen years old (keep in mind that computers age in dog years).

My workaround for the past year or so was to douse the motor with WD-40 and silicon spray every few weeks. But the bearings got so worn out that even when the motor spun up, avoiding the dreaded "Fan error" BIOS message, it sounded like an old lawnmower on its last legs.

Not to mention that the cooling efficiency went way down, turning the palmrest into a hand warmer.

Thankfully, refurbished Thinkpad fan and heatsink units can be had for around ten bucks (the T42 switched heatsink designs somewhere along the line so getting the right model matters; it can't be jury-rigged like the keyboard).

After removing enough screws to pop off the top bezel (the number of screws holding a piece of electronic equipment together is a good proxy for how old it is), the only onerous chore was blotting up all the accumulated oil. But it cleaned up nicely and the replacement heatsink fit perfectly.

I applied probably too much MX-4 thermal compound and screwed everything back together, only ending up with one extra screw (a broken thread) and piece of plastic that I couldn't figure out where it the world it belonged.

I got a "Fan error" the first time I powered it on. Removing the keyboard and spinning the fan with my finger did the trick. I imagine it'd been sitting in a warehouse for a decade and needed a nudge to the rotor awaken it from its long slumber. The fan is quiet and CPU temperature is "nominal."

In fact, the palmrest is so much cooler now I suspect the thermal compound dried out more than a few years ago (removing the heatsink from the CPU required zero effort), turning the CPU into a space heater, which in turn cooked the fan bearings.

The Thinkpad still faces the same problems as my old Windows 95 machine. It runs fine but is short on hard disc space and struggles to handle basic browsing tasks. Office isn't an issue, but some websites can take minutes to fully load. HD video and HTML5 kill it dead in its tracks.

But like my equally ancient Ford, I'm driving this faithful old clunker until the wheels fall off (not literally, I hope).

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