Lenovo ThinkCentre M720q: Upgrade

In order to be able to look at schematics etc. during repair and soldering sessions I recommissioned my old monitor months ago and connected it to my main PC that sits on a seperate bench. That solution kind of worked, but going back and forth between different monitors on different benches was a bit impractical. Also, I wanted to connect all my remotely controllable instruments to a separate computer – until now, I used an old ThinkPad for that.

Then I came across an affordable, (still old but…) more modern platform to run both tasks on: A Lenovo ThinkCentre M720q, equipped with an Intel Core i5-8400T (6 cores, 6 threads), 8GB of DDR4-2666 RAM, a 256GB 2.5″ SSD and a Windows license. I immediately liked the design of the ThinkCentre that was surely inspired by the long dead IBM ThinkPad series, at least to some extent. More importantly though, the 8th gen processor allows for installing Windows 11. (And yes, I use Windows here – in my opinion it’s a just more convenient desktop environment with all the hardware and software running out of the box.)

ThinkCentre M720q with the top cover and the 2.5″ SSD cage removed. 12V, 0.8A, or in other words almost 10W for this fan?

The plan was to upgrade the system to 16GB of RAM and to use a 1TB M.2 NVMe SSD that was mostly idling in my main PC as a secondary drive.

However, the Windows 11 setup failed multiple times to install Windows on the NVMe SSD, showing various error codes in the process, but not locking up the system once. I suspected the USB stick with the Windows setup since it gave me trouble before, but the problem remained with a different stick.

Removing the bottom panel exposes both available SODIMM slots as well as the single M.2 slot. (The board has a provision for a second M.2 slot, but the connector is not populated in my variant.)

I finally figured out that the original Lenovo 8GB module (made by Samsung) must have been at fault: With a new 8GB module (Crucial, DDR4-3200; DDR4-2666 would have sufficed) replacing the old one the setup went smoothly. After the installation was completed the system did boot without any problem, even with the faulty RAM installed. However, a memory test confirmed my suspicion very quickly, so I ordered and installed another Crucial memory module.

The Intel Core i5-8400T with six cores and six threads. New thermal paste was applied to decrease the core temperature and hopefully fan noise.

The system is now up and running with all updates completed, including new thermal paste for the CPU. The ThinkCentre is audible, but surpisingly quiet, even under heavy load. For a certain load condition I observed the fan speed to oscillate, but that doesn’t seem to happen too often.





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