Replace the PSU in my Lenovo, or junk this POS?
April 22, 2016 10:11 PM   Subscribe

Lately my Lenovo G510 has been restarting when I move it. A little research suggests it's a bad power supply unit. This machine is less than two years old, but it's never worked that well and I don't know if it's worth another repair or if I should just get a new laptop.

In 2014 I needed a new computer. I was broke, but I scraped all my pennies together, spent months shopping around to find a model that would be perfect for me, and bought a Lenovo G510 for $500+. I have never been thrilled with it. From day one it acted like an old machine, kind of slow and clunky, with keys that fell off and other problems I'd associate with a much older laptop. I already had to send it off for a few repairs, and it is now out of warranty.

These days I could afford a new laptop if need be, but I wouldn't want to spend much more than I did last time and it is galling to even think about having to replace this damn thing so soon. But previous experience suggests that getting this thing repaired will get expensive in a hurry, and I am really not thrilled about the prospect of spending another $100+ on a machine that already felt a little creaky when it was brand new.

I think the restarts are happening as I accidentally squeeze the machine on the lower left as part of moving it, or else it's when I move it too suddenly. (The error log keeps saying Event 41, the source Kernel Power, and when I run CPUID HWMonitor I don't see anything weird happening with the temp et al.) I'm not sure it's the PSU, but that's what keeps coming up when I research event 41 and it would fit this behavior.

If this is indeed the Lenovo's PSU, can anybody tell me what it may cost to repair/replace? Is it worth doing, or should I just sell this damn thing on Ebay and put that amount toward a new computer?
posted by Ursula Hitler to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
I should add that this isn't a repair I'm prepared to do myself, so I'd have to take it to a shop.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 11:23 PM on April 22, 2016

The build quality on the newer cheap Lenovos is not wonderful - however, there are a couple of older models that were built to older designs which, if you're not sworn off Lenovo for ever, are great.

I have a ThinkPad X220 and while it's a model that was brand new in 2011, it still works just fine for my needs - it's got a relatively modern i5 processor and 8GB RAM, and handles modern web pages and software without an issue. The only weak point in 2016 is the graphics chip - it's perfectly fine for watching HD iPlayer/Netflix/etc, but modern games won't work well.

It is built like a tank, the wi-fi works well, the battery lasts eight hours, I haven't had a problem with the hardware in Linux (if that's important to you) and the keyboard is the first laptop keyboard I've been able to do a lot of typing on comfortably, and it seems like it's pretty readily upgradeable/repairable - things like the disk drive and RAM are under just a couple of screws.

The best part is that they're (at least in this country) readily available second hand as enterprises throw them out after they get to a certain age. I got mine refurbished and tested from eBay for £200, with an SSD and RAM upgrade thrown in. It's definitely the best laptop I've ever had - it's a real shame how Lenovo have gone downhill so fast, from making good durable machines like this to selling throwaway consumer gadget crap.
posted by winterhill at 12:10 AM on April 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

I had exactly the same problem with my last Lenovo: it would crash and restart when the case was pressed a certain way, usually when I was picking it up. This is not a fault that will go away, and if you're not happy with your tools then you won't do your best work. I got a comparable Asus, and a Bluetooth keyboard for my phone, and I'm twice as productive as I was before.
posted by Hogshead at 1:55 AM on April 23, 2016

If it is the PSU it's a little bit of a pain to change. It's not too hard to do it yourself, usually. I've swapped out all sorts of stuff on various laptops-- optical drive, RAM, screens, keyboards, HDDs... some were easier than others, it depends on how they built that model. But it could be a number of things, not necessarily the PSU. As for repair cost; some places will charge a pretty penny just to open it-- I saw about 70-100 for a PSU repair for your model but I've heard of places that charge that much just to open it. Personally? I'd just find something you'd be happy with, because even if you fix it, the issues will still be there.

Does it need to be a laptop? You'll get more bang for your buck with a desktop, they usually work better-- less prone to overheating, they are much easier for you to fix yourself if need be, and the parts are often easier to find, more interchangeable and cheaper. They're also usually easier to upgrade and tend to last me longer because of this. That said, I'm partial to using laptops, because of convenience, so I understand if it's not possible. I've tried Asus, Acer, Dell, HP/Compaq over the years, and the truth is, it's kind of a crapshoot sometimes, because all computers have their flaws, and there's always a component that's a weakest link, and some were better than others. I probably wouldn't recommend Acer, as both I had were sluggish and full of bloat, but I also liked the Asus I had. Dell was ok, and I've had the most consistent luck with HPs. I've actually heard good things about Lenovo, but perhaps they were older models as winterhill suggests.

But the two best laptops I've ever had have both been custom made through vendors that specialize in custom PCs. They were cheaper and had more firepower than your average branded build, and didn't come with any bloatware. The place I bought mine from often has sales and refurbished models for a bit cheaper. I got mine in January last year. Mine was 1k USD, is technically a gaming laptop and was just under the top of the line at the time. It has a quad core i7 and 16GB RAM. It's not perfect by any means (a lot of my issues stem from bugs with Windows 10 though) and it's not ideal for gaming (overheating) but it works pretty great and I can play most games with slightly lowered settings on the graphics card. The SSD was nice too. I've had no problems with it. There is downsides though, a custom laptop can be very caveat emptor-- there's no way to test it beforehand, or see it in store, check the screen quality, etc, and they hate change of mind returns. Also, some custom build places over-charge for parts and labor so you have to be careful. Still, they are the two laptops I've gotten the most use out of and they have suffered the least problems, and when I need to upgrade, I'd buy custom again, although probably a desktop instead so I can get my own peripherals and re-use my screen, etc.

Sorry for the length. Good luck with it!
posted by Dimes at 9:57 AM on April 23, 2016

I also recommend a used Thinkpad. It's not that Lenovo makes shitty laptops all around now any more than they did 5 years ago, it's that all the engineering effort goes into the X and T series while the lower end models are just slapped together.

A 2015 X1 Carbon is about as good as it gets in terms of build quality, low mass, speed, and battery life, but is way way way out of your price range. An off lease X220 or T420/520 would be easier on the budget and do what you need no problem. (And will easily last 5 years or more with little trouble)

That said, Lenovo does publish the hardware maintenance manuals for all of the computers they sell on their website. They also sell the parts to anyone who asks, so self-repair is totally feasible if you are at all mechanically inclined.

I'm assuming it is out of warranty and you've checked that the cost of extending the warranty, which you can do even after the warranty is up, just for a higher price, is more than the cost of repair or a new laptop

BTW, when my T60p did something similar to what you're seeing, it was actually a loose battery. A crumb had gotten stuck in the slot on the battery that holds it in place when inserted into the laptop and was preventing the power connection from fully seating, so when it was jostled in a certain way, whoops, reboot!
posted by wierdo at 11:26 AM on April 23, 2016

It could also be a crack in some part of the motherboard, which gets activated by the mobo flexing when you pick it up. I just bought a Lenovo G series - not an impressive machine, but wildly on sale and within my budget. The old laptop met a sad end involving water. Lots of water.

IF you keep it, seriously consider making sure it has at least 8 gb of RAM.
You night be able to get the thing looked at to see what the trouble is for not too much; I'd probably do that.

My previous laptop was a thinkpad T540P; I bumped the RAM to 8 and it was just fine. I bought it as a refurb, probably a leased model. Lenovo outlet has a changing selection. Newegg has sales, get on their newsletter for pretty decent deals. Buy RAM from them, a very easy install, not worth paying full price from Lenovo.
posted by theora55 at 12:57 PM on April 23, 2016

Thanks, folks. Good info to know.

One question raised by some of these comments: If it is the PSU (or one of these other potential problems you guys describe) how likely is it to progress to something really problematic, and how soon? Right now it only restarts when I'm moving it and either grip it too hard or move it too fast or do whatever it is I'm doing wrong. So, that's been about once a week. If it sits still it's fine and if I'm careful moving it, it's fine. I really don't relish replacing it or dealing with the expense and hassle or getting it repaired, but if it's likely to go belly-up in the near future that would motivate me to deal with it very soon.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:34 PM on April 23, 2016

According to pictures of the underside of the laptop the lower left corner of the case holds the RAM. You're probably accidentally unseating the RAM when you're holding it by pinching that corner causing the restart.

Just hold it from the other side. You could also pull the cover off and carefully reseat the RAM.
posted by Talez at 9:37 AM on April 24, 2016

Thanks for the tip Talez! I'd looked on a lot of tech support forums, and nobody mentioned the possibility of it being a RAM thing. Earlier I tested it by deliberately squeezing that part of the laptop, and it was fine a few times but then a pixel-y glitch briefly appeared onscreen and I got spooked (I spook easily) and stopped. So I think you may be on to something there.

Right now I'm trying to avoid squeezing that part of the machine when I move it. I'm not too comfortable opening up the case myself, so it if keeps restarting I guess I'll take it to some shop for a proper diagnosis.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 9:45 PM on April 24, 2016

Word of warning on the X220 from someone who has been forced to use one as their work laptop over 3 different companies. Either you love or you hate the keyboard on those things.

On the Internet, people seem to love them, everyone I've ever worked with hated them with a passion. I hate it.

If you're going to even consider buying that model then I'd recommend trying it out first.
posted by mr_silver at 10:51 AM on April 25, 2016

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