Should I fix my thinkpad?
October 4, 2007 8:33 AM   Subscribe

Should I/Can I get my Thinkpad repaired

Hi there,

I have a Thinkpad T41 that I bought new about 4 years ago. It's had a somewhat rough life. It's been in my backpack for most of those 4 years. I fell on it once and the camera (metal body) in my backpack destroyed the LCD. I got the part and replaced it myself. Not fun but it worked.

I've had to send it back to IBM repeatedly for the same problem. It will just die, suddenly, no warning. Won't start up, totally dead. That's happened probably 3 times under warranty. The last time they ended up having it for about a week. I think they said something about a "powering harness" or something like that. Which sounds like it makes sense.

The warranty expired and then a month later (of course) the same thing happened. I had a 3 year warranty. I decided it was better off dead. I pulled the hard drive out of it and built another computer (desktop) and got all my files off it. I still have the hard drive in a little USB case.

I was intending to buy another laptop at some point, but I'm realizing right now I just don't have the money to blow. But I also realize I kinda need a laptop.

I'm a photographer and live in a rural area, so at minimum I need a laptop to download memory cards to and work with on location. The T41 was minimally adequate for that. Very slow to process images. But I would be delighted to have it back just for backing up my cards when away from home.

So I'm wondering, is there somewhere that would fix this computer, perhaps better than IBM fixed it? Everything else is good, the hard drive still works (I think I might have misplaced a few mounting screws however). It's not worth it to lay out a ton of money for me, but it is a pretty good computer. I just would hope to not have it break the same way again.

I'm not sure if there are reliable Laptop repair situations available online.

posted by sully75 to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
If it's now 4 years old, your best bet might be selling it on eBay for parts, and buying something newer. You don't have to necessarily get 'new', but I'm not sure you're going to get away with less than a couple hundred bucks for repair (best case), which would pay for almost half of a brand new Dell starter.

I've shopped around some of the online repair services, most that seemed anything like reputable had a flt fee to diagnose, and then that fee was applied to the final cost if you finished the repair. Most places this ranges between $50 and $150.

I'm the king of hording old machines and building frankensteins (currently using a 3-4 year old Dell running Ubuntu, assembled from parts of 3 identical machines), but unless you have good access to someone with a stock of T41's, you may be better off saving up for something new. You might find a T41 on eBay that had a different problem than yours and combine them, but at some point it's just not worth the effort.
posted by pupdog at 9:01 AM on October 4, 2007

I doubt that hiring somebody to fix a 4 year old laptop will be cost effective.

I would think the only way you'll be able to fix your thinkpad economically is to try to fix it yourself. Googling "powering harness" only points to your question here (damn, that's fast), so I suspect the part is called something else. You can download a parts list and a disassembly guide from the Lenovo site. This might give you a better idea of the scope of your repair.

You talk about wanting to back up your memory cards. Why not just buy a few spares?

When you're able to buy another laptop, my only advice is to stick with Thinkpads.
posted by SteveInMaine at 9:42 AM on October 4, 2007

What you might try is actually calling IBM and telling them about the laptop issue and that you have had it in many times during your 3 year warranty for the same issue. You and / or they should have paper work to back that up. Tell them it was obviously a reoccurring issue that was never properly resolved and see where they go with it. You may even ask to speak with a higher level support rep to get a final decision out of them.

If that does not work, I would have to suggest scrapping the idea to have this laptop repaired. I understand you are kind of strapped for cash right now, but have you seen the laptops that Wal-Mart has right now? Pretty decently priced for what they are offering. You may even be able to get $50 or so for the laptop that is out of commission if you find the right person on Craigslist (probably a laptop repair geek).
posted by B(oYo)BIES at 9:45 AM on October 4, 2007

This one is actually pretty decent for under $500.

The only thing I don't like about it is that it comes with Vista.
posted by B(oYo)BIES at 9:49 AM on October 4, 2007

Try googling [ "power harness" and laptop], instead of "powering harness." Agree, however, that repair is prob not cost effective.
posted by Kevin S at 9:53 AM on October 4, 2007

Speaking anecdotally, they're built to last. I'm writing this on a Thinkpad 240 that I bought refurbished in 1999. It's on its second LCD but apart from that there've been no problems, and I'm glad to have it.
posted by Eater at 11:01 AM on October 4, 2007

FYI if you send it to IBM to get it repaired, It's gonna cost you in the several hundreds of dollars...
posted by stratastar at 11:59 AM on October 4, 2007

Have your checked the T41 hardware maintenance manual or the Service and troubleshooting guide to see if anything in there is helpful? It might be that you can fix it yourself for the cost of your time and parts.

Note: if the above links are dead in the future, you can navigate into support from to get to the manuals (after selecting machine type, model, etc).
posted by doorsnake at 12:20 PM on October 4, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the replies.

The reason I've avoided getting a different laptop is because I'm afraid I'll bust it in short order. Even though the T41 is inadequate power wise, the metal case is pretty tough. If I hadn't had all the problems with it, it would be perfect.

Well, thanks all for your help.

posted by sully75 at 12:46 PM on October 4, 2007

You might want to visit this site and ask if there is someone who would be willing to fix it at a reasonable cost - there are some pretty knowledgeable people there who might be able to help you
posted by DonM at 4:01 PM on October 4, 2007

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