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Doubling the memory in IBM Thinkpad T30 with a Soldering Iron

By robo_dev ·
I am preparing two IBM Thinkpads to give to less fortunate families at the moment, reloading the OS, putting in new batteries, buying power supplies, etc.

Each had 256MB RAM, which is not really enough to run XP very well.

When I looked at the memory chips in the machines, all ready to buy more RAM on ebay, I was surprised to find that they both had 512MB already installed (two 256 DIMMs).

The BIOS reported 256MB, and by swapping memory out and testing, I determined that the second memory socket was not working in either laptop.

It turns out, IBM had a slight problem with the solder connections breaking on the motherboard where the second memory slot connector is attached on the T30. (a major recall for IBM).

So the issue on both machines was that the solder connections between the second RAM socket and the motherboard were cracked. The cracks are very difficult to see, unless you have a stereo microscope handy.

Under very bright light with a 10x lupe you can see some very slight roughness or crustiness on some of the joints where there should be shiny solder, but it's not obvious.

The unusual (and good) design is that you can do the solder re-work on these sockets without taking the laptop apart at all, other than removing the memory slot cover.

So, a couple dabs of rosin flux from the flux-pen, some careful close-up re-work with my Weller ESD-safe soldering iron, and ten minutes later bingo, two laptops with 512MB.

There are about 100 pins on each side of the connector, yet more solder was not needed, just a touch with the soldering iron to re-flow the solder.

While the completely correct SMD re-work method would be to pre-heat the board and use a hot-air pencil and some solder paste, this seemed to re-flow reasonably well as-is.

Few IT hardware repairs are this simple, fast, and easy.

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Sweet!

by seanferd In reply to Doubling the memory in IB ...

I know someone who is going to attempt similar with an XBox. Of course, there is no knowing which joints are cracked. There are so many!

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The problem with devices such as the Xbox

by robo_dev In reply to Doubling the memory in IB ...

is that they run VERY hot. These devices are small, so they do not get much airflow, and they try to make them quiet, so they have a wimpy little fan.

Even if the initial build quality is good, and the component quality is good, the thermal stress of going from 20C to 60C will cause all the solder connections to expand and contract until they start breaking.

So the tip here is to keep the dust out and make sure the unit has plenty of cool air available. If you want one of these devices to last longer, add a third-party cooling stand, extra fans, whatever it takes. This is true for laptops, external drives, Xbox, Wii, whatever.

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Yup.

by seanferd In reply to The problem with devices ...

So, is the initial build quality good these days? Good to know, I suppose, aside from the poor cooling design....

I told the dude to get a couple Antec cooling devices for his lappy and the xbox. I'm not sure whether that would have helped my neighbor, whose xbox actually erupted in flames. :0

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