Unlocking Hidden Potential In IvyBridge ThinkPads

Upgrading the BIOS in older computers is a great way to get a few more years of life out of old hardware or improve its performance. ThinkPads are a popular choice around these parts, but often flashing new firmware involves directly programming the chips themselves. Luckily, there’s a new flashing tool for some older Thinkpads that is much simpler.

The ThinkPads involved are the xx30 models with IvyBridge processors built around 2012, and a tool called 1vyrain now allows unlocking the bios without disassembling your computer. This means that there’s support for custom BIOS images such as coreboot, and in certain computers this also allows for overclocking, replacing WLAN hardware, and a number of other customizations. It will also allow you to disable the Intel management engine, which is not something we tire of talking about.

If you have one of these older computers floating around, some new RAM, an SSD, and this update will get you well on your way to a computer that feels brand new at virtually no cost, and the upgrades to the BIOS that you can easily make now only add to that. ThinkPads are a popular choice, especially for their hardware, but you do need to make sure that the software on them is trustworthy too.

Header image: Ashley Pomeroy [CC BY-SA 4.0].

37 thoughts on “Unlocking Hidden Potential In IvyBridge ThinkPads

  1. I have a Lenovo T420S sitting next to me right now that I am currently loading Kal Linux onto. I love the form factor on these units.

    Really sad that I got rid of my IBM T61 years ago.

      1. X230 for me. It’s my travel notebook. Maxed the RAM, threw an SSD in it and it’s just as spry as most midpriced laptops today. Just don’t try playing any 3D games on it…

      1. Go all out and it will be fixed.. Some tips from me that maybe wrong and definitely should not be followed but that’s your choice:
        Remove heat pipes and fan
        Air compressor from a car garage to clean but be gentle these are strong.
        Clean silicon pad the right way if you have it or replace
        Soak heat pipes in proper detergent and scrape and clean well.. Then hang to dry and polish with a lint free cloth and 100% ethanol. Clean the fans with soap and dry. Then lube with the lightest tranny oil or the lightest Silicone based lube you can find and seal shut with kapton tape. Clean surfaces gently with alcohol and kitchen towels, apply best heat paste and reassemble.. Then run for a few hours straight with a light load… Then turn off for a few hours and test.

        1. Whoa! That is an elaborate process I can get in-line with. What is your advice on the body of a Thinkpads T4xx? Mine is cracked from day one of purchase (some other usr) … I am planning to dissemble and give it a good round of cleaning. The cracks are on the palm rests. Seemingly previous user servicing obviously didn’t know what he/she has done to my laptop over time.. but I got it 20 below asking price and one year later I am wanting to maintain it.

          Thanks for reading and your time.

          1. Just resin from the inside.. If it’s metal, hammer it back to shape. If it’s too much.. Then just replace the damn thing.. It’s probably not expensive and you might even win an extra fingerprint reader or extra accessory in the process..

  2. I have two E430’s. i was planning on selling them as I’m falling hard times.. And to reduce stuff that not used and losing value…
    This just breathed life into them again.. That’s great!

    A 256gb ssd with a 2tb caddy and 8gb ram, usb3 ports and i5-3210 runs decently well even today.. However 35watts for the processor takes its toll on any battery..

    I wonder if we can the same thing on the latest ryzen zen 2 stuff… 3-5 watts with about 4 times the power of that thing..

    I always believed someone would create a ME virus that will wipe mankind’s electronic devices and sens us back to the stone age.. Except those guys with coreboot 🤣
    Now I’m thinking the corona virus is doing “forced intercourse” with the human MediaEngine. What a great time to be alive… For now.

      1. Nope, I realized after writing this that the e430 is not supported yet.. But according to reddit, It is in the making.. And the hardware is not vastly different.. So, I’m guessing that it will be supported in due time.
        But, as of now. Nope.

        1. Abdul, have you heard any news about the E430 support? Could’t find anything about this model beeing compatible on the github page or anywhere esle in the present date, unfortunelty.

    1. Actually, I was able to get ac wlan to work in windows..
      You have to start with the original whitelisted card in place without the antenna connected.. Then after it boots to windows.. Swap it out while making sure to not short anything because that is easy with the screw.. Then refresh the hardware in device manager.. It will show up.. Then connect the antenna.. Any reboots or wake from sleep will prompt the bios to halt the system.. But in the course of that session.. It will work.
      I use that to run a few services for the network on an old e430.. Most importantly http://ftp..so the faster speed from 5G is needed and appreciated..

      But of course, the whitelist would be much better and the current moded bioses available in usual places are very old containing some vulnerabilities that are so bad that Lenovo woke from the dead and made patches for them for a 5 and 6 year old product that they REALLY REALLY don’t want to support.. But the potential blowback from leaving them vulnerable was bigger than their corporate interests.. So I opted to not use them as that made me think that the vulnerabilities are too big to be worth taking for any reason.

      And if you are into hardware mods, I can suggest buying a new top plate with the fingerprint reader that is metal.. All the models have the socket populated so it’s easy as just replacing that and connecting an FPC. And reinforcing the chassis in common breakpoints is also a great idea.

      1. Did I mention that the cpu is socketed and can be upgraded. And swap the optical for a caddy too.. Then you’d have the ultimate light daily use laptop.. Battery not up to current standards though.. But the original rtl8xxx supports packet injection, so kali makes for a beautiful dual boot on your ssd and i hear that opencore now makes making your hackintosh that much more reliable so it could be worth a shot..

        There you go.. I just gave you a month’s worth of cool projects to do in your spare time..
        No need to thank me 😎

  3. I used the x2xxT series for as long as they existed. Hands down the best mobile art production rigs available, to such a degree I STILL use my x230t to this day. Damn near indestructible and no weenie variable strength processor to tank Photoshop performance.

      1. They upgrade so well. Every time I added new hardware it was like a brand new machine. Unfortunately my kid dropped it and the screen is a little messed up, so I had to relegate it to Netflix duty. Glad I didn’t get rid of it though. It’s like a member of the family ha. Did all my portfolios and freelance on it. If I didn’t use some video card heavy 3D for production work I’d just buy another off eBay! Newer Lenovos can’t touch it.

  4. Dang, would this will be able for xx20 machines eventually? My t420 begs for an upgrade but the little heatsink can’t do more and flashing coreboot would allow for a 3th gen processor. Flashing kits aren’t that expensive but opening my laptop is a pain in the butt.

  5. X200 checking in, got it specifically because it’s librebootable, even got the SOIC clip and everything, just haven’t had the guts to do the deed yet.

    Been having some heat related issues lately so I pulled it apart and cleaned the fan and heatsink and re-gooped the processor with good quality grease and that dropped the temps a couple degrees, then installed manual fan control software and set the thresholds pretty low and that dropped temps nearly 10 more degrees! I have had one spontaneous shutdown at heavy load since, so I may have done permanent damage with the high temps before. I was thinking of getting a new mainboard anyway before liberating the bios so I’d have a spare in case I f’d it up, and this gives me another excuse to do so and keep this old slightly flaky one as a spare. eBay, here I come…

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