REVIEW Upgrading / Installing an HDD or SSD in a Lenovo Thinkpad E480

Discussion in 'Portable & Small Form Factor' started by Agg, Jun 6, 2019.

  1. Agg

    Agg Lord of the Pings

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    I've had my shiny new Thinkpad E480 laptop for couple of weeks so it's time to pull it apart, despite this prompting some muttering from my wife and a smirk from my 12yo son, who knows he can now use this as ammunition the next time he pulls something apart within minutes of being given it. Having said that, Lenovo seem very accepting of end-user maintenance. Not only are there no "warranty void if removed" stickers anywhere on the unit, but they even devote an entire section of their handy HTML User Guide to the concept of Customer Replaceable Units. This covers all the items that the end-user can replace in the laptop and is a pretty comprehensive list, from the battery to the I/O board, inbuilt speakers, keyboard, storage, memory and so on. I will be using that guide to install a 2.5" SATA SSD into my Thinkpad E480 today.

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    As an aside, the User Manual says it is for the E480 and R480. There is also a (PDF) Hardware Maintenance Manual which is targeted at field technicians and has more detailed info about procedures not normally performed by end-users. Based on that document and some googling I think my article will be valid for the E480, R480, E485, R485, E490, R490, E495 and presumably an R495 if it is ever released. If you're confused, the xx0 models use Intel CPUs while the xx5 use AMD. The x9x simply indicates a newer and slightly higher-spec CPU than the corresponding x8x model. The Rxxx models seem to be slightly higher spec overall, with nicer trim and more support options than the base Exxx models but use the same chassis and core components. In fact, having looked at some teardowns online the 15-inch E580, E585, E590 and E595 use the same components as well. Is there an R-series equivalent of those? Probably, but we're getting a bit silly now.

    Anyway, following the Replacing the Hard Disk Drive section of the User Manual, the first thing we do is disable the internal battery. This is to protect the delicate innards of the laptop and also the person doing the servicing. So, we un-tick Fast Startup in Windows and go into the BIOS to disable the internal battery, then unplug the AC adapter. This means the machine will no longer turn on, but once the AC adapter is reconnected this setting will automatically reset and the unit will power up as normal using the button.

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    Next, remove the base cover, which is the entire lower surface of the laptop. There are 9 medium-small captive philips-head screws. Unscrew them all until they don't loosen anymore, but being captive screws they won't come completely out or fall out when you turn the back cover over.

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    For the next step, the guide indicates you "pry up the latches", but there isn't a diagram showing how the latches engage, or any suggestion of how to disengage them or what tool to use. If you're played this game before you will probably own a spudger but personally I recommend a fine guitar pick for this kind of job. It won't damage the plastic body of the laptop or scratch or short any innards it comes into contact with. I find them thin and bendy enough to get where they need to be, but not so bendy that they can't provide enough force to disengage the latches. Also I happen to have a lot of them lying around. Anyway, the technique is simply to push the tool into the gap between the two clamshell halves of the lower chassis in the approximate location of a latch in the User Guide diagram - I started at bottom left.

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    Once you get a feel for how that one disengages, you can work your way around the case bottom until you have disengaged them all and the back cover comes free of the chassis, without any connecting wires or other entanglements.

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    At last we get to see the innards of the beast for the first time. It's a very efficient layout, with the large battery at bottom right dominating the flat area available. The top half of the unit is taken up by the motherboard, with a heatpipe cooler and slimline blower. Across the middle you can see the memory slots, with 1x8GB SODIMM memory installed. The other slot is empty, for future upgrades.

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    At top right is the combined WiFi/Bluetooth card installed in an M.2 socket, which is handy if you want to replace it with a different one in future. The speakers are at bottom right and bottom left, corresponding to thin slots on the now-removed base cover. There's really no wasted space but also no real issues with it, nor did I find any obvious assembly or finish problems hiding under the cover.

    However today of course we're mostly interested in the large silver rectangle at bottom left, being the 2.5" HDD bay. Directly above that you can see the M.2 NVMe SSD which is the only storage installed so far.

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    A factory upgrade from the default 256GB, it's a Western Digital PC SN720 512GB in the full-length 2280 form-factor. I believe the stock 256GB drive is the shorter 2242 size and comes with a triangular metal bracket to connect it to the same securing screw as a full-length drive. But the 2.5" bay is our focus today, and it's currently occupied by a "Dummy HDD", which even features on the specs list on my invoice. This dummy HDD is provided by Lenovo to exactly take the place of a real 2.5" HDD or SSD, meaning the connectors and brackets etc are all correctly in place in the laptop even if (like me) you did not order a laptop with a 2.5" drive included.
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2019
  2. OP
    OP
    Agg

    Agg Lord of the Pings

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    So, again following the User Manual, we lift the small latch and disconnect the cable from the motherboard. You can lift this with a fingernail or any other fine non-scratching tool. Then you simply lift the flat cable back, up and out, as there is no adhesive, solder, socketed pins or anything, simply contact pads which are held in place by the plastic bracket when it is clicked down. While looking at that area I couldn't help but notice the empty connector marked JFPB1 right next to the HDD connector. Googling didn't shed any light, nor did browsing the configuration options for this laptop, so if anyone has any ideas what this is for, let me know!

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    Now that the dummy HDD (or the real HDD/SDD if you are performing a replacement) is electrically separated from the motherboard, it's time to physically remove it from the bay. Here the User Manual shows a flexible tab which can be unfurled and then pulled to lift the non-connector end of the drive up. I could not find a way to unfurl that tab. Even very fine-point tweezers inserted under the visible loops of the tab failed to lift it out, and I really think it was installed in such a way that the locking clip of the HDD bracket prevented the flexible tab from being lifted up. You can see the locking clip through a small gap near the left speaker. So, I used some flat tweezers to disengage the locking clip through that gap and gently lever the bracket and drive up until they could be gripped by hand.

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    Once the dummy drive and bracket are free from the chassis you disconnect the ribbon cable from the SATA connectors as per usual. Then remove the rubber bracket from the dummy HDD and set the dummy HDD aside. Note they have provided an anti-static bag with the dummy HDD. This is presumably in case you are doing this as part of a warranty procedure and need to send something static-sensitive back to Lenovo.

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    Last edited: Jun 8, 2019
  3. OP
    OP
    Agg

    Agg Lord of the Pings

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    So, now we clip the rubber bracket onto our SSD. In this case I am using a Crucial MX300 1050GB that was sent over by Crucial some time ago. The bracket has pins that go into the side-mounting screw holes of the drive, and being made of rubber this provides some vibration and impact damping for the drive. This isn't really an issue for an SSD with no moving parts, but there are still people using 2.5" platter HDDs in laptops. Seriously kids, it's 2019 - spinning rust just isn't cool anymore.

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    Anyway, here's our drive in the bracket. To quote the classics: installation is the reverse of removal. Attach the ribbon cable to the drive via the standard SATA connectors, clip the connector end of the bracket into the chassis bay, lower the bracket down into the rest of the bay, making sure to keep the flexible tab free so you can use it to extract the drive more easily in future.

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    Then we clip the base cover back on, working our way around until all the clips are engaged. At this point there is still a slight gap between the cover and the chassis but once the screws are all tightened up, that gap is back to nice and slim as it was from the factory. I was actually very pleased at how easy it was to remove and replace the cover without breaking any tabs, nicking the visible edges or making the gap any wider than from factory. Of course the real test is if the thing will fire up once you've had it open, so I am happy to report that after plugging the USB-C power connector back in, I was able to start the laptop via the power button as per usual.

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    Once in Windows the drive formatted to 978GB and is connected at SATA/600 as expected, according to CrystalDiskInfo.

    crucial_ssd_installed_and_formatted.JPG crucialmx300_crystal.JPG

    CrystalDiskMark meanwhile reports about 500MB/s from the new D: drive which is what you'd expect, as it's limited by the SATA/600 connection standard rather than the memory of the drive itself. By comparison the NVMe C: drive bursts up above 1500MB/s thanks to its direct PCIe connection.

    crucial_diskmark_e480.JPG crystaldiskmark.png

    So that's about it for now. I have to say I'm very impressed with the user-serviceability of this laptop, and the internal finish matches up to the high-quality feel of the outside. The next step will be to image the boot drive onto the new 2.5" drive, install a bigger/faster/better M.2 drive and image back onto that. But I'll leave that for another day...
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2019
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  4. OP
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    Agg

    Agg Lord of the Pings

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    As an aside, this article is a bit of a test run for using the forums for this kind of thing instead of our crufty main-page CMS. So let me know if the images are too huge or if there's any other issues with layout etc.
     
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  5. daehenoc

    daehenoc Member

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    Nice article! On an NBN50 connection, no issues at all with the images. Good to see that Lenovo are keeping some of their customer base happy by supplying all the information required and even the parts required!

    I love your hand model, I expected to see your gnarled claws, but I was pleasantly surprised to see normal hands!
     
  6. Danthemanz

    Danthemanz Old School Admin

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    Looks good on mobile Chrome for iOS.
    The dynamic size of the new forums works very well in general.
     
  7. MUTMAN

    MUTMAN Member

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    pages rendering nicely in desktop firefox

    no ram and wifi upgrade.

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  8. OP
    OP
    Agg

    Agg Lord of the Pings

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    RAM upgrade is in the works, the WiFi works fine. :) I really don't need any more storage in it, but I happen to have a 1TB Crucial P1 lying around so I'll migrate the boot volume over to that soon. There is one niggle related to the M.2 slot which I will explore during that process. My recent Office 2010 shenanigans were related to this PC also.
     
  9. iodine

    iodine Member

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    I like how the 2.5" rubber thing is the same design in the E470 - so I guess that must of had lots of these to use in the next E480 model. Makes sense really to reuse some parts.
     
  10. Linyi Zhu

    Linyi Zhu Member

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    I wonder why there is a spare clip next to the Sata ribbon clip, there doesn't seem to be any space for another 2.5''.
     
  11. Maneki_Neko

    Maneki_Neko Member

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    Nothing a dremel can't fix :\ X
     
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  12. xEnt

    xEnt Member

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    I have the exact same laptop. It's amazing how easy it is to open up and work inside there. I highly recommend you unscrew the 4 screws on the heat sink on top of the CPU and repaste it with something nice like thermogrizzly cryonaut. it quite literally dropped 15c from my CPU temps, allowed me to crank out much more out of my i5 8265u using throttlestop, i was able to maintain a stable 3.7ghz on all cores whilst stressing it and keeping it under 80c.
     
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  13. OP
    OP
    Agg

    Agg Lord of the Pings

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    Oooh, that sounds like another guide waiting to be written. Anyone know of a good program for monitoring thermal throttling and graphing heat profile etc?
     
  14. demiurge3141

    demiurge3141 Member

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    Well it just doesn't look as good as an Apple interior.
     
  15. OP
    OP
    Agg

    Agg Lord of the Pings

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    Not sure. I wonder if one of the (many) different models using the same mobo has a DVD drive?
     
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  16. Redback

    Redback Member

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    that second connector has less pins, and is labeled JFPB1
     
  17. Linyi Zhu

    Linyi Zhu Member

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    Ha, I think I solved it, its for a finger print reader.
     
  18. arasta

    arasta Member

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    very impressed with the ease of getting into it and internal layout. very thoughtful using captive screws; that sort of thing is appreciated by anyone who has to do regular lappy service work. liking the forum approach for articles; i have no problem with the images either (also on nbn50). i happen to like lots of detail anyway :p oh, one other thing about using the forum backend, i like that there is advertising (of a sort) that an article has been posted at the top of forum pages, its been years since i looked at the front page with any sort of regularity, so ive evidently missed thousands of articles.

    will be interesting to see how the m2 clone and juggle goes. flip up the catch and count the pins on the mystery connector next time you are in, is one thing i would do. if it was for a dvd drive then it should match the power/data lines for the 2.5 connector? if its different then i suspect its for something else? and seconded on fixing that empty ram slot. it bugs me that its not populated already :p nice article!

    /edit i see ive been beaten with the pin count idea already, too slow with my typing. well spotted!
     
  19. OP
    OP
    Agg

    Agg Lord of the Pings

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    Oooh yes, there is a fingerprint reader option even on this exact model but I didn't select it. Sounds correct then.
     
  20. Groff

    Groff Member

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    Any particular thickness/material?

    I see what looks like a .58 Livingstone I presume? :D
    The Dunlop Tortex would be too grippy?
    Would a Fender medium or be just right or would the hard be better?
     
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