The End of my Woes?

2009-03-14

The big thing hanging over my head for the better part of two months has been one of the biggest and most difficult parts of my big goal for this year, to minimize the number of computers I have around at any given point in time. The project had been going great right up until I actually received the new machine that was to replace the iMac and the R61i.

I am going to preface the rest of this by saying that I still regard the ThinkPad T400, which is the new laptop I ordered and am now using productively, to be an excellent, top notch system. It is physically very well built and I am very happy to have a machine with all of the technologies inside this machine, such as switchable graphics, DDR3 memory, and a built-in AT&T 3g wwan card.

Unfortunately, despite how awesome the machine is, for the past month since I got it, it has generally been giving me nothing but trouble. Just about every few hours, mainly on battery power but also while plugged into AC, the machine would completely lock up. I tried just about everything known to man. I replaced the Lenovo wifi drivers with the latest version from Intel’s website, I reimaged the machine, a half dozen times, I replaced the memory and hard disk with the originals, I even installed a retail copy of Windows Vista 64-bit, and nothing I ever did could prevent the machine from ultimately locking up and being unhappy with its life.

I had even sent it in twice, once to get the motherboard replaced, as I thought it might be a hardware problem. The second time was where I start to worry about Lenovo a little bit, as the machine had come back to me with the wrong board. I sent in a computer with both Intel and ATi graphics, and the one that was returned to me had only Intel graphics. Fortunately I was able to call them up and tell them what happened, and the machine was promptly on its way back to be fixed again.

… But it still had the same problem. Augh. And so for the next few days I tried even more things, including crazy registry hacks, and uninstalling/reinstalling just about every driver and piece of the ThinkVantage software. Until I came across a post on the ThinkPads.com forum suggesting, of course, that I disable Active Protection System. Unfortunately, APS is something I consider necessary to have enabled on this machine, because who knows when I’m going to pick up the machine at the end of my shift at work, or at the end of a class, and accidentally drop it while walking from one place to another, especially if/when I haven’t put the machine to sleep mode.

Alas, until further notice, Active Protection System remains disabled on my machine, because all day long today the thing has been stable. I haven’t had a single lock-up since I disabled APS last night, and my guess is that this is going to be the solution that turns the T400 into a usable computer for me. It’s unfortunate that I lose another “just in case” type of protection for the data that is stored on this machine, but my intent is to use Acronis, or Windows’ backup utility, to protect my data onto an external hard disk at least once per week, so hypothetically it wouldn’t be the end of the world to drop the laptop and have the drive die.

From this point forward, I think I can actually declare the T400 as stable. That’s actually an unbelievably cool thing to be saying, too. Although everything that has happened with it is going to make me very wary of buying from Lenovo, next time around.