11-13-2009 06:40 PM
This a long post but I felt the information could be used by others buying a notebook and trying to set it up.
I have used a Thinkpad T40 (1 GB, XP Pro) at work since 2003 and just love the rock-solid keyboard, screen, and hinges. The IT department has offered me the most recent Dell computer as an upgrade but I much prefer to keep my old reliable T40.
When my daughter needed a notebook for university in September, it was only natural to consider Lenovo, having heard about too many quality problems with other manufacturers. I wanted this notebook to last through the 4 years without any hardware problems.
I did a lot of research on the Web and read numerous Thinkpad forums. The information gathered was invaluable for deciding which configuration to buy. Note that I have never used VISTA before, nor have I ever opened a notebook to replace parts.
- On my first contact with the Lenovo Sales desk in Canada, they mentioned there was a special 25% coupon sale, if my configuration was over $1500 (discounted price). These specials come back often, so it is best to check the Lenovo site. At the time, there was a free integrated camera, free upgrade to 250 MB HDD and free shipping. Since these promotions can be removed at any time, I decided to place an online order for a Thinkpad T500, before having completed all my research. It is easy to place an order online. You just have to remember that not all items contribute to making up the $1500, such as MS Office software.
- Lenovo Sales telephone support for answering any questions about online ordering was outstanding and very helpful.
- Note that if a particular online configuration is there one week, it might not be there the next week. It depends on parts availability at Lenovo.
- In order to get the 25% coupon discount, I had to add some items to my configuration to reach $1500, such as Bluetooth, Wifi 5100, which I did not really need, but the saving on the overall cost was worthwhile.
- I had ordered a WXGA (1280 x 800) High Brightness LED Backlit screen and 3 GB of RAM. After reading about the poor display quality of these screens, I was able to cancel my order by phone the next day (after making sure the same deal was still available), and place a new revised order for a WSXGA+ TFT (1680 x 1050) screen. Since the configuration price for an additional 2 GB RAM was $110 CDN, I decided to buy the extra 2 GB RAM (only $43 CDN) as an accessory, on the same order, separate from the T500 configuration. I could then install the RAM myself to save $67 ! Just make sure you pay the extra to get the base 2 GB RAM on one DIMM, since there are only 2 slots available. I know I will only be using 3.5 GB with my 32-bit Windows, but at least, if one of the DIMMs goes bad, I can still operate on 2 GB.
- as for choosing which CPU to buy, I chose in the middle range, starting with the first CPU having 3 MB L2 cache.
- I did not buy MS Office or McAfee Antivirus with the configuration. Since my daughter attends a post-secondary institution, she was able to order MS Office Ultimate 2007 for $64 CDN + $13 for the DVD. Microsoft has had this promotion on their site
for a while, but it is not well known. You get 8 MS products for one low price and it is completely legal for numerous countries ! I downloaded the software since it took 5 weeks to get the DVD delivered ! At the end of 4 weeks, I contacted Microsoft to tell them I had still not received the DVD. So I received the first DVD and a few weeks later, I received a second copy. So much for quick shipping !
- I received 3 separate shipments: 1 free Thinkpad privacy filter to install on the screen, the 2 GB RAM, and finally the T500 (which took about 2 weeks).
-The stainless steel hinges are rock-solid. When trying to raise the lid in the first weeks, you have to hold down the keyboard. Not at all like the hinges I see on the Dell notebooks at work.
- The 3 USB port connections are very tight, which means they should last through repeated plugging and unplugging.
- The T500 is surprisingly quiet, more than my T40. You can hardly hear the fan.
- I am extremely satisfied with the screen resolution, colours, and quality.
- The only disappointment was the keyboard ! Typing on the left-hand side (Q,W keys) produced an annoying "clunk". This was the worst keyboard I had ever used, being accustomed to the legendary quality of my T40. Even my daughter complained about the keyboard. I had read on the forums about the "flex" in the keyboard. Before ordering, when I asked the Sales Rep if these known problems had been solved, I was told that yes, the keyboard flex was no longer an issue. Too bad this was not true !
- Setup was easy. Just follow the on-screen instructions.
- I was not very happy to see a trial version of MS-Office and McAfee Antivirus on my notebook. I had not ordered it on the online configuration and did not want it. I had read on the forums that other users had all sorts of problems trying to get their own version of MS Office working (activation keys not being recognized), when the pre-loaded software was still there. And I knew how difficult it could be to erase all traces of McAfee by myself.
- after I burned my very first DVD, I pressed the Eject button. To my surprise, there was a thin grey foam ring (about 3 cm diameter) sitting on top of my DVD media. I assumed that this came from the roof of the DVD drive and the manufacturing process had missed the glue to keep it there. I contacted Lenovo and they immediately sent out a replacement (received the next day), which was easy to install. I then returned the defective part to Lenovo. My only complaint is that this was a refurbished unit. I was expecting a new unit since the part was defective out of the box and not a few months later.
- for the defective keyboard, I contacted Lenovo and mentioned the numerous complaints on the forums, and they sent me a new keyboard (FRU 42T3938). Unlike the DVD drive, I did not have to send back the original keyboard. However, the replacement keyboard was exactly the same as the original, with a thin flexible backing full of holes. I contacted Lenovo again in the morning and the agent mentioned I should contact Sales, since there was nothing more he could do. That afternoon, the agent called me to say that after further research, he had found a replacement keyboard that would correct the flex. When I received the second replacement keyboard (FRU 42T3210), I knew it was the right one, since there were far less holes in the more solid backing plate. I followed the instructions for replacing the keyboard and added my additional 2 GB RAM at the same time, since it is in the same area, under the palm rest. Now the keyboard is almost like my solid T40, and I am no longer ashamed of the T500 keyboard. For those of you wondering what an ACNOR or CSA keyboard is, it is one where the 5 most common French accented characters (and not only the é) are used with one keystroke. I have been using such a keyboard disposition since 1994 and it is invaluable when typing in French.
For pictures comparing the defective and replacement keyboards, see
My immediate goals:
- out of the box, there are 3 partitions: partitions Q (10 GB) and S (1 GB) are Lenovo partitions to recover the operating system, C partition is a single partition over 200 GB on my 250 GB DD. I wanted to partition the C: drive in multiple partitions.
- I also wanted to eliminate MS Office and McAfee so I could install my own software (MS Office 2007 Ultimate and free Avast Antivirus). When I contacted Lenovo to ask how I could do this, they said I could use the recovery partition and "customize" it so that this software would not be installed. Turns out that this option was removed by Lenovo. I guess pressure from Microsoft and McAfee was too great ! The only other option was to use Add/Remove.
- I ran Diskmgmt.msc (also available on XP) to see the layout of my HDD. Unfortunately, it did not seem to be powerful enough to partition like I wanted. But it is great to see the layout of the disk and do basic partitioning. (http://www.theeldergeek.com/hard_drives.htm)
- I installed the free EASUS Partition Manager (http://www.partition-tool.com/); the non-free Pro version works on 64-bit. I wanted to partition: C 35GB (Operating System and Office), D 20GB (other applications), E 25GB (Data), F 100GB (Music and Pictures). I also installed the free EASUS Todo Backup (http://www.todo-backup.com/) to do regular image backups as I was proceeding.
- while trying to partition the C drive, I must have made an error somewhere (I think I accidentally declared another partition as the active partition). Whenever I rebooted, I would get the message "Boot MGR is missing". I could not even use the recovery partition (Q and S) on the HDD. So my notebook was totally unusable. Fortunately, I had burned 4 Recovery DVD's, as soon as the OS was operational. The first recovery DVD booted OK. However, the system would not recognize any of the 3 other recovery DVD, displaying a message such as wrong disk inserted or something similar. Imagine if in a few months I had needed to use these recovery DVD that I had burned; they were completely useless and I would have nothing to recover with. Very scary !
- I explained the problem to Lenovo Support and they sent me within 3 days a set of 4 Rescue & Recovery DVD. By following the instructions, it took 2 hours to recover to a working system. The good: no Office or McAfee trial software came with this recovery. The bad: there was a 2 GB empty partition at the beginning of the HDD and 10 GB of unallocated space at the end of the disk. Why Lenovo would do this, I don't know; seems a bit sloppy to me. Also, I had to manually reconfigure everything, since there is no "just follow the instructions" as when configuring the "out-of-the-box" system. I had to install my own PDF viewer
(free open source PDF X-viewer http://www.docu-track.com/home/prod_user/PDF-XChange_Tools/pdfx_viewer), Adobe Flash, etc...
- the major problem in partitioning is the inability to shrink a partition (such as C) in order to free up space after to add extended partitions
(http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/windows-vista/working-around-windows-vistas-shrink-volume-inadequacy-...). There always seems to be VISTA unmovable files, MBR or something else. After reading numerous posts, I installed the trial version (30 days) of Raxco PerfectDisk Home edition in order to consolidate all the files to the front of the C: drive. A few iterations were required since the MBR seems to be placed in the middle of the partition. I was finally able to partition my HDD exactly as I wanted. I was so pleased with the efficiency and ease of use of PerfectDisk that I bought the Pro 10 version. Just wait for when the software is occasionally discounted. (http://www.perfectdisk.com/home)
VISTA User account setup:
I had created my E partition to store all user data of all accounts, since I would have multiple accounts on the computer. I also wanted to store all music and pictures in the Public folder on F partition. There are numerous methods described on the Internet, most of which seem too complicated. See http://joshmouch.wordpress.com/2007/04/07/change-user-profile-folder-location-in-vista/ and
http://www.vista4beginners.com/Move-user-files-folders-to-another-partition?page=1. I finally decided to do just 2 simple registry modifications described in the last post here
It worked for me but use at your own risk ! Just edit the 2 Registry keys and replace the C: drive by the one you need.
- I only had the Admin account created on the C: partition. Before creating any other user accounts, I modified the registry so that all new user accounts created would use my E partition.
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList ProfilesDirectory = E:\Users
- I modified the registry so that the Public folder would be on my F partition.
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList Public = F:\Public
Other notes of interest:
- I had been a long-time subscriber to the Fred Langa Langalist
(http://www.langa.com/backups/backups.htm). I now subscribe to the excellent Windows Secrets newsletter (http://www.windowssecrets.com/). The information provided is very useful.
- I had considered an inexpensive boot manager, partition manager and imaging software (BootIt Next Generation) highly recommended by Fred Langa
(http://www.terabyteunlimited.com/index.htm). But it seemed a bit like overkill for my needs. There is a fully-functioning trial version.
- I regularly consult a complete list of recommended free software on Gizmo's Freeware review (http://www.techsupportalert.com). One recommended free open source defragmenter which I did not use was MyDefrag (http://www.mydefrag.com/).
- download and install the latest version of the Lenovo System Tools (Toolbox). It is very easy to use and can troubleshoot all hardware problems. Search for MIGR-67520 on the Lenovo site.
- you can find Roxio DVD burning software on the Lenovo site (MIGR-72359 on the Lenovo site). I have not installed it yet.
- use the Lenovo System Update to keep your drivers up-to-date.
- for info on how to use switchable graphics, search on the Lenovo site for MIGR-70495.
- for tips on setting battery parameters, http://forum.notebookreview.com/showthread.php?t=320082
Recommendations to Lenovo:
- don't ship poor quality keyboards. You have too much to lose, for the small manufacturing savings.
- don't pre-install trial versions of Office or McAfee. This should be an option and not be forced onto buyers.
- at least ship the HDD with a 40 GB C primary partition and the rest as D: partition. This would make it easier for users who are not technical.
- if you are going to include an integrated camera, provide software to use it. Currently, I have no way of taking a picture or making a video without acquiring other software. The technique described here
(http://www-307.ibm.com/pc/support/site.wss/document.do?lndocid=MIGR-67413) does not work !
- provide some software to reduce the speed of the DVD drive when watching movies. The noise at the default maximum speed is very annoying.
11-14-2009 03:22 AM - edited 11-14-2009 03:23 AM
people complaining about problems installing an office over another office are (dare i say it) stupid. it makes absolutely no sense installing one over the trial version. just uninstall the trial and you'll be fine. every single time.
as for problem with uninstalling mcafee (or any other antivirus, for that matter, just download the uninstaller from the software company e.g. http://service.mcafee.com/FAQDocument.aspx?id=TS100507 for mcafee.
that said i believe you get to choose if you want mcafee and/or office when you go through the inital boot, the "on-screen instructions"
you can slow down the odd via power manager
and thanks for the tips on changing the reg to have the user profiles somewhere else!