Tuning the Lenovo T520 – Upgrading Memory and Installing an mSATA SSD

Disassembling the Lenovo Thinkpad T520 is easy, which makes upgrading the device a simple procedure. As described in my previous article I bought a T520 with only 2 GB RAM in order to replace the shipped memory with two 4 GB modules from Kingston. I also bought Intel’s mSATA SSD 310. This is a short description of the upgrade and installation procedure.

First Memory Module

Installing the first memory module is extremely simple: just turn the laptop on its back and release the two screws pointed at by the red arrows to gain access to the DIMM slot:

Second Memory Module

In order to gain access to the second DIMM slot you need to release the two screws pointed at by the yellow arrows in the preceding image. Then turn the laptop around and gently remove the keyboard.

The second DIMM slot is below the white cover (red arrow), the mSATA slot below the black cover (yellow arrow):

Installing the memory module is simple:


In order to install the Intel SSD 310 remove the black cover and carefully insert the SSD into the mSATA slot:

By the way, the SSD 310 is unbelievably tiny. Is has barely the size of six keys on the Thinkpad’s keyboard:

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19 Responses to Tuning the Lenovo T520 – Upgrading Memory and Installing an mSATA SSD

  1. T520owner October 6, 2011 at 00:16 #

    Thanks for sharing the mSATA HW installation details.
    What about the SW? Does it require any special procedure/drivers in order to obtain RAPIDDRIVE operability?

    • Helge October 6, 2011 at 12:00 #

      The mSATA SSD works just like a regular hard disk. It does not require special drivers.

  2. netdidi October 6, 2011 at 18:45 #

    Hi Helge,
    thank you for this detailed description :-)
    How did you transfer the Win7 installation from the old HDD to the new SSD? Or did you do a completely fresh install??

    • Helge October 6, 2011 at 20:26 #

      I didn’t ;-)

      Since I very strongly dislike vendor preinstallations I was going to install a fresh copy of Windows anyway.

      • netdidi November 8, 2011 at 09:59 #

        Hi Helge,
        yesterday I’ve got finally (after 4 weeks waiting time!!!) my new T520 (Full-HD Display, Intel-only graphic, 8GB RAM, 500GB HDD).
        Now I’m going to install an mSATA HW, as you described above.
        However I didn’t get any installation CD/DVD from Lenovo !!! How did you install a fresh copy of Windows on your machine?
        Many thanks in advance :-)

        • Helge November 8, 2011 at 10:27 #

          Congratulations on your new laptop! I am happy with mine, I hope you will be, too.
          Unfortunately Lenovo does not provide Windows installation DVDs which really sucks. I used another Windows DVD (and license) I had available.

  3. VELOCIGROUP November 15, 2011 at 11:04 #

    Hi Helge,

    Very nice laptop. How is battery life ?
    Do you know if the mSATA SSD is sold in models larger than 80 Gb ?
    Did you buy the Core i5 or Core i7 version ?

    • Helge November 15, 2011 at 21:19 #

      With the 9 cell battery I can use the laptop for more than 6 hours (light workload). But I did not time it accurately, so that is just a very rough number.
      As far as I know the Intel mSATA SSD is only sold as 40 and 80 GB models, but 80 GB only for C: is not too bad.
      I bought a core i5 because I think the moderate increase in speed is not worth the price difference to an i7. An SSD brings much more in terms of performance per Euro.

  4. shanhe.me December 13, 2011 at 19:31 #

    Very nice article. I recently got T520, but had several problems.
    1. There is hiss noise, or CPU whine, especially on battery. Seems to be a little beter after CPU deeper sleep is turned off, but it is still there when reboot.
    2. The ear buds volume cannot be remembered. My other two laptops both can remember the volume the last time I plugin my ear buds.
    3. There is strange noise when you hold the laptop upright, on top of the hiss noise.
    4. The fan is always on, and loud, even though I used TPFanControl and set to 0.

    Does your laptop have the problems I list here?

    Thank you in advance.

    • Helge December 13, 2011 at 20:37 #

      1. Luckily I have no hissing noise / whine.
      2. I do not use ear buds.
      3. I try to not move the laptop around too much while turned on.
      4. The fan is always on, but in my device it is nearly silent when the laptop is not under heavy load.

      • shanhe.me December 13, 2011 at 23:09 #

        Hmmm…., may be we have different levels of sensitivity. Other than that, everything of this laptop is good.
        But the noise issue could make me return it. It looks like these problems are common among the community.

        • Helge December 22, 2011 at 01:32 #

          I recently installed a new BIOS update and the laptop’s fan is now *much* quieter. From time to time it is turned off completely and I admit I really I enjoy that complete silence, especially at night when there are no other noises.

  5. shazam January 5, 2012 at 19:25 #

    Hi Helge,

    I order my T520 with 6 cell and wanted to get your thoughts since you’ve the 9 cell:

    a. Does the battery stick out too much or is it loose in any way?
    b. If you’ve a backpack, with the 9 cell battery, does it fit properly in a 15.6 laptop backpack.


    • Helge January 5, 2012 at 21:16 #

      I am pretty sure the 6 cell battery does not stick out. My 9 cell sticks out at the rear by approx. 3 centimeters / 1 inch. It is not loose but firm.
      I have a backpack for all my laptop and the T520 fits in well with the 9 cell battery.

      Enjoy your device when it arrives!

  6. Medha A July 3, 2012 at 07:41 #

    Thanks for nice info. I have a Lenovo T520, which came with 4 GB RAM. I want to upgrade it to 8GB. When I open the bottom slot as per your instructions, I think I see an EMPTY slot. So can I just stick in one more 4 GB RAM card there, or do I need to remove the original memory too?

    Since you did say “installed first memory module is extremely simple”, I am guessing, the answer is yes. But just want to be sure (I don’t play around with hardware much, so want to be sure before I break something).

    Also, do I need to do anything with the BIOS settings for the new memory to get recognized and used by my OS (Ubuntu 12.04) or will it get detected and become alive automatically?

    • Helge July 3, 2012 at 09:22 #

      Just stick it in – nothing else to do. The OS will recognize the additional memory all by itself.

  7. Medha A July 10, 2012 at 02:58 #


    I did as you instructed, but now when I booted into my Ubuntu and did “top” on a terminal, the available memory is still shown to be just 4GB despite the new memory stick!

    So I am wondering what do I need to do for my OS to know about the additional memory?

    • Medha A July 10, 2012 at 03:14 #

      Sorry. My bad. It got installed! I had not inserted it all the way in.. until you hear a “click” sound.

      Now I did that and booted and it shows up if I do “top”!

      Thanks for the blog.. it made it so simple!

  8. pera March 17, 2015 at 19:51 #

    Hello, great article :)

    I have one question tho

    When i install my mSATA, how can i get my windows to boot from there without reinstaling it? I have many programs and i really wouldnt like to reinstall everything.

    Can i just move the windows folders from Cdisk to mSATA and set it in bios to boot from the msata?


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