Lenovo T520 Maximum Memory: Not 8, But 16 GB!
Contrary to what Lenovo wants to make you believe, the T520 laptop is not limited to 8 GB of RAM. I own this reliable workhorse and made the mistake of buying another laptop because I wanted something more elegant, but mainly because I need more than 8 GB of RAM. As it turned out, the other machine was not as business-proof as I thought.
Since I had bought an 8 GB module for the other machine I decided to try it in the T520 – it worked instantly and flawlessly with 12 GB in total. That gave me confidence to order a second 8 GB module and replace the remaining 4 GB SO-DIMM with it. Now my T520 is at 16 GB of RAM, twice the amount Lenovo’s specifications state as the maximum.
If you own the T520 and want to extend your machine’s life: spend 80 € for two 8 GB SO-DIMMs and upgrade to 16 GB. If you want to go a little bit further, replace the hard disk drive with an SSD. I can recommend the Plextor M3 Pro and the Samsung SSD 840 Pro (I own the Plextor since the Samsung was not yet available).
I did both, upgraded the RAM and replaced the HDD with an SDD, and the laptop’s new power nearly scares me. Working with virtual machines now is actually fun – it definitely was not, before.
For the record: the SO-DIMM model I used is the Kingston M1G64J90 (8 GB DDR3-1333).
Which T520 do you have? I have read that this works on I7 with quad core, but not the I5 dual core.
I have an i5-2520M with 2 cores.
I have upgrading my T520 to windows 10 professional, but install the newest bios first. Download also all new Lenovo downloads. Then you can install 2x8Gb memory Kingston KCP313SD8/8.
it is max memory per slot not maximum memory
Interesting. I have a T520 (423946U) ….with 4GB in one slot and the other slot is empty. I think I’ll order up an 8GB to put me to 12. Any reason this shouldn’t work?
Thanks for this fun post and nice write up …and very nifty good news!!
I searched for the specific memory model number on amazon and found this review: http://www.amazon.com/Memory-Lenovo-ThinkPad-DDR3-1333MHz-204-pin/product-reviews/B008O525LU/ref=pd_sim_sbs_pc_cm_cr_acr_img_1/192-5524414-6986460
Did you have similar errors using that chip? Are you using 2x the same model?
Yes, I have two similar modules. And no, I have no errors at all, and I use the system heavily.
Thank you for the quick reply. I will order two of them :) I love my T520. Thanks for sharing your experiences!
Hey martin did u have any problems aftere using 8gb *2 ram upgrade ??
The amount of memory supported is decided by the chipset installed in the machine. As per Lenovo, T520 uses Intel 2nd Generation i5 & i7 processors. According to Intel below are the maximum memory supported by each of those processors:
Intel® Core™ i7-2620M Processor (4M Cache, up to 3.40 GHz) — Maximum memory of 16 GB (dependent on memory type)
Intel® Core™ i7-2630QM Processor (6M Cache, up to 2.90 GHz) — Maximum memory of 16 GB (dependent on memory type)
Intel® Core™ i5-2540M Processor (3M Cache, up to 3.30 GHz) — Maximum memory of 16 GB (dependent on memory type)
Intel® Core™ i5-2520M Processor (3M Cache, up to 3.20 GHz) — Maximum memory of 16 GB (dependent on memory type)
Intel® Core™ i5-2410M Processor (3M Cache, up to 2.90 GHz) — Maximum memory of 16 GB (dependent on memory type)
Can you please share the details if the memory upgrade worked for you.
I bought a T520 4242RU2 model on 2013.
It was slow machine as you said.
I changed RAM 2GB to 4GBx2
also replaced SSD 128GB Kingston instead of 320GB HDD
clean install 64bit windows 7 ultimate instead of 32bit windows 7 pro
replace CPU from i5 2540M to i7 2720QM
LCD monitor HD to FHD 1920*1080 AUO
It has nice performance now like bullet train Shinkansen (japan)
and pretty good keyboard which I like.
would like to try 16GB RAM for next.
Thanks for nice information.
Thanks for the info, 16GB improved the speed of Matlab, and other number crunching significantly… SSD is next
I’ve just upgraded one of the slots on my T520i after reading this article. I used the following RAM: Kingston Memory Module / 8 GB / DDR3 / 1333 MHz / soDIMM
No problems at all!
It Works good and its a fast PC now.. I also put af 500GB SSD EVO in.
If anyone is interested I have documented my own successful experience with this process, including the SSD upgrade. http://www.alancoleman.co.uk/blog/2015/11/lenovo-t520i-ram-and-hard-drive-upgrade/
Another undocumented upgrade you can make is putting an mSATA SSD in the WWAN (cellular card) slot, then you can keep your existing HD for extra storage. For their age these are still VERY useful laptops.
if you want to get super carried away the CPUs are socketed and can be upgraded, I’ve heard rumors you can even use the next generation i5/i7 CPUs with upgraded graphics in them after flashing to the latest BIOS.
Successfully tested with Team Group Elite TED3 16G 1333C9DC-S01,
SO-DIMM DDR3, 2x8GB, DUAL, 1333MHz, CL9, 1.5V,
Bios 8AET65WW(1.45) 05/14/2015,
This got me thinking…. my T520 which is running Debian 8 works well enough for most things but falters when using Windows in VirtualBox so I took a look at the CPU – Version: Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-2720QM CPU @ 2.20GHz and it appears it will support — Maximum memory of 32 GB (dependent on memory type) if you can afford it. I think 16GB will do for the moment. Thanks for the tip.
Encouraged by this article, I decided to give it a try and I bought 2x 8G RAM chips for my venerable T520, and I am very pleased with the result. My 6-years old T520 flies again! The entire 16GB or RAM are perfectly detected and my VMs are extremely happy.
It is a T520 based on a i5-2450M CPU @2.50 GHz. The chips I bought are referenced as Kingston’s KVR13S9K2/16 (SODIMM DDR3, PC3 1333 MHz, CL9)
Just checked for sure and 2x16Gb doesn’t work as expected. So installed two by 8Gb and now I have 16 GB – it works well.
I have a Thinkpad T520 with Windows 7 Professional, 64-bit operating system, an I5-2540M CPU @ 2.60GHZ with 8GB of Ram (2x4gb). After reading these posts I ordered 16GB (2x8gb) of ram from amazon the brand was Timetec. On April 13, 2019 I first put one stick in the easy to get at bottom and system showed 12gb. Then I lifted the keyboard and put the second stick in and system shows all 16gb. I also added a new ssd and everything is running great. I appreciated the info others wrote and thought I should post my results.
I have a t520, upgraded from the stock i5-2520M to the i7-2860QM which works fine but can run pretty hot under load. Also upgraded to 16GB ram (2 x 8GB modules), added an MSATA SSD, swapped the optical drive with a SATA hdd adapter for a total of 4TB spinning disc storage, and upgraded to an AC wifi/bt card; all works fine. I’m using a modded BIOS with the whitelists removed so I can use any half-size mini-pcie wifi card, and a few other features, this thing is awesome for such an old laptop now. the dude that made the modded BIOS told me it adds support for 16GB ram, but I’ve heard from others that have used the same modded BIOS that they now have support for 2 x 16GB sticks for 32GB total. I was skeptical but now that I see here that 2 x 8GB sticks was supported without a modded BIOS I’m inclined to try it.
Does anyone know which DisplayPort version the t520 supports? Buying a 4K TV & wondering if I can connect the t520 to it at 4k resolution. Don’t care if it’s only 30Hz, I’d only use it to play 24/30FPS video files anyway. I’m not even sure this thing can handle decoding 4k HEVC files.
Thanks for the article. I just added 8 GB RAM (Corsair Vengeance DDR3) to my T520 i5 2430 2.4 GHz for a total of 12 GB RAM. Also added SSD. Running Windows 10 64 bit. Runs great! I purchased this laptop in 2011 and it has gotten daily heavy use as my personal computer. I recently purchased a Surface Pro 7 for its portability, but I keep coming back to the T520! Thinking about upgrading the camera next if possible.
I’m soooo happy I found this blog! I recently replaced my T520 with a Lenovo Yoga and HATE it. It functions fine enough but the keyboard is terrible. I’m a touch typist (60-70 WPM) and actually considered purchasing a separate keyboard for the Yoga. I pounded out tons of docs on my T520 during the 9 years of ownership. Fortunately, she’s still on a shelf in my closet and I can’t wait to try the upgrades mentioned here! Thank you to everyone who shared their experiences. :)
Another happy camper here.
Just finished my own upgrade to Dual boot W7/Linux on separate physical drives:
1 SSD Windows 7 pro – I hate W10
1 mSSD in the mSATA slot – Linux Lite
1 SSD shared storage – in caddy, replacing the DVD. Never used in the 6 years I’ve owned this machine.
Very pleased with new speed on heavy data tasks + multiple open browser tab performance.
Total time on component swap – around 15 mins. Not bad for a neophyte :-)
Downgrade your T520 bios to version 1.36. This supports faster 1600 ram sticks (subsequent bios upgrades downclock it to 1333). If you look around on the internet, you can find a custom bios that gives you the latest version, plus the 1600 ram speed, and allows you to install a much faster AC wifi card. My T520 is still going strong with a quad core 2960xm, 16gbs of fast 1600 ram, 1 TB Samsung 850 Pro SSD, AC 7260 wifi card, and Windows 10 Pro.
JB: wish I’d scrolled down to your post before ordering the 16GB 1330 RAM. But, where to find the modded bios? I put a Crucial 500mx SSD in here last night and this thing is already flying on 8Gigs of RAM. Well worth the effort/$, these T520s are one of the best workhorses ever built. I’ll update this post once the 16GB arrives and all Lenovo updates are applied. Maybe a win10 refresh as well. Absolutely love this old machine. They simply don’t make them like this anymore. :( Great blog!
I wish I could give you the link, but I doubt that would be permitted. But there’s a guy (I think he’s from the Ukraine) who is a well known bios modder. A bit of Google searching should bring you to him. It’s not free…I think I tipped him $20. But he gives you all the instructions and software tools you need. He’s legit, and it’s well worth it. But even better than the ram speed unlock is the ability to install an AC wireless card. The stock Lenovo bios restricts you to “N” speeds. I’m typing on my T520 right now and I just checked my wifi speed…640mps with an AC7260 wireless card (I think I paid about $18 for the card). You’re right about these machines being well worth the effort to keep them upgraded! Good luck- jb
Hello, About the RAM must I use buffered or unbuffered for the T520 ?
I have seen that on Amazon :
Timetec Hynix IC DDR3 1333MHz PC3-10600 Unbuffered Non-ECC 1.5V CL9 2Rx8 Dual Rank 204 Pin SODIMM
Do you think it’s compatible ?