Lenovo T520i RAM and Hard Drive upgrade

My web development machine is an off the shelf Lenovo T520i ThinkPad. It was never going to set the world alight in terms of speed or looks, but it’s a solid workhorse that has run Windows 7 without fail for over 3 years.

As my demands on the machine have increased year on year the loyal T520i has struggled to keep up. Photoshop, Eclipse and ever increasingly RAM hungry browser app requirements were starting to take their toll on my patience and its capabilities.


ThinkPad, the Ray Winstone of computing

As a bit of background, I’ve never been one for buying new tech just so the older but still perfectly useful model can sit on the shelf and gather dust. There’s something of the spoilt Apple user that has to have the extra shiny model that is 3mm thinner. My second machine is a beast of an IBM ThinkPad T43p. Over a decade old with 2GB of Ram it runs Elementary OS like a dream, it’s the Ray Winstone of computing – Big, a bit slow whilst also being handsome and quite useful.

So with that in mind I came across a blog post on Helge Klein suggesting the T520 can accept 16GB of RAM rather than the maximum of 8GB specified. The same post suggested swapping to an SSD (Solid State Drive) for increased performance.

The results of my upgrade made for a faster experience on a machine that can handle everything that I need to have open concurrently.

The final cost of the upgrade was £165.


The T520 has two slots available, each supposedly capable of holding 4GB each. I’d already upgraded the T520i RAM to 2 x 4GB, so after purchasing an 8GB module (See below) and swapping out one of the 4GB I was pleased to see that the machine recognised it straight away. So now I have 12GB available, and there’s no reason to suggest the other slot under the keyboard wont accept another 8GB module either.

Solid State Drive

I opted for a 500GB Samsung SSD and purchased a USB to SATA conversion cable for the data migration. The migration software that came with the Samsung drive didn’t work so I downloaded Macrium Reflect Free which cloned my original hard drive perfectly. After cloning the hard drive I shut down, removed the battery and installed the new SSD.

The initial start displayed a worry error screen that I should have recorded, however a hard restart then booted Windows 7.

Unlike the Samsung Data Migtation software, their Magician software did a great job of configuring the ThinkPad to adapt to how you want it to respond to the new SSD, for performance or reliability etc.

 What you’ll need

  • RAM: Kingston Memory Module / 8 GB / DDR3 / 1333 MHz / soDIMM
  • Samsung 850 EVO 500 GB 2.5-Inch Solid State Drive
  • USB to SATA 22 Pin 2.5″ Hard Disk Drive Converter Adapter Cable
  • Samsung Magician software (Bundled with SSD)
  • Macrium Reflect Free software