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Thinkpad R60 cooling hack

Purpose

Thinkpad R60 is an old laptop but it is built like a tank. It was decided to keep it running despite several component end-of-life occasions.

One of the issues was a noisy cooling fan. It was replaced with a spare from another laptop of the same type, purchased earlier as a motherboard donor after one such end-of-life failure.

It was also observed that the inlet ports (on the bottom) and the outlet ports (on the left and back side) tend to get clogged when the machine is resting on soft substrates (bed, blanket, pillow, thicker carpet...). This issue had to be addressed, and the fan replacement time was a good time for that.

Design

Outlet airflow

For the egress airflow it was decided to use some sort of spacers, giving more possible airflow ways than the default design allowed. After pondering several options, the one with aluminium U-shaped spacers was chosen.

Two brackets were cut from a 10x20x10 1.5mm thick aluminium U-profile. Their length was 50 and 55 mm. Rows of tightly spaced 6.5mm holes were drilled to the narrow sides, zigzag lines of 8mm holes were drilled to the faces. 3mm holes were drilled for the mounting screws. The edges were filed into rounded shapes to avoid snagging against blankets and discomfort against legs. The side bracket had to be cut out a bit to not interfere with the Firewire connector.

The laptop's internal components are mounted on a metal chassis from (likely) magnesium and/or aluminium alloy. 2.5mm holes were drilled for the mounting screws and a M3 thread was tapped in them. In the case of the back-side bracket, the screw close to the power connector was impossible to affix to the metal chassis, so it was instead screwed to a nut through the plastic webbing of the original air outlet. (Here is a  potential structural weakness.)


Airflow egress brackets

Airflow egress brackets

Airflow egress brackets

Airflow egress brackets

Bracket mounting holes, side

Bracket mounting holes, back

Brackets in place

Brackets in place

Brackets in place

Inlet airflow

The small cutouts on the bottom side under the CPU fan were judged to be grossly insufficient, to the point of the successful cooling of the CPU under nonoptimal condition being considered a miracle. Examination of internal construction shown a significant space between the top plastic cover and the CPU fan center, allowing a relatively unobstructed airflow to its blades.

A window was cut to the cover where it did not affect any structural component. An aluminium wire mesh was cut into a matching slightly bigger shape. The mesh was then affixed to the plastic using a hot knife on a soldering iron tip; the hot blade was pressed against the mesh and the wires were melted into the plastic. This was repeated on all sides of the mesh until it was secured to the plastic. The plastic that flown atop the mesh wires was then spread with the hot blade over so the wires got integrated into the material. A careful pull-test shown the joint strength as promising.


Ingress window cutout

Ingress window cutout, bottom side

Ingress window wire mesh

Ingress window in place

Ingress window in place

Ingress window in place

Results

The laptop runs significantly cooler and much quieter (as lower fan speed is needed for the same airflow). The high temperature warnings (set to 80 °C) completely disappeared.

TODO


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