Lenovo T400: now an excellent, inexpensive laptop

March 11, 2014

Image used is from lenovo.com

Image used is from lenovo.com

When I started researching open-source routing and networking software, I ran the open-source Linux operating system on a virtual machine running on my Apple iMac computer. When I wanted to experiment with virtualization technologies such as KVM, which will not work inside a virtual machine, I set up my iMac to dual-boot Linux and Mac OS X.

Eventually, I wanted a second computer on which I could frequently install and re-install different distributions of Linux without worrying if I would cause problems on the iMac, which is also used by the rest of my family.

I needed to buy a computer specifically for my research project. I wanted to get a good computer at a very low price. Read on to learn about the Lenovo T400 laptop computer, an excellent and inexpensive Linux platform.

Update: In January 2016, I upgraded to a Lenovo Thinkpad T420. It is also an excellent and inexpensive laptop.

In the past five years, computer performance has been “good enough” for most activities. Open-source software, such as Linux, runs well on older computer hardware and provides all the newest features and security updates. Today, most people may be well served by a computer that is four or five years old. These older, used computers are very inexpensive to purchase.

The Lenovo T400 is a business-class notebook produced in 2008 and 2009 that was leased in large volumes by companies for use by their employees. Now, these companies are returning these computers to the leasors so Lenovo T400 laptops are available at used-computer resellers and on eBay at very low prices.

When purchasing a used Lenovo T400, you need to be aware of what you will get for your money. The Lenovo T400 comes in several versions with different options such as upgraded LED displays, larger disk drives, a webcam, and a fingerprint scanner. Versions with fewer options should be lower in price. When comparing prices online, take into account the features added to the computer, which might be worth paying more for.

Lenovo provides a hardware maintenance manual that provides instruction on how to maintain and upgrade the T400. This is a business machine that is designed to be upgraded and easily maintained. Lenovo makes it easy for anyone to upgrade the system RAM or the hard drive and to replace and faulty hardware modules.

Used T400s will usually have 2GB of RAM installed but there is an empty RAM slot in which you can install an additional SO-DIMM card to increase available memory. Adding an additional 2GB of memory is an easy and inexpensive upgrade.

Last year, I purchased a Lenovo T400 laptop computer to support my research on Linux and open-source routing and networking software. It came with an upgraded WXGA+ LED screen, a webcam, an 9-cell extended battery that still holds 4 hours of charge, a 130GB hard drive, and 2GB of RAM.

I paid only $225 (Canadian dollars) for the laptop in 2013. At that point in time the model was four years old. I upgraded the RAM to 4GB for less than $40. So for $265, I have a high-quality laptop computer running Ubuntu Linux 14.04 that feels as fast and responsive as a new laptop running Windows.

I describe the Linux software I use on my computer setup page.

In two years, I will upgrade to a Lenovo T410 or T420 when those models are at the same $200 price point that the T400 is at today. Currently, in 2014, Lenovo continues to build excellent, high-performance laptop computers and in 5 years I’ll probably buy one of those for around $200.

I may never buy a new laptop computer again.

Note: In January 2016 I did indeed upgrade to a Lenovo Thinkpad T420 and I am very happy with it.

14 responses to Lenovo T400: now an excellent, inexpensive laptop

  1. Hi,
    i have a Lenovo T400, 2GB of RAM and a Samsung 120 GB SSD. I have to reinstall it and i’d like to make a double installation on it: windows 7 pro 64 bit and linux. Do you think that Ubuntu Linux 13.10, 64 bit will run ok with 2GB?
    Thanks in advance, regards

    • Hi Marco,
      Ubuntu Linux will run on a system with 2GB of RAM. It will be usable for most common activities like word processing, photo editing, and web browsing. But, the Unity user interface will seem slow. I upgraded my RAM becauseI need to run software that consumes a lot of resources. To support my research in open source network simulators, which requires running multiple virtual machines on the host computer, I found that running virtual machines on a 2GB system did not work. I upgraded to 4GB, which worked well for me.
      Regards, Brian

  2. Just did this with a T410! Price is hard to beat and with a Core i5 performance is still great! And this is the last ThinkPad that doesn’t, sadly, have a video-centric 16:9 screen!

  3. Hi Brian! I’ve been doing basically the same thing as you for several years now. I love these T series Thinkpads. I’m on a T400 currently, which I think I paid $150 for on Ebay a couple years ago. The things are built like tanks, and I like that full parts info, manuals, etc. are all available from Lenovo and other sources. Also, the parts are cheap on Ebay. I’m getting ready to upgrade the thing from 4Gb RAM to 8Gb. Maybe later this year I’ll go for a bit newer model, or maybe not! I don’t mind being a few years behind the times.

    • hello, i have 2 t400’s!! one is runnin windows 7(4gbs ram) and the other is runnin ubuntu 14.04(2gbs ram),
      super fast,both OS’s are 64 bit!! there is that many of them being returned to leasing companies and are sold of, i got one of the for 60 euro and there is hardly a mark on it!! great machines, im a recent photographer grad and i run photoshop and lightroom on one of them!!! it more than meets the system requirments!! goin up grade both to 8 gbs of ram!!My mother gives out sayin why do i buy these old machines!! she dont the craic do!!lol!!T series Rule!They run super fast on Ubuntu!! defintley faster than the windows machine!! and it has less ram!!still plently of life in these machines!! a few years id say, i have 2 of the x series X60, and they still run fine!!!il always stick with lenovo!!

      • Original IBM thinkpad series laptops are really great!!!
        I have one T61 (T7700 CPU, 4GB RAM, 4MB L2 cache, Ubuntu 10.04 LTS) and one T400 (4GB RAM, T9600 CPU, 6MB L2 Cache, Ubuntu 12.04 LTS 64-bit) laptops. I bought them from ebay at price range $200 ~ $250USD.

  4. Just bought a Lenovo T420s on Ebay for 339 bucks. A bit steep, but it was the absolute top of the line model w/ i7 2.8g cpu, 8g ram, and a 160g SSD drive. Plus… pre-installed w/ full-blown Mint Linux (64bit Cinnamon 17.1 aka Rebecca). Waiting for it to arrive now… thinking I’m gonna love this. A friend followed suit, purchasing a T410s for only 195 (incl. shipping). His came w/ an i5 2.4g processor, 128g SSD drive, and 4g memory. Has winduhs 7 right now, but he’s going to fix that…. though his favorite way to run a computer is with a usb stick and puppy linux. Real minimalist, so that machine may blow his mind.

  5. Does anyone know if the hard drive from a T400 can be used in a T420?

  6. I’ve got this Lenovo T400 also. I’m running Xubuntu 16.04.1 64bit on a 64gb ssd and 4gb ram. I bought a 128gb ssd ($38) and 4gb DDR3-1333 ram from Ebay yesterday. I bought the laptop from Ebay last month. I paid $28 plus shipping for the laptop. I ordered a battery and hard drive caddy. This laptop over heats so I have a laptop cooler, which works great. It was $6. I’m very happy with the Lenovo. The only thing I don’t like is the placement of the “FN” key. I’m used to the “Ctrl” key to be in far lelf postion. You have a great blog website.

    • I have a T400 also. I run Win7 and Peppermint7 on it. I have 80GB hdd and 4GB ram. It is a wonderful computer.

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