Lenovo Thinkpad X220 Fan Replacement

Replacing the cooling fan on a Thinkpad X220 (or X230) is, by no means, a small job - it's packed away inside and the steps you need to follow would also be enough to change the motherboard.

However, the part - the fan - is incredibly cheap: you can buy a replacement for around £10, so it is a cheap repair to do yourself. It's also relatively straightforward, you just need space and time to do it.

This documentation details how to disassemble a Lenovo Thinkpad X220 in order to remove and replace the cooling fan - the process is exactly the same on an X230.


First, the Why.

You may have heard your fan squealing and know it's coming up for replacement, or you might have put that off for another day until you inevitably get a Fan Error message post-boot

Fan Error

You'll need

  • A phillips screw driver
  • A very small cross head screw driver (glasses repair kits are good for these)
  • A pair of tweezers
  • A small flathead or (better) a spudger
  • electrical tape
  • Thermal paste
  • A replacement fan

Where possible, you should also take ESD precautions


Turn the laptop over and remove the battery

X220 Battery Removed

Remove every screw from the underside, and then remove the RAM cover and remove the SODIMMS

X220 RAM

One the left hand side is the hard-drive cover, remove this and slide the hard-drive (or SSD) out.

Turn the laptop over and open the lid.

Using a spudger, slide the keyboard up in the direction of the screen, this should allow you to lift out the lower tabs and slide the keyboard down and out

X220 keyboard removal

There's a screw on each of the rear corners

X220 Screen mount screws

Remove these.

Under the keyboard, remove the two visible screws.

Then disconnect the touchpad ribbon cable (flip the black plastic on the socket upwards)

X220 touchpad ribbon cable

You should now be able to unclip and remove the palm rest

X220 palm rest removed

Disconnect the CMOS battery

X220 CMOS battery

At the top of the keyboard tray is the screen cable, disconnect this

X220 screen connector cable

Disconnect the keyboard ribbon cable (it pulls up)

X220 keyboard disconnected

You'll need to disconnect the antenna leads from the wifi modules

X220 WWAN module

You should now be able to remove the keyboard tray - squeeze it's sides in slightly and it'll come out

X220 keyboard tray removed

The next step is to detach the screen, disconnect it's left hand connector

X220 screen lead

And the remaining antenna cables

X220 antenna leads

Lift the screen up and out

X220 screen removed

At the front of the tray are the speakers - disconnect their connector and then undo the single retaining screw

X220 speaker removal

Next to remove are a bunch of motherboard screws

X220 screen removed

The next bit is a bit fiddly - you need a pair of tweezers (or a really small socket). Unscrew the mounts on the VGA connector

X220 VGA connector mounts

Whilst there, turn the wifi switch off.

The motherboard is now effectively only held in by the expansion module screws, so unscrew those

X220 expansion modules

(don't forget the little bluetooth module at the front)

You should now be able to pull the motherboard to the right (towards the ethernet socket) and lift it out - you'll want to slide the yellow power socket up and out of place too (it disconnects easily, and is fiddly to reconnect in situ).

X220 motherboard removed

Flip the motherboard over and you should see the 4 (sprung) retaining screws.

X220 cooling

They're numbered - unscrew 4 first, working down to 1,

Lift the cooling unit away

X220 cooling unit

Fan Replacement

You'll need a much smaller screw driver now, there are 3 cross-head screws holding the fan unit onto the cooling apparatus

X220 cooling unit

Unscrew these, and carefully pull the fan away (be careful not to bend the metal, it's thin)

X220 cooling unit seperated from fan

Before you fit the new fan, blow any dust out of the exhausts

X220 cooling unit exhausts

Prepare for the most frustrating stage - getting the new fan screwed in.

The screws are absolutely tiny, so be careful not to drop them - you need to hold the fan in place and carefully get the screws in. I found it was easiest to start with the two furthest from the copper.

After much cursing, your new fan should be attached

X220 cooling unit, new fan attached

Use some electrical tape to create a seal where the fan meets the exhausts

X220 cooling unit, sealing the fan

We're now ready to start re-assembling


As a general tip before we begin - if a screw is silver it's an internal screw, black screws are external.

Clean any old thermal paste off the cooling unit, CPU and GPU.

Then, apply a generous layer of new thermal paste to each

X220 Thermal goop on CPU and GPU

Put the cooling apparatus back into place, and tighten down the sprung screws, working in order from 1 to 4.

Do not put a screw into the marked location! I did and then later realised it has to go in from the other side, so needed to disassemble again to remove it

X220 cooling reinstalled

Turn the motherboard over and carefully put it back into the laptop tray - slide the left hand side in first and then align the ports on the right.

Put the retention screws back in (and screw the power port back into place)

X220 motherboard screwed back in

Screw the VGA mounts back in

X220 VGA Port

Put the speakers back in and reconnect them

X220 speakers

Put the expansion modules back in

X220 expansion modules

Sit the screen back into it's mounts

Route the cables down the right and reconnect

X220 expansion modules connected

Reconnect the left screen connector cable (do not reconnect the right hand side yet)

X220 left screen connector

Close the lid, and put the 4 screen mount screws in (2 in each rear corner)

X220 screen mount screws

Flip the laptop back over and open the lid

Put the keyboard tray back in

X220 keyboard tray

Route the right hand screen cable and reconnect it

X220 right screen connector

Put the keyboard tray retention screws in

X220 keyboard tray retaining screws

Reconnect the remaining aerial leads and plug the CMOS battery back in

X220 CMOS battery reconnected

Clip the palm rest into place

X220 CMOS battery reconnected

Reconnect it's ribbon cable

Flip the laptop and put the front 3 screws in - these hold the palm rest in place, and will make fitting the keyboard easier.

Reconnect the laptop ribbon cable (it just pushes down)

X220 keyboard reconnection

Slide the keyboard in towards the screen first, then use a spudger to help slide it's tabs down below the edge of the palm rest

X220 keyboard reconnection

Flip the laptop and screw the 2 keyboard retaining screws back in (one in between the RAM slots, one above)

X220 keyboard retaining screws

Slide the hard-drive/SSD back in and screw on its cover

X220 keyboard retaining screws

Pop the RAM back in

X220 keyboard retaining screws

And screw on it's cover.

If you've any remaining black screws, find their corresponding holes and screw them in.

First Boot

Now we're ready for the moment of truth.

Plug the laptop in, and power it on. You will get an error reported by the BIOS

Check Date/time
invalid CMOS checksum

This is because the CMOS battery was disconnected.

Press F1 to go into setup, and then set the date and time. Exit, saving changes and the system should boot.


Replacing the fan on a Lenovo Thinkpad X220 isn't particulary hard, but it is potentially quite daunting.

The cost of the repair is extremely low, so there's very little argument for replacing rather than repairing the laptop.