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ThinkPad W510

This page gives an overview of the ThinkPad W510, released in January 2010 and still, as of 2016, is a very good powerful machine. Go get a used one and enjoy the power!

Standard Features

ThinkPad W510

Linux Installation

Ubuntu 16.04 LTS Xenial Xerus - 2016-06-10

This operating system works well on the w510, using the NVIDIA Nouveau open source driver and NVIDIA proprietary driver. Wifi, suspend to ram work fine. Brightness control only works out of the box with the Nouveau driver, but a workaround exist for the NVIDIA proprietary driver. Currently, only the Bluetooth device has issues, showing up only rarely while on 14.04 it was always there.

At first impression, Ubuntu 16.04 is much less buggy the Lenovo w510 than 14.04. 16.04 is working quite nicely with no noticeable problems on this machine which still, after 6 years, delivers a punch and is quite fast.

Further reports will be made available as testing will continue --Deragon (talk) 17:57, 10 June 2016 (CEST)

Old report

As of 2010-03-01 the following problems exist with the W510 under Linux:

  • Audio on some W510's has been "destroyed" after running for a while. It has been confirmed that speakers have melted in t400s and t410s as well, this is unrelated to Linux.
  • nVidia FX 880M requires driver >= 195.36.15. Earlier versions have stability or graphics corruption problems.
  • To enable brightness control in X, append 'Option "RegistryDwords" "EnableBrightnessControl=1"' to the Device-Section of xorg.conf, orginal source: This may result in a high-pitched whine after lowering the brightness within X. Brightness may not be lowered and raised in the same increments on Archlinux.
  • Suspend not implemented yet in USB 3.0 (xhci) driver - system cannot suspend unless driver is unloaded first -
    • xhci driver was renamed to xhci_hcd in Ubuntu 10.10 (Maverick Meerkat). Also, iwlagn may need to be unloaded as well -
    • xhci suspend has finally been included in kernel 2.6.37. You don't need module unloading tricks anymore.
    • Suspend in 10.04.3 works now but 2 USB ports (next to the eSATA port) fail to power up on resume. The USB-functionality of the port on the rear and the eSATA USB functionality both appear to come back to life.
  • System can only resume from suspend once - acpi related kernel crash occurs on resume (but system continues to operate), next resume shows BIOS screen and hangs -
    • Lenovo has issued a BIOS update that fixes the 2nd suspend problem (c.f. Ubuntu bug tracker)
    • TEMPORARY WORKAROUND for suspend issues: Use kernel > 2.6.33 mainline and add "acpi_sleep=sci_force_enable" to kernel arguments. This allows the system to suspend and resume multiple times without issue, however it doesn't fix it the "right" way. Lenovo BIOS update mentioned above will eliminate the need for this step.
  • If running an Ubuntu PAE kernel, you can only resume from suspend once if you actually have > 4 GB of RAM. While this has the same symptoms as above, none of the workarounds work for this -
  • Wired networking stuck at 10Mbit without manual change using ethtool. For Ubuntu Karmic this can easily be fixed by manually downloading and installing the e1000e driver from Intel. After installing this driver however, the wireless stopped working me.

(NOT true for me on kernel 2.6.33 ethtool says " Speed: 1000Mb/s " -mstragowski)

  • To get the correct graphical boot screen, edit /boot/grub/grub.cfg and add set "linux_gfx_mode=1280x800x32", just before "export linux_gfx_mode"
  • Archlinux before version 2010.5 cannot easily be configured, as the wireless and ethernet cards both require drivers that are not present in the 2009.08 release. This may be a problem for other distros, as well. With Archlinux 2010.5, ethernet works out of the box and wireless works after kernel update.
  • While Turbo Boost IS working properly with recent distros, built in Linux utilities do not currently show Turbo Boost activity. Intel Powertop or i7z will show actual CPU state properly, including Turbo Boost and advanced C-states. Can be verified running Ubuntu Lucid and compiling a kernel or other tasks, WHILE ON AC POWER.
  • 2-finger scroll on touchpad not working even wtih gpointing-device-settings
       Option "EmulateTwoFingerMinZ" "4"
       Option "VertEdgeScroll" "off"
       Option "HorizEdgeScroll" "off"
       Option "VertTwoFingerScroll" "on"

in the synaptics section in xorg.conf solved that one for me (EmulateTwoFingerMinZ is the relevant part here I think.)

  • If you find the flashing wireless LED annoying, you can change its behavior so it will be on steady whenever the radio is powered on, and off when the radio is off. Add "options iwlcore led_mode=1" to /etc/modprobe.d/iwlcore.conf to set the LED on steady, or you can set led_mode=0 to have it flash whenever there is wireless activity (default)
  • XEN and W510 - After trying numerous combinations of Linux distributions & XEN to get the W510 running a dom0 the problem was well-integrated XEN environments with no support for the W510 or new distributions (like Ubuntu) fixing driver problems but no XEN support whatsoever. I eventually found OpenSuse 11.3 milestone 7 worked pretty well with full resolution graphic support using Nouveau (2.6.34-8) in a dom0. Note: you have to enable VT-d support in BIOS if you want HVM support. Networking however was a complete headache and worked so long as no network changes were made. --Diti2202 21:25, 6 June 2010 (UTC)
  • KVM and W510 - Using Ubuntu 10.04 KVM tools this works very well and is very stable with less disk-thrashing than seen with the OpenSuse11.3 and XEN. Performance seems to be en-par with that of XEN when running the same guest (desktop) VMs. Ubuntu 10.04 (latest updates) seems to support W510 hardware quite well with nouveau graphics driver. Full-screen Guest VM consoles mess up focus between host & guest environment (likely a KVM issue, not W510). --Diti2202
  • Memory - Only since Bios version 1.24 you may use more than 3GB under amd64 Linux --carpf)
  • Ubuntu 10.04 LTS works well and does not lockup on W510/W520. U11.04 seems to suffer from this on both W510,520 and T420 ( and is made much worse using the NVIDIA drivers. Laptop can work for hours trouble-free... but usually locks up within first 5mins.


  • On Ubuntu Karmic, Wireless can be enabled by installing linux-backport-modules-karmic. This adds missing firmware for 6000-series cards. This does not seem to work with the 2.6.31-20 kernel but I have no problems in the 2.6.31-19.
  • All Versions: System cannot suspend unless SUSPEND_MODULES="xhci" (on ArchLinux with 2.6.35 the Module is called "xhci_hcd") is added to /etc/pm/config.d/unload_modules (may need to create this file) Note that this does not resolve the "crash on second resume" problem.
  • On archlinux, ethernet will work after one manually installs the newest kernel26 package, while wifi requires the appropriate microcode package, iwlwifi-6000-ucode.
  • The Nouveau open source nVidia driver [1] works at full resolution without freezing (but without 3D acceleration). This driver is included in Ubuntu Lucid. Note that you may experience elevated (but safe) system temperatures when running Nouveau.
  • Full touchpoint support can be activated by installing gpointing-device-settings - this allows middle click scroll, etc.
  • To control brightness without the (admittedly minor) nvidia driver issues, do not add the EnableBrightnessControl option, but instead switch to a virtual console to change the brightness--this change will remain when you switch back to X.
  • The CD tray's eject button being on an edge of the machine is very easy to catch by accident. The button can be disabled in Linux by issuing this command at boot:
/usr/bin/eject -i on /dev/sr0

There are multiple ways of issuing a command at boot depending on your distro. All other methods of ejecting media are unchanged.

  • Boot from LiveUSB (Ubuntu) works when selecting device (F12). Rebooting however fails to detect the USB stick and doesn't not appear in F12 boot-device menu unless you power-down the laptop, physically remove and reinsert USB stick, then power up and select from F12 menu.

Hardware notes

  • The W510 ships with a large (nearly doubled size of the 90W version) 135W power supply. However, it is possible to plug 90W power supplies, but they get rather warm. Upon boot there's a notification message, that a power supply with reduced performance is connected. Note: In order to avoid overloading the weaker power supply, the CPU is throttled drastically and usually does not go above 400 Mhz.
  • If the binary nVidia drivers are not installed the system runs about 10 degrees warmer and uses a few watts more power. It seems the open source 'nouveau' driver does not have power saving functionality with the nVidia chipset. The program "nvclock" might be able to alleviate this, but I haven't tried.
  • A high pitched noise can sometimes be heard when the computer is running. I was informed that this is the CPU's power management unit. If it annoys you it can be disabled in the BIOS. Also seems that it is correlated with brightness level - at maximum level noise disappears even if laptop works at bare WM without large tasks.
  • The computer does not boot at all when some USB keyboards are plugged in at power on. This is a problem with the BIOS and not with Linux or Windows. The only solution is to unplug the keyboard and plug it in again once the laptop is past the BIOS screen and booting as normal.
  • After upgrading to Ubuntu 10.04 the system hangs very often. Nothing unusual in dmesg or system logs. Seems to happen more often when using wireless. (see bug
    • this is mostly alleviated by updating to Nvidia driver version 256 (now higher) from the SWAT reposistory for Ubuntu. Also throttle the clock speed of the GPU to the minimum (reducing heat) following guidelines from here: to pretty much end the hangs. Issue has been seen to exist on Windows and Ubuntu. Current Nvidia drivers (v.256+) appear to reduce (but not solve) the problem on both platforms.
    • No problems with NVIDIA driver on W510/520: NVIDIA-Linux-x86_64-285.05.09. Any other version tried (10.04.3 default one included) just hangs. It is important to disable the graphics-chipset selection by operating system in the BIOS. Otherwise, on a dual-boot system Windows will keep changing it and confusing Ubuntu/NVIDIA.
  • Logitech USB headset causes kernel panic, U10.04.3 LTS (