North2South Crafts

A Refurbished ThinkPad X131e Upgrade

Linux Mint Debian 4 (LMDE 4) And Windows 10 on Two SSDs


The details begin. It is spring 2019. I like ThinkPads and use Linux. This X131e laptop was the last unit of the group of refurbished inventory at our local technology store. In excellent condition and discounted as the "last unit", it became a purchase. This X131e has a Intel Celeron 1007U 64 bit Processor, 4GB Memory and a 320GB Hard Drive. I was surprised to discover a 16GB half-size mSATA SSD drive was installed (Used for certain Windows recovery and quick start methods) in this model.

This ThinkPad X131e was a ruggedized laptop focused for students.

My plan was to increase the ram and have two solid state drives with Linux as the primary OS and Windows 10 on the second drive.

After months of using the laptop and doing various configuration tests and installs, I kept a setup that works for me. A Samsung 850EVO 120GB SATA SSD was for the Windows 10 install. Linux Mint Debian 4 went on a Kingston SUV500MS 240GB half size mSATA SSD. In the BIOS startup sequence the mSATA drive is number one with Linux as default. The SATA drive with Windows 10 became number two. To run Windows at boot up, press [Enter] then [F12]. Now from the device list select the SATA drive to boot from.

Linux Distribution Likes

Linux has been our main OS for many years. I used distributions (aka "Distros") as Libranet, Mepis, Suse, Ubuntu and Linux Mint. (With some limited Red Hat training, I have configured Red Hat / CentOS and Debian servers at past employers.) MX Linux 19.x (XFCE version) and Linux Mint Debian 4 are currently my Linux distro favorites. I discovered MX Linux two years ago. It is refreshing to see some of the great Mepis Linux heritage. My wife did well starting with Linux Mint six years ago and now using MX Linux 18.x. She likes the stability MX Linux offers which helped her adjust fast from Windows 7. I like MX Linux and its' built-in tools and I like Linux Mint Debian and it’s Cinnamon interface.

The X131e ThinkPad model 3367-71R4, was not on Lenovo's Certified for Linux list. My other ThinkPads run Linux OK so the X131e was worth a try.

Unfortunately there are a couple of applications we use that lock us into Windows such as updating our vehicle GPS unit and user tuning of my hearing aids. A Windows installation is needed for those programs as neither will run under Wine for Linux (I still use the Windows programs as Quicken 2001 and Paint Shop Pro that run perfect under Wine in Linux)

Quicken 2001 runs on Linux Mint Debian 4 using Wine the Windows API Linux translator.

Hardware Upgrading

I Increased the ram to 8GB. The Samsung 850 EVO 120GB SATA SSD became the main drive (sda) to have Windows 10 installed on it. I purchased a Kingston SUV500MS 240GB half size mSATA SSD to replace the original unused 16GB mSATA SSD as the second drive for Linux. All done from the back panel removal … easy.

Note the Kingston M2 SSD adjacent to the WIFI board below the Samsung SSD. Two identical Samsung DDR3L-1600 4GB SODIMMs were used.

The BIOS settings I set were for both Linux and Windows. The secondary (factory installed) mSATA SSD was used for Intel Rapid Start if set up in Windows. The 240GB replacement mSATA SSD is for the Linux install so Rapid Start is not enabled. These settings were my preference; Security Chip [Inactive], Secure Boot [OFF], UEFI/Legacy Boot [BOTH], and in the UEFI / Legacy Boot Priority, [Legacy First].

Linux is to be the DEFAULT OS when powered on.

If the plan is dual booting on a single drive, LMDE 4 and Windows 10 that could be: ........

Partitioning the drive using a "live" thumb drive LMDE 4 and running the GParted utility fom it. NTFS for half of the drive. For dual booting Windows and Linux on a single drive, Windows is installed first. Linux then is installed (using manual or auto partitioning) with GRUB detecting the Windows install and then producing a menu choice for a dual OS boot setup.

Now in my plan I will have two Solid State Drives, EACH with their own operating system of Windows and Linux.

Windows Defines Where It Wants To Reside

I learned from many days of trial and error, that Windows first on the m2.mSATA SSD and Linux on the Samsung SATA SSD caused GRUB to not boot Windows on the X131e. Windows complained of missing system files. It made no difference in the BIOS boot order.

Windows in this dual SSD GRUB BOOT SETUP would only boot correctly if it is installed on the SATA SSD not the M2 mSATA SSD. Windows will install and boot fine on the m2.mSATA drive, if .... it is the ONLY DRIVE INSTALLED.

The only method here for two installed drives is BIOS startup drive selection at boot up. Press [Enter] at bootup as the ThinkPad Logo is seen them press [F12] to select the drive to boot. GRUB (Linux boot loader) will handle booting Linux Mint Debian 4 on the mSATA SSD. Even a Windows 10 re-install will not screw up the Linux GRUB configuration on the SATA SSD. Drive OS is selected at boot up from pressing [Enter] and holding during ThinkPad logo display then pressing [F12] for the drive select option.

Note in the BIOS setting above the Kingston mSATA drive with Linux will be the default boot drive
(1st in the Priority Order list). Now to try Linux Mint Debian 4 will be instaled using Clonezilla from another SSD.

At boot Press [Enter] and holding during ThinkPad logo display then pressing [F12] for the drive select option. In this case the Kingston mSATA SSD would boot Windows if selected. Nice feature with 2 SSDs in this notebook!

Windows 10 Installation Notes On the X131e

The X131e needs certain Windows drivers from the Lenovo web site. It’s best to check the Windows device manager for errors and the Lenovo downloads for drivers to install.

Windows 10 was installed fresh on the 120GB SATA SSD drive. I remeoved the mSATA drive drive for the install. BIOS updates and specific Lenovo drivers for the X131e for Windows 10 are initially found by matching the model number or serial number.

The BIOS was upgraded to version 3.00 back in June 2019 containing many fixes since the original and to version 3.01 in October for security fixes.

The X131e needs certain Windows drivers from the Lenovo web site. It’s best to check the Windows device manager for errors and the Lenovo downloads for drivers to install.

Windows drivers may not always work correctly on ThinkPads so Lenovo drivers were installed (With exception of some of the Lenovo utilities I didn’t want). Using the 64 bit Windows 10 filter, there are 29 files with 7 of which that are software / utilities. Windows works. So far OK.


And along came Windows 10 Updates. After the updates extreme slowness on shutdown and reboot happened. Some shutdowns took about 5 minutes!      (grrr … Windows Update mess)

After some searching, the fix was found at:

Corrupted and or missing system files mostly cause this problem. That sounded serious.

I followed the instructions carefully.

Just like using Windex on the cars' windshield after the birds got it! Yes digital Windex on Windows.
Windows boot up on the SSD regained the 15 seconds on to login prompt and 15 seconds to shutdown.

I did some personalizing of Windows options and control. [No Automatic Updates!] A few software installs such as Firefox, Gimp and LibreOffice etc. A Backup image were completed on an outboard backup drive. Basic drive imaging for Windows 10 recovery, the Windows imaging backup and restore tools work well. All is working OK with Windows 10 for those infrequently needed applications. It's over! Windows 10 works OK on the X131e on the primary SATA SSD drive.

Linux Mint Debian 4 (LMDE 4) Installation

Clonezilla is good. It is my favorite tool for disk and or partition cloning.

I used a drive from an earlier test install on a ThinkPad 11e with Linux Mint Debian 4 (which has my plus size collection of installed Linux programs) and cloned to the mSATA drive of the X131e. Clonezilla Live is a Free Debian-Linux-based live CD tool. It does partition and disk cloning similar to Norton Ghost and many other things. Clonezilla vs 2.6.3-7 is excellent. Love it and it works nice booting it on a thumb drive or on a CD.

Dual booting with two independent disk devices greatly lessens the problems Windows presents if dual booting is on the SAME disk. Simple, each has it's own boot information isolated from the other. This is a useful setup on this X131e model. Not many notebooks offer both mSATA and standard SATA drives together.

Fixing The Problems with the Linux Mint Debian 4 Installation

LMDE 4 uses a Debian 10 "Stable" (aka Buster) foundation rather than Ubunu Linux foundation standard Linux Mint uses with the Cinnamon desktop. It uses the Debian default systemd startup service and has a minimal of included applications.

The main "gotcha" was wireless hardware was not found. A LMDE 4 live thumb drive worked well but after the cloned install there still was no support for the Broadcom WiFI hardware.

I booted with that live LMDE 4 thumb drive to run the tool GParted. The original cloned source LMDE 4 drive was 120GB and the mSATA Kingston drive is 240GB. I increased the /home partition in size to fill the disk with additional storage room.

Next using my old D-Link bridge with a lan cable, I connected to my network. Searching on line I found the "wl - Debian Wiki" had the solution.

Add a "non-free" component to /etc/apt/sources.list for your Debian version, for example: For Debian 10 "Buster":

deb buster-backports main contrib non-free.

Next was to update the list of available packages. Install the relevant/latest linux-image, linux-headers and broadcom-sta-dkms packages:

from the terminal:

# sudo apt-get update
# apt-get install linux-image-$(uname -r|sed 's,[^-]*-[^-]*-,,') linux-headers-$(uname -r|sed 's,[^-]*-[^-]*-,,') broadcom-sta-dkms

This will also install the recommended wireless-tools package. DKMS will build the wl module for the X131e system.

Now load the wl module:

# sudo modprobe wl

Restart. Now with WiFI I configured my connection as I would usually do. Viewing the kernal log, it complained about older modules loading as in MX Linux. This is an older ThinkPad. I left them as is and experienced no issues.

Networking to Windows Shares Is Not Working

Networking to Windows Shares is a Samba Omission. This is seen on the live thumb drive/CD and I corrected it on the initial LMDE 4 installation before this cloning. (This is also seen in MX Linux 19x)

Add / edit the following lines (as root) to etc/samba/smb.conf so Windows and Linux shares are seen:

name resolve order = bcast host lmhosts wins
client max protocol = NT1

(This has been seen on some Ubuntu Linux based distros and others)

Solid State Disk Drive Trim Is Not Enabled

Snooping around startup services and cron jobs, I was surprised to learn trim isn't setup automatically like in MX Linux. Searching the Linux Mint forum under LMDE a solution was found.
In a terminal run these commands:

# sudo systemctl enable fstrim.timer
# sudo systemctl enable fstrim.service
# sudo systemctl start fstrim.timer
# sudo systemctl start fstrim.service

Reboot and in a terminal, run these commands to verify the trim service setup is running:

# sudo systemctl status fstrim.timer
# sudo systemctl list-unit-files | grep fstrim.timer
# sudo systemctl status fstrim.service
# sudo systemctl list-unit-files | grep fstrim.service

Setting Up LMDE 4 Like MX Linux 19.x

My plus size collection of sofware was installed close to identical to my other MX Linux installations. I normally use Synaptic to install software with MX Linux and it also worked with no problems on LMDE 4. The overall look and feel of Linux Mint Debian is very good. It's smooth and by default offers a minimal but pleasant amount of animation along with some Cinnamon "extras" such as my favorite "expo" preview of multiple desktops.

The LMDE4 Cinnamon Menu

LMDE 4 Expo Desktop Preview

Screensaver animation options are nonexistent. Only a brightness reduced background desktop with a clock or some text messasge floating around is all you can get by default.

LMDE 4 Is Good But For New Users MX Linux 19.x Is Better

Linux Mint Debian is a ROCK SOLID Debian Buster distro with a Linux Mint tweaked Cinnamon interface. Installation and adjustments could be difficult for a new Linux user with certain hardware combinations, such as these, Broadcom WiFI and a solid state drive.

MX Linux stands out with better hardware detection and it's great collection of included tools making it more user friendly. MX Linux is a unique disto in that users can select and change the startup service to systemd or the init SysV boot service at startup.

With my configurations, memory usage of MX Linux 19.x and Linux Mint Debian 4 on this ThinkPad X131e are almost identical.

LMDE 4 personally I rate it as number two. User friendly MX Linux I rate NUMBER ONE. In closing, Yes... Linux runs well (with some installation work with LMDE 4) on this upgraded ThinkPad X131e.
I prefer the Cinnamon interface of Linux Mint Debian over the XFCE interface offered in MX Linux. Debian repositories no longer support Cinnamon. It was difficult for the developers to keep up with it's complexity. The Linux Mint team does a great job of support of Cinnamon which they initially wrote.

Making Use Of An Older ThinkPad

The X131e is a good basic small notebook and it has found a home as a rugged around the house or travel buddy. Bluetooth isn't always reliable, but otherwise I am very happy with the Linux installs. I feel the uniqueness of this ThinkPad (combination of BIOS and hardware) causes some of the install challenges on both Linux and Windows. This could explain why it wasn't Linux "certified".

The Intel Celeron 1007 model was not as common as the X131e models with the AMD processors, but advertised speeds close to equal. The other models of the X131e as Chrome Books became popular being the least expensive of the series. Interesting, the mSATA slot was gone in the X140e.

Something about the X131e I feel almost emotional about (I should after this adventure). It reminds me of my vintage T30. The X131e also reminds me of the newer 11e student model, a modern well built, mil-spec ruggedized notebook without the ThinkPad trackpoint. They were introduced after the X131e and also offered Chromebook configurations. The ThinkPad 11e, 1st thru 3rd generations offer great Linux compatibility and remain an affordable favorite both at home and for travel. They run super cool and fans rarely kick on. They aren’t game computers but are they are very good for general tasks. They are very easy to upgrade. The later generations of the Lenovo ThinkPad educational models may not offer an upgrade path due to on board soldered ram and or SSDs. I'd miss doing upgrades.

MAJOR System Problem:
Random HARD Shutdown Event with EITHER Windows or Linux

Wirhin the first few months of using it, random shutdowns happened. It was a hard SHUTDOWN while doing something as scrolling, cursor movement via keyboard, mouse click selection etc. These shutdowns are random but not really frequent. They can happen once a day and other times running for many days of normal usage until a shutdown event happens. On and off cycles or leaving the laptop on didn't matter.

Shutdowns happened when BOTH the power supply was in and a battery was installed. Just with the power supply or only on battery never produced a shutdown.

Searching And Research

The quest began looking at the logs. The only standout error was with the kernel log complaining about older modules loading. (Nothing was found relating to a hard shutdown in any log entry)

Using temperature monitoring never showed anything unusal. I disassembled it anyway and installed new thermal paste on the CPU. A new Li-Ion battery was installed as well as a new CMOS battery. Full tests were done including memory and Lenovo's diagnostics. (as I continued to use it the X131e for web browsing). Eveything always passed. I have two Lenovo (circular plug) ThinkPad power supplies, a 65 watt and a 90 watt. Using either one made no difference.

Can it be a random issue related to the BIOS and hardware timings of the mainboard? A faulty temperature sensor? I installed the "psensor" program via Synaptic, for "on demand or automatic temperature monitoring". Temperatures were always good and it could power on immediately without issues after a radom shutdown.

Random Shutdowns Can Be Many Things

Heat is a common cause. A faulty power supply, a bad battery, a bad power supply cable or a poor battery connection can be also be cause. A loose board or hard drive or faulty circuit component can cause shutdowns. A defective polyfuse on the mainboard can cause instant shutdowns but those normally require a few minutes to reset then function again for some period of time.

Lenovo forums had noted that an internal noise issue with the voltage regulation component is the common element on some T400s. Lenovo support declared this to be a hardware defect that could occur in a percentage of the early vintage T400s systems.

"This is an electrical noise issue which manifests in a fairly small portion of the user base and does not appear to develop over time. As discussed at length here, some combinations of BIOS level, system settings, and driver versions can affect the frequency in which these random shut down events can occur, but these factors are not the cause themselves."

The fix from Lenovo is to is to replace the main T400 board. Could this be a similar factor with my X131e? On an 8 year old ThinkPad "fun to have extra notebook" as this, I will not invest in a replacement main board.

I found some forum discussions of random shutdowns after new SSDs were installed.

It could be hardware compatibility issues or BIOS issues of the AHCI support of older board components and newer SSDs. (AHCI stands for Advance Host Controller Interface. It is a newer technology to provide advanced features to the Serial ATA standard.) The Lenovo BIOS selections for SATA is "AHCI" and "Compatibility".

In the BIOS Serial ATA (SATA) section [ACHI] is now changed to [Compatibility]

Normal Linux operation Windows 10 worked OK.
Now worked with it few days on shutdown watch, a shutdown happened, I changed the SATA section back to ACHI.

It Is Solved? No

Noting the battery charge display, if the AC charger cable is plugged in and the battery display reads, 100% charged, the random shutdowns can happen. If the computer is ran on battery then reconnected and disconnected at a time before the battery is displayed 100% charged, random shutdown events happen. That is when the battery may show 96% YET IT SAYS THE BATTERY IS FULLY CHARGED. This didn't matter with using the older battery with about 90 minutes of capacity or the new battery with 3 plus hours of capacity. These batteries were Lenovo approved third party manuactured and I verified in Windows that the update firmware was current.

So if the AC charger is disconnected during a "recharge" cycle before it is complete, the ThinkPad battery re-calibration procedure should be done.

Simple, power down, unplug the DC power. Remove the battery. Now hold the power button down about 30 seconds. Reinstall the battery and plug in the DC. Power up the laptop and allow it to charge and display 100% charged. The other ThinkPads and Acer laptops we have can "cope" with an interrupted charging cycle. They display correct battery charge percentage.

I am thankful I was able to find so much with research. The many Linux forums, Tom’s Hardware, ThinkPad X131e reviews and the Lenovo forum discussions provided a lot of information on this ThinkPad and general computer hardware - software information. I like the X131e but am still dealing with the shutdowns if a battery is installed with the AC charger plugged in.

All evidence seems to suggest a main board component as the cause. A certain set of conditions, perhaps fluctuations in voltage regulation at certain conditions relative to other components causing a noise issue. Many days of usage without a shutdown then suddenly it happens. I just will continue with frequent saves. I still enjoy this X131e. Maybe I'll discover the conditions of cause that I can prevent. Fortunately I never had a shutdown during a read or write operation.

Only running it on battery or AC power, no shutdowns, no risk of data corruption.