I picked up an off-lease Lenovo Thinkcentre M58 over the weekend. Based on the date code on the hard drive, this one dates to 2010. It’s a serviceable machine. You have a few options when it comes to Lenovo Thinkcentre M58 upgrades. I wouldn’t necessarily use one as a basis for a $100 gaming PC but you can make a great general purpose home PC out of one.
I needed one in a hurry so I may have paid a bit much. You can pick up an M58 hulk off Ebay for $50 or even less if it’s missing crucial parts like a hard drive and doesn’t have a lot of memory. I’d be fine with buying one without a hard drive, or without a lot of memory, since I’d probably just replace all that stuff anyway. If you’re willing to pay closer to $100, you can get one with 4 GB of RAM and a new Windows license.
One very nice thing about it is that it has an integrated Intel E1000 NIC in it. It’s a good card, with good driver support regardless of the operating system you want to run, and it makes low demands on your CPU. I’m not one of those guys who disables onboard NICs and installs Intel cards, but I do like it when a system has an Intel or Broadcom NIC built in. Here’s why, if you’re curious.
Lenovo Thinkcentre M58 SSD upgrades
It’s a sturdy business-class machine. It runs cool and quiet. I replaced the 7-year-old hard drive with a 120 GB SSD. This makes it even quieter. It also makes it faster and more reliable. Hitachi drives were durable but seven years is pushing it. If you don’t already have a spare SSD to drop in, Intel 320s are cheap, fast, and reliable. When you install an SSD, consider the question whether to migrate or install fresh.
The desktop versions don’t have a lot of room in them. But you can ditch the DVD drive and install two SATA SSDs, two hard drives, or one of each. I just keep a USB DVD drive handy for when I need one, which isn’t terribly often. If you get the tower version, you’ll have more room for drives and more expansion slots.
Lenovo Thinkcentre M58 CPU upgrades
It can take an Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550 CPU, which isn’t top of the line but can still give i3-like performance. A Q9650 also works but costs twice as much as a 9550 while not being twice as fast. Search Lenovo’s support page for your specific model to see what CPUs work in yours, and be sure to download the newest BIOS. For comparison’s sake, the Core 2 Duos that most of these systems come with perform like modern Celerons. That’s not bad considering you can get the whole system for the cost of a modern Celeron chip–yes, just the chip.
Lenovo Thinkcentre M58 memory upgrades
Use the Crucial Memory Adviser to ensure you’re buying the right memory, and be sure you have the latest BIOS. M58s are a bit sensitive about the type of memory you use, or at least they were early on. If you find conflicting information at Lenovo about your model, it could be the BIOS revision.
Windows runs comfortably on these in 4 gigabytes but 8 is better. Here’s why.
Lenovo Thinkcentre M58 video upgrades
The onboard video in these things is adequate for basic productivity apps, but not much else. Unfortunately, upgrading the video can be tricky, as many cards won’t play well with the M58 BIOS and/or power supply. I put an AMD Radeon 6450 in mine and it works well. Don’t worry about buying a Dell-branded one, it’ll work fine in a Lenovo. Expect to pay around $15-$20. These cards are plentiful and work well for web browsing and office apps, and are even fast enough for light gaming.
If you want something a little bit better, look for an AMD Radeon 8570. This card should set you back less than $30 while performing like today’s $50 video cards. Again, there are tons of these cards salvaged from Dell office PCs available online.
When I installed the AMD drivers the computer gave me a black screen and became nonresponsive. When the disk activity light went out for good, I power-cycled the machine and it was fine. So keep that in mind.
Lenovo Thinkcentre M58 upgrades, in conclusion
By the time you install an SSD, a CPU upgrade, and 8 or 16 GB of memory, it’s no longer a super cheap computer. But it will run circles around any $300 computer you’ll find in a big-box store. And you don’t have to spend all the money at once either. You can start with the basic box and add upgrades as you can afford them.
These are good machines for everyday web browsing and productivity software. They’re also good for a home lab, since they have good networking and can take a lot of memory. You can virtualize a lot of stuff onto one or two of these.
And here’s one more thought. I don’t recommend buying one of these as an investment, certainly. But if you get one of these and take care of it, there’s a chance that in 10-15 years the computer will be worth more than you pay for it today, since it’s a brand-name machine that runs Windows XP well. There are so many of them in existence that it’s hard to imagine them ever being worth anything, but if any of today’s dirt-cheap PCs ever become valuable, these are good candidates.