Lenovo Thinkpad won’t turn on? Fix it easily.

If your Lenovo Thinkpad won’t turn on, I have an easy fix. It takes less time than calling the helpdesk, and less time than going straight to desktop support too (which they love, I’m sure). Here’s how to fix your Thinkpad that won’t turn on all by yourself and save. Save time, at least.

It’s a weird trick, but hear me out. It’s very likely this is exactly what your helpdesk will ask you to do, or what your desktop support person would do after he or she arrives to fix the issue.


The one-minute fix for a Thinkpad that won’t turn on

Lenovo Thinkpad won't turn on
When your Lenovo Thinkpad won’t turn on, you can usually fix it yourself in about a minute if you remove the battery, unplug it, and hold down the power button long enough.

First, unplug the AC adapter from the laptop and/or undock the laptop.

Next, flip over the laptop and slide the latch open to release the battery. Remove the battery and set it aside.

Now, here’s the key to the trick. Flip the laptop over, open the lid, and press and hold the power button for at least 15 seconds. I generally go the extra mile and hold it for more like 30. You may or may not see one or more of the LEDs flicker very briefly. That’s OK. Don’t worry if you do.

Note: Years ago, when IBM still made Thinkpads, IBM support personnel used to tell people to briefly hit the power button 10 times before holding the power button down for at least 15 seconds. This doesn’t hurt, but I don’t think it’s necessary. I think pressing the button rapidly 10 times is a placebo.

Now replace the battery and make sure it snaps in firmly and the latches re-engage. Then dock the laptop or plug the AC adapter in, the way you would to use the laptop computer normally. Finally, hit the power button just like you normally do. Chances are, your laptop will fire up now. It will boot normally and it will be able to charge the battery as normal if needed. If the battery was fully charged, you can undock or unplug your Thinkpad and run it off battery power too.

And that’s how you fix it when your Lenovo Thinkpad won’t turn on. On the off chance it doesn’t work, simply try it again. It’s almost certain to work the first or second time, especially if your Thinkpad worked yesterday.

Why this weird trick works when your Lenovo Thinkpad won’t turn on

Yes, this is a one weird trick blog post that actually isn’t a scam. This weird trick actually works. And I can tell you why.

So why does this work? There’s been a lot of speculation about this over the years but it’s pretty simple. When a computer gets hopelessly confused, you turn it off and back on. The problem is that turning a computer off doesn’t completely turn it off. Especially a modern computer like a Thinkpad. Making things even trickier, even when you unplug it and take out the battery, a small amount of power can remain in the computer’s capacitors for a very long time. Holding power is a capacitor’s job, so that’s normal behavior. Capacitors solve more problems than they cause, so this isn’t a design flaw. Holding down the power button with no other source of power connected drains the capacitors pretty quickly. That allows the computer to fully shut down and recover. This clears whatever was confusing it, and the computer can get back to a fresh start once again.

I even had to use this trick on certain IBM desktop computers in the mid 1990s. It’s much more common on Thinkpads though.

What about mashing the power button 10 times?

The reason I think rapidly pushing the power button 10 times is a placebo is because of the way capacitors work. Capacitors discharge almost instantly, especially when they aren’t connected to power. So rapidly cycling the power button doesn’t make them drain any more quickly. One long press of the button will discharge them in sequence just as well as mashing on the button like a video game. It won’t hurt anything either, so you’re welcome to try it. But I think it just makes the trick harder.

What about other brands of laptops?

Thinkpads aren’t the only laptops prone to this issue (so are HP Elitebooks). This isn’t something peculiar just to IBM or Lenovo Thinkpads. If your Lenovo Thinkpad won’t turn on, this definitely helps when nothing else will. And if you have other brands of laptops where you work, you can try this trick on those too. It won’t hurt. And it will probably work.

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