Thinkpad won’t turn on? Fix it easily.

If your 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).

Thinkpad won't turn on
When your Thinkpad won’t turn on, you can usually fix it yourself in about a minute.

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.

Note: 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.

Now replace the battery. Then dock the laptop or plug the AC adapter in. Finally, hit the power button just like you normally do. Chances are, your laptop will fire up now.

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. 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.

Thinkpads aren’t the only laptops prone to this issue (so are HP Elitebooks). If your Thinkpad won’t turn on, this definitely helps when nothing else will.


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