sudo kate /etc/modprobe.d/thinkpad_acpi.conf
added the line: “options thinkpad_acpi fan_control=1”

This was the very, very strange solution to a very, very strange problem that plagued my (otherwise wonderful) Lenovo Thinkpad T410, I finally found it in a post on http://ubuntuforums.org/archive/index.php/t-836958.html

Here is what happened: I am frequently running extensive (hours), heavy scientific computations (full load on both cores). During these, my core temperature would heat up to 95°C and higher, and eventually shut down due to overheating. Adding the above line to the thinkpad_acpi.conf file fixed it. Let me give you a more detailed description of the problem, and why this is a really strange fix…To start off, I was quite surprised to see my laptop blackout due to overheating. After all, it is Lenovo Thinpad T410 with a dual core i7 M620 processor. So, we are looking at one of the sturdiest machines you can stick in a backpack, equipped with a chipset built for crunching through immense computations, for hours day in day out – not to mention a chipset that draws much of its performance profile from internal heat management, with a safe, working CPU junction temperature (T junction) of 100°C. Really, not the kind of system you would expect to overheat.

Here is the pattern that repeated over and over, till I was just about ready to send my laptop in for having it checked by Lenovo. I would start a two core parallel job in MatLab that would take several hours to finish, running almost always at full CPU load in two threads. Initially, the system runs at full clock speed of 2.66 GHz on both cores, and rather quickly shoots up to 95°C. Then, clock speed is throttled down to 1.73-1.9GHz on both CPUs, system cools down to maybe 85°C, and frequency goes up to full 2.66Hz again. This cycle repeats a couple of times, each time reaching closer to the (admittedly scary) 100°C mark. The moment it hits 100°C, black screen saying: “The system is going down NOW!” And, that is just what followed. Laptop is off. This scenario happened to me probably 200 times, if not more often. In a sense I was amazed – a delayed negative feedback loop, that became unstable and oscillates too much. I was doubting very much that the IBM/Lenovo/intel engineers would have missed that behaviour. The alternative explanation: UBUNTU!

Going through different forums, blogs, mailing lists etc. (open source is nice, but this part of it is not) I found different methods to control the fan speed, which was my first bet. To cut a long story short, adding
options thinkpad_acpi fan_control=1
in the thinkpad_acpi.conf file finally fixed it. It is basically a line that allows the intel i7 CPU on-board machinery to take control of the laptops fan. After I added this, however, it was like I was working on a new machine. Idle temperature of 45-50°C (75°C before), under heavy load 85°C, full load long jobs running stable for hours and hours. Also, the CPU frequencies were responding to core temperature in a totally different way: faster, more accurate. In short, my heat-plagued T60 came back to senses, and is since back in shape, with an outstanding computational performance you would expect from this kind of system.

Now, why giving the acpi control over the fan changed the whole CPU management, I do not understand – as so many other things in Ubuntu. I believe that the fan control switch is in fact switches several, if not all, parts of the intel core i7 on board acpi on. All I do know – my system is working since, and who ever is stuck in the same situation will be deeply grateful to find this information. I would have been. Also – maybe someone developing on Ubuntu – this seems odd.

13 thoughts on “An odd solution: Thinkpad T410 i7 M620 CPU over heating, Ubuntu 10.04

    1. Thanks for the feedback Sergio, good to know I could help someone. In fact I searched for a solution for months or half a year, and this was real trouble when running long computations. As I didn’t find anything describing a solution online, I thought I share it.

    1. No worries Zector. As I stated above, I found the file here:
      /etc/modprobe.d/thinkpad_acpi.conf

      If it is not there, it might be that you are using a different version of Ubuntu or even Linux? On one of my computers, for example, I installed Ubuntu Studio recently, 12.04 I believe, and I could not locate that file either. But, given that I used it to play a 4 hour non-stop live simulations with it without any shut-down (phew), I believe the overheating issue to be settled.

    2. Late response Zector, but I will add it for completeness’s sake.

      Somehow wordpress didn’t notify me of this comment – it seems the file has disappeared in newer distributions of Ubuntu. On a newer version – don’t remember which one that way – I could not locate, but also had no overheating issues.

  1. My T410 with i7 CPU shuts down the same way under Windows. It is now being fixed at the service center. (change of cooling and motherboard)

    1. So for you it seems like a hardware error. Good luck, I hope you and your Thinkpad find back together! I was initially convinced that I had a hardware issue, then it happened on both my Thinkpads, which (luckily) made me rethink.

      Again, good luck!

    2. Hello I have the same problem with my T410 i7 CPU and I don’t really understand your answer. Can you tell me how it’s fexed at the service center? How can I fix this overheating on windows? Help me please

      1. Hi Jonathan. My description is for a Linux system, Ubuntu. It is NOT for Windows.

        If you get the same problem with the Windows that arrived with your ThinPad, I recommend you let the Service Center deal with it. That assumes you still have warranty.

        Good luck Jonathan and thanks for sharing the experience. I for myself now started working with a macbook pro, and am impressed with the cooling performance compared to both ThinkPad T series I own. The mac wins hands-down so far.

      2. Hi Lennart,
        Thanks a lot for your quick answer that’s great. I’ll try to fix this problem for Windows and if I find a good solution I’ll post it.

        I think that my next laptop will be a macbook pro too it seem to be a good deal.

        Thanks again for your time.

      3. Hi again – yes it would be great if you could put your experience up here, I take it you still have warranty.

        The deal for the mac is not exactly what I would call ‘economical’ for the plain specs, but if the overall quality and engineering is good, I don’t complain.

  2. Lenovo Thinpad T410 with a dual core i7 M620 processor. So, we are looking at one of the sturdiest machines you can stick in a backpack, equipped with a chipset built for crunching through immense computations, for hours day in day out

    No, what you’re describing is an IBM Thinkpad. Lenovo Thinkpads are poorly-designed Chinese crap. I’ve repeatedly had the same overheating problems with my Lenovo T410 in Windows; it’s not an Ubuntu problem.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s