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September 23, 2020

2012 Vintage Lenovo T520 Nears Retirement


I just had something interesting happen on one of my test PCs. My aging Lenovo T520 laptop has been showing signs of increasing ineptitude and inability to handle Windows 10 of late. I bought this machine to update a book about Windows from version 7 to 8. This puts my purchase in the mid-to-late part of 2012. I’ve taken this machine through lots of changes. These have included a switch from a SATA boot drive (conventional HD) to an mSATA SSD, popping out the conventional HD SATA drive for an SSD counterpart, and swapping the optical drive caddy for another SATA drive (conventional HD: now a 1 TiB (931 GB) Samsung Spinpoint). Over the last year, the T520 has become increasingly balky and error prone, and I have recently had to perform an in-place upgrade repair install to keep it running, period.

Black Screen Finally Documented

Although I’ve had this happen to me on this PC before, this is the first time I’ve been able to catch an indisputable error trail when this happened. It’s usually called a “black screen” or a “black screen with cursor.” I woke the machine up a little while ago to make sure yesterday’s Patch Tuesday update had been applied. After I got through the login screens, the black screen presented itself to me.

This time, however, instead of simply cycling the power and starting over, I clicked WinKey+CTRL+Shift+B to restart the graphics driver, then I clicked CTRL+Alt+Del and selected Sign out from the resulting “master control menu” that appeared on screen. Thus, I was able to log back in and visit Reliability Monitor to see what it could tell me. Check this out!

2012 Vintage Lenovo T520 Nears Retirement.blackscreen

It might not look like much, but this is my first time to capture error info on a “black screen” event. I’m jazzed!
[Click image for full-sized view.]

Evidence of the Black Screen in the Bucket ID

If you look at the bottom of the screen capture from Reliability Monitor’s “Problem Details” window above, you’ll see the Bucket ID information mentions a “KEYBD_HOTKEY_OS.” It also mentions BlackContent next to the dxgkrnl (the core graphics/display driver) and ends with the string “CreateBlackScreenLiveDump.” Thus my keyboard activities not only got me the display back, they also triggered error detection and related information capture activities. The “reload graphics driver” and “switch to OS control screen” key sequences worked just like they’re supposed to. But the fact remains, this old Lenovo T520 is approaching the end of its useful life for me.

Next up, I’ll be calling my old buddy Ken Starks at Reglue.org. They refurb older PCs (like this one), install Linux on them, and give them to disadvantaged schoolkids so they (and their families) can use them for basic computing and Internet access, including schoolwork. I’ll be sorry to say goodbye to this trusty old machine — which has served me well for 7 or 8 years — but glad to see it go to a good home. I recommend that readers with older devices look for organizations like Reglue where they live when they have older machines to pass along. It’s a good way to dispose of them responsibly, while making sure somebody else can get some continued use from their ever-more-limited capabilities.

Author: Ed Tittel

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran. He’s a Princeton and multiple University of Texas graduate who’s worked in IT since 1981 when he started his first programming job. Over the past three decades he’s also worked as a manager, technical evangelist, consultant, trainer, and an expert witness. See his professional bio for all the details.

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