Updating a ThinkPad z60t

I recently refurbished an old IBM ThinkPad z60t to make it usable and suitable for donation. This involved two areas of work:

  • Installing Linux
  • Upgrading the firmware

Upgrading the firmware

The ThinkPad has two different firmware upgrades:

  • BIOS
  • Embedded Controller

ThinkWiki’s list is pretty comprehensive, and pointed me to BIOS 1.24 and EC 1.18.

Because this machine is so old, it does not offer .iso files (to put on CD or USB drive) or Linux-compatible firmware. There are diskette versions (for putting on floppy disks) and non-diskette versions (run running manually).

The non-diskette .exe file cannot be extracted using The Unarchiver, unzip, or innoextract. It won’t run on Windows 10, and won’t run under DOS mode. (I tried installing FreeDOS on to a USB stick, too.)

Using Virtualbox and a Windows 10 VM, I installed AOMEI Partition Assistant and tried to create a Windows 7 to Go installation on a USB thumb drive. That got all the way to the end before erroring out.

At this point, I decided to pull the hard drive, install Windows on a new drive, and use Windows to update the firmware.

The BIOS updater runs on Windows 7 (despite not listing that as a compatible option), but the EC updater does not, and gives this error:

DeviceIoControl() returns 24 Please restart your operating system and execute the BIOS or Embedded Controller update utility again.

At this point, I had to find a sketchy Windows XP ISO, burn it to CD and install Windows again.

Once I had XP installed, the EC updater ran as expected and the update completed successfully.

Readers: if you know how to install the diskette version version onto a bootable USB drive, please share how in the comments.

Installing Linux

The z60t uses a Pentium M, which is a 32-bit processor. Most current versions of Linux (such as Ubuntu 20.10) only support 64-bit hardware. I chose Linux Mint 19.3 “Tricia” with Xfce, as it was the least resource-intensive.

After using Etcher put the installer on a USB thumb drive, I was able to easily install Linux Mint on the laptop.

After installation and rebooting, most things worked — except for Wifi. I spent an hour or so googling around and reading about rfkill and trying different commands:

  • sending enable to /proc/acpi/ibm/wan and /proc/acpi/ibm/bluetooth
  • adding blacklist ideapad_laptop to /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf
  • adding option thinkpad_aacpi dbg_bluetoothemul=1 bluetooth state=1 to /etc/modprobe.d/thinkpad-acpi.conf
  • Turning bluetooth/WiFi off and on in the BIOS.

In the end, the solution was much simpler. There’s a hardware slider on the front of the machine, by the headphone ports. Sliding it enables the radios.

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