I’ve been getting requests to create a modification guide for the T430 for over a year now, so this guide is long overdue. I’ve modded and created probably about a dozen T430 ThinkPads in the last 3 years and my mobile powerhouse is currently my fully decked out and customized T430. Every mod possible, my T430 has it, and I’ve opened up, disassembled, and reassembled the T430 so many times it makes my head spin thinking about it. So here we go, the definitive T430 modding guide.

Why T430?

Nearly all mods here can also be applied to the T530/W530, so if you’re interested in modding those machines feel free to follow this guide.

CPU

  • i7–3540M (35W/2C/4T/3.0GH/3.7GHt) is the best in class dual core chip in the Ivy Bridge generation. If you don’t need the performance boost for multi-threaded applications, or if you only core about raw single thread performance on a budget, this chip should serve you just fine.
    Overclockable: No.
  • i7–3632QM (35W/4C/8T/2.2GH/3.2GHt) is the second of two quad core chips at 35 watts. Despite the significant decrease in base speed, this chip vastly outperforms the i7–3540M in most use cases. If you don’t plan to overclock and want to stick with a 35W CPU, this will serve you well. Note that despite the same TDP, you will get more heat and hit the 35W spec more often simply due to having the extra cores to power, but the power usage will still generally average 35W over time with heavy use.
    Overclockable: No.
  • i7–3840QM (45W/4C/8T/2.8GH/3.8GHt) is the highest recommended CPU for the T430, and is the one I run on my workstation. It has a higher TDP and allows you to sustain much higher clock speeds indefinitely without throttling. If you use this chip, pairing it with a non-delta fan and the heatsink mod is highly recommended for heat reasons.
    Overclockable: +4 Multiplier / 4.0GHz All Cores / 4.2GHz Single Core
  • i7–3940XM (55W/4C/8T/3.0GH/3.9GHt) is NOT RECOMMENDED for the T430, but I do recommend it for both the T530 or W530. Unless you are running at stock (in which case why even purchase this chip over something like the 3840QM?), you will throttle after 4.0GHz under load. In the T530/W530, however, a thermally stable 4.6GHz all cores has been reported, and this CPU is highly recommended in the 15 inch ThinkPads.
    Overclockable: Completely Unlocked

The mentioned heatsink, fan, and overclocking details can be found further in this guide.

Heatsink / Fan

Relevant FRUs are as follows:

  • 04W3267 / 04W3268 / 04X3787 are the integrated only Heatsink + Fan assemblies, with the 04W3268 being the coveted quiet Delta fan for those with 35W chips that can take a bit of heat in exchange for quiet.
  • 04W3269 / 0B41088 / 04W3270 are the dedicated GPU assemblies that contain the extra copper pipe for absorbing additional heat from the dedicated GPU. Regardless of whether or not you actually have a dGPU, you want one of these if you plan to go above 35W CPUs, or even then you may want to consider this swap for the additional heat dissipation.

Display

Note: If you are going from a 1366 x 768 display, you WILL need to upgrade to an HD+ cable (FRUs 04W6867 / 04W6868) along with your display upgrade

  • LP140WD2(TL)(E2) is the first generation X1 Carbon display, which is a much better 1600 x 900 TN screen, and the details for installing that display can be found here. It is rather complicated due to the cable modifications required, though short of an FHD kit this is the only way to get a decent looking matte panel.
  • B140RTN02.1 is the glossy display found in the Dell Alienware M14x R2. Despite being glossy and still a TN, it is by far the best 1600 x 900 display that is compatible (by default) with the T430. The blacks actually look black, and overall the display is so much better than the TN that I was able to completely overlook that it was glossy. It is also significantly brighter and has much better viewing angles despite being a TN.
    Note: Beware of sellers selling “compatible” displays, especially ones claiming to have a matte version of this display. A matte version does not exist!
  • LP140WD2(TL)(G1) is a similar display found in the Dell Alienware M14x, and also comes highly recommended as a drop in replacement. Also glossy and TN only.

FHD Kits are incredibly rare but nonetheless available for the T430. Kits such as these are clones of the original T420s/T430s kits that were not meant for the non-s models due to the flickering issues present on the non-s models. FHD kits are hit or miss and some people may not experience the flicker issues at all, but they seem to be present more often than not, so regardless of the kit, you are taking a risk upgrading a non-s model to FHD. My personal machine has flicker issues with the FHD kit, but only when charging, and it functions properly when on battery.

Recommended displays to use with the FHD kits:

  • B140HAN01.0 / B140HAN01.1 / B140HAN01.2 / B140HAN01.3
  • LP140WF1-SPB1

Keyboard Swap

After making the physical modification, go ahead and perform the EC flash to get the 7-row functioning properly.

BIOS Flashing

BIOS flashing unlocks the most powerful set of tools for your T430, including:

  • Overclocking capabilities for all overclockable CPUs
  • Advanced Menu settings in the BIOS
  • Disabling Intel ME
  • Removing the WWAN / WLAN Whitelist
  • Unlocking AES-NI capabilities that are locked by default

WWAN / WLAN Card

Overclocking

Here is my CPU benchmark. In synthetic performance numbers, my overclocked T430 goes toe to toe with the latest generation Xeon mobile processors. Modding and overclocking goes a long way, and thanks to how weak/dead Moore’s Law has become, you don’t need to upgrade your CPU or overpay to get insane performance. To top it off, the new P series have less than half the battery capacity (T430 with a slice) and discharge far faster.

TPFanControl

170W Adapter

SATA Bay

USB 3.0 Express Card

Touchpad “Replacement”

Slice Battery

RAM, Battery, Storage

For your battery needs, I do not recommend third party batteries at all! Take it from my experiences with a dozen different brands — if you want to get the actual capacity of Lenovo batteries, get Lenovo batteries. Knock off batteries will almost never get you the full 9-cell 94Wh capacity that is advertised (and often come with mid to low 70 watt hours!). I have yet to find a single third party battery that can anywhere near 90Wh of capacity, even when it was advertised directly on the product page! If you still want to use third party batteries, and your T430 refuses to take them, the EC flash will allow you to strip away the battery DRM that ships with the T430.

For storage, it’s pretty basic stuff. No m.2 support, but you can actually use an mSATA drive, at SATA2 speeds, in place of where the WWAN card would be installed. In theory, 3 drives are supported, using a combination of mSATA, the standard bay, and the DVD drive bay being replaced with a SATA bay.

What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been

Technologist. Developer. ThinkPad enthusiast.