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Lenovo ThinkPads hit with widespread USB-C port defects: What to do [Updated]

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Update on Jan 23: We updated this article with additional information provided by Lenovo. 

Lenovo's ThinkPads regularly rank at the top of our best business laptops list, but a serious issue with newer models threatens to damage their strong reputation. 

ThinkPad laptops from 2017 to 2019 reportedly contain defective USB-C firmware. First reported by Notebookcheck, the problems are widespread enough for Lenovo to post a support page titled "Critical Intel Thunderbolt Software and Firmware Updates."

Based on that document, the USB-C ports in more than a dozen ThinkPad laptops are experiencing serious issues. The problems aren't with the USB-C controllers themselves but with a firmware update pushed out in Aug 2019 that causes software corruption. 

Lenovo posted a list of symptoms customers could encounter if they own a defective device: 

Lenovo ThinkPad USB-C problems

  • USB-C port not working
  • Intel Thunderbolt controller not visible in the OS/Device Manager
  • USB-C or Thunderbolt docking stations not visible or having connectivity problems
  • HDMI output not available
  • System battery not charging with a USB-C power adapter connected to the USB-C port
  • Intel Thunderbolt pop-up error message
  • Intel Thunderbolt safe mode error message
  • BIOS Thunderbolt communication error or hang during POST

Which ThinkPad models are affected? 

Dozens of ThinkPad models are affected by USB-C failures, including some of our favorite devices. Among those are the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (5th Gen to 7th Gen), X1 Yoga (2nd Gen to 4th Gen), and P-series ThinkPads. It's worth pointing out that the X1 Extreme and ThinkPad P1 have different firmware and aren't affected. 

Lenovo posted a full list of affected laptops, and it's not pretty: 

  • P43s (Type 20RH, 20RJ)
  • P52 (Type 20M9, 20MA)
  • P52s (Type 20LB, 20LC)
  • P53s (Type 20N6, 20N7)
  • P71 (type 20HK, 20HL)
  • T470 (Type 20HD, 20HE)
  • T470 (Type 20JM, 20JN)
  • T470s (type 20HF, 20HG)
  • T470s (type 20JS, 20JT)
  • T480 (Type 20L5, 20L6)
  • T480s (type 20L7, 20L8)
  • T490 (Type 20N2, 20N3)
  • T490 (Type 20RY, 20RX)
  • T490 (Type 20Q9, 20QH)
  • T490s (Type 20NX, 20NY)
  • T570 (Type 20H9,20HA)
  • T570 (Type 20JW, 20JX)
  • T580 (Type 20L9, 20LA)
  • T590 (Type 20N4, 20N5)
  • X1 Carbon 5th Gen - (Type 20HR, 20HQ)
  • X1 Carbon 6th Gen - (Type 20KH, 20KG)
  • X1 Carbon 7th Gen - (Type 20QD, 20QE)
  • X1 Carbon 7th Gen - (Type 20R1, 20R2)
  • X1 Yoga 2nd Gen (Type 20JD, 20JE, 20JF, 20JG)
  • X1 Yoga 3rd Gen (Type 20LD, 20LE, 20LF, 20LG)
  • X1 Yoga 4th Gen (Type 20QF, 20QG)
  • X1 Yoga 4th Gen (Type 20SA, 20SB)
  • X1 Tablet 3rd Gen (Type 20KJ, 20KK)
  • X280 (Type 20KF, 20KE)
  • Yoga 370 (Type 20JJ, 20JH)
  • X380 Yoga (Type 20NN, 20QN)
  • X390 (Type 20Q0, 20Q1)
  • X390 Yoga (Type 20LH, 20LJ)
  • P51 (Type 20MM, 20MN)
  • P51 (Type 20HH, 20HJ)
  • P51s (Type 20HB, 20HC)
  • P51s (Type 20JY, 20K0)
  • P72 (Type 20MB, 20MC)

What to do if you own a ThinkPad 

If you own a ThinkPad laptop, go to Lenovo's support page, scroll to the bottom and download the appropriate drivers. 

These driver and firmware packages are designed to fix any USB-C problems. If they don't, Lenovo urges you to reach out to Lenovo Technical Support. Lenovo is adding more drivers for more laptops, if yours isn't currently listed.