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.