(X)Ubuntu on ThinkPad T61

Recently I got Lenovo ThinkPad T61 in working conditions. It has Intel Core 2 Duo T7100 @1.8 GHz, 4 GB of DDR2. At its maximum it can have up to 8 GB of RAM and C2D T9500, altough I’m not quite sure if changing CPU would be straightforward operation – it seems to be socketed, not BGA. I purchased it because of NVIDIA NVS 140M dicrete GPU onboard and unconventionally high screen resolution of 1680×1050. This comes as a benefit but makes few things difficult.

Windows 10 works just fine. But if you want to have Ubuntu on it… it will not be easy. I have tried Ubuntu 18, 20, 21, 22 and none of it worked out of the box. The only one working flawlessly was Ubuntu 16. It is however too old not to be consider as a obsolete experience. Even after upgrading from 16 do 18 and so on, there are GPU locks and freezes.

There is a out of the box distro called XUbuntu, which is based on regular Ubuntu with lightweight window manager Xfce. It has lower memory requirements. First I have tried with the latest XUbuntu which is 22, however the only available NVIDIA driver was 510 which is not compatible with NVS 140M. Nouveau drivers do not work either. Finally I have tried XUbuntu 18 and it works just fine. By default it offers NVIDIA 340 driver at Software & Updates section.

In other works, if you have ThinkPad T61 and would like to have decent working experience, go for XUbuntu 16. It even has ability to install as a dual boot with Windows and recognizes previous Ubuntu installations offering understandable messages what will happen during installation.