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A ThinkPad Software Collection

by theterminator93

A ThinkPad Collection

I often get strange looks whenever I mention that I collect ThinkPads. Over twenty five specimens so far, I tell them. A few stare blankly and ask “What’s a ThinkPad?” Some respond by asking my wife how she puts up with my rather unusual hobby. Others think back through their memories and recite recollections of those “black boxes with the red dot in the middle of the keyboard”.

Sure enough, twenty seven ThinkPads. A few examples of mid-90s mobile PC technology at its finest, with various examples showcasing unique designs or the technological (or brand-name) firsts of the day. Other, newer models demonstrating the cosmetic and technical innovations through the turn of the 21st century, and samples of what most consider today to be the last of the “classic” ThinkPads. There are a few kept for sentimental value, such as a first laptop or one that I used for a period of time while growing up. I could go on about each and every one, but I’m not here today to ramble about the individual pieces of a collection so much as I am to tell a slightly different story – a story of the often unspoken companion to each little black box on the shelves: the software.

Old technology

Immediately upon stealing a glance at any one of my ThinkPads, I feel drawn into a different era simply from the design cues; the thick bezels around the LCD screens, the tiny palm rest under the keyboard, and the unforgettable bento box designs of the 90s.

Finding an old ThinkPad is relatively easy. Hop onto your favorite resale website and search for Vintage ThinkPad and results will be displayed before you. Numerous models with various processors appear, most ancient by today’s standards: a Pentium II or III, the original Pentium, or perhaps even a 486. Pico-sized hard drives with capacity put to shame by a lowly compact disk. System memory so limited you wouldn’t be able to load a photo from a modern DSLR into it.

True enough, modern uses for such vintage hardware are limited. What can 25 year old hardware do well, aside from run 25 year old software? The answer lies within the question. With the right outfitting of period software, these gems of yesteryear excel like they once did.

A perfect match: old software on old hardware

I often see stories of intrepid individuals looking to push the limits of old hardware and new software by forcing the two to interact. Some aficionados prefer to find new ways to make old software work through virtualization. I find this intriguing, but prefer a nearly opposite approach. Make old software run on old hardware. My collection of ThinkPads is one means to this end.

So, with a collection of old ThinkPads, one would think setting each up with period software would be relatively easy. Normally it is, but sometimes what I’m looking for isn’t a platform to run old programs in a practical sense.

I enjoy reminiscing about my younger days mostly by reliving old games. It’s easy enough to make an old game run on a [more] modern system in most cases. The performance benefits are often phenomenal. To me, however, a large part of the experience of playing an old game comes from the system you play it on. If the system is from the same era as the title, the overall experience is more authentic.

For the ultimate true-to-period experience, there’s the factory software preload for each individual system. A set of disks with the software to allow a factory software image to be rebuilt on-demand. All conveniently packaged, the recovery media sets up the all the software the machine came from the factory with. The right flavor of Windows, all drivers, utilities and often a selection of basic software. The feeling I get after booting from the freshly restored image is one I liken to that experienced by the first owner of the ThinkPad in my hands many years ago.

A ThinkPad software collection

Recovery disks were not always included with the systems they were intended for. As such, some can be difficult to find. Fortunately, software for a particular generation will often work on different system of the same generation. This gives good flexibility when trying to set up a preload on a system without the required recovery media set. Yet, I find this flexibility to be both a blessing and a bit of a curse. It allows many to “get away with” a software preload using whatever recovery media they have or can obtain. But, it may also be leading a to a diminished interest in unearthing the less common sets.

As time goes by, I’ve managed to build a fairly sizeable collection of recovery disk sets to complement my ThinkPads. The search started after I attempted to use a recovery disk set I found with a unit on a shelf – then discovered that one of the recovery CDs was damaged. Many I’ve acquired through various sale or trade deals with members of the ThinkPads forum. A few I’ve ordered from Lenovo or IBM. In a pinch I’ve even made a few with the ‘Create Recovery Media” utility on a new factory imaged system.

My goal has primarily been to amass a library with a recovery set for each of the models I own. As I’ve neared this goal, I’ve started to collect software for machines I have yet to acquire. I tend to store my recovery sets as ISO images on my main PC. This makes it easy for me to digitally transfer them, and it’s easier for me to make sure I don’t lose a set due to disk damage.

More Recovery Sets

When I acquire a recovery set for a ThinkPad I don’t possess, sometimes I’ll keep a special eye out for its companion model. This most recently happened just a few months ago, when I unearthed a Windows ME recovery disk set for an i series model, which to my knowledge was the only example of Windows ME on a ThinkPad. It took over a year to eventually locate the right model for the CDs.

Perhaps my desire to amass a larger library of recovery sets is to hold on to something less tangible for posterity. Maybe it comes from a sense of warm satisfaction when I can provide a set to someone else in need. Either way, my software library is growing. Who knows what gems I’ll find as the search to find recovery sets for all my models goes on.

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45 comments

John June 5, 2017 - 9:24 pm

I’m 1000% with you.

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mike September 19, 2017 - 12:03 am

i got some old working thinkpads… interested….

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Sergio September 28, 2017 - 1:15 pm

I been looking for a Windows xp OEM for a T42 any help ?

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theterminator93 September 28, 2017 - 1:30 pm

I should be able to help… shoot me a PM over on the ThinkPads forum.

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Mark October 19, 2017 - 2:24 pm

I’ve often wondered why these aren’t archived somewhere (at least for the older systems). In the past I assumed it was because of storage space constraints, but I doubt that’s an issue anymore. Is there a legal reason?

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theterminator93 October 19, 2017 - 2:55 pm

Well, from a legality standpoint the software can only be distributed with the machine for which it was intended and originally shipped with. Not only is Microsoft’s software in these but also other intellectual properties belonging to IBM, Lenovo, and the various device driver publishers. So just posting them up there for all to see could get the poster and possibly hoster a slap on the wrists from any handful of entities. Getting my hands on these has been much more of a ‘seek out and destroy’ endeavor than it has been a ‘sweep up the floor’ collection. But as I mentioned before I’m more than willing to help on an individual basis if someone in need reaches out.

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Mike January 5, 2018 - 1:42 pm

Hi to all IBM fans! I have two old ThinkPads, T23 and R40. I have return they to the life again and now I’m looking for an original soft which came with it from factory. Can You help me with this? I also have an original CD of Lotus SmartSuite97 “Only for supply with a new IBM PC”. If someone need this, I can help.

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theterminator93 January 5, 2018 - 1:44 pm

I have both recovery sets – XP Pro for the R40 and either Windows XP or Windows 2000 for the T23. Shoot me a PM on the ThinkPads forum and I can send you links to some ISOs!

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Daniel February 15, 2018 - 10:05 am

Hi! I have two IBM Thinkpads – a T20 and a 600E. I have the restore CD for the T20 but am looking for an image of a 600E (or 600) restore CD. If anyone has one can they image it and upload it? Thanks 🙂

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theterminator93 February 15, 2018 - 7:47 pm

I may have something that will work for you. Shoot me a PM on the ThinkPads forum and we can discuss in detail.

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Gabe November 11, 2018 - 7:38 pm

Can you create an image of the T20 media you have? I’ve been looking for some recovery media for mine.

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Jur van K March 2, 2018 - 6:21 pm

I’ve got a thinpad T41 and want to install windows 2000 on it. Someone who can help me finding a recovery disk of windows 2K for this machine? Great website, thinkpads are great. Gr. Jur from The Netherlands

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Jose A. Prada March 16, 2018 - 5:31 am

Hello, I love this idea, I’ve been searching a lot for a T60, T61 and T420 recovery disks, but i’ve only managed to get the T61 and only the Windows XP. I fear that most probably i will never find the T60 XP Pro and the T61 Vista disks… But if anyone knows where, or how to download, get or buy one of them… Please hit me up with an email

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theterminator93 March 16, 2018 - 7:41 am

I have all those sets. I will email you later today.

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TV August 25, 2018 - 5:43 am

Hi, there! Great post! Very well articulated and I couldn’t agree more! I only have 5 TPs in my collection and I know my wife’s reaction… so, with 27 in your collection, your wife must be a saint! 😉
I’m looking to recover my T60 to original loaded software and have scoured eBay to no avail. I would appreciate any help you might be able to offer. Thank you!

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theterminator93 August 25, 2018 - 10:30 pm

I have XP Pro x86 for the T60, it’s a set of 6 or 7 CDs. I’ll drop you an email with a link!

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Maciek October 22, 2018 - 4:49 pm

Hello. I have an ibm x41 tablet model 1866 or a mug would you help me with the image of the system (sorry for English translate Google)

Martin September 8, 2018 - 1:02 am

Hello there thinkpaders, I am trying to revive X301 and looking for recovery media. If anyone in possession of these would be able to share with me, I would appreciate it. Thank you.

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theterminator93 September 8, 2018 - 12:11 pm

I have either XP Pro or Windows 7 Pro x86 for the X301. Which do you need?

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Martin September 8, 2018 - 2:41 pm

I need Windows 7 Pro. Thanks

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Mark September 8, 2018 - 12:51 pm

Hello fellow thinkpaders!!! i am in desperate need for a set of recovery discs for a Thinkpad w510, the previous owner thought Ubuntu would be a great idea but its not for me. Any help or costs involved would be appreciated

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theterminator93 September 8, 2018 - 12:54 pm

I have the set for the T4/510, but not specifically the W510. If you want to try, let me know if you prefer x86 or x64 and I can upload them for you.

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Michael Penn October 2, 2018 - 8:35 am

Hello Fellow Thinkpad fans. I have just aquired a T21 its in excellent condition little use but no hard drive. I have installed windows 98SE but am struggling to get drivers to work from lenovo web site. Does any one have a original recover image i could access please. Thank you all. Mike.

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theterminator93 October 2, 2018 - 8:46 am

I have Windows 98 for the T20, but nothing for the T21 unfortunately. Let me know if you’d be interested…

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Gabe November 11, 2018 - 7:40 pm

You’re in luck! There is actually an ISO available on archive.org. Try this one: https://archive.org/details/IBMThinkpadT21MT2647RestoreDisc

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Maciek October 22, 2018 - 4:52 pm

Hello. I have an ibm x41 tablet model 1866 or a mug would you help me with the image of the system (sorry for English translate Google)

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theterminator93 November 12, 2018 - 6:32 pm

I do have XP Pro recovery for that system, but it is US English. Let me know if you are still interested…

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jpthinkpadfan November 21, 2018 - 8:36 am

Interesting article because I thought I was the only one that felt this way! I was a big fan of the IBM Aptiva desktops from around 1994-97. I still have the original binder that all the discs came in. Soon thereafter, I bought my first ThinkPad 600/X and a passion was born!
That said, I’m looking for recovery discs for a T42 machine type 2373 (Windows XP Pro x86), a T61 machine type 6457 (Win XP Pro or W7 either x86 or x64), and a T410 machine type 2516 (Win 7 x64). Thanks in advance for anyone who can help!

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Theterminator93 November 21, 2018 - 4:11 pm

I have all of those. Drop me a line on the Forum or reply here and I can email you with links.

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Positivew December 5, 2018 - 3:11 pm

Hi! First of all, thank you for sharing your collection with those in need! Would you happen to have a recovery set for an R52 (type 1846) by any chance? Thank you! 🙂

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Positivew December 5, 2018 - 4:18 pm

Thanks to an earlier comment here I checked archive.org and found it there:
https://archive.org/details/IBMThinkPadT41R52Restore

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Anand December 9, 2018 - 3:27 am

I got IBM Thinkpad r51 2887MQ6 need drivers for video plz help.

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theterminator93 December 10, 2018 - 12:30 pm

You can find the legacy software/drivers repository using the link at the top of the page (https://thinkpads.com/support/Thinkpad-Drivers/index.html). You should be able to find what you need there.

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Wittaya Sukwittayakul February 5, 2019 - 8:07 am

Hello Admin

I want to re-installation windows7 Pro sp1 x64 for my laptop T510, But I not have system recovery drive in my laptop.
If I use Operating system Windows 7 Pro Sp1 x64 recovery DVD disc from Lenovo, the OS win7 after installed it will have windows license and can update ?

And Do you have “Operating system Windows 7 Pro Sp1 x64 recovery DVD disc” file?

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Jim B. February 20, 2019 - 2:39 pm

Hello, I just acquired an X1 type 1286 CTO, I’m looking for the original recovery disks for this unit. I know I’m missing quite a few of the factory programs, the previous owner erased the hard drive, put in a 500 GB SSD with only Windows 7. I like Windows 7 but would also like the additional programs for this computer. Can you help ???

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theterminator93 March 2, 2019 - 9:54 am

Anyone who is looking for a restore CD set, please refer to this thread on the ThinkPads forum for an updated list of what I have available: https://forum.thinkpads.com/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=128170

If you are interested in obtaining one, please send me a private message on the forum.

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glenn January 10, 2020 - 3:11 pm

Dare one mention Linux? I was given an Thinkpad with a Watcom touch screen for drawing on. About 1 gb of memory. Originally ran on XP. Someone had put Ubuntu on it but approx 70% of memory was used just sitting there. I put a 32bit version of Linux MX on it. It now is relatively fleet of foot and only uses 30% sitting still. The Watcom pen and eraser was automatically recognized and I was able to download the original drawing program that was on it originally. No geekiness required.

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Retail POS Software January 24, 2020 - 12:41 am

Hi! Thanks first of all for posting your brand to those in want! Would you, by whatever possibility, have an R52 (type 1846) recovery set? Thank you, Mr Leader. 🙂

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theterminator93 January 24, 2020 - 4:20 pm

No – unfortunately I do not have the R52 specific set. It is, however, similar to the T43 – which I do have recovery for (ATi graphics models only). If you are interested, let me know. If you’d like to see an updated list of everything I have, you can check the sticky in the forum’s marketplace thread.

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Josh Brooks April 30, 2020 - 10:11 pm

Can you send me ISOs for the T510 Windows 7 Pro x64?

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RGolding May 9, 2020 - 6:28 am

I recently unearthed my ThinkPad 770z and having a good deal of fun with it. It’s a triple-boot of Dos, Windows 98, and Windows XP all without any special boot loaders (believe it or not, Microsoft’s own were sufficient). I had found an NOS Select-a-dock 2 some time ago to complete the setup. Always had a soft spot for pre-levono ThinkPads.

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fiat682 May 24, 2020 - 9:57 am

you could give the recovery iso for free

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DJ June 6, 2020 - 4:37 pm

Do you have the Thinkpad 380ED recovery CD / bootdisk images?

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Jon July 7, 2020 - 8:03 am

Hello
Anyone with L440/T440 iso recovery images?
All help will be most appreciated.

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Tony July 17, 2020 - 5:46 am

Hi, I’m in the process of buying a Thinkpad 10 from the great behemoth EBAY but it comes wiped & with not Recovery Disk.

Does anyone have a Recovery Disk/ISO that I can have?

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