Lenovo ThinkStation S20 – First Impressions

image My Lenovo ThinkStation S20 arrived earlier this month. I’ve finished the basic setup and have started using it. So I thought this would be a good time to give you my first impressions.

But first a brief recap. Choosing my new Nehalem processor workstation walked you through my tortuous process in choosing the S20. Lenovo ThinkStation S20 coming, I hope told you about my frustrations with obtaining order and delivery status from the Lenovo website. Lenovo ThinkStation S20 Update told you that the S20 was coming after all.

Now the S20 is here. So let’s get to getting it going. As you’ll see, it was another torturous process. More accurately, self-tortuous. I’ll explain my mistake since it’s easy to make and hopefully my explanation will help you, my readers, to avoid it.

What’s in the box

The box contains:

Computer (duh)
DVDs (3) – OS restore. drivers and applications
Power cord
USB keyboard and mouse
Setup diagram and some other literature

Everything was packed securely in the box, but was easy to remove.


I’ve mentioned the specs before, but to recap, and add a few:

OS – Win7 Pro 64 bit
Processor – Intel Xeon W3520
RAM – 6GB (2 x 3), DDR-3 Memory,1066MHz
HDD- 2×500GB (Raid 1) SATA 7200 RPM
Video – 512MB NVIDIA Quadro FX 580
Optical Drives – Dual, DVD/CD burner  and reader
Sound – SoundMAX Integrated Digital HD Audio

I would have purchased a sound card rather than relied on integrated audio. But that wasn’t an option. I can always install a sound card later.

Initial Problem

I connected the power cord, keyboard, mouse and network cable, and whatever USB cables were attached to the desktop I was replacing. This last step bought me unnecessary trouble. More on that later.

I then turned the computer on. An initial screen flashed showing storage devices. The next screen stopped with the dreaded message:

NTLDR is missing
Press Ctrl+Alt+Del to restart

That message usually means the OS is missing or damaged. Of course, pressing Ctrl+Alt+Del to restart just repeats this cycle.

The setup diagram is sparse. basically, it tells you how to connect the power cord, etc. No manual came with the system.

I thought I might have to reinstall the OS. But I also thought I better talk to support before I make any changes.

(Trying to) Contact Support

I purchased ThinkPlus Priority Support. The drill is they email you a registration form. You fill it out and email it back. They then email you instructions.

The form requires your model and serial number. They are on the front of the machine. In a small and jagged font an eagle would have problems reading. Using a flashlight and magnifying glass, I guessed the model and serial number. I then completed and returned the form. An hour passed. Two. No return email. (Nor was there one until 4 days later).

I had hooked up my old desktop elsewhere in my office. I used it to access the internet. I could not find a phone number for ThinkPlus Priority Support.

I then called regular support. I did get someone in the US. I explained the problem, both with my computer and trying to contact ThinkPlus Priority Support. He also could not find the phone number for ThinkPlus Priority Support.

Trying to access the BIOS

Since I was left to my own devices, I tried to boot from the OS restore DVD just to see if I could. I couldn’t. I figured I needed to change the boot order. I was correct, but for the wrong reasons. More on this in a bit.

I pressed F2 on startup to access the BIOS. Didn’t do it. Nothing in the sparse documentation I had received told me the key to access the BIOS.

I again used my old desktop to access the internet. I downloaded the S20 manual. That told me the BIOS key is F1.

Once in the BIOS, I didn’t see anything that set the boot order. I’m sure it’s there; I was getting pretty impatient at this point. However, I saw that pressing F12 on startup would allow me to change the boot order, temporarily, on the fly.

I.M. Stupid

I pressed F12. The first entry in the boot order was an external hard drive on which I store files. Remember earlier I said that I connected the whatever USB cables were attached to the desktop I was replacing. One of the USB cables was to the external hard drive. No OS on that external HDD. Hence NTLDR is missing. Double duh.

I unplugged the external hard drive. I booted up. I then went through the normal configuration for a pre-installed OS. No further problems.


None really. OS setup did ask me to set up Norton. But it asked. Remembering anti-drug commercials, my response was: Just say no!


The S20 comes with ThinkVantage tools. Checks for driver updates, includes diagnostics. Haven’t played with it much yet, but looks useful.

Migrating Applications

I didn’t use Windows Easy Transfer (not so affectionately known as “WET”) to transfer application settings from my Dimension 8400 to my S20. One reason was prior bad experiences, including corruption of Outlook profiles. But another was I saw this as an opportunity to start fresh, and not clutter my S20 like my Dimension 8400.


WOW! Let me repeat. WOW! Blazing fast. Having numerous applications open doesn’t slow it down. Visual Studio, Outlook, Word, Excel, Firefox and others running – no problema. Windows 7 Speech Recognition also very fast, again even with all those other apps open.

The Xeon Nehalem processor and the 6GB of tri-channel RAM packs a powerful punch. With SSDs instead of HDDs, this bad boy would smoke.

Am I satisfied?

Yes! It’s a great machine. The customer service and website problems are irritating.  But the bottom line is the computer.  And it’s great.

In a few weeks, I’ll report back. In the meantime, please feel free to post any questions in the comments to this post.

4 Responses to “Lenovo ThinkStation S20 – First Impressions”

  • Tsh, tsh
    Fancy throwing in all the connections before making sure it was running properly first – serves you right. Actually, I have done that before, too.
    I am very disappointed about the support and, in fact, the overall Lenovo ‘experience’ you have received. If that were me, I would have a real nasty letter in to the President by this time. I think you might want to do that and see what happens.

    Otherwise, congrats on a great PC.

    Perhaps in some future blog you can give your impressions of Windows Speech Recognition and what/how you use it?

    • Yeah, it does serve me right. I knew better. Impatience has its price.

      My customer support experience was even worse than I stated. I finally reached a lady in “warranty entitlement.” She said she’d get back to me that day. About a week has passed. Never heard from her. But I figured my readers had heard enough whining from me on Lenovo CS.

      Speech recognition is promising. May not need Dragon. Yes, will report back on that soon.

  • “NTLDR is missing ” lol . I like this message, its what comes up in my computer every time I turn it on. I changed the default message on Truecrypt there for I get this message. if anyone tries to access my computer they would think i don’t even use it.

    My ex used to hate when I IM’d her with the help of speech recognition. The thing I hate about it, is that the computer has a hard time determining whether it is a command or not ex. the IM message”hi Enter Enter Enter”.

    • I plan to soon post on speech recognition. Depending on the device, I’m using the built-in Windows Speech Recognition, Dragon Naturally Speaking 10.1, or both. Haven’t thought about using speech recognition for IM though.

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