I bought a Lenovo ThinkCentre M715q mini PC recently, and tore it down to give it a good inspection and cleaning. This particular model came with a Ryzen 3 2200G, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB M.2 SSD. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have Wi-Fi, so I can’t show disassembly of the wireless bits.

Lenovo ThinkCentre M715q mini PC sitting on its side on a wood TV stand.

This fella is going to live out its time with me tucked behind the TV. With Apple TV/Google TV/Roku/whatever, I don’t have much use for a proper HTPC, but its diminutive size and Ryzen APU will make it a great a Jackbox/Steam party game machine.

Here are some photos I took while disassembling this little PC. My main goal was to replace the CPU thermal paste, so this isn’t a detailed reverse-engineering job by any means. In any case, it’s always a good idea to tear down things you buy on eBay to make sure they’re A) what you thought you bought, and B) not packed with drugs or something.

1. Open the enclosure

It only takes one screw to pop open the case - just undo this phillips-head screw on the back of the case:

Close-up of the back of the PC case, with an arrow pointing to a phillips-head screw.

Once that screw is removed, push the side panel forward, and the whole side and front of the case will come off together.

2. Remove the SSD cage

The SSD cage is held in by three metal posts and one screw. Once you undo the screw (red arrow), slide the metal cage away from the SATA port, and the cage will come out:

Detail shot of the PC’s 2.5” SSD mount.

3. Undo the fan screws

The blower fan is held in by 3 screws. One of them is tucked waaay up in the corner of the enclosure, so it’s pretty easy to miss.

Remember to unplug the fan cable! With the screws removed and fan unplugged, the fan comes out easily.

Detail shot of the blower fan, with arrows pointing to three screws and the fan’s power cable

4. Remove the CPU heatsink

The CPU heatsink is held in by 4 screws. The speaker is mounted to the top of the heatsink, so you’ll want to unplug that before trying to pull out the heatsink.

Detail shot of the CPU heatsink, with arrows pointing to the mounting screws and speaker cable

5. Take out the motherboard

It takes a bit of shimmying, but the motherboard comes out without too much fuss once you remove the screws. It’s kinda odd that they put two separate screws in the top corner. You’d think they could have combined those into one - Intel’s NUCs do that kind of thing a lot.

Top-down view of the motherboard, with arrows pointing to screw holes.

Angled shot of the motherboard, partially removed from the case.

Look at that adorable little VRM for the CPU! Eventually someone is going to figure out how to shove a 5950X in this thing and burn down their house. Or trigger overcurrent protection, probably.

The CPU, RAM, and SSD are all trivial to remove at this point. If your model has a Wi-Fi adapter, it’d be in that little M.2-2230 slot in the bottom corner of the picture. That’s an E-keyed M.2 slot, by the way, so you’ll need an adapter if you want to use any typical M.2 SSD in there.


Here’s all the parts. There’s not much to this thing at all:

All the PC’s parts, laid out on a desk.

The entire PC uses just 10 screws. The entire chassis is just that two-piece clamshell. Inside, there are only 3 supporting components: The CPU cooler, the fan, and the hard drive caddy. One of those parts is optional. The fan is the only moving part unless you count the power button.

Although conventional wisdom dictates that these mini PCs use similar construction to laptops, I’d beg to differ. I’m in the process of refurbishing a Thinkpad T61, and it’s sitting in about a billion pieces in a cardboard box while I wait for replacement parts to arrive from China. Sure, the laptop has a keyboard and screen and this doesn’t, but still.

I love mini PCs. Their minimalist design makes them cheap to buy, and delightfully easy to repair. NUCs have a cult following thanks in part to their brutally simple, highly hackable chassis. Other mini PCs deserve a little love, too.

In my estimation, mini PCs represent a very favorable tradeoff between size, performance, and maintainability. Even this aging mid-level PC is still totally adequate for casual gaming on a big TV. Unlike a laptop, it won’t become totally useless once it gets too slow for its intended purpose. Instead, it’ll get upgraded, and its service life will be extended. Its power consumption is laptop-esque, but without the environmental impact of a huge battery. Although the desktop PC’s place in the average household seems to be dwindling, I hope this style of PC will soldier on.

In any case, you can buy me a coffee if you want me to make more clappers, or philosophize about more mini PCs.

Side note: These are the last pictures I took for the blog before I moved to my new phone. The clapper post already used the new phone’s camera - you can expect that improved image quality from here on out.