I was a bit anxious to put everything together that I skipped some steps that I shouldn't have. This caused me problems later when I found that I had a bad SODIMM. It corrupted my Boot Manager and wouldn't let me recover from DVD. If I had to do it all over again I'd have stuck to the sequence I'm listing below.
My recommended sequence of tasks
1. Receive the W520 and check the Package Contents
2. Boot for first time and create Factory Disks
3. Download, burn and run Lenovo PC Doctor on Stock Configuration
4. Download, burn and run Memtest86+ on Stock Configuration
5. Receive aftermarket Intel m310 mSATA and DDR3-1333Mhz 204-pin SODIMM RAM
6. Install mSATA and SODIMM RAM; Uninstall HDD
7. Re-run Lenovo PC Doctor on Aftermarket Configuration
8. Re-run Memtest86+ on Stock Configuration
9. Factory Restore onto mSATA
10. Re-install HDD
11. Optimize mSATA + HDD Setup
12. Patch Thinkpad and Windows 7
13. Install CCCP, Lagarith, Quicktime, Avid and other codecs
14. Install Sony Vegas Pro 10 and Adobe Production Premium onto mSATA
15. Create a Microsoft Backup of new configuration
16. Receive and test DP++ to HDMI cable
17. Find a cold beverage, drink it.
It took me about two days to go through all these steps. Half that time I was running around town picking up various packages and reading online instructions. Here I've compiled all the steps I took to prepare my mobile NLE.
Receive the W520 and check the Package Contents
Mine came in a cardboard box. The W520 sat in the middle with a smaller cardboard box tucked underneath it. That smaller box contained the power cord, quick reference guide and warranty guide. On the right side was the 180w power brick and the 55++ battery. Something heavy was shaking inside which happened to be the power supply. Being an old hand with Thinkpads I slapped the battery in, plugged it to an outlet then booted it for the first time.
Boot for first time and create Factory Recovery Disks
First Boot up took a few minutes with the Seagate 500GB 7200rpm drive. I registered my user then went through the usual option screens. I played around with the fingerprint reader but shouldn't really have bothered as I'd be going through it all over again. The important part was to get it to create a Factory Recovery Disk.
-> Follow the prompts to use either DVD or USB
Four DVDs or one 16GB USB stick is necessary to create a good copy. This took about an hour to do each time. It's possible to reset the process should one method fail. To do this you simply reset the Q:\FactoryRecovery\service_done.ini from DONE=1 to DONE=0. That's the power of the internet for you! I ended up using the DVDs since the USB stick wouldn't let me boot.
Update: I was trying to boot off the blue USB 3.0 ports on the left side. Learned later that the always on/yellow USB port in the back is the one meant for boot devices. Confirmed it when my Ubuntu 11 USB stick worked on the yellow slot. Otherwise in the blue slots on the left it would complain that it can't find a writable filesystem
Download, burn and run Lenovo PC Doctor on Stock Configuration
Don't get too antsy like me! Stick to the stock configuration to establish a baseline where you know everything works. At this point the laptop boots, hard drive works, DVD burner works and the wireless/wire connects to the internet.
There are two executables in the link. I chose mediacreator_5521.02.exe to create my bootable disk. You could use either CD or DVD. Boot into it and run each of the quick tests at least once. On my non-stock configuration it flagged a memory fault in the 16GB onboard. The trouble was finding the offending DIMM.
Download, burn and run Memtest86+ on Stock Configuration
If I wasn't so thick headed I'd have stuck to the Stock Configuration. If I did I wouldn't have spent an entire day worrying about things such as heat, PCH, BIOS settings, slot placement, clonezilla and a bunch of other complicated things. Shame on me, I work in the IT industry. Doctors make the worst patients. Go figure.
Download the latest ISO in the zip file. Decompress then burn it unto a CD. Take out the PC Doctor disk and replace it with this one. It will boot straight into the test.
Anyway, Memtest86+ is a good way to burn in a PC. Within 5 minutes of running it gave me memory faults. I had to go through some SODIMM roulette to figure out which module was actually bad. If this doesn't happen to you be grateful. If unlike me, you had the fancy RAID option then screw y... I mean ... use an external DVD or boot from a USB stick.
Receive aftermarket Intel 310 mSATA and DDR3-1333Mhz 204-pin SODIMM RAM
There are other manufacturers like Renice and MyDigitalSSD for mSATA. Some of them come in higher capacities than 80GB. Intel's 310 Soda Creek comes in 80GB and 40GB. 40GB would be too small. 64GB, from the alternate brands, may just make it but there wouldn't be much breathing room to go three years I expect this laptop to survive.
As for RAM, I had ordered Crucial 4GB SODIMMs but wouldn't recommend them now. In notebookreview.com forums there have been four of us reporting sending back defective DIMMs. Newegg just sent me a notice receiving my RMA. Hopefully the next one I get will be good. Some other users have Kingston and Patriot RAM fully populated. The Kingston 1866Mhz version has some issues associated with sleep. My suggestion is do some searches and find out which brands have good deals then keep your fingers crossed.
Update: Seems a BIOS update 1.25 is out to fix sleep issues with fully populated W520s.
Update2: Got my replacement Crucial DIMM back from NewEgg which appears to be working just fine.
On to Part 3