Reviving a Dead Laptop

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I'll start with a disclaimer here; I'm not a great with computers.  I
can usually muddle my way through but I know next to nothing about the
technical aspect of them.  I'm an English major, computers are useful
tools to me when they work and an unplumbable mystery when they don't.

Anyhow, I've been at my parents' house over the holidays and boredom
was starting to set in, so last night I picked up my sister's old laptop
and started tinkering with it.  The computer in question has no brand
name, not a single label on it anywhere.  It was built by a guy in town
who gained a reputation for pretty shoddy work before he went out of
business and moved out of state.  

It is, I think, 8 years old, riddled with viruses, a bit battered, and
has been sitting unused for the past 3 years.  To my surprise I was able
to coax it into booting up by repairing the Windows installation (first
time I'd ever tried to do that).  After that I decided I was out of my
depth and called in a knowledgeable friend, who then helped me save what
data was worth salvaging, and then "zero" the drive and reinstall
Windows again.  

So now I have a working laptop, sort of.  It's kind of held together
with duct tape and hope, and it still has several problems, but I'm
starting to like the idea of typing my notes during class, rather than
trying to decipher my chicken scratching afterward.  So here are my
issues.  I know I took a long time getting to the questions; sorry about
that, but any help would be appreciated.  

First and most important, the battery will not charge.  It runs just
fine when it's plugged in, and the power meter screen says it's
charging, but the charge just sits at 0%.  It's a un340s1 LiLon battery
and it's probably been sitting completely uncharged since the computer
was unceremoniously retired 3 years ago.  I could get a replacement
battery, but before I put any more money into this relic I'd like to be
pretty certain that the battery is, in fact, the problem.  I'd also like
to assure myself that there isn't some easier (read that as cheaper) way
to fix it.  

The second issue is not so much a problem as it is an issue of my
inexperience.  I've never owned a laptop before and I know nothing
whatsoever about wireless internet.  This ancient thing doesn't actually
have a wireless card, but I understand that such things can be bought,
that they fit into the PCMCIA port, and that I would then have internet
access at those "Wi-Fi Hotspots" that I keep hearing about.  My question
then is: would I have to have an account with a service provider to
utilize this?  I'm already paying one monthly bill for broadband, I'd
really rather not take on another, or spend the $50 on the card if
that's the case.  

The other problems are mostly cosmetic, a broken hinge, a shot keyboard
which requires me to use an external one, and it being obviously ancient
and clunky, but you know, I'm beginning to feel a certain kinship with
this old thing, and I wouldn't be at all embarrassed to pull out my
battered and jury-rigged monstrosity in a class full of shiny new
computers.  It's kind of poetic, in a way, I'm in my late 20s myself and
constantly surrounded on campus by fashion-conscious 19 year old co-eds
with waists the size of my thigh.  I may have just found a way to turn
frumpiness into a fashion statement, or I could be deluding myself, I
guess it really doesn't matter.  

Anyhow, thanks to anyone who's read this far, you've got more patience
than most, and if you happen to be able to shed any light on my
questions, I'd be very grateful.

Re: Reviving a Dead Laptop

shrewprincess typed on Sat, 3 Jan 2009 04:46:29 -0600:
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Well for starters, that battery is a goner. Second, some WiFi spots are free
and some are not. Although if you want to use it at home, you can add your
own WiFi from your broadband. If you don't secure it, your neighbors can use
it too. The equipment costs about $30 to $50.

It sure would have been nice if you saved the device drivers before you
wiped the hard drive. As this is the biggest problem when reinstalling
Windows once again. And even if the manufacture does have all of the drivers
on their website, some of them may not work as well as what you originally
had. In your case, there isn't a manufacture's website. So hopefully Windows
has all of the drivers that you require.

Ouch! The keyboard is shot, eh? Broken hinge too? Can it still support
itself? Or does it need books or stuff to keep it up? Boy I think this last
bit would be a deal breaker for me. Although I probably would fix those
things anyway. It is good to see somebody to use something just because they
can. ;)

2 Gateway MX6124 - Windows XP SP2
3 Asus EEE PC 701G4 ~ 2GB RAM ~ 16GB-SDHC
2 Asus EEE PC 702G8 ~ 1GB RAM ~ 16GB-SDHC
Windows XP SP2 ~ Xandros Linux - Puppy - Ubuntu

Re: Saving old drivers

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I have attempted doing that a few times, and have been somewhat
successful. But it sure isn't easy doing.

Do maybe BillW50 or some other longtimer here have a roadmap with
useful shortcuts on how to do that?

(I certainly don't want to hijack the thread this young lady has so
eloquently told us of, so I changed the subject line.)


Re: Saving old drivers

Lars typed on Sat, 03 Jan 2009 19:01:31 +0100:
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Hi Lars! Well here you go:

DriverBackup! (free) /

Driver Magician ($29.95) /

You can also copy the old Windows folder and you have everything. Although
installing drivers are a little tricky using this manual way. As some of the
driver installs are found in the INF folder and other places. The files are
also all over the place like the SYSTEM32 folder and such. But it can be

Driver Magician is very easy to use. So this is the best method. I don't
know if it will work as a trial version or not. If somebody downloads it,
maybe they can let me know.

P.S. Good idea of changing the subject line. ;)

2 Gateway MX6124 - Windows XP SP2
3 Asus EEE PC 701G4 ~ 2GB RAM ~ 16GB-SDHC
2 Asus EEE PC 702G8 ~ 1GB RAM ~ 16GB-SDHC
Windows XP SP2 ~ Xandros Linux - Puppy - Ubuntu

Re: Reviving a Dead Laptop

shrewprincess wrote:
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Well the battery is probably (most definitely) shot.
Without a brand name you may be hard pressed to find a replacement.
You are looking at a minimum $50.00 expense.

PCI Wireless cards are cheap, around $20.00 - $30.00. They are easy to
set up and don't take much to learn how to use.

While you have surpassed most "non-techies" in your endeavor, and I can
definitely appreciate the retro status of a clunker in a classroom, ( I
bust out my old Dell just because I can), you may be fighting a losing
battle simply because of the unknown origins of the make/model of your

Now that is not to say it can't be fixed up, but it may take some doing
to find some thing out about it. (that keyboard probably has a part
number underneath it).

I suggest taking some pictures from all angles, and posting them on
imageshack and then giving the people here a peek at it. /

Another suggestions is to go to

and gathering some info from there, especially pertaining to hardware.

If you're determined to make it a project, you came to the right place
for help. Please don't be disappointed if you have to throw in the towel.

I am sure we could get you going on some other clunker pretty cheap as
well. :)

Re: Reviving a Dead Laptop

I would simply replace the laptop.
By the time replace the battery, and an buy a wireless card, you are more
than 1/2 way in buying a laptop. some laptops can be bought for $299 or used
I suggest you consider buying a laptop instread of putting money into your
current laptop.

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Re: Reviving a Dead Laptop

Eugene Maes wrote:
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She has a dream.........

Re: Reviving a Dead Laptop

shrewprincess wrote:
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We all started here :-)
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As others said, the battery is dead. Remove it so as not to overtax the
charging circuitry needlessly and forget this issue ... until the
machine works to your satisfaction. This will likely be one of your
biggest expenses and there is no sense investing here unless you are
sure it is not throwing good money after bad.
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Now, I would like to clarify. Before you think of Wifi, to what extent
have you managed to get this machine to work. Hard disk capacity,
*memory* are information we need to better help you. What *version* of
Windows is installed, does it boot normally? How is your screen, quality
wise? In other words, to give you the most accurate advice, we need to
know where you are starting from.

Again before Wifi, have you managed to connect your machine to the
Internet since you state you have broad-band?

Sorry for repeating my point, but first, you need to get the basics
working and until you've got a decently working machine you can get work
done with, focus on the basics.

As others said, getting a wifi PCMCIA card will be most easy, but then,
remember that getting it to work may not be as simple as plugging it in.
Besides the issue of physical connection, a driver will certainly need
to be installed. AGain, this is very simple ... but with computing,
simple things tend, at times, to become complicated ...

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Even if this is not totally rational, I perfectly understand what you
are talking about. I recently salvaged from ... my ex :-) an old (2000)
Twinhead laptop I had "let her have". Not being not very computer savvy,
I guess she messed up the installation of a USB broad band modem and it
did not take long before she claimed the machine was overheating and not
working properly. Finally, after 4 years, I finally managed to convince
her to swap it against a Sony desktop I had no use for, which I updated
in every aspect before the exchange.

When I got the old Twinhead, I did find a dead battery, of course, and
some cosmetic problems I could more or less correct by myself (I never
found any parts for the machine). After reinstalling the back-up of the
whole machine I had made (and kept, just for such a case) before I let
here have it, I found the machine working exactly as I had left it. Of
course, its performances today appear outdated, but it still can do
useful work and the kinship you are referring to came back to kicking!

As an end note, the suggestion from G.G is excellent, you may be
surprised! Take the time to take very clear and informative pictures and
post the link here!

Good luck
John Doue

Re: Reviving a Dead Laptop

Wow, thanks guys, that's a lot of responses really fast, and very much

To answer the questions that have been posed so far, I'm fully aware
that this
may be a lost cause.  That's actually part of the appeal.
I've always been a
bit frustrated by my lack of understanding in this
area, I don't like being
entirely dependent on other people's knowledge
and experience.  I like to have a
working knowledge of the essential
tools in my life, not necessarily so that I
can fix everything that
might go wrong with them, but just so I know when
something is wrong and
what it might be.  Call it fallout from years of
attempted cheating by
auto mechanics, but I want to be able to take care of the
basics myself
and know when to call BS if needed.  So that's the real purpose of
project, not the computer itself, though having a working laptop would
nice.  I want to learn my way around the machine without risking
damage to a
computer I really need.  

Here's my impression of my starting point, though keep in mind this is
novice's assessment:  

I've got Windows XP on it and I guess it had the hardware drivers,
everything seems to work.  It boots up and runs with no fuss.
The hard drive is
tiny, 10 gigs I think, and the processor is an Intel
Celeron (the brand name?)
1000 MHz with 376 MB of RAM, at least that's
what I got from the system info

It only has one USB port, and I rely heavily on flash drives so that
worries me
a little, but the knowledgeable friend who was helping me out
had a PCMCIS card
with two more USB ports, so I bought that from her,
along with a narrow little
keyboard which fits quite neatly on top of
the broken one.  I even got online
with my parents' dial-up connection,
but I'm not going back home for another
week, so I can't test the
broadband until then.  

The screen still supports itself in spite of the broken hinge, and the
quality is all right.  Good enough to suit me anyhow, I even
watched an episode
of Torchwood on it today just to see how well video
plays (not bad, a little
jerky at the beginning, but it smoothed out).
There's a clip near the hinge
that keeps popping out and exposing some
wires, but I duct taped that in and it
seems to be holding.  

I'm not going to be asking a lot from this thing, I have a nice,
desktop computer that can be my workhorse.  I pretty much just
want it to be a
portable word processor, if I can do some internet
surfing and watch video on
it, that's frosting.  My total investment so
far is $15 and cooking my friend
dinner (which I would have done
anyway), so I think I've done pretty well.

So the consensus seems to be that I should take some pictures and see
if anyone
can give me a guess as to the make and model.  Also, that I
will need a battery
and will probably want a wireless card eventually,
but I should hold off until I
know a little more about it.  So I'll be
taking some pictures tomorrow probably,
and while I will call the people
who bought out the builder's store and see if
they happen to have a
battery, I'll wait on any more intensive hunting until I
know more.
Thanks again everyone for the excellent advice.

Re: Reviving a Dead Laptop

Here's a link to a free (for home use) program, Belarc Advisor, that
will audit your computer and give you tons of info on the hardware and
software in your machine. Much more comprehensive than Windows System

It should give you the make and model of  your motherboard, and
possibly tell you if the machine is a recognized "system". Armed with
the mobo info, you might be able to find out the max RAM capacity and
type. Trust me, 376mb won't cut it running some programs on  XP. 1
gigabyte will run XP nicely for most things.

Last year I revived a 5 year old Toshiba with a hand from the kind
folks on this group. There's good help to be found here. RAM and hard
drives are relatively cheap these days, but there still comes a point
when you have to weigh whether you want to pump your money into
reviving an outdated relic or save that money to invest in a low-end,
but much superior new machine. In my case, a revival worked out fine.

Best of luck!


On Sun, 4 Jan 2009 20:46:15 -0600, shrewprincess

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Re: Reviving a Dead Laptop

shrewprincess wrote:
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Thanks for the additional info. Looks like you have a good starting point.

The first limiting factor is the amount of memory. Could you check it
again in Control Panel, System, General (above Support Information).

For XP, 512 Mb really is a minimum, 1G is comfortable. Cost is minimal,
the question is, where is it located, and is it easily accessible ?

For the HD, indeed 10G is not much, but as long as you limit your usage
to Internet, and Word processing (word 97 ideally, but no 2007!), you
should be fine. Bigger disks are cheap (I have plenty, could send you a
bigger one, say 60G, for the cost of USPS, end February if you are still
interested). On most machines, this is easy too, ... once you have found
the way to access it.

One usb port only? No big deal. but your friend's approach using the
PCMCIA port is not compatible with a Wifi Card. You should be better off
with a usb hub (4 ports I believe, very cheap). At least, if it works,
it tells you the PCMCIA port works ok.

John Doue

Re: Reviving a Dead Laptop

So I finally got around to taking pictures: 'Here'
( /)

Hey, what’s 'that ' ( ) on the bottom
there?  A model number?  Huh, strange I never noticed that before.  I
wonder what that number will give me if I google it....oh would you look
at that, a service manual.  Okay, I’m a ditz, but I am learning
and better late then never.  

So that’s the good news, the bad news is that the guys who bought
out the shop where this thing was built were able to find me a
replacement battery.  I know that sounds like more good news, but the
thing is, the replacement battery won’t charge either.  Since
I’m pretty certain it’s good, I’m afraid that means
that there’s something wrong with the charging mechanism (details
below).  So, unless that’s a replaceable part or within the realm
of a novice’s skill to fix, I guess it’s not going to be
portable enough for note taking during class.  

I do have another question though.  The general opinion here seems to
be that XP might be a bit much for this computer, so would I be better
off running Windows 98 on it?  I don’t really have any preference
between the two, and I have an old ’98 disk from a discarded
computer.  It probably wouldn’t have drivers for the DVD drive,
but I could back those up before I switched over, couldn’t I?
Running the computer within its means seems like a simpler solution than
upgrading the hard drive, especially since I don't know how much life is
left in the old thing.  

Details of the charging behavior:
When the computer is on, the power meter shows the battery at 0% and
charging, the 'power indicator' ( ) on the side
is solid green (most of the time, there’s an oddness I’ll
get to in a second).  When I power it down normally, the indicator
blinks red, once every 5 seconds or so, for around 15 minutes before
going dark (it didn’t do that with the old battery).  Now
here’s the odd thing, it froze up on me (my fault, too many
windows open for the poor old thing), so I turned it off with the power
button, and when I restarted it, the indicator was flashing between
green and amber. I’m assuming that amber indicates charging,
though I really don’t know, but that’s the only time
I’ve ever seen that light flash amber at all.  The power meter
said it was charging, though it was still at 0%.  This continued for
about 30 minutes, then the light went back to solid green and the power
meter stopped saying it was charging and just showed AC power and the
battery at 0%.  I was able to reproduce the odd behavior, but only by
shutting down using the power button and then restarting.

Re: Reviving a Dead Laptop

***   Shrewprincess: What did you change? Please revert to ISO standards
for text newsgroups, as you were using for the first of your posts in
this thread. The mess below is extremely difficult to read.


         Richard Bonner /

shrewprincess ( wrote:

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Re: Reviving a Dead Laptop

Richard Bonner;909525 Wrote:
> ***   Shrewprincess: What did you change?
Please revert to ISO
> standards
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I haven't a clue, if I changed something I must have done it
accidentally.  The
only thing I did differently in that post was trying
to insert links to the

Re: Reviving a Dead Laptop

shrewprincess ( wrote:

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***   OK. It seems to have inserted html apostrophes everywhere. Maybe it
was just a hiccup...  (-:

         Richard Bonner /

Re: Reviving a Dead Laptop

~misfit~ ( wrote:

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***   I like to show off my 10-year-old 500 MHz systems and the fact
that operations run faster than XP's do at GHz speed.

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***   Can you not run them from a flash drive or CDs?

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***   You and I would get along well!  (-:

         Richard Bonner /

Re: Reviving a Dead Laptop

Somewhere on teh intarwebs "Richard Bonner" typed:
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Hehee! Yeah, I'm the same. I'm currently on the lookput for more RAM for
this machine. It's the old low-density SDRAM and people seem to want (and
get) the earth for it. It's currently got 2 x 64MB installed, it'd be nice
to take ot up to 256.

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Most of the games require the CD in the drive to run (the HDD is too small
to run an emulator and ISOs like I do with machines with bigger HDDs) but
need to be installed to a directory on the machine. Windows 98 doesn't
handle USB storage as elegantly as later versions of Windows. That fact,
coupled with the fact the machine only has one USB 1.1 port (very slow
compared with HDD access) has prevented me from trying to install to a USB
stick. However, I might have to give it a try, I have nothing to lose.

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Hehee! It seems so Richard. You really wouldn't want to see the "junk" I
have around the place that, although old and worthless [in monetary terms],
still works and I hate to discard. I have an mATX motherboard over there set
up on my testbed (motherboard pull-out tray) with a Celeron Mendicino 500,
256MB RAM, 20GB HDD and a graphics card that cost over a grand (NZ) new.
(The bestest nVidia TNT that they made!) It's running 98SE and is lightning
fast. It's something that was way beyond my means when it was new. I think I
was still playing with Pentium 200s then, just discovering the joys of MMX
and exploring Cyrix's CPU offerings.

I put it together from my parts pile and I'd be lucky to get $20 for it if I
were to sell it. I just can't bring myself to do that. I'd rather give it to
someone who would get use from it (or be sure that, if I were to sell it, it
would be used). It's from probably the last year or so when compters were
still a reasonably major investment and consequently made to last. I'm
confident it would run for at least another 10 years. These days
manufacturers build for a 3 year life span. Don't get me started on that

A couple of years ago I dumped all my socket 7 and earlier stuff. Last year
I dumped all my 'Slot' stuff (Except a couple of machines running Tualatin
Celerons faster than 1GHz in 'Slocket' adapters). I guess socket 370 stuff
will be next to go. After that era IME motherboards and graphics cards (and
laptops) were made as cheaply as possible and a lot of my gear made since
then has failed where the old stuff just keeps on going.

For laptops, after 2000, I'm staying exclusively with ThinkPads. AFAICT they
are still made to last.


Re: Reviving a Dead Laptop

~misfit~ ( wrote:
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***   It depends on what you need to do and how much runs at once. 128 MB
in my HP laptop running DR-DOS 7.03 can run everything I need to on it.
(I do not do graphic work on the laptop.)

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***   Programs that require the CD to run are a nuisance.  )-:

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***   Software author Bret Johnson is working on new DOS USB drivers.
Hopefully they will be out of beta testing later this spring. Perhaps they
might be suitable for you.

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***   I don't worry about the USB standard too much. If your drivers can
recognise the newer flashdrives, they transfer data much faster.
Flashdrives are not all equal. Unfortunately, the `U' in `USB' is far from
universal and so the very latest flashdrives work only under XP SP3,
Vista, and newest Mac OS-X machines. I don't know about Linux. I am hoping
that Bret will address this.

   In the meantime, look on the flashdrive packaging and get one that
will run at the minimum under Win ME. Be sure you can either test it in
the store or return it if it is not recognsed.

(Re: Pack-ratting)
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***   No, in fact, I actually would like to see it.

(Snip Description of Older System)
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***   I am the same way. I hate to think that working stuff would go to
the recyclers to be destroyed.

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***   I agree. In my showroom, I have a 1991 486 DX4-100 running a
slideshow.(*) It still operates well after all these years. It used to run
the business, then went to my home, and is now back at the business -
still on the job.

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***   My local laptop repair place echos that.

         Richard Bonner /

(*) The 486 was originally a 33 MHz, then a 66, and finally the chip was
replaced in the mid 1990s with a 100 MHz unit.


Re: Reviving a Dead Laptop

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PLease shut up

Re: Reviving a Dead Laptop

Somewhere on teh intarwebs "G.G. Willikers" typed:
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Thunderbird has quite a good killfile I'm told. There's no need to expect
others to cater to your prejudices with a killfile.

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