Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Portables Upgrades Hardware

Revitalizing an Aging Notebook On the Cheap 261

Posted by timothy
from the but-I-want-a-wind-instead dept.
jcatcw writes "Brian Nadel's ThinkPad R50 just hit its fifth birthday, and the years haven't been kind to it. When it was new, the notebook was reliable and fast. Now it's slow and prone to annoying shutdowns. Is it a good investment to revamp a notebook that's worth about $350? It sure is, because this old notebook will get a new lease on life for about $125 — a bargain, considering what it could cost to replace." On the other hand, upgrading RAM, keyboard and hard drive don't get you a smaller (netbook-style) computer, a new battery, or the transflective screen on the Toshiba linked above.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Revitalizing an Aging Notebook On the Cheap

Comments Filter:
  • Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bombula (670389) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @04:34PM (#23863961)
    A 5-year-old notebook is worth $350? I don't think so. Hard for me to pay much attention to the rest of any article that begins that far off base...
    • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Informative)

      by White Shade (57215) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @04:41PM (#23864091)
      I've noticed that it's next to impossible, via normal channels, to get even old laptops for less than $300.. they may be worth about $1.50, but that doesn't stop people from charging the big bucks for an outdated piece of shit.

      It's like craigslist syndrome; no one wants to admit that their ancient worthless crap is actually worthless.

      • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Gulthek (12570) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @04:47PM (#23864225) Homepage Journal
        http://dellauction.com/ [dellauction.com] is your friend.
      • I don't think so (Score:4, Insightful)

        by FranTaylor (164577) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @05:00PM (#23864485)
        My 'outdated piece of shit' is doing just great and I use it every day. The new battery lasts even longer than the original and the tickless 2.6 kernel doesn't hurt, either.
        • by alan_dershowitz (586542) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @05:49PM (#23865293)
          When you can get a brand new and amazingly more powerful laptop for 400 dollars, five year old laptops are not worth 300 dollars. MOST people by that point sell the laptop rather than spend the money on a new battery, so let's say that I'm looking at one of these used laptops I see everywhere for 300+ dollars. I know that a new battery is going to cost me 80-140 dollars, so why the hell would I buy used when I can get a brand new one for around the same price?
          • Nope (Score:5, Informative)

            by FranTaylor (164577) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @06:02PM (#23865503)
            I "know" that a new battery cost me $50, and it's even better than the original was.

            The used laptop that I paid $300 for, over a year and a half ago, is going for $200 now, and it blows the doors off an eee.
          • by Hatta (162192)
            Ok, suppose I was looking for a thinkpad like the poster's. Something with a keyboard clit at least. What brand new laptop would you recommend for $400?
          • by hob42 (41735)
            While 5 years is pushing it, just what kind of laptop the old laptop is will make a difference in how it compares to modern sub-par $400 garbage laptops. I call them that from experience, because I've bought two in the last two years. And while next year's cheapest laptops will still be garbage, they're sure to be better than the single-core POS with 512MB RAM that I got last year.

            On the other hand, I just went shopping again and picked up a Gateway FX laptop for $1400 - I do not expect to see a cheapo $400
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by negRo_slim (636783)

            When you can get a brand new and amazingly more powerful laptop for 400 dollars, five year old laptops are not worth 300 dollars.

            Yeah, buy and throw away, rinse and repeat!

            Seriously though, I kept my 1ghz P3 long after the point of diminishing returns. The amount of money I spent on incremental upgrades would of bought a brand new rig.... But not one I new so intimately. Or ran so stable. Plus I'm sure there was a bit of emotional attachment to the damn thing, so many LAN parties so many mp3s, so much fun. Eventually it got the the point the only upgrade left would of been to purchase a P3-Tualatin off E-Bay... But by that point th

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by SpooForBrains (771537)

            This Thinkpad T41p (a four year old machine, according to the review I read, but lets be generous and say three years) is worth MORE to me than the Toshiba u300 I recently purchased for GBP600. For while the newer machine is shinier and ostensibly has a faster processor, the older machine is better built, looks better (because the casing was designed by a sensible person, the Toshiba looks like shit already) is more portable, has a better and more practical screen and, quite frankly, is better in every way.

        • Damn small linux (Score:5, Interesting)

          by goombah99 (560566) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @06:11PM (#23865689)
          I took win 98 off my wife's Pentium 2, 186Mb machine and put on danm small linux. It was like a new machine. boots in under 30 seconds and all the programs with their low graphics usage run snappy. The battery doesn't work and the screen is barely back lit but that doens't matter.

          try Damn small. It hardly matters if you boot of CD or HD so just try it out.

          • by hedwards (940851) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @07:07PM (#23866445)
            I did something similar with my desktop a while back, I went from Windows to FreeBSD only, then I switched to a more efficient WM, and next I'll probably go to an even smaller WM like dwn.

            I'll probably give damn small a try, out of curiosity, really all OSes should deserve words like "damn small," "nano," "pico," "tiny," and such. If I need or want bloat, I should have to add it myself.

            I can't recall the last time I used most of the things which were installed by default anyways.
        • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by clang_jangle (975789) * on Thursday June 19, 2008 @06:04PM (#23865535) Journal
          Refurbished with warrantee != plain used
        • by hedwards (940851)
          I wouldn't buy anything from the geeks, they used to have some good deals, but the last purchase I got from them shipped broken, and they refused to give a full (including shipping) refund due to the inaccurate listing.

          And most of the items were having incomplete listings at that point.

          Just pay the money and go to a reputable dealer like Tigerdirect, Fry's or Newegg. If you have to pay a bit more, it's worth it. Plus with tigerdirect, you can pony up for extra protection if you don't like the item.
          • by rkanodia (211354)
            Just pay the money and go to a reputable dealer like ... Fry's

            Who is this company, and why hasn't Fry's Electronics sued them for trademark infringement?
      • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mikael (484) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @09:23PM (#23867633)
        Even though the laptop is old, a LCD screen is still valuable. While looking for spare parts for my laptop I came across a company called Nexttronics. They actually had some sort of part exchange refund scheme for broken LCD displays. The discount was quite substantial - over $500 per LCD screen.

        Even split into parts such as mounting brackets, the total value of the system is more valuable than if the system as a whole.

    • Go look on ebay before you say that.
      • Re:Yep! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Trespass (225077) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @05:06PM (#23864579) Homepage

        Go look on ebay before you say that.
        No kidding. Picked up a Toshiba Portege M200 convertible tablet there last week for $250 and I couldn't be happier. The prices are so low on new low-end laptops it drives down prices on used machines that often have more features.
    • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @05:32PM (#23865041)
      If you sell it on eBay you'll probably get $200. With the extra $125 of upgrades you'll maybe get the same.

      Very few buyers will worry about how much RAM etc it has. Most won't pay more than $x unless it has a fast CPU.

      If you think that it is worth spending the extra $125 to have a faster machine for yourself, that's fine, but don't try rationalize it with resale value.

    • by xSauronx (608805)
      thinkpads hold their value like a honda accord. i have a T40 that i *love* and have about $450 in over the last 18 months.

      1 gig ram: $50
      802.11g adapter: $20

      i want to put a dothan CPU in it, since im broke and its about all i can do :(
      it would be $40 - $50 for a 1.7 or 1.8ghz dothan mobile. i think its rape, but theyre a bitch to find

      i *need* a new battery. i dont care about the hard drive, i have an old tower that holds my data. batteries are expensive :(

      i dont want to do more incremental upgrades and have
  • Or battery life! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jkerman (74317) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @04:35PM (#23863971)
    With a few exceptions, battery life just sucks with an aging laptop. and replacement batteries are either used up themselves, insanely expensive, or impossible to find.
    • Re:Or battery life! (Score:5, Informative)

      by Bandman (86149) <bandman@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Thursday June 19, 2008 @04:51PM (#23864319) Homepage
      I've seen quite a few instructables about how to replace laptop batteries [google.com] yourself.

      I'd say the screen quality would be the limiting factor. Dead pixels eventually add up.

      If there were a way to get new screens, then this would be the next big way to save money.
      • Re:Or battery life! (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Technician (215283) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @05:38PM (#23865119)
        I'd say the screen quality would be the limiting factor. Dead pixels eventually add up.

        For me that is nothing I have had problems with. Dead batteries and limitations on maximum RAM or the lack of USB ports is tht biggie ones for me.

        I have an old, very old, Toshiba Sattelite laptop with Windows 3.1 and a monocorome screen. Dead pixels isn't a problem. Small hard drive, small memory, and no USB is the problem. The external monitor is color.

        Next oldest is a CTX 400 laptop. Again the screen is fine. The limitations again is it is maxxed out at full capacity of 72 Meg of EDO memory and no USB. It is running it's original Windows 95 due to the lack of RAM. I use it with MIDI and my keyboard and GPS due to the built in MPU-401 port and RS-232 port. It makes a great GPS topo map display as 2D graphics isn't memory intensive.

        My newest laptop is also fairly ancient a Thinkpad T21. It is maxxed out again in the memory department at 512 Meg. It only has 1 USB port. I run Ubuntu Dapper Drake as an upgrade from Windows 2K professional on it and am quite happy, but I expect to outgrow it soon. Again Pixel death is not a problem. I have replaced the cold cathode lamp. They are only $20, but you need some serious soldering skill before attempting it. The lamp is fragile, toothpick thin, and the leads need trimmed to fit. Lamp replacement is not for the faint of heart.

        Max memory capacity, dead batteries, lack of modern USB, and a dying lamp on older laptops are the problems faced by me, not dead pixels.

        Is there a manufacture that had a problem with pixels that die?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Dahamma (304068)
        I'd say the screen quality would be the limiting factor. Dead pixels eventually add up.

        Since when??

        I finally replaced an almost 5 year old Inspiron 8600. The keyboard was sticking, the mouse buttons barely worked, the drive was way too small, the battery lasted 1/2 as long as it used to, the graphics were painful for modern games, and the CPU was showing its age - but the 15.4" 1920x1080 display was as amazing as the day I got it (and still better than most new laptop displays... why is it so hard to find
        • Re:Or battery life! (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Mattsson (105422) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @07:09PM (#23866477) Homepage Journal

          why is it so hard to find displays that good any more?
          Have you noticed how prices on laptops just seem to plummet?
          They do this by using cheaper and cheaper component, like low quality displays and marketing 16:9 screens as if they where 4:3 screens...
          If you buy a laptop in the same pricerange as you did 5-10 years ago, you still get good quality.
          It's starting to get tricky to get 4:3 displays in a laptop though. 8-(
      • by Mattsson (105422)

        I've seen quite a few instructables about how to replace laptop batteries [google.com] yourself.

        Be careful when you do that.
        My brother replaced the cells in his old battery, and less then a month later, they exploded.
        Luckily, they where a few meters away when it happened, but they found pieces of it stuck in the roof and in other rooms of the apartment.

        Dead pixels eventually add up.

        Dead pixels isn't the biggest problem with old laptops. It's the lamps. They grow dim with age.
        My own laptop is a >5 year old Thinkpad R40, and even though it's still fast enough to run most stuff and has zero dead pixels, when compared to a new la

    • You apparently don't know about sitee called 'ebay' or 'google'. I have several old laptops and batteries are very easy to find. They even have more capacity than the originals.
    • "Replacement batteries are either used up themselves, insanely expensive, or impossible to find."

      Or $50 brand new, better than the original, and available all over the place. It just depends on whether you actually bother to look first.
  • by SilentChris (452960) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @04:36PM (#23863991) Homepage
    I also heard if you tie hundreds of horses together your cart may run as fast as a Ferrari (and it'd be cheaper too)! Oats cost nothing compared to the price of gas these days...
    • by Obfuscant (592200) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @04:55PM (#23864389)
      I also heard if you tie hundreds of horses together your cart may run as fast as a Ferrari...

      Been there, done that.

      Your cart goes as fast as the fastest horse can run, minus a bit since he's now dragging the cart AND the other horses.

      The vet bills to fix the broken legs of the horses that are slower outweighs the cost savings. RoHS prevents the simple solution to a broken leg.

      Like Larry the Cable Guy says: I heard the right thing to do when your horse breaks its leg is to shoot it. So I did. Now I have a horse with a broken leg and a gunshot wound.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by stonefry (968479)
        It is illogical to think that a cart can go faster than the slowest horse.
  • Should've upgraded (Score:2, Interesting)

    by AKAImBatman (238306)

    On the other hand, upgrading RAM, keyboard and hard drive don't get you a smaller (netbook-style) computer, a new battery, or the transflective screen on the Toshiba linked above.

    Amen. Not to mention that the plastic casing is almost certainly weaker than a new laptop, making it more susceptible to damage. Just pay the $1099 and get a new MacBook. You'll get the latest in WiFi and Bluetooth capabilities, a beautiful TFT screen, a fast dual-core processor, plenty of RAM, a battery that's new, battery life th

    • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @04:42PM (#23864129)
      Or you know, buy one of those EEE PCs for $350...
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by AKAImBatman (238306)
        If you're stingy and don't need a lot of power, sure. Personally, I would go mad trying to use one of those things. :-P
        • Well, yah. But between either a 5 year old huge notebook or an EEE PC for the same price, I would take the EEE.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Bootarn (970788)
          I own an Atari Portfolio, and I love it! Sure, it's slow as hell compared with today's machines, but it has all the apps you need in ROM. The operating system is DIP-DOS(Like MS-DOS with extensions) and it's the size of a VHS tape. I use it every day and as far as I know, I'm not mad. While many people have the need for power, it's interesting that something so slow as the Portfolio is still usable for everyday tasks.
    • by oodaloop (1229816) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @04:49PM (#23864247)
      He's looking to upgrade on the cheap, and your recommendation is "just buy a new mac"? Somehow, I don't think he'll be taking that piece of advice.

      You obviously aren't too concerned with processing power, hard drive size, or the latest gee-whiz features if you're interested in upgrading an old machine. An Asus Eee or similar MID might be a little closer to what you're looking for. All the portability and simplicity you're used to, without all the heartache.
      • by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatmanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday June 19, 2008 @05:25PM (#23864897) Homepage Journal
        The way I see it, there's no real reason to throw good money after bad. If he needs a better laptop, shell out the dough and get a better laptop. Don't screw around with a money pit or you'll end up shelling out just as much in the long run. (Need a new battery? Oops. More money. LCD backlight getting dim? More money. Need Wifi? Keep bleeding.) Even worse, you'll have all kinds of weird dongles hanging out just to upgrade to support modern features like Wifi and Bluetooth. (Assuming he doesn't already have the optical disc and floppy drive dongling. :-P)
        • Nope. (Score:3, Interesting)

          by FranTaylor (164577)
          Ha ha ha.

          New battery is $50. 802.11g wireless card is $30 and goes in the mini-PCI slot where the useless modem was. No dongles. You're the one with the dongle if you want to plug in your GPS.

          Screen, backlight, and DVD drive still work great. Old case has nice texture instead of sexy new shiny finish that attracts scratches and fingerprints.

          You've spent at least $600 and have a laptop that smells like a chemical factory. I've spend $400 and have a laptop and $200 left in my pocket.
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by AKAImBatman (238306)

            New battery is $50.

            I would be mighty impressed if you got a NEW battery for a 5 year old laptop for only $50. Batteries for older hardware get more expensive over time, not less.

            802.11g wireless card is $30 and goes in the mini-PCI slot where the useless modem was. No dongles.

            Except for that huge antenna sticking out. And the majority of older laptops would have to go the PCMCIA route, which is both expensive and requires more to stick out.

            You've spent at least $600 and have a laptop that smells like a chem

            • Re:Nope. (Score:4, Informative)

              by Denyer (717613) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @09:16PM (#23867589)
              I would be mighty impressed if you got a NEW battery for a 5 year old laptop for only $50. Batteries for older hardware get more expensive over time, not less.

              That price seems about right for the Thinkpad ones I'm currently looking at on eBay... the UK's a little more expensive on average, closer to $60 inc. shipping. You may have problems sourcing for less popular brands of laptop.

              Except for that huge antenna sticking out.

              Running an internal antenna isn't difficult, even doing it properly rather than just bundling the wires into any free space.

              the majority of older laptops would have to go the PCMCIA route, which is both expensive

              It's not. You can get a PCMCIA 'g' card for under ten quid, the same as a USB adapter. And most five-year-old laptops (i.e. 2003 vintage) have USB ports.

              for something that is likely to be unreliable

              No signs of it yet. Whilst we're talking anecdotes and guesses, though, I do have a friend who's had to return two new Mac laptops due to overheating in the last few years.
        • by Corporate Troll (537873) * on Friday June 20, 2008 @02:29AM (#23869667) Homepage Journal

          Tssss.... You don't understand, do you? My dad has a P-III 733MHz laptop, which I think is from around 2000. The machine is completely set to his hand, he loves the resolution (1600x1200, I think... might be a tad less).

          Over the years we scavenged parts from left and right: it now has 512Meg RAM instead of 256Meg RAM (scavenged), he has a Linksys 802.11g PCMCIA card ($30 ?), he as now a 80Gig disk instead of a 20Gig disk (scavenged from a more modern defective laptop - I used g4l to copy contents from the 20Gig to the 80Gig) and a scavenged DVD drive instead of the original CD drive. Now last year, his keyboard started acting flakey, and I told him: "Okay, look it's time for a new laptop".

          He didn't want to. His XP installation was last redone in 2002 (I secured it, and he runs as User and knows about proper adiministration), and he likes it as it is right now. He spend $300 on a new laptop keyboard and two LiIon batteries that fit his machine. The battery life of his machine is simply astonishing.

          He has enough power, he has enough memory, he likes his installation, and he has great battery life. Just by scavening around and spending a little (over time, of course)

          So, by doing this: he saved himself money (he would never go for a 1280x800 screen... that's what cheap laptops come with), he saved the environment, and he's happy! What is more to ask?

    • I'd take the Thinkpad. Thinkpad hardware is better than Apple hardware by a long shot. Plus no one will be questioning my sexuality.

      I was using a 10 year old Thinkpad up until 6 months ago. They are rock solid machines.
      • I was using a 10 year old Thinkpad up until 6 months ago. They are rock solid machines.

        It's funny, because my experience has always been the opposite. When I was supporting those laptops, we had MORE failures with Thinkpads than with any other laptop we worked with. Yet the business folks kept demanding them because they were "fit for an executive".

        Plus no one will be questioning my sexuality.

        Question all you want. I have work to do, which my Apple will get done a lot better than any Thinkpad I've ever used

    • My old Compaq laptop's plastic case is WAY stronger and WAY less susceptible to scratches than any of the new laptops I've used or seen. It's 6 years old and looks like brand new.

      It has WiFi, who cares about Bluetooth.

      My old laptop has battery life that it would not have dreamed about when it was new because the new battery ($50) has significantly more capacity than the original and the 2.6 tickless kernel uses way less power than any OS from back then.

      The better OS is free! Why spend money on Vista?

      My la
  • So he added some memory and doubled his hard drive size (I don't really count replacing the keyboard as an "upgrade"). He made no mention of the battery, which any 5 year old laptop will need a new one of. That in itself will be about 50-75% of his $125 upgrade budget.
  • Battery? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by b0bby (201198) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @04:39PM (#23864059) Homepage
    No mention of a new battery - I know my battery is useless after less than 4 years, I only get 5 mins now. At over $100, though, it's not worth it to me to replace. I'm always near a power supply. Add the $125 he spent, plus $125 for a battery, & you're only $150 away from a new Dell. Just sayin'...
    • by Bandman (86149)
      Have you thought about changing the cells yourself [summet.com]?

      I've heard of people doing it, but I don't know anyone who has, so I couldn't tell you anything about it.

      If it works and you don't blow yourself up, let us know :-)
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mustafap (452510)
        >If it works and you don't blow yourself up, let us know

        Unfortunately when it does fail he wont be able to get back and tell you, because it will have burnt his house down with him in it.
    • This is the key: AC power is available everywhere.

      Take the battery out of your laptop and throw it away. It's dead weight - without it your laptop becomes truly portable.

      Laptop manufacturers have missed a significant market by not producing lightweight laptops that use only AC power (_no_ battery packs).
  • I am a cheapskate that also owns a thinkpad R-series (an R32, to be more specific). I just dropped about $60-70 in parts (more when you include shipping) to replace a crack in the LCD bezel.

    I almost gave up on it, and replaced it with a new unit, until I realized just how well my 7-year-old thinkpad still runs. I've seen my colleagues replace numerous dell, apple, and HP laptops in this time. This notebook has been in 4 countries, 3 provinces, and over a dozen US states with me. Its on its third battery, but thats not bad for its age. I bought it when I was finishing my 4-year degree, and its still with me now, over halfway into my PhD.

    And when I realized that I would spend over $1,000 to get a new thinkpad with the options I wanted, I realized that my repair was a great investment. And of course the IBM (lenovo) website has all the documents you need to completely disassemble your laptop (and put it back together, too).

    Unless you have extra money - and I'm guessing you don't, since you bought an R-series - you would be wise to put some money into refurbishing your laptop. You'll be glad you did.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      I almost gave up on it, and replaced it with a new unit, until I realized just how well my 7-year-old thinkpad still runs.

      My punch cards never stopped working also, so like you I never saw the sense in upgrading.

      What is an LCD by the way?

      • My punch cards never stopped working also, so like you I never saw the sense in upgrading.

        Ahh, yes. I see your humor. I should have added:

        My 7-year-old thinkpad still runs everything I need.

        It already has 1 gb of RAM, an 80 gb HD, wired and wireless networking, and can burn CDs (or even better, write to my USB flash drive).

        I don't need a blazing fast system for presentations and email. I have a desktop that does the heavy number-crunching (and a cluster for even heavier). I don't care about windows vista, it is completely irrelevant to me. Same with Doom 3, Half-Life of any itera

    • by Abcd1234 (188840)
      And when I realized that I would spend over $1,000 to get a new thinkpad with the options I wanted, I realized that my repair was a great investment.

      Except, of course, you still don't have the options you wanted.

      That's not to say it wasn't a good investment for you, but to compare it to a new laptop and claim it's a bargain is a little silly.
    • by robogun (466062)
      Any issues with ports and connectors wearing out? On my 2003-era R40 I have lost the rear USB port, the side one is flaky, the LAN port is non-op.

      Also, the case is experiencing cracking.

      Other than that, it's been great. The Centrino is actually half a Core2Duo and this one has SXGA.
  • Investment (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rinisari (521266) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @04:41PM (#23864107) Homepage Journal
    The best investment you can make is to give that laptop to some enterprising person and tell them to make a blog or site and give you the a percentage of the profits.

    You might even be better of simply donating the laptop to charity and deducting the donation from your taxes.

    If you really need it for some reason or cannot possibly afford something newer, consider putting Xubuntu, Puppy, or some other lightweight OS on there.
    • by Bandman (86149)
      I know someone who used his otherwise-junk laptop as the controller for his X10 lights.

      At work, I have one that I use as a nagios display sometimes. I've pretty much stopped, since the energy used is wasted, but the idea is there.

      If the screen is ok, there are lots of interesting possibilities.
  • Wow..... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mr_nazgul (1290102) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @04:42PM (#23864133) Homepage
    I've been working on and in PC's for years and have never seen THAT bad a clog. Big dust bunnies are the worst I've seen...

    Where the hell did this laptop go? It looks like it sucked up a ferret (look at the page 5 gallery).
    http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9096720&pageNumber=5 [computerworld.com]
    • Seriously. I'm not sure I believe that's what was in his laptop. It almost looks like he rolled up the crap he found under his bed and dropped it onto his computer before taking the picture. I mean, isn't the dust that cakes up inside a computer usually a whole lot less billowy? Especially considering all of that was supposedly in a flat/narrow space.
  • Bad idea? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eebra82 (907996) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @04:45PM (#23864173) Homepage

    Is it a good investment to revamp a notebook that's worth about $350?
    Not if you've been paying any attention lately. Nowadays, notebooks are so cheap that it's barely reasonable to upgrade them periodically.

    I think the question is interesting, but really, to get an old laptop working again, you must still walk around with something that looks and feels aged, since the casing is torn, the monitor is far from what it used to be (LCD and TFT quality wears out after some time) and the keyboard is probably not what it used to be either.

    Why not just spend $500 on a new computer, such as the Asus Eee or MSI Wind? You're definitely getting more performance out of it, plus the benefits of WiFi, Bluetooth, etc.
    • by Legion_SB (1300215) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @04:49PM (#23864265) Homepage
      Don't tell him to get a Wind! The last thing I need is more people trying to buy up all of the initial stock...
    • by FranTaylor (164577)
      New Asus eee is 900 MHz. Old Compaq Evo N610C is 2.4 GHz. The Compaq has a much bigger screen, same RAM, twice the disk and goes for half the price.
    • Honestly, the IBM (now Lenovo) Thinkpads are probably one of the few models of laptops that *may* make a little sense to "refurbish", to get more life out of them.

      Their utilitarian, black plastic cases tend to take more abuse than most before really looking "worn out" or "old". (No fancy silver paint to flake off, or aluminum shells to get dents or real obvious scratches in them, etc.) I've also noticed that batteries for most of them can be had for less money than many other brands.

      At the same time, much
    • by Omestes (471991)
      ...you must still walk around with something that looks and feels aged, since the casing is torn, the monitor is far from what it used to be (LCD and TFT quality wears out after some time) and the keyboard is probably not what it used to be either.

      Who really cares how it looks?

      If your just using it is a work-book then the LCD quality isn't that important. Excel will be ugly even using some nice 32bit/pixel wonder display.

      Keyboards are a problem, but he replaced it. My old iBook was missing both the ;, and
  • I have a 6 year old Dell C840, 2.2 Ghz P4M, 1GB RAM, nVidia graphics, built-in wireless, 1600x1200 screen. It's still going strong and I still use it as my primary rig when doing remote consulting jobs.

    Sure it's big and bulky compared to modern comps but it's got a damn nice screen and enough horsepower to run VMware and everything else I need.

    The only problem is the battery is shot to hell and can only hold a charge for maybe 10 minutes. I normally have somewhere to plug in so I haven't bothered replacin
  • Refurbishment makes sense for higher quality notebooks. My grab and go travel notebook is a loaded out (max memory, 80 gig HD) nearly 10 year old Compaq M300, it weighs in at 3.3 pounds has a magnesium case, and quality construction. The P3-500 is fast enough to browse the web, play youtube videos, and all that other basic stuff. Best yet I only have about $300 invested in it, so if it breaks I am not out much. Sure I could spend $1500 on a similared sized high quality replacement, but do I really need
  • by MacTO (1161105) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @04:48PM (#23864233)
    Three reasons to upgrade, rather than replacement:

    1. It could be cheaper. He was talking about a hard drive and memory here, both of which can offer a slight boost in functionality, which is all that some people need.

    2. It may be easier. If you're only talking about upgrading the RAM, then you get to bypass the joys of installing software and reconfiguring your working environment.

    3. You may have trouble getting the features you need. Have an old printer that you don't want to replace? Need a serial port on the road, but don't want to carry an adapter?

    4. It just may be more environmentally friendly. It takes energy to manufacture goods. It takes time and energy to dispose of hazardous waste.

    Upgrading doesn't always makes sense. But sometimes it does make sense. So why criticize people who take that less travelled path?
  • My old laptop (Compaq Evo N610c) runs like cold molasses with XP, but with a 2.6 kernel, a nice new hard drive, and Firefox 3, it runs just great.
  • Just get a new one (Score:3, Insightful)

    by InlawBiker (1124825) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @04:58PM (#23864433)
    You can get a modern, dual-core laptop that will run XP or Linux like a dream for under $500 these days. It's hardly worth dropping money on an older one.

    Set it aside and install Linux on it and use it for a download, firewall, torrent, web, development, java, gcc, proxy, cvs, - whatever - server. A working computer you can hack around on is always worth something.
  • I have a 6 year old Dell Insp 8100.(1 gig p3, 512 meg ram, radeon 7500 1600x1200 display).

    It's served me well over the years and it still does most anything I need (web, email, videos). I
    LOVE the high resolution display and most of the laptops I see for under 750 have lesser displays. Dell warranty replaced the hindges about 3 years ago when the thing "blew up." Today, the hindges are as floppy as a 5.25in floppy.

    Is there a way to replace the hindges for cheap instead of buying a new laptop to solve this
    • Look around on ebay. If you can't find the hinges, buy a dead one for a few dollars and cannibalize the hinges.

      Download the service manual, it gives step-by-step instructions on how to replace anything.
  • by syousef (465911) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @05:01PM (#23864517) Journal
    Sure, you can drop some money on a hard drive and RAM. That is if the notebook will take them. You may well run into memory compatibility problems or a hard drive size limit in the bios. Finding the right kind of RAM and drive may even mean having to spend big depending on where you live.

    Much better to spend the money on a new machine. If you have plenty of spare time clean up the old one and use it for a picture frame. It'll be cheaper and likely have more space. Isn't this the accepted non-geek use for an old laptop? If you have LOTS of spare time, consider using it for a geeky project like controlling a robot. Serial ports use to be standard on laptops but now you have to buy USB->serial adapters. So for some things the old laptop is actually better and cheaper to use. You could even consider donating it to your local club. (I almost donated an old laptop to my r/c flying club. With a serial connected hardware module it could be used to monitor for r/c interference. In the end I decided against it because most of the guys at the club would rather have nothing to do with a computer on a Saturday morning).
    • No problems with BIOS limitations if you put the /boot partition on the beginning of the big fat drive.

      No memory compatibility issues if you do your homework.

      Spare parts are WAY cheap on ebay. You can fix the broken keyboard or the flakey trackpad for just a couple of dollars.

      New batteries are $50 if you look and they work even better than the originals.

      Full service manuals are available for download from the manufacturers. A couple of tiny screwdrivers and a clean place to work, and that old clunker is b
  • I keep shoving hair into the fan intake of my laptop and now it's not running properly. What am I doing wrong?
  • Flash drive? (Score:5, Informative)

    by stickyc (38756) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @05:32PM (#23865049) Homepage
    An old laptop like that isn't going to be good for much else than browsing/email anyhow, so why not replace the drive with a CF card and laptop IDE-CF adapter. Adapters can be had on ebay for ~$5. CF cards are pretty cheap - You can run XP on a 4GB card pretty well and Win2k or linux variants on 2GB easily. Write times aren't all that great (avoid super-low memory environments where there'll be a lot of swapping), but read times are great and battery life will be much improved (which is a big deal on slower older laptops), plus they're lighter and run cooler.

    The write cycle failure time on most CF cards is so long, you should get at least a few more years of use out of it (and CF cards will be that much cheaper by then). Even then, from what I understand, write cycle failures are just that - a failure to write. You can get a new drive, copy the contents to the new drive and be good to go.

  • The hard drive is the most time-consuming part to replace, as you have to reinstall your OS and applications at the same time. Always go the best/fastest on it. I threw a 7200rpm in my X31 and it's a noticible difference in speed, while not much different on battery life. Good stuff.

    -m
    • If your laptop can handle the extra power draw and the heat. Check the specs on your laptop before you upgrade! Some of them cut these things pretty close.

  • by MojoStan (776183) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @06:20PM (#23865849)
    TFA mentions defragging and checking the new hard disk for errors (good tips), but doesn't mention checking the new RAM with something like Memtest86 or other free memory testing utility. Ultimate Boot CD [ultimatebootcd.com] contains a few of them.

    Flakey memory is a common undiagnosed cause of system instability (along with bad power supplies). Testing the memory should be the first task performed after buying it from a place with a good return policy.

  • by dindi (78034) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @06:46PM (#23866151) Homepage
    For work, play, school ? Absolutely not.

    YES: for a ...
    garage computer: to check that "how to fix my XYZ headlamps.

    bedroom computer: to browse around, without having to put your shiny macbook next to the bed so your SO can step on it in the morning

    kitchen computer: recipes ...

    living room computer: to IMDB that movie trailer, or to run MTR (multi trace route) during an online game, to see your current latency (ping)

    asterisk/appliance box: damaged screen, damaged keyboard/touchpad? Still perfect for a quiet always on application. Well I run my asterisk on NSLU, but my close next guess was my OOOLD vaio ... before it died finally..

    A 5 year old machine should also have DVD playback capabilities, USB ports, etc, so they are perfect as a car pc, toilet pc, bathroom pc.... or whatever ...

    I actually have a 6+ year old Toshiba near my bed. It annoys the hell out of me with windows on it, and it is slow as hell, but to quickly google something, or spend a lazy Saturday morning "surfing the net", it is perfect. Oh yeah ... when I am next to a machine I end up working, or reading dox, except when the machine is useless for anything else than "surfing"...

    just my 2c ...

  • by wiresquire (457486) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @06:52PM (#23866247) Journal
    I've done this on a few old laptops. A couple of notes:
    - Disk drives. Costs go down. A lot. For older HDDs @ 3600 or 4200rpm, if you have anywhere near a reasonable amount of memory, this is the easiest and best bang for the buck.
    - Memory. If you buy new memory, the prices for older 'architectures' go up. Check out the price of 1GB pc2700 sodimm vs 1gb pc5300 sodimm (DDR2). It's about 2 to 3 times the cost for the older pc2700.
    - CPU. Never actually done this, but have thought about it on some occasions. Best to find some boards or references where it has been done successfully - and which CPUs are OK. Actually finding a CPU can be hard.

    Ultimately, I end up maxing out my RAM either when I buy it or within the first year. Hard disk drives, I just buy the minimum size at the time of purchase as I can pick up a cheaper and bigger one later on.

    Also, it's worthwhile considering a NSLU2 or the like as a cheaper permanent storage solution and keeping the 'latest' information on the smaller laptop storage.

    Cheers
    ws
  • by gelfling (6534) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @06:58PM (#23866329) Homepage Journal
    Yours was broken, you to replace the keyboard.

    I just turned in a 4 year old T40 Thinkpad that had an 80GB drive and 1GB RAM. The RAM is the only thing that wasn't stock. Employer paid for the 512MB stick.

    But I also bought my own Bluetooth USB adapter as this machine had none. A Trendnet, about $17.00.

    I also disabled the built in 801.11b wireless NIC and bought a PCCard 801.11g NIC from Compusa for net $4.00.

    I also bought a USB mulimedia card reader for mini/micro/SD cards as this machine had none. About $10.00.

    And last but not least I had to replace the battery recently. Employer paid for the battery.

    In my opinion old laptops are only useful as stationary servers for some specific purpose like a router or a home media center or something where you need a small low powered unobtrusive box that runs quiet. If the USB and SVGA ports run you don't even need a keyboard/skidpad or a screen. Take out the battery, chuck it, if the screen doesn't work, chuck that too. Voila you have a 3 lb server.
  • My oldest notebook is a Mitac 6120N. It's done for, sadly, first because the backlight won't come on unless I unplug the power supply and let it go on battery, and then switch the screen from LCD to CRT and back. Of course this battery, a replacement, is old enough to live for about 15 minutes. Sad. It's finally on the shelf cause it won't run Xp for more than 30 minutes without an ACPI error and BSOD, and won't run Ubuntu for more a few minutes before it traps a panic for the same thing. Strange, it u

"Life, loathe it or ignore it, you can't like it." -- Marvin the paranoid android

Working...