Reviving a laptop

My Micron Transport LT (a rebranded Samsung Sens Pro 680) died on Friday. I wasn’t a happy camper. Just ask my wife.

But it’s working again today, and I learned something along the way.We’d gone out for a while, and when we got back, I sat down at the laptop and noticed Windows was complaining about low battery power. I didn’t think much of it–I just unplugged the AC adapter and plugged it back in, like I usually do when that happens.

Well, about five minutes into my session it died hard. And it wouldn’t power back up, no matter what I tried. Eventually I got the idea to test the AC adapter. I took the adapter to a known-good plug, switched my voltmeter over to DC, touched one lead to the barrel of the plug and one to the tip, and got a whole lot of nothing. I tried it with an AC adapter that I knew worked, and got a reading. Then I noticed the power cord going into the adapter looked just like the adapter for most portable radios. Hoping against hope, I switched the voltmeter to AC, touched it to the leads, and got disappointment.

110 volts.

Google to the rescue. I did a couple of searches and found places selling AC adapters for a Micron LT, but the prices were outrageous. The best price I found was $55, and most places wanted $70 or $75. I didn’t want to sink that much money into a six-year-old laptop–especially when I didn’t know if the AC adapter might have taken something else down with it. Since the laptop had run fine on battery power, I had a pretty good indication it hadn’t, but I didn’t know.

I found one place advertising original Samsung AC adapters for $20. But they were sold out, of course.

A search on the specifications printed on the AC adapter itself–19 volts, 3.15 amps–yielded devices that would work, but again at prices higher than I was willing to pay.

Finally I decided to search Ebay. Searching on "Micron Transport LT" didn’t yield much except some parts laptops, and substituting "MicronPC" and "MPC" didn’t help. All I learned was that a stripped 650 MHz LT with no drives, AC adapter, battery, or extra memory sold for about 50 bucks. That was encouraging. I could Frankenstein an LT back together if I had to.

So I searched on "Samsung Sens Pro 680" instead, and found some joy. Some prices were outrageous. But I found a seller in Hong Kong with original Samsung OEM units. I also found someone in Brooklyn, Laptopspower, with an aftermarket unit. The prices were comparable–around $35. Did I want to buy an identical replacement? Part of me said no–why buy something identical to something that broke? But the little guy on the other shoulder reminded me that the one that broke lasted six years.

Basically the decision came down to Hong Kong vs. Brooklyn. No question a shipment from Brooklyn would arrive faster, all other things being equal. So I took a chance on the aftermarket unit and placed my order on Sunday night.

It arrived today. I’m happy to say it’s bigger and heavier than the original. Remembering previous jobs, I know some sissy-boy executives would complain about that, but if you’re a dumb PC tech like me, you know that the weight of a transformer is a crude measure of its quality. Cheap electronics components weigh less than higher quality components, all else being equal. Besides, I’m burly enough to manage to carry a couple more ounces without grimacing.

Some other things going for the aftermarket unit: It has an indicator light, so you know when it’s getting power. This way I’ll have some warning if and when this one dies, and I’ll know to save my work. That would be worth 30 bucks right there, if I happened to be working on the right thing. And the amperage of this unit is 3.2 amps, not 3.15. That’s not a lot of difference, but more amps is better. The laptop will only draw what it needs, but higher capacity means a cooler-running, longer-lasting unit.

And, as a bonus, I learned that the LT’s CPU is removable and upgradable. Just look for an MPGA Pentium III. The catch is that the fastest chip the LT will take is 800 MHz, and it wasn’t produced in large quantities. An 800 MHz MPGA P3 runs about $80. My 700 MHz chip costs about $30. That’s an expensive 100 MHz upgrade. But it’s nice to know I can get more speed, if I’m willing to throw money at it. It used to be that the only way to get a faster laptop was to buy a new one, after all.

So my LT is back in business again, and I’ve learned something. That can’t be bad.

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7 thoughts on “Reviving a laptop

  • February 15, 2006 at 10:04 pm

    I know where you probably could have gotten a used one for almost nothing!

  • February 16, 2006 at 8:25 am

    Besides, I’m burly enough to manage to carry a couple more ounces without grimacing.

    Have you been exercising, David? An aristocrat would have his servants do such chores for him.

    • February 17, 2006 at 6:25 pm

      David’s social status is in a tailspin, much like any aeroplane piloted by Raunche. Not only does David work, but my manservants tell me he parks .9 miles from the building where he works.

      An aristocrat would have his manservants either carry him, or drop him off and then park the car–in a reserved spot ten feet from the building, of course.

      So to answer David’s question for him, yes, David is getting vast quantities of unneeded exercise.

      • February 23, 2006 at 12:45 pm

        R. Collins, David’s social status would need to be on an earth-drilling machine to tailspin any further. I also feel it necessary, once again, to point out another of your incongruous canards. I need not pilot my own “aeroplane” – and I note your English overlords’ spelling of the word. I merely fly when I deem it suitable. This is what aristocrats do, aside from philanthropic work and providing employment for commoners like David.

        While David toils in exercise as a mere aristrocrat epigone, I can attest from personal proximity to Raunche that the Scots’ true strength originates from underneath the kilt, particularly when said skirt is lifted by gastrointestinal emissions.

  • February 17, 2006 at 9:12 pm

    Great news on your AC adapter!

    When installing an internal wireless-G antenna and mini-PCI card in my Gateway 400SD4 laptop a few months ago, I discovered the 1.7 GHz Celeron CPU inside is socketed onto the motherboard. Depending on the BIOS’s ability to recognize particular chips, I’m probably able to swap in a Pentium-M (if it were worth the $$ for the effort and mild performance gain.)

    • March 1, 2006 at 9:42 pm

      Yep, that’s excellent news. No one says you have to do it right away. In a couple of years you’ll probably need the speed more, and the chips will be dirt cheap.

      • March 4, 2006 at 7:06 pm

        Yup. It’s ridiculous how inexpensive the 2.x GHz Socket 478 Celerons are right now. It will be interesting to see how long the Socket 478 Pentium 4 chips stay on the market and how low they’ll go.

        Speaking of inexpensive, for the last week or so has been selling a refurb Compaq Evo small-form-factor 1.9 GHz P4 system with 512MB of memory (but only a 20 Gig hard disk) for less than $250 USD. It’s got five USB ports AND serial and parallel ports and XP Home. With it’s small size, several of these would make a great and relatively inexpensive Linux cluster.

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