Upgrade diary: Compaq Presario 7360

Last week, I talked about my plans to upgrade a Presario 7360. I can now present you with the executive summary.
This isn’t a project for the faint of heart or the inexperienced. Upgrading is certainly possible, but this is one of the most difficult upgrade projects I’ve ever done, and this is coming from a guy who’s done a lot of upgrades. I can honestly say that for every soda I’ve drunk over the past seven years, I’ve probably serviced one computer.

With today being New Year’s Day and me having the day off (mostly), I decided to tackle the project. If you’re stuck with doing major upgrades to a 7360, make sure you’ve got a long block of time where you won’t be interrupted.

Caveat 1: The first question is how to get the old motherboard out in order to do anything. You’ll have to, unless your hands are about half the size of mine (and my hands are smaller than average). Remove the two screws from the underside of the motherboard, then find a couple of convenient spots to grab onto, and pull the assembly toward the front of the case. The board will then fold out, like a door.

Caveat 2: The factory power supply is woefully underpowered. It might very well fail if all you add to the system is a CD-RW drive. And there’s no way it’ll work with a modern Athlon or P4 motherboard. Fortunately, 200-watt SFX power supplies, while not necessarily something every streetcorner computer store carries, are much more common today than they were even two years ago. Newegg.com carries a suitable replacement for around $25. Look for an Allied AL-B200SFX. Not only is it 200 watts, it’s also certified for P4 and Athlon use.

Caveat 3: If you haven’t yet gotten the idea that this case is crowded, the position of the drive bays makes it difficult for a modern Socket 478/Socket A CPU fan to fit without moving the hard drive. After replacing the motherboard, I had to bust out the hard drive, open up the slot intended for a Zip drive, and slide the drive in from the front in order for it to fit, then bolt the drive into place and replace that slot’s front cover.

Caveat 4: The front panel. Like many brand-name PCs, this Presario puts the front power button and all the LED leads in one easy-to-plug-in block. Unfortunately, there’s no industry standard pinout for that front panel. I happen to have two Compaq Socket A motherboards purchased from various closeout joints. Those two boards, and the Socket 7 board that originally came in this Presario, all have different pinouts. You’ll have to rewire that block, and it’ll involve some trial and error. Assume this part of the job will take an hour or two.

Caveat 5: Airflow. Add a second optical drive or hard drive or both to this thing, and there’s not going to be much room for airflow. Don’t upgrade with a high-end CPU.

Caveat 6: Clearance. The first HSF combo I tried was 2 inches tall. It didn’t fit, and there was no way to make it fit, unless I permanently removed the drive cage that holds the floppy and hard drives. I replaced it with a Speeze 5C12B3, which fit. The first memory stick I tried was 1.375 inches tall. It didn’t fit either–I had to locate a shorter one.

Overall recommendation: If you can upgrade this thing, you have my respect. I got one working, but mainly because I had a larger-than-usual selection of parts on hand. If this had been my first attempt at doing a motherboard swap, I would have sworn off the practice forever.

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re much better off buying an inexpensive replacement computer and relegating your 7360 to Web browing/e-mail duty, or donating it to a charitable organization that gives computers to the needy if your community has one (St. Louis does–Web Innovations and Technology Services, at 4660 West Florissant Avenue). Unless you tear into computers for a living, I wouldn’t recommend attempting a motherboard swap in this computer.

12 thoughts on “Upgrade diary: Compaq Presario 7360

  • January 2, 2004 at 8:35 pm
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    That was a great analysis.

    What if I have $2,500 to throw at anything?

  • January 3, 2004 at 12:03 am
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    Hmm… $2,500 to throw at anything?

    I’d throw it at the ACLU if you live in the USA. The Free Software Foundation and Electronic Frontiers Foundation are both worthy causes, too. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • January 3, 2004 at 11:02 am
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    Mark, if you want to spend that much, maybe you should buy a new dual-G5 Mac? Or just the 20-something inch Apple LCD monitor? ;^D

    Seriously, I just built a great barebones system (case, power supply, motherboard, CPU, RAM; no operating system, no hard drive, CD/DVD, video, or net cards) for under $800 assembled from monarchcomputer.com, and a co-worker came in about $100 cheaper buying similar components at newegg.com to assemble it himself.

    Hard disk drives are disgustingly cheap after rebates these days (about 50 cents per gigabyte) and so is DDR RAM memory (250 bucks for a gigabyte of fast PC3200 400 MHz DDR RAM). Network cards are dirt cheap (unless you get a motherboard with networking already built-in) and you can find decent prices on video cards, too.

    For $2500, you can probably build out TWO nice systems, if you recycle some of your current components (hard drive, cd-rom, video card, network card) or one nice system with a 19″ LCD monitor (Sam’s Club has the Sceptre X9S Naga 19″ LCD for about $460, if you can find one remaining.)

    Or, as the more frugal would suggest, only spend about $800 of that $2500, and keep the other $1700 in the bank account. (wink, wink; nudge, nudge)

  • January 31, 2004 at 3:36 pm
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    Hiya Dave –
    I’m trying to help out an older friend who is in a seriously low income bracket. Her computer, a 7360, fell off her daughters desk and pretty much stopped working.

    I’m a techy dude, and told her I’d see what I could do to remedy the situation. (I have a lot of spare parts.)

    No visible damage, but the CPU was partly loose in the socket 7 slot when I opened it up. Snapped it back in, but the mobo won’t POST. I get nothing onscreen. The PSU seems to powerup the board, and I tried another PSU just to double check but still no love. (I lastly tried unplugging absolutely everything including the ram just to see if I could get the POST…this thing shows me not a glimmer of life besides the fan on the CPU and PSU…and two of the fan blades broke as I was trying to pull cables in that tight case with my big fingers)

    I don’t have any spare micro-atx mobos around to swap with… so I’m on the net googlin’ for ideas/suggestions.

    Looks like you might have a spare mobo/cpu for that beast… please email me if you’d be interested in donating it for the cost of shipping and maybe a few extra bucks from me to cover the hassle. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thanks dude,
    Timo
    P.S. I’d love to see photos of the upgraded beast… it is tight, but a nice little case in other respects. Maybe I’ll do what you’ve done, or maybe try to find a cheap VIA MINI-ITX board for replacement for her daughter.

  • March 1, 2004 at 1:40 pm
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    I really enjoyed reading about your experience with the 7360. I also have a 7360 that I bought at a rent to own place. Which came with no supporting software or drivers. Since I’ve owned it I’ve upgraded it with a new 3D card, a larger 80gb hard drive, and a rw cd rom. Having two hard drives in the computer, I also had to move the fan and place the old hard drive into the zip drive bracket. My next task is to replace the motherboard with a p4 processor. I am so glad I read your forum about the wattage. Also that I will be challanged with it fitting, and having to rewire the block. I tell myself, I should get a newer computer with a much larger capacity room for upgrades, but I have done so much with this system already, I would hate to stop now. I even got HP to send me the recovery disk for this thing. I know I’m stubborn, but this computer system is definetly a challange to tackle on…

  • November 27, 2004 at 1:28 pm
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    [quote]Caveat 4: The front panel. Like many brand-name PCs, this Presario puts the front power button and all the LED leads in one easy-to-plug-in block. Unfortunately, there’s no industry standard pinout for that front panel. I happen to have two Compaq Socket A motherboards purchased from various closeout joints. Those two boards, and the Socket 7 board that originally came in this Presario, all have different pinouts. You’ll have to rewire that block, and it’ll involve some trial and error. Assume this part of the job will take an hour or two.[/quote]

    Dave, do you have any detailed information about this step of the modification? Pinout diagram perhaps?

    I am planning on modding my old Compaq 7469 which is a very similar model to the 7360 and was hoping you could shed some light on the front power switch/LED connection issue.

    Here is the parts list for the upgrade:

    -Chaintech 7NJL6 Socket A Motherboard and AMD Sempron 2500+ Processor

    -Ultra 512MB PC3200 DDR 400MHz Memory

    -Powmax / LP6100C / 300-Watt / ATX / Dual 80mm Fan / Power Supply

    -XFX GeForce FX 5200 / 128MB DDR / AGP 8X / VGA / TV Out / Video Card

    Total cost after rebates, etc: $295.00

    I may add a new HDD later on if the OEM HDD is too slow. It is a Seagate 13 GB, 5400 RPM, ATA-66 unit.

    May upgrade to a 40 GB ATA-133 for around 67 bucks or so. We’ll see.

    TIA!

    Rob

    • November 27, 2004 at 2:28 pm
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      Rob, if I took notes on that pinout I’ve long since lost them. I should have posted them, but I didn’t. Chances are very good that the 7469 and 7360 had different pinouts unless they happened to use exactly the same motherboard.

      What I suggest doing is disconnecting the front panel, then, before you swap the board, locate the power switch lead on the old board by systematically shorting pins with a screwdriver with the power off. You’ll know when you found the lead when the power comes on. Sounds dangerous, I know, but you won’t hurt anything, or yourself.

      The power and HDD lights are easier to find by looking at the connector, especially once you eliminate the power leads.

      You may get lucky and have the various leads silkscreened onto the board itself. I didn’t, but with Compaq, you never know.

      For $295, you’re going to get a nice machine. Like you say, the HDD may or may not be up to the task, but that’s $67 and the prices are always dropping, so if you can get 6 more months out of that old drive, it’s worth a shot.

    • November 27, 2004 at 6:48 pm
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      Update:

      After much searching, it appears that the original Compaq 7469 MOBO is a Camaro board, model number as yet unknown, which is an OEM version of a Mitec #5114 MOBO.

      On pages 16 & 17 of the following .pdf document (link at the bottom), it details the pinout for the front power-on switch. I THINK this onformation is accurate, however, I am not near my computer and have not yet removed the OEM MOBO for comparison to the .pdf diagrams.

      Dave: any idea if this information looks correct Re: your experience with the 7360???

      Thanks again.

      http://www.motherboards.org/files/manuals/78/5114VU.pdf

  • November 27, 2004 at 6:50 pm
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    Oops, didn’t see your reply to post #1 before I posted #2. DOH!

    Anyhow, any comment on the .pdf diagram?

  • November 27, 2004 at 6:59 pm
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    Dave: Thanks for not saying I’m nuts. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    The computer has already been upgraded with a Pacific Digital CDRW and the (dead) original 40x CDROM has been replaced with an ASUS 52x CDROM. The multimedia keyboard and optical mouse are brand-new Logitech units, and the 17" Hansol CRT monitor is in excellent shape, with no burn-in at all. Just that the processor and MOBO are having a hard time keeping up with new software apps and also my new all-in-one PSC unit is stressing the comp. in it;s current configuration.

    New Dell P4 is on the way to be used as the primary computer.

    So, I figure if I upgrade the innards and retain my optical drives and peripherals, I’ll have a decent 2nd computer for the kids to do homework and net research with.

    Oh yeah, I got a buttload of software for it too, Win XP etc. Would be a shame to use it as a doorstop or give it away for 10 cents on the dollar.

    Besides, I want to learn how to build/rebuild a PC as a learning exercise and satisfy my inner tinkerer.

    Plus, I’ll probably network them for internet access and share the Epson PSC between the two boxes.

    Thanks for listening!

    • November 28, 2004 at 8:05 am
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      Thanks for stopping in. You ought to learn quite a bit about tinkering with PCs by hanging out here. I talk about a lot of things, but since that’s what I do for a living, the topic comes up a lot.

  • November 27, 2004 at 9:06 pm
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    It’s feasible, but I’m looking at it some 11+ months since I cracked the case on that 7360 for the first and last time.

    Best thing to do is crack the case, take a look, and if it looks close, you’ve just saved yourself an hour or two of fiddling.

    Also keep in mind the power connector is the only truly critical one. It’s nice to have the HDD light and the power light but the computer will operate without them. So it’s one of those things you can put off until after you have everything else working if you get frustrated, assuming there’s room in the case to fiddle, that is. Hopefully you’ve got one of the Presarios that had the slightly roomier case.

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