Thursday, March 15, 2007

CMOS Battery in a Laptop

I own an old and cheap laptop. I bought it four years ago at Costco. It says Northgate on the outside, but it really is an ECS 731 Green. It has never had any real battery life and has always been more of a portable desktop than a true laptop. It basically works for what I need it to work for, but I also drool over the new laptops that cost half of what I paid for this one!

As often happens with computers that are four years old, the CMOS battery started to flake out, especially when I left it outside overnight in sub-zero temperatures. This is the battery that helps the computer remember what kind of hard drive it has and things like that. Having replaced many CMOS batteries on desktop computers, I figured that I could handle replacing this one as well. It's about a five minute job on a desktop, maybe two screws to get the side of the case off, replace the battery, and put it all back together.

I started by looking at the ten big screws that hold the bottom of the case on. I found that my regular screwdriver was too big for them, but the jeweler's screwdrivers were too small and didn't give enough leverage. A trip to the garage and I had found a small but easy to grip screwdriver that did the trick quite nicely. Ten screws from the bottom of the case removed. Still nice and solid. There are a variety of panels on the bottom of the case that cover things like the hard drive, memory chips, and CPU. I took the half a dozen (total: 16) screws out that hold those panels in to see if there were more screws under them. The CPU heatsink was really dirty and looked like the screws holding it in might go through to the top of the case. So I took out the four heatsink screws (20) and the four screws holding the fan in (24). Still, the case was remarkably solid.

Then it occurred to me that maybe there were more screws under the laptop battery. It's big and heavy and lasts about eight seconds, but it was hiding eight more tiny screws which I removed (32). Still not budging it, I pulled out the only remaining thing I could find on the bottom, the CD/DVD drive and found three more tiny screws, for a total of 35.

Then I flipped it back over right side up. Must be something there, but I couldn't see it. The only thing that looked removable was the keyboard. I poked, prodded, and pried and found the little latches that let me remove the keyboard. Unplugged the little cable and took out the piece of metal shielding under the keyboard and found four more (39) screws to take out. Now I could get the front and the sides of the case to separate, but the back was still firmly holding together.

I looked around for quite awhile and tried to see if there were plastic tabs holding things together but could find any. Then it occurred to me that maybe the display needed to be removed, something I was hoping to avoid. I found that there were plastic pieces covering the hinges and that I could pry them off. Underneath each of them were two more screws which held the monitor to the case and held the whole thing together (43). Now I had access to one more screw on the top of the case, which I removed (44). But still, it would not come apart.

I pried out a piece of plastic that had icon on it for the hard drive activity, shift lock, etc. Then I could see six more screws (50), two of which held down the panel with the power switch on it. Underneath that there were 2 more screws (52) and that was all I could find. But the top of the case would finally move. I gingerly picked it up and revealed another metal shield that covered most of what was there. Five more screws to remove and this shield was out of the way and I saw my goal, a $4 CMOS battery. It only took removing 57 different screws (unless I lost count and it was actually more than that) to get to it. So, almost three hours and 55 more screws than a desktop later, I pulled the battery out and put a brand new replacement battery in!

Laptops look smooth and elegant compared to desktops, but that's not what they are like underneath the cover. I was reminded of my father's memories of trying to work on the mobile home that he and my mother lived in before I was born. I'm sure that those of you who have lived in mobile homes or worked on RVs could share similar experiences. Somehow making things appear to be neat, organized, and efficient outside introduces a new level of complexity on the inside.

This complexity is not always a bad thing though. As we look forward to hosting the 2007 Alaska Synod Assembly, we need to have as many people involved as possible. Perhaps two families could do the job, but 57 or 114 or all of us could do the job better. We want the experience for those who come to the Assembly to be one that looks smooth and elegant. We want them to be able to focus on Workshop, Business Meetings, Bible Study, and other parts of the Assembly without worrying about food, housing, transportation, or restroom facilities. It will be complex on the inside, but it will look neat, organized, and efficient from the outside.

I hope each of you are able to find ways that you can support Good Shepherd in this effort,
Pastor Andy

No comments: