Last updated: March 2017
This laptop was given to me for repair on December 6th of 2015. When I went to return it, it was pronounced as mine, so I got to keep it. It's a great little laptop!
On December 23rd of 2016, I received another Compaq Evo N610c that I moved this one's RAM and HDD into. This one will sit around for a while.
Today is December 7th. I'm going to first write about what I noticed yesterday, then I'll get to today.
A quick first look says that the laptop is in good condition, aside the screen being a tad bit dirty, and several areas of gray paint scratched off of the LCD's bezel, revealing a silver color behind the paint.
The laptop appears to operate fine, however, the BIOS issues a SMART warning from the hard drive, so it may need to be replaced. The fan can also get quite noisy at times, but this may be normal.
I poked around in the BIOS before letting the OS load. The specifications show a 1.8GHz Pentium 4-M stepping 7, 512MB of RAM, a BIOS from 11/23/2002, and an ATI video BIOS from 05/29/2002.
The BIOS does not show what type of ATI chip this is, so we'll have to get into that later. The BIOS did show that the battery needed re-calibration, so I ran that, and I then left the laptop to do its thing. I eventually shut off the laptop, but it seems that the calibration never actually finished.
Now, today, on the 7th, I'm back again, and I'm going to provide pictures.
This might be the first time I ever really found a laptop to look like a notebook, and I find this design quite interesting. This really seems like a good laptop to be aesthetically picky about, I quite like it! The design is so simple and clean, and yet it's so innovative, all at the same time.
This thing's even got a multi-bay, that's excellent. Another thing you can't find on today's laptops. To remove the drive, you push the unlocking lever (next to the rubber foot) towards the back of the laptop, and then you pull the drive out.
Upon starting the laptop, Windows XP nagged for activation, to the point that it refused to let me log in. The activator was also not working, saying that it couldn't get in touch with the server, resulting in logging in being impossible. It appears that this is a result of Microsoft ending support for XP, so I had to get around the activator, somehow.
I was able to get around it by rebooting into Safe Mode w/Command Prompt, and running the command "rundll32.exe syssetup,SetupOobeBnk". This gives you 30 extra days to activate, which lets you go to the desktop for that much longer. It might be possible to get it activated after doing enough Windows Updates.
Now this is interesting. This appears to be a clean install of Windows XP that was done 6.5 years ago, with no personal files! Because of the clean nature of this Windows installation, I think it may be best to simply replace the hard drive and install a fresh copy of Windows, without transferring anything, as there really isn't anything worth transferring. Let's observe the installed programs, next.
Wow, now that's strange. Nothing is even in this list at all! I don't even know if a stock XP installation is even supposed to be that clean. I say that it's certainly effort best spent replacing the hard drive without transferring the Windows install. Why not sleuth a little more, though? Let's check the event logs.
Since the system clock tripped up like this, I can't say for sure whether or not these events happened to the computer during my work, or someone else's. Since it showed 1980 for me, perhaps this was before I laid my hands on this machine.
Continuing to its interesting theme, this Windows installation only has Service Pack 1 installed, despite even 3 having been released by the time of its installation. Quite mysteriously, this installation has been registered to "x", of no company or organization. I guess the person who installed this did not feel like typing much!
Clearly, not even video drivers have been installed, yet, despite this installation seeming so clean, the Compaq PC Card that was installed in the computer when I got it, is showing an error in Device Manager. Let's investigate a bit further.
Clearly, sifting through Device Manager reveals that Windows XP unfortunately does not include any means of keeping track of device events through Device Manager, so I'll try checking Event Viewer again.
I can't find any events about the PC Card, but I did find this, which reveals that the system time was set to 2080 during the system being in Safe Mode, so it probably was when I ran the command I mentioned earlier that the system date was set to 2080.
I'm running out of things to prod around inside of. I'll check the drive for some things, and, after that, I suppose it's time to throw in another hard drive.
This installation is so clean, that the person who installed it probably hadn't even opened the C: drive before. Very interesting and mysterious, indeed. Additionally, you can see that I've been running this thing on battery for quite a while, and it's holding up mighty fine. It's quite interesting seeing a twelve-to-thirteen year-old laptop with such a good battery!
This thing's just too clean. Curiously enough, it's been formatted as FAT32, which I've heard is a good option when you're dealing with XP on a computer that's quite old to be running XP, which this laptop, being from a year or two after XP was released, is not. This reminds me that I saw Windows doing a disk check, perhaps on the first time I let XP boot on this system, and noticed the file system was FAT32.
Could this laptop possibly have no Internet history? Let's check.
The only thing even cleaner than no history at all, is the clear evidence that Internet Explorer hasn't even been set up! This thing never fails to be clean! Perhaps this shows because I don't have the Ethernet cable plugged in, its only connection type? Nope! Plugging Ethernet and power back in still shows the Internet wizard.
This is nothing short of interesting and quite mysterious. I wonder who did it, and why? While I'm not so sure who did it, I'm going to guess that the hard drive is, indeed, the original drive (the capacity seems right for its age), and XP was installed fresh, perhaps since the computer was slow or problematic, but the one installing it had something else demanding attention, and, as such, put the laptop away, and never used it again. Very interesting.
Now, my next step would be to text message the one who handed me this laptop, to ask her if she'd like me to toss in a replacement hard drive for some $30 or so, and put a fresh Windows installation.
The thing is, though, while I'm happy to install a fresh and legal version (using the OEM key) of Windows XP on this laptop, Windows XP has been out of support for a year and a half by now, and there really isn't a better choice of operating system for a 2003-era machine like this. While I'm almost sure that I could probably run Windows 7 Starter Edition on this, I've experimented enough with my own Latitude C840 that at least 7 Home Premium is considerably less pleasant than XP is on this kind of hardware, and I was running 1GB of RAM in that system; this has half that!
Linux-based operating systems are out of the question here, and Vista most likely won't be far better than 7. I've experimented with Vista on my Compaq V2000, which has a Turion 64 processor, faster than the P4-M, and Vista's less-than-pleasant on there, as well. With all of these conclusions, I say that XP is the only real choice that this laptop has.
Now, before I do that message, I'd better check the clock battery. According to the Internet,
it uses a CR2032 cell, which is a nice convenience. Unfortunately, all of the spare CR2032 cells I have on hand are doing very poorly, so I'll have to purchase one, if necessary, because I want to check on the installed one, first.
As funny as it is, I'm actually having trouble figuring out where I'm supposed to go. There seems to be a small panel on the bottom which has the Windows COA on it (great move there, Compaq! Don't put important stickers on removable parts!), but I can't get it out without being rough. I look online a bit, and I find that part of the palm rest has a cover that can be removed to see the RAM sticks. Sure enough, check this out!
While poking around the system is nice, this still isn't what I'm looking for. Looking some more on the Internet, I may, indeed, have to remove that little rectangular cover I couldn't get off before. Looks like I'll have to find something I can pry it open with, without hurting the plastic.
I still haven't been able to find anything to open the cover with, and, apparently, it is not a CR2032 cell like I thought it was, it's a BR1225 cell, which is smaller. If only I had a plastic spudger tool!
Boom! I turned the laptop over, and it hit my work desk with some force, and I heard a plastic part fall. Sure enough, the cover came off, revealing the clock battery! Go figure. When you can't pry it, whack it (softly).
Strangely enough, the BIOS has no means of setting the time, so I'll have to do it within Windows...and, unfortunately, Windows is now complaining about activation again! I run the command to fix that, and, meanwhile, I'm in the process of removing the keyboard. I can't figure it out! I look at a YouTube video, and I discover two little latches that you must move to get it off. I then say "Cryptic!" I actually saw the latches, but I didn't know what I was supposed to do with them.
Oh, and I'd advise against running the system without the keyboard, as there are two chips that make use of the keyboard as a heatsink. I promptly shut the system off while pushing the keyboard back down on the chips.
I wiped down the area under the keyboard, including the chipset, and it's looking nice now. I've gotta say, that grayish area and its texture is just like how the same area is on my poor NEC Versa laptop from 1996.
Strangely enough, it seems the fan shakes whenever it's powered, making an audible rattling sound. I don't know if I simply didn't notice this before, or if it only just started after I cleaned it. I do not recall it doing this before. I do not understand how computers do this, I am inclined to think it may be the motherboard's capacitors, but I do not know. The only other occurrence I've seen of this, is in my eMachines computer, where any fan you plug into any other header than the CPU fan header shakes.
To be continued.
Today is December 12th, and today might be the last day I have with this laptop. I realized I hadn't got a Piriform Speccy report of its hardware, like I have done with some other computers I've worked on, so I pulled it out, and I figured I'd do some good things to its Windows installation, in addition to the Speccy report.
From a previous experience with my Compaq Presario SR1020NX, Windows XP can sometimes nag you to activate it, and refuse your key each time you attempt to enter it. I had found a utility, the Microsoft Windows Product Key Update Tool, which, while it sounds a bit silly (updating your product key? What?), is actually a legitimate, working tool. I gave it a run on this Compaq laptop, and it worked!
Next step, get a video driver. According to the Internet, this laptop ships with an ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 GPU. Old! HP has the appropriate driver easily available on their website, even today.
The driver installed quickly on the laptop, and, as I write this, it's rebooting. Let's see if the driver works...yes, it does! The GPU is, indeed, a Mobility Radeon 7500, and the image looks very nice on the monitor. The monitor resolution is 1024x768.
The only thing that remains now, is to get this Compaq Netelligent NIC working, even though it probably doesn't matter that much, considering the integrated Intel PRO/100 VM NIC is working fine.
The only Windows drivers I see online are for Windows Server 2000 and 2003, as well as NT4. Gosh, this must be an old NIC. Attempting to install the Windows Server 2000/2003 driver only resulted in it saying that I don't need to install the package on the system. Ooookaaaay. Well, I figured I'd uninstall the device from Device Manager, physically remove it, then plug it back in. Well, that worked! Now it has no warning symbol in Device Manager.
There are now no errors in Device Manager! I'm actually running the laptop on battery again for today's session, and yet I'm only down to 82% right now, with Windows claiming 3 hours and 32 minutes of remaining runtime. How's that for an old laptop? Not bad!
Now, since it seemed like the battery calibration didn't work before, I'm going to try that again, before this laptop's going back.
It's not gonna be very long before I return this laptop, as well as the Sony Vaio, so I might as well go through some of the stuff in the laptop bag I got this laptop with.
Isn't this stuff cool? I just think it's really nice when people keep the original material that comes with their laptops, and whenever I receive laptops in their bags, which isn't very often, it's interesting to go through the material that is inside of them.
Most of the material here must have come with the laptop, but a little bit of it isn't original, such as the ZoneAlarm Anti-virus quick start guide, and the Memorex CD-R disc case...
This FCC code may help to reveal what model of mouse this manual belongs to. Looking online quickly shows that this is a "Dexin Corp Wireless Mouse", which, unfortunately, doesn't seem to show much useful results. Perhaps more in-depth sleuthing could reveal more interesting results.
I'm running tight on time, so I'll throw some Compaq part numbers and other pictures that may prove interesting.
Well, there's your crazy load of pictures!
The laptop will probably be going back very soon, so farewell, cool Compaq laptop!
On December 23rd of 2016, I got another Compaq Evo N610c, and I moved parts from this one into it. This one is now a bunch of spare parts.