Free* Notebook Computer
A friend had a laptop that died. He brought it to me, and I fixed it for him. (I don't remember exactly what the problem was, or what it took to fix it, but I do remember that I had to format the HD and reinstall Windows and drivers.) The fixed computer lasted for a while, until my friend began to encounter sudden shutdown problems. (The computer would spontaneously shut off.) He Googled the problem and found out that it was fairly common with the Dell Inspiron 5100, and there wasn't much to do about it. He moved on, got a new computer, and offered the old one to me (for parts, if nothing else).
I decided to take it, and see if I could get it working a bit. If so, maybe I'd make it into a digital picture frame (DPF) or something. If not, I could always strip it for parts.
When he actually gave it to me, he gave it, and only it, to me. No CDs, no power adapter, nothing. I was told the battery held about 2 hours worth of charge. I booted up the computer, and encountered the blue screen of death. I shut down, tried again, and the battery was already dead.
I looked around for a Dell PA-9 power adapter, but the closest I came was the opportunity to borrow a PA-6 (lower amperage) model. I researched the price on eBay and found it available for $18 shipped, but I didn't want to spend the money, especially if I couldn't get it working somewhat decently.
I began to research the overheating problem to find out what I was up against. Was it really as bad as he indicated? I found that a lot of discussion focused on resolving dust buildup in the fan/heat-sink area. Most suggestions involved blowing air into the space. While this process may force out some dust, to me it seemed it would just move most of it around. Before attempting that, I decided to open up the computer and take a look, if possible. Having recently replaced the keyboard on my Inspiron 6000, it was fairly easy to figure out how to do it on the 5100. After removing the bracket and keyboard (4 screws) I removed the shield (1 screw), exposing the fan. I removed it (3 screws) and a bracket holding the fan cable in place (1 screw). I looked inside, and didn't see much, other than a piece of felt padding. Well, it looked like felt padding. In reality it was a buildup of dust covering the entire opening of the heat-sink (roughly 2.5" x 0.5" and 1/8" thick!). I was able to remove it all as one piece, leaving behind a nice shiny and clean heat-sink.
My assumption is that it should now work well for a while (at least until a lot more dust builds up), but I can't test it yet as the battery is not charged. I decided it was now worth the $18 splurge, and placed my eBay order. I hope the adapter comes soon, so I can test out the computer. I also found a handy utility called I8kfanGUI, which allows one to monitor the CPU (and other Dell system component) temperatures and control fan speeds.
I'm now less inclined to use such a decent machine (P4 2.4GHz, 512 MB RAM, 30 GB HD, CD-RW/DVD-ROM, 32 MB ATI video, 15" LCD, etc.) for something as simple as a DPF.