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things I break/fix for fun and learning

Jan 20, 2019 - 3 minute read - Comments

Resurrecting a Vintage Thinkpad T43

About a year ago, I was able to get a vintage Thinkpad T43 from our local Value Village (thrift store). It’s not in the best shape - cracked chassis, purple line on the display, stiff and shiny keyboard and missing RAM cover. I took a gamble and decided to take it for a weekend project. Fast forward last week, and I was able to get a FREE Thinkpad T41P from a co-worker when I helped him install a new keyboard on his Thinkpad X240. The T41P looks really nice and presentable - there are no cracks on the chassis, display is working good and keyboard is working OK. It is the complete opposite of my T43! And then an idea came in to my mind – since the T41P chassis is presentable compared to the T43, why not move the parts over. Thus born my first Frankenpad - T43 motherboard in a T41P chassis!

Specifications of T41P -

  • released in ~2003
  • Intel Pentium M 1.7GHz
  • ATI Radeon FireGL T2 128MB RAM
  • 14in 1400x1050
  • 1GB DDR RAM
  • 30GB IDE HDD
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • 802.11a/b/g MiniPCI WiFi Adapter
  • AC97 audio
  • Ulrabay CDRW/DVDROM combo
  • Bluetooth
  • Modem
  • Infrared
  • Parallel Port
  • S-Video
  • VGA
  • USB 2.0
  • PCMCIA port

Specifications of T43 -

  • released in ~2005
  • Intel Pentium M 1.7GHz
  • ATI Radeon X300 64MB RAM
  • 15in 1024x768
  • 512MB DDR2 RAM
  • 60GB IDE HDD
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • 802.11a/b/g MiniPCI WiFi Adapter
  • AC97 audio
  • Ultrabay CDRW/DVDROM combo
  • BLuetooth
  • Modem
  • Infrared
  • Parallel Port
  • S-Video
  • VGA
  • USB 2.0
  • PCMCIA port

Based on the specifications, clearly the winner is the T43 as it uses DDR2. The only downside is the graphics memory will be downgraded from 128MB to 64MB. And I also win on the resolution aspect, from 1024x768 to 1400x1050. Not to mention that the T43 is very heavy as compared to the T41P chassis. Eventhough the physical dimensions of the two machines are different (15in vs 14in), the motherboard inside is of the same dimension and it fits perfectly.

Pictures, pictures, pictures!

T43 before the transplant

T41P before the transplant

T41P and T43 fully disassembled

Visual placement of screws. Very handy when it’s time to reconnect the pieces together!

CMOS battery and CR2032

Modified CMOS battery

BIOS update

Fedora29 i686 install in progress!

After the transplant, the next modification I did is to fix the CMOS battery. Since this laptops are more than 10yrs old, the CMOS battery is already dead. Whenever the computer is powered ON, it loses its date/time settings. The CMOS battery is a regular CR2032 battery and easy to replace.

I’ve also flashed a modified BIOS that removes the whitelist and adds SLIC2.1. Initially this machines are factory installed with WinXP and the BIOS has the license embeded into it. By adding SLIC2.1, it allows Win7 to be installed and activated via OEM:SLP.

I’m really liking it so far and I would like to stretch it a little bit in terms of upgrade. I’ve ordered ide-to-mSATA adapter as I have a spare 128GB mSATA SSD. This can speed up a bit compared to the old mechanical 60GB IDE HDD. I’ve also ordered Intel Pentium M 2.26GHz which is the maximum CPU it can handle. I’ve ordered the items for cheap from China, so it will take about ~2months for the items to arrive. I’m so excited to get it going and use the machine as my daily driver for light tasks.

And finally, I really like to see all those vintage ports. Seeing a laptop with a modem, VGA, S-Video, infrared and parallel port brings back memories. Plus the keyboard - the keyboard has no traces of Windows as there is no WIN-key.

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SSL Certificate Expired FHD IPS 1920x1080 for Thinkpad T420s

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