Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Hey everyone, it's Colin! How's it going? I recently picked up this old ThinkPad. Let's see what it takes to get it up and running again. [♪ Music - Intro ♪] This is an IBM ThinkPad 390E from 1999 and it was a pretty mainstream kinda laptop during its day. There were a few different configurations you could get on this particular model. This is a low-end one. It comes with a 12 inch LCD, but it could also be had in a 13 and 14 inch version, which also got you a little bit better resolution. This one has a 300 megahertz Celeron CPU, but the higher-end models came with up to a 333 megahertz mobile Pentium 2. Base RAM on these was 32 megabytes. Some of the higher end ones came with 64. And you could get these with up to a 6.4 gig hard drive. Obviously, this is an older type of machine before IBM started doing the touchpads in the palm rest, so all you got was the little TrackPoint nubbin thing here on the keyboard. But what's particularly interesting about this machine is its bay configuration. Obviously, this particular computer has been used for quite a while. I actually picked it up off of the e-waste pile, so I saved it from getting recycled. It's overall in really good condition. Surprisingly enough, it had the power supply with it, which doesn't always happen when you're grabbing stuff off of recycle piles. But it's just got a few, you know, kinda basic scratches and some label residue and stuff like that... from use, but it's overall in really good shape. On the bottom is kinda typical IBM construction, so there's these connectors here for plugging it into a docking station. Here's the cover for, I believe, the RAM. The battery comes out just by pushing this tab and sliding it forward, and surprisingly enough, this battery still works. I'm- I'm quite surprised by that, I left the machine plugged in for a while and it actually powered on... um, with the battery in there and the AC adapter unplugged. But this flex bay is really kinda curious. So it's the same type of latching design... and then, this entire bay that has the floppy drive and CD-ROM can come out. This is a 24x CD-ROM, but you could get different modules that would go into this bay on the side. And... You can see, if I flip this thing up... There's this flappy door, so you can stick a wide variety of things, not just different kinds of like floppy or CD drives. But this thing was compatible with another battery. Um, I've read that they also made additional hard drive carriers that you could stick in here. And then things like Zip Drives and LS120 and all the- the supposed successor to the floppy that never really took off. Also, one curious little note from back in the day when laptops were being made, like, you know, these bigger style, this has got feet. *Chuckle* Fold out, fold out little plastic feet. Been a long time since I've seen laptops with feet on 'em. On this side, pretty typical layout. There's a built-in 56K modem, sound, in and out with an actual like, analog volume dial. It's been a long time since we've seen that too. Couple of PCMCIA card slots. This one came with, I believe, this was an Ethernet, yeah. A 10/100 Ethernet card. I do have the dongle for that, I think, somewhere? I'll have to look for it. Around back, pretty straightforward compliment of ports. Uh, this is, I believe, PS/2, serial, VGA, your standard parallel port, AC adapter in... And then on this side: USB, the door is missing, so I'm not sure if this is S-Video or PS/2. Actually, that I believe is S-Video out for hooking up to like an old TV to present or whatever. Infrared for syncing with things like Palm Pilots, and then your power switch. Nothing around front except for a couple of latches. It's also been a long time since we've had laptops with latches to hold the screen closed. When I first got this machine and powered it on, I figured the hard drive was just blank. Which is a good thing, right? If you're gonna send a machine out to get recycled, you wanna wipe the hard drive on it. But, you know, I'd go into the- into the BIOS on here and I'd wanna look at the system specs. And like I said, you know, I know that this thing has the 300 megahertz Celeron because its got the sticker on the corner here and it actually says so, I believe, during- during boot. And obviously, it's got the 12 inch display. And here's, you know, the CPU and the speed. One thing that's really kind of frustrating about this machine is it doesn't list anything about its internal hard drive capabilities. Um, it'll tell you how much memory is in here. And this one has actually received a memory upgrade. It's got 160 meg in it, which is totally awesome! But nowhere in here do they talk about like... anything to do with the hard drive. So... okay, fine. I guess IBM figured, you know, "There's only one hard drive bay, so... What would there be for you to configure regarding the hard drive in this thing?" Something curious also is this is from the day before operation systems had, you know, really decent support for laptops. I believe this machine typically shipped with Windows 98. So all of your power saving features are actually in the BIOS here. Um, settings for, you know, how long the machine goes before it turns off the screen or spins down the hard drive or, you know, goes into sleep mode or whatever. Um, you actually set all those things in the BIOS... instead of in the OS, which is very interesting. So when I first powered this machine on, after going through the BIOS and not seeing any settings about the hard drive in there, any ideas as to what its capacity was, I figure, "Okay, I'm just gonna let the machine finish booting... You know, maybe- maybe it'll tell me somewhere in there. Maybe there will actually be an OS on this hard drive, who knows?" So, I let the machine sit and basically, it never boots. Uh, it just sits here at this blinking screen and then goes to "Operating System not found," so I figure, "Oh- Okay. They wiped the hard drive. If I wanna figure out what its specs are, its capacity, all that, I need to pull it out." Now, the hard drive bay on this machine is actually quite serviceable, which is rather surprising. It's this little door here in the back. (And of course, I've got it loosened to make life a little bit easier for us here.) And then this door comes off and then your hard drive goes *in there*! But, when I took the door off, I saw... that, which is... so unfortunately, they had taken the hard drive out before putting the machine on the recycle pile. The bummer though is you can't just stick any normal IDE laptop hard drive in here as-is. This is a very specific size bay, there's no way to screw the drive in. There's no holes in the bottom to screw the drive in or anything. And... it's tough to see in there, but it's also not a standard connector on the inside. So in order to get a hard drive working in that bay, first thing I needed to buy was this little adapter and it basically takes you from the standard IDE pin arrangement to this kind of edge connector/proprietary thing that IBM was doing. And this was easy enough to find. It was all about I think, $4 shipped off of eBay, from somewhere here in the US. But then, I got to thinking... "You know, what kind of hard drive do I even wanna put in this thing? It doesn't even have anything in it now, so I can kinda blank slate this a little bit. Do I wanna put in a really big hard drive in there? Maybe I can stick a whole bunch of games or multiboot different OSes or something like that?" But then I got to thinking, "You know, do I really wanna stick a mechanical hard drive in this thing?" So that, you know, the lack of having a spare part... and my general reluctance to want to put another mechanical drive in this thing that ultimately, is gonna fail. And I should note that I'm not necessarily like a purist when it comes to getting this machine back to its like original specifications. I'm not trying to restore this thing back to factory condition or anything, I just wanna get it up and running again. So that all kinda combined to lead me to go pick up one of these, and this is a CompactFlash card. What's interesting about CompactFlash is that it's actually based on the same kind of set of protocols as IDE hard drives. There are a few differences here and there... and, you know, it- Obviously, there's major differences in capacities, like this is an 8 gig card and it's only like this big. But, in general, these are compatible with computers that are just looking for a regular IDE hard drive. And apparently, a lot of people will do this kind of conversion where they'll get rid of a mechanical drive and swap it out for a CompactFlash card, cause obviously this is solid state. It's gonna be way more reliable in the long term. And if you can read the label on this card, it says "Mettler-Toledo" on there. And, I don't know what specific product came out of, but I know that company makes things like industrial and commercial scales. Basically, embedded kind of computing devices, so... If they went and put a CompactFlash card in an embedded computing device, obviously I'm on the right track because they know that doing this works. So I picked up a lot of these cards. I think I got 3 or 4 of 'em. These were not brand new, but I think I paid maybe $25-35 shipped for that entire lot of cards. Which I think is a decent deal and 8 gig of space is still gonna be plenty for a machine like this. Now in order to get that card to work in the computer, I need one more piece and that is... this. This is a CompactFlash to IDE adapter. And these are surprisingly inexpensive mostly because they appear to be really simple. Uh, this one cost me, I think, $3 shipped from China. Obviously it took forever to get here, but... you know what, it looks like a really simple device. I'm not seeing any sort of like active electronics on it or anything. Um, it just- you know, you just stick the card in *here*... And then you plug the other end into, you know, your IDE cable or directly into your laptop or... into an adapter deal like this. And then it should just work. Um, there are... some jumper settings here that you can use and... Just looking at it... they're saying jumper 1-2 is Master/Slave and then jumper 2-3 is Slave/Master. Why are they having the second word on there? Slave and... Master. I would think that it would just be like jumper 1-2 is "Set this as master," jumper 2-3 is "Set this as slave." Solder... pads, this... Those are the same... Oh! Ohhhh, interesting! So this company- This is very crafty. Okay, so here's what's going on: This board- this PCB can actually get used for multiple products. So this is obviously a single card board, right? You just stick- you can only stick one CompactFlash in here and it'll just present as one drive to your computer. But if you look at the back, they've got the same solder pads here in these four corners as for this connector. I suspect they sell another version of this adapter with a second CompactFlash card reader on the back. So you could have two drives. So you could have like, you know, effectively, a C: drive on one card and a D: drive on the other as separate hard drives. And then this jumper basically flips as to which card is identified as Master and which one is identified as Slave. That's really crafty! Okay! So anyway, the idea is you know, I'm gonna drop the card into the adapter here, and then I stick this guy on the end, and then... that's it! Looking at that bay in the back of the computer, I can't necessarily just throw this in as is because that's a pretty big hard drive bay. Obviously it's designed for a full 2½ inch drive and this is a lot smaller. I'm afraid this thing's gonna be kinda flappin' around back there and it may fall out. I don't suspect this edge connector holds on very tightly. So I picked up one more thing and this was actually quite a bit harder to find. This is the metal cage that the original hard drive would go into. This particular model of laptop seems really kinda standard, you know, it seems like a really typical kind of mainstream model, but... It's really hard to find parts for this online! It took me a while, I finally found a seller that had this cage on it, you know, in stock and available. And, it was from a seller in Germany, so I guess hello to all of my German viewers. Um, some e-recycling, you know, e-waste kinda shop. It cost me $20 shipped from there, so not terribly expensive. But it was the only one that I could find. I couldn't find anybody in the US selling this drive cage. And maybe this cage is swappable between multiple ThinkPad models. I dunno, I couldn't find any information about it, but... Anyway, this is the last thing that I think I'll need in order to get this all working. Now... something I'll have to figure out is how do I get that to stay in there... You know, like, cause otherwise it's just gonna rattle around and stuff. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. First things first, I wanna make sure that this works in the laptop before I commit to figuring out how to adhere all of this down. Because, who knows? Maybe they're doing something weird and this whole setup won't work, and I'll have to... you know, switch back to using a regular mechanical drive. I took a piece of capped-on tape, stuck it to the back, and then... made like a little pull tab out of it. Right, so this is all taped together. It won't fall apart on me. But now I can pull it out of the back of the computer, you know, without needing to stick it in that cage. I'm not sure if you're gonna be able to see this, and we'll see how well I can do this... Yeah, see, it maybe- Okay, so I can feel it. It's in the edge connector, but it's in there really loose... And... not sure if you can tell... it's really dark. But it's kind of... it's really loose in there. Doesn't wanna stay put, so I definitely need to figure out a better permanent solution, but for testing and getting this thing up and running, it should work just fine. Alright, so let's plug in power here. And just for grins, let's try turning it on. Alright, uh, that's kind of what I was expecting, so operating system not found. Let's try getting a boot CD in here and see we can maybe get a copy of Windows installed or something. Okay, attempt number 2, I've got a Windows install disc in there. *BEEP* Let's see... Yeah, I wanna boot from CD-ROM. Uh... Let's just start Windows setup from CD-ROM, why not? Let's see if the thing's formatted and just... maybe doesn't have an operating system on it. Not install- Does not have an hard disk. Your hard disk is not- Okay. So the hard drive is... probably completely unformatted, so let's quit setup. Uh... Is fdisk on here? "No fixed disks present." Okay. I'ma have to do a little bit of research. Okay, so I did some digging. Here's what I was able to find out. Yes, CompactFlash cards work great as boot disks for laptops, you know, anything that needs IDE... Except, and now, my memory is being jostled after seeing this message about no fixed disks present, the keyword "fixed" is what got me thinking. CompactFlash cards can have two modes: They can have what they call "Removable Mode" and then "Fixed Mode." It's largely just a function of the way the firmware on the card has been set up. Removable mode, obviously, is for if you wanna use this in something like a digital camera or, you know, whatever, where you're gonna be frequently plugging in the card and removing it. And... especially if you wanna be able to hotplug the card into something like a card reader on a PC, so that you can, you know, maybe pick pictures up off of it, whatever. And I remember doing that a lot when I would have digital cameras that would use this format. Apparently, most CompactFlash cards ship in "Removable Mode". But... Windows in particular and some other operating systems actually need any drive that they can install to to identify as a fixed disk. Which has a slightly different set of commands or something like that, I guess? It basically makes it behave more like a traditional hard drive instead of, you know, removable media. Now, in doing a little bit of digging, I'm lucky in that I bought a SanDisk card, because at one point, SanDisk offered a utility that you could, you know, boot off of and run to convert between the two modes. Now, if you go to SanDisk's website today, they've got a knowledge base article that talks about this, but they then go on to say that they no longer sell CompactFlash cards that are set as fixed from the factory, and they also no longer offer a utility that lets you flip back and forth between the two modes on the cards. And, one other little note is... I read some reports from people who have gone down this rabbit hole, and found that not all of the SanDisk cards are compatible with the utility. So SanDisk doesn't have that utility available anymore, but I was able to *Cough* find it on the Internet, so... Lemme get a boot disk going and we'll stick the card in there and see what we can do to get it converted. Oh, I gotta say, when this thing's first booting up, like with the fan going on the side and the CD-ROM drive spinning up, this computer is like, really really noisy. Okay! Um, well yeah, I wanna boot to DOS, so I guess I can choose DOS.