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Giving a new life to my 2010 laptop

A little backstory

Back in 2010, where I still in my primary school. My dad bought us our first laptop. My brother & I loves it. The model is Acer Aspire 4738Z. It has 2GB of RAM, 320GB of HDD, and Intel Pentium P6100. It was a great laptop back then. We mainly use it for school work and some light gaming (We love to play this KokoKrunch's game; Monster Trux).

The laptop also help me survive in my foundation year in university. At this point I realizes that the laptop is getting worse in performance. The time taken between pressing the power button until I can interact with it is like 15 minutes! I still can do work on Word or PowerPoint but it requires a lot of patience. (I can't believe it myself that I can survive with that kind of frustration)

On 2019, I purchased a new laptop. Since then, this old laptop is collecting dust in the cabinet.

Previous project

At one point previously, I tried to repurpose the laptop monitor to become an external monitor. The project is successful, I'm happy, but there are reasons I think it is not practical to use it; the viewing experience is bad, display too small and I the dangling electronics made it difficult to store. So I decided to scrape the project.

Facebook Post Monitor Project

Link to post: https://www.facebook.com/groups/DIYHobiEletrik/permalink/897535880654623/

Choosing the OS

Before upgrading the hardware, I think itk is better to choose the OS first, from there I can decide what hardware to buy. Currently, this laptop has both Windows 10 & Ubuntu 18 installed (Dual boot). So, telling from experience, Ubuntu require much less resources than Windows do. I'm also not planning to do any work on this laptop that require Windows.

So, I decided to went full Linux. Since, I'm most comfortable with Ubuntu, I decided to install latest Ubuntu interim release 23.10.

Upgrading the hardware

Now that we have choose the OS, let's start hunting for suitable hardware. Remember that I'm not planning to do any demanding task with this machine.

Processor

I don't to mess with Processor. So, let's just skip this part. But,I just wanted to show here the processor that I took out from its socket in 2019.

Processor
Socket

I do check the official specification page of the processor to see if ther is any useful information we could use.

Intel p6100 Memory Spec

Ah, max 8 GB RAM. Noted that.

RAM

Hmm how much RAM do I need ya. The system equipped with 2 GB RAM. I think, by adding 4 GB more (total 6 GB) should be sufficient enough. I tried to match the current RAM model and specification to maximze compatibility.

Current and new RAM
Top = old, bottom = new
Current and new RAM installed
Top = new, bottom = old

Disk

SSD is a must. Using decades old mechanical spinnning disk just make the system slow. 240 GB should be enough for this system. Luckily, SSD prices has going down over years.

Installed!

SSD WD GREEN SATA 2.5
SSD WD installed

What happened to the original HDD? I bought a nice enclosure and turned it to an external drive!

CMOS Battery

This thing is not broken or anything. But the old battery is already 13+ years old. Sooner or later, it will die. Since I already opened the laptop, why not just replace it. It is cheap anyway.

CMOS Battery

Components summary

All components I bought from Shopee.

Installing the OS

This part is straightforward and I've done this thing before. First, head to Ubuntu Desktop site to download the ISO to other computer. Get a USB stick (8GB minimum) to flash the ISO using Balena Etcher or Rufus.

Balena Etcher Flashing OS

Plug the USB stick to the laptop and boot it up. Press F2 to enter BIOS menu (depends on your laptop manufacturer). Reorder the boot priority to USB first. Save and exit. The laptop will boot to the USB stick. After this point, just follow the Ubuntu installation wizard.

Ubuntu installer installing
Installation process
Ubuntu installed restart required
Installed!

Unrelated, but I do miss when laptops have LED status indicator.

laptop led

After a few restart process. I finally can interact with the system. Below is the System Information and Activity Monitor.

Ubuntu System Info
Ubuntu System Monitor

I tried to install Mission Center software. But seems like it having some issues with my laptop.

Like everytime I do with Linux systems; Installing htop and neofetch. Also, using terminal makes me looks smart 😎. Haha just kidding.

neofetch
htop

I also tried coding on it. Because I'm too lazy to install Vscode, git etc. locally, I just use GitHub Codespace to code. It works great! The keyboard is still very pleasant to type on.

I think that's it for this post. Thank you for reading until the end. If you also happen to have unused old laptop lying around, why not try to upgrade it? It is fun and you will learn a lot. You can give it to your siblings or children for light use. Or save it for yourself as an emergency laptop.

Tata!

Laptop acer aspire upgraded

Some issues I've encountered

  • The laptop wont boot if I swap the position of the RAM installment. I had this arrangement initially; top = old, bottom = new. Solution: Swapped the position, it boots. The reasons is unclear.
  • Before the new RAM arrives, I attempted to install the Ubuntu first. But the installer stuck and not responsive. I even tried to use Ubuntu Safe Graphics mode, the responsiveness improves, but the screen freezes multiple times. Perhaps to 2GB RAM is too little for the installer to run smoothly. Solution: Wait patiently for the new RAM to arrive.