Upgrading a Dell Inspiron 1545 cpu

My dear Dell Inspiron 1545 keeps getting old and slow on me. I have replaced my old HDD hard disk with a new SSD one and replaced the old 6 cell battery to a new 9 cell one and while indeed the machine was faster and every battery session was longer , yet , it remained a bit slower that what I expected. To simply put it - I wanted more speed, more performance , less power up times and less wake up time from hibernation.

It was time for a new CPU.

After roaming the web researching what possible CPU can I upgrade to along with looking at my laptop's manual , I came up with the conclusion that I can upgrade to a very narrow line of CPUS based on the following facts:

1.       The CPU should be a socket P CPU with 478 pins

2.       Up to 3MB cache

3.       Up to 1066 rated FSB

4.       Core 2 duo , Celeron , Celeron Dual-Core , Pentium Dual-Core

My current CPU was a mid-range decent T6400 CPU that has 2MB cache , runs on a 2.00MHZ frequency and 800mhz FSB. I needed an upgrade that would dramatically increase performance , lower power consumption and heat dissipation and that would come with a decent price tag, otherwise it wouldn't be economical to do this upgrade at all…

After browsing Intel's CPU database  (ARK - http://ark.intel.com/), based on the following screening - MOBILE PRODUCTS >> PROCESSORS>> Intel® Core™2 Duo Mobile Processor>>3MB cache>>frequency higher than 2GHZ  ( here is a direct link with the filter values submitted - http://ark.intel.com/search/advanced/?s=t&FamilyText=Intel%C2%AE%20Core%E2%84%A22%20Duo%20Mobile%20Processor&ClockSpeedMhzMin=2000&ClockSpeedMhzMax=4000&CacheKBMin=3072&CacheKBMax=3072),  I narrowed down my upgrade options to the following

1.       The best option was the - Intel® Core™2 Duo Processor P8800
(3M Cache, 2.66 GHz, 1066 MHz FSB)

2.       Under that - Intel® Core™2 Duo Processor P8700
(3M Cache, 2.53 GHz, 1066 MHz FSB)

3.       In the 3rd place there was an even more weakened P8800 - Intel® Core™2 Duo Processor P8600
(3M Cache, 2.40 GHz, 1066 MHz FSB)

4.       And a T - series CPU - Intel® Core™2 Duo Processor T8300
(3M Cache, 2.40 GHz, 800 MHz FSB)

The other options were too slow in comparison to the best option (P8800) and their clock speed wasn't higher enough from my current 2GHZ CPU clock speed to create any noticable major improvement in performance.

Of course there were other options as well under the 2MB cache filter , most of them wereT-series processors, so , as a skilled consumer I continued my research and this time I was looking to find out what is the difference between the P-series processors and the T-series processors.

T-series VS P-series:

I soon found out that the P-series processors were more energy efficient and had lower TDP (Thermal Design Power) than the T-series processors. Less TDP means less heat dissipation, less heat dissipation means less CPU fan cycles and better CPU performance and less CPU-FAN cycles means lower battery consumption.

So I went along with the P8800 for several reasons:

1.       The price gaps between the weakened P8800 (P8700, P8660) were very small

2.       The P8800 itself wasn't too expensive (its launch date is February 2009 , quite a lot of time has passed since then)

3.       It presented the maximum upgrade features - 2.66GHZ , 3 MB cache and 1066MHZ FSB - in a very low price tag

4.       Lower TDP

Installation Process:

I have a lot of experience replacing CPUs in desktop machines, but this was my very first laptop CPU upgrade. In order to get myself ready I watched this video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kL9z2uFBjkU

Overall , the process Is very simple:

1.       First of all I took the battery off completely

2.       Pushed the power button steadily to release any static currents that were present inside the machine

3.       Unscrewed 4 Philips screws out , the screws hold the CPU, RAM and WIFI card cover in place.

4.       After the screws were out , taking the cover itself was a bit hard, after all , it was the first since I bought this machine I attempted to take it off. A used some carefully measured amount of force to get it free using my fingers only (no tools!)

5.       The opposite side of the cover was very filthy with dust so I cleaned it

6.       After the cover was out the RAM, WIFI card , CPU and North bridge were revealed , it seemed that the CPU and the North bridge were using the same heat pipe

7.       I unscrewed the single screw of the North bridge first

8.       Afterwards , I unscrewed the 4 surrounding screws around the CPU, holding the heat pipe assembly tight over the cpu

9.       After all the 5 screws were out, I took the entire heat pipe assembly out, this part was a bit tricky. The heat dissipation ribs refused to get out from its position , unfortunately I used a flat screwdriver to try to get it out and later on I found out I bended some of the ribs a bit , so no matter how difficult it seems - DO NOT USE ANY HARD TOOL TO REMOVE THE HEAT PIPE ASSEMBLY. A little measured force with my fingers did the job after some time along with patience.

10.   After finally the heat pipe assembly was out I noticed the result of over 3 years of fan use - a big chunk of dense dust that accumulated over time between the heat dissipation ribs and the CPU fan. This dust chunk in its current form was probably present there for some time, blocking a significant amount of air coming from the fan. No wonder my laptop was so hot all the time…

11.   The CPU was revealed , the white material around it is a heat conductive paste. I unlocked it by twisting the big flat screw all the way to the left. There is actually a carved writing on the pink plastic that says which side is to open and which is to close (or lock) the CPU. Right = close , left = open.

12.   It was very hard getting the CPU out. I thought more than once that I might have done something wrong or didn't twist the flat screw all the way to the left. Again, over 3 years of use did their own, and the CPU got literally glued to the socket , I used pure measured force and finger power to get it out, when it finally did, it got released at once very brutally.

13.   After seeing the huge dust chunk I took to chances. So I took my vacuum cleaner and sucked every mm of the fan's intake and exhaust holes and the heat dissipation ribs.

14.   Finally I took the new CPU out of the box only to discover that the seller put a big sticker with Chinese writing. I took it out not because of aesthetics , but because it could interfere with heat dissipation. Taking it off was very annoying. It was glued quite well right over some crucial transistors. I used a small 1mm flat screw to gently remove it.

 

15.   I put the new CPU in the socket

16.   Smeared some heat conductive paste over the CPU core and over the parallel area on the heat pipe unit. I used a simple swab to smear it.

17.    I put the heat pipe assembly back, and the 5 screws back

18.   Returned the cover back , screwed back the 4 screws of it.

19.   Put the battery back

20.   Connected the power charger , powered on , and walla!

Results and performance:

-          Boot up time decreased noticeably

-          Restoring a Firefox session with over 200 tabs was done faster than ever

-          Editing large photos (4000X3000 pixels) was done faster

-          Wake up time from hibernation (when the laptop's screen is closed) got faster

-          In power saving mode , battery life was increased in at least 40 minutes

-          Windows Experience score stayed the same due to the lack of a change in graphic card (GMA4500)

-          Heavy applications like Photoshop CS6 open up significantly faster

Conclusion:

It was definitely worth it , the low price of the CPU, the easy installation process and the result made this upgrade very beneficial and worthwhile.

CPU price - 39.99$ in E-Bay

Pros:

1.       Better performance , faster boot up time , handles heavy applications faster

2.       Lower battery consumption, power saving , lower TDP

3.       Brings new life to your old laptop and extend its use

4.       Easy installation process

Cons:

1.       Quite limited range of possible CPU upgrades , none of the CPUs that are out there can be used with this laptop (quad cores for example , CPUs with smaller lithography)

2.       In power saving mode , clock speed drops down to 800MHz while in the previous T6400 CPU it dropped to 1600Mhz. this is very annoying especially if you shut down your laptop in power saving mode and turn it back on again - Vista would boot up at 800Mhz….very annoying,  however , I'm sure there is a way to change that setting inside Windows.

 

 

 

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USB Floppy Drive

I got this piece of antique from my dad and yet as I'm typing these words he still doesn't have a clue where he found it.  He just gave it to me and forgot about it and so was i when putting it in my closet without any excitement whatsoever…

As an early 90s kid I have to say that seeing this piece of old technology getting dumped is a bit sad but I guess that's the price of progress , but we must not forget our past  :)

It's 2013 and I do find myself use these disks now and then on old machines I have in my house or when going to a friend's house attempting to fix a malfunctioning computer. bottom line is - you can never know when you might need these old technology hardware,  not only for scavenging purposes but for actually using them as they were intended to.

So anyway  , I didn't except much when plugging it into my laptop. Externally the drive seemed undamaged and relatively new but yet I didn't it would actually work, and it did.

A few seconds after connecting it my Vista installation recognized the drive to be a TEAC floppy drive and not an IBM as labeled on the drive itself. A few more seconds and it was ready for use.

I inserted into the drive an old 1.44MB floppy disk out of a bunch of disks I still keep in reach just in case I would need to fix an old machine, and surprisingly all the files were read successfully.

I decided to conduct a copy\paste test and copied the files onto my desktop. Only about 60% of the files were successfully copied, then I remembered this specific disk was about 12 years old so the chances were great that the disk itself got damaged over the years.

I really don't know what to do with this drive. As a tech guy you gotta be ready for interaction with any interface but it has been a long time since I really needed a floppy to start up an operating system installation process or to recover a damaged one. But yet  , you can never know when  you might need some help from the past and therefor I decided to keep it in my backpack as a "standard issue" equipment accompanied with a floppy disk loaded with boot up files and one sealed backup floppy.

Lesson of the day - don't forget your past because you'll might need its help someday :)

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Fixing Wireless Mouse's Buttons

as a result of being mobile some items tend to "fall" from your beg , hand , the coffee table you are sitting next to etc, my wireless mouse is no different, especially because it's a mouse.

Anyway , it fell on many floors more than once and gravity did its damage and soon the primary button which I use (left button - I'm a right handed) lost its flexibility until it stopped working. In addition , the middle CPI button which increases the mouse's movement sensitivity was faking it , and often got stuck inside its mounting hole.

After the main left button stopped working I realized I won't be able to use this mouse unless I use a different mouse or fix this one , and I like to trying fixing things , so naturally I chose the fixing option.

At first glance I didn't see any screw holes beneath the mouse , I figured they must be hidden somewhere because no way that the 2 main big parts of the mouse were just connected to each other by using curved plastic without any metal screws.

I took off the all 4 friction stickers and revealed 2 screw holes. After realizing only 2 screws hold this mouse intact I returned the other 2 friction stickers to their marked place beneath the mouse.

I unscrewed the 2 Phillips screws and had to use a bit of force to separate the 2 main parts of the mouse from one another  -  the top and the bottom part.

Spotting the problem with the button wasn't hard as I took a first look at the mouse's board. The actual button was stuck inside its mounting point with no movement whatsoever. I tried using a 1 mm flat screwdriver to release it without success, I only did more damage than benefit, and as a result the button was stuck even more deeply inside the button unit.

I used the same 1mm flat screwdriver to open the button unit by separating 2 overlapping plastic parts on top of one another. Opening the button unit was successful but as a result one of the overlapping plastic parts which holds the unit together got broken. Moreover , the metal spring (which doesn't really look like a traditional spring but acts like one) was about to be broken and wore off because of external damage caused by gravity.

I decided to open the right button unit to trying learning how it was originally assembled so I would be able to copy it and fix the left button. The plan was to learn how to rebuild the left button unit using the right unit as a model and scavenge the CPI button unit for parts to fix the left button unit (since I had no real use of the CPI button in the first place).

Opening the right button unit was a big mistake. Although opening it was done without any damage to the unit itself - reassembling it all together proved a disaster. The parts were too small for a human finger or even for a small metal clamp tool to handle not mentioning all 3 parts - the metal spring , the red button and the cover - had to be connected together in a dynamic way, a way only a machine can perform.

Luckily I had another wireless mouse that was unused because its USB Rx\Tx unit stopped working long ago. And since every mouse has uses a distinctive Rx\Tx unit - I couldn't replace it with a new unit.

I made 1+1 in my head and figured - what not using the unused mouse as an organ donor?

So I took a soldering gun , heated up the soldering points beneath the button units in the donor mouse and took  them out of the board.

It was a bit tricky making the units release at first but I soon figured that all I had to do was while heating the soldering units I had to push the conductive metal connectors towards the board's surface , which made the button unit slowly but gradually loose grip of the board, until eventually all I had to do was to use a metal clamps + a bit of force to get the unit completely out.

I did the same process with the original mouse. The entire procedure was done in stages:

First I took out the left button on the unused mouse  ,  took out the disassembled button from the original mouse and only then I soldered the functioning button on the original mouse's board. The same goes for the second right button was well.

 

 

After mounting the rest of the prices of the mouse together - it worked like charm!

Conclusion-  keep your old mice nearby cause you'll never know what you'll need them :).


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Fixing a Simple 2 Speakers Set

In this post I will demonstrate a simple fixing method of simple 2 computer speakers.

I got these speakers from my uncle who claimed the additional speaker just didn't work from the moment he bought it. Before I even suggested to try fixing them for him I found out he had already bought a new set…. So I was stuck now with a set of 2 lousy , bad looking, low power speakers which one of them didn't even work.

I used them for about 3 months before getting the mood and free enough time to sit down and try fixing the malfunctioning speaker.  The main speaker  , that is , the one who has all the wires connected to it -the input audio , the output audio to the second speaker that didn't work and the power cable with a USB interface. The main speaker also accommodated the volume control knob.

Disassemble process:

Since I was a kid I enjoyed dismantling things and see how they were built. This quality is still present in me as an adult (and I'm glad I still have it!) so obviously this was the most fun part of the whole fixing process.

In first look there were no bolts present or at least revealed on the surface of the speakers.  I was mistaken the 5mm holes at the back of the speakers to be holes for screws. After realizing no screws were present at the end of these holes and my screw driver reached the back of the speaker itself I concluded these holes are the air blow holes that clear a way for air to escape as a result of the speaker vibrations.

Finally I found out that the front part of the speakers can be extracted out with some little force.  I used a little too much force and broke 1 plastic pin in each speaker L.

So I started out with the malfunctioned speaker first.

After the front cover was out of the way , the speaker mounting part could be seen with 4 screws holding the speaker unit in place. After unscrewing the 4 philips screws I revealed the back of the speaker. Using a strong white LED flashlight and a magnifying glass to check the wiring I realized everything  was welded in place. Unfortunately now I had to open the second speaker as well  - the main speaker.

After opening it in the same method mentioned earlier  I revealed a simple electrical board  with some capacitors beneath it. I gotta say that the way the designer aligned the board over the volume knob is….cheap. it looked like he\she stuck it in there with no prior planning.

At first I thought all the wiring is ok and everything is welded together , so I called the big guns - my dad. At first look he didn't see a something wrong with the wring either . After a second careful look he found out that one of the wire leading to the second malfunctioning speaker was not connected to its welding point.. just to make sure , he used his voltmeter to check for the connectivity of the wires themselves by putting the voltmeter's needles at the opposite end of each wire connected to the malfunctioning speaker and voltage seemed present therefor the wires weren't damaged inside the isolating plastic casing.

It took us some time to guess where that welding point was cause they were a few of them without any wires welded so we turned to some simple logical thinking - based on the disconnected wire's exposed tip's length we connected it to the closest welding unit. Moreover , the second welding point of the wire leading to the second speaker was also the welding point of the main speaker's wire. Knowing this supported the suggestion that both speakers get their audio signals from the 2 same points on the board.

Since my dad suspected these speakers work in a stereo mode rather than mono like I thought  we decided to perform a short experiment manually creating contact between the disconnected wire and the suspected welding point while power was on and audio signal was  being transmitted to the speakers - and it worked! And as I'm writing this post I'm using them in mono mode (as they were built) J.

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Laptop Keyboard Silicone Cover

You gotta maintain and take care of your possessions – that's my motto , and one of my possessions which I deeply care about is my good old laptop computer.

Since laptops supposed to be mobile and are very delicate and therefor highly breakable they are pron to be damaged quickly if not maintained and taken care of properly.

 

I have been witnessed to many cases in which my friends and people I know were just careless about how they maintained their laptops and even more careless about how they handled it in their daily routines.

 

One of the most common “laptop accidents” involves liquid being spilled in the vicinity of the laptop or worse – on the laptop's keyboard. The laptop's keyboard is one of the more sensitive spots of the machine due to the fact that it is not a completely sealed area.

Furthermore , that unsealed area is very big and is spread almost across the entire length of the laptop.

 

Besides liquid , dust and micro-dust are also a reason for concern. Dust presents a problem when it comes in contact with electronics and mechanical moving parts of a computer. It accumulates slowly and over time it prevents an efficient heat dissipation and causes moving mechanical parts like fans and optical drivers fail.

 

The micro-dust goes where the bigger dust particles cannot enter. Usually these tiny particles find their way to the optical drive's laser reader , extension socket etc.

 

because of the issues I mentioned above , I bought this:

it's a keyboard cover made of silicone created especially for Dell Inspiron laptops. Of course there are covers that were designed for other laptop models of different brands as well.

 

It fits EXACTLY on the keyboard , the translucency of the keys is pretty satisfying especially considering the fact it is made out of silicone , it prevents dust , micro-dust and liquid from entering beneath the keyboard and into the laptop itself.

Using it prevents the letters printed on the keyboard to be wiped out over time and it also appears to absorb the key's typing noise.

 

The edges of the cover are thick and deliver more friction because of it which translates to a good grip of the cover on the keyboard.

I type a lot with this laptop , mostly during lectures , and not once the cover lost grip from the keyboard's surface.

 

Due to the fact it is made out of silicone the cover can be easily cleaned using water and an ordinary soap.

 

Oh , and of course , it is very cheap – cost me 3.49$ on Ebay, I believe it's quite a cheap investment in your laptop's survivability.

 

So to sum up...

 

Pros:

.1 cheap – a little over 3$

.2 protects keyboard from dust and liquid

.3 absorbs sharp keyboard typing noise

.4 protects printed letters on the keys

 

Cons:

.1 prevents heat dissipation from underneath the keyboard

.2 not entirely transparent and some people would even say it makes the whole appearance of the laptop ugly

.3 it gets dirty pretty fast

.4 unless you use some sort of a cloth to physically separate between the laptop's monitor and the laptop's body when closing it, you’d find out that closing the laptop's monitor over the laptop's body while the silicone cover still there and leaving it for some time create stains on the monitor due to the contact between the silicone cover and the monitor.

 

Despite the downsides of this product I would highly recommend it for anyone who cares about his\her laptop. The downsides can be easily overcome by cleaning the cover often and using a cloth when closing the laptop's monitor. And about the appearance issue...well, nothing is perfect  , I admit it doesn't make the laptop prettier than what it was before using this cover but it it beats having no functioning laptop at all because bad handling and misusing the laptop...

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