So, a nice neighbor lady asks me to fix her laptop.

VirtualLarry

Lifer
Aug 25, 2001
44,787
3,825
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I got a call yesterday, someone in my apt. complex, a nice older woman, with a laptop that she hasn't used in "years", that wants it working.

I went over right away, brought a 240GB Kingston SSD, a screwdriver, flashlight, and a USB stick with Win10 64-bit on it.

Well, it had either Windows 7 or Vista on it, hard to tell since it would only boot to recovery mode, and not actually recover. (Bad HDD, maybe? I just assumed so.) It had a Windows Vista sticker on it.

I tried booting the Win10 USB, using both the boot menu and the BIOS setup boot order, but it seemingly refused to boot it.

So I pulled the SATA 2.5" HDD, and installed the 240GB SSD, and it still wouldn't take the USB drive with Win10. (It was a Dell laptop.)

So I went back home to my "lab", found a brand-new USB stick, and made a fresh Win10 USB drive.

That, along with the blank SSD, eventually managed to boot. I installed Win10 64-bit.

To make a long story short, this person had been paying for internet as part of a triple-play, for like years, and was paying for fairly decent speeds, and they had never used it!

So, this being cable, it was never "activated". So when I finally got the wifi on the laptop to connect to their cable gateway device, I could only access the ISP's pages, and not Google or anywhere else on the internet like the Browser's OEM start page.

I tried to go through the online activation, but the person couldn't remember their details, so I tried calling, and their phone queue was full.

The person apologized for this task requiring so much effort (getting their laptop fixed up, and trying to get on the internet). They were like, "if it's this much trouble, can't I just leave this laptop here and ignore it then?".

I felt really bad, because I wanted to show this (older person) the internet, and at least, some of the online shopping sites, like walmart.com, jcpenney.com, etc.

I tried to return the money for the work, but they were insistent that I keep the money, since I had worked on it for over an hour (including walking back to my place to make another USB stick).

I left them, telling them if they ever got the inclination to connect to the internet, to contact me during what would be non-peak hours for their ISP, so that we could get through, and activate internet on their account.

I was a little frustrated, leaving them with an incomplete solution. I told them that they could take their laptop to McDonald's, Starbuck's, and Dunkin's, and use their free wifi, if they needed to.

But the battery was shot from sitting so long, that after I plugged it in, and ran it for a while, then the BIOS started booting and saying "unrecognized battery". I don't know if one of their younger relatives had picked up a replacement battery for them some time in the past, or if the battery was just run down and / or damaged beyond recognition of the laptop's BIOS.

So if they took the laptop anywhere, they would need the cord.
 
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BenG14

Junior Member
Mar 21, 2019
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Sometimes the manufacture require a install disc from them. Like i had a dell E6420 and it wouldn't leave recovery mode but i would still be able to access the bios, after multiple tries of resetting the bios, and trying new a SSD with windows already loaded on it. I finally bought a install disc from dell and for some reason when I plugged my usb disc drive in it let me access the disc and install windows 7 professional 64bit.

Hope this helps you.

might not be the same issue but thought I would give my input.
 
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ao_ika_red

Golden Member
Aug 11, 2016
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What kind of CPU does the laptop use? I guess if it's from Penryn family it's still worth some love like having SSD and 2+2 or even 4+4 GB of RAM (used SODIMM DDR2/ DDR3 price has plummeted recently so it can be had for small amount of money).
Batteries are usually pretty cheap, fwiw.
Cheap indeed. But, as far as my experience goes, replacement battery will never last as long as the original one. Especially for device that old.
 

VirtualLarry

Lifer
Aug 25, 2001
44,787
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If she ever calls me up again for more work with the same laptop, yes, I'll look into a RAM upgrade and a new battery. (In fact, I'll probably call her and let her know that replacement batteries are available from $7-$99 on ebay.)

I think that she got a bit overwhelmed, when I was trying to get her connected to the internet with the laptop, and needed to try to activate her internet service. (Which she's been paying for, unactivated, for like years. Sad that her ISP has been taking advantage of her like that. One guess who the (cable) ISP is... :p )
 

ch33zw1z

Lifer
Nov 4, 2004
25,434
5,217
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Linux, and wait on hold with ISP to activate. I can't recall a time the "online activation" worked for me. Just have a copy of their bill out and the lady ready to provide the last 4 of her social.
 

VirtualLarry

Lifer
Aug 25, 2001
44,787
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It's a Dell Inspiron 1501. Not sure what the CPU is, I couldn't get on the internet to download CPU-Z and check. (Yeah, I know, I should have that on a flash drive with me.)
 
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corkyg

Elite Member | Peripherals
Super Moderator
Mar 4, 2000
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Interesting story, Larry. I give you stars in your crown for the effort. I understand the problem - I live in a senior residence with independent, semi-assisted living, assisted living, and memory care units.
 

ao_ika_red

Golden Member
Aug 11, 2016
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It's a Dell Inspiron 1501. Not sure what the CPU is, I couldn't get on the internet to download CPU-Z and check. (Yeah, I know, I should have that on a flash drive with me.)
A quick search on the web leads me to AMD Turion or Turion X2 variant. I never had any experience with it but I believe it's on par with Pentium D.
 

VirtualLarry

Lifer
Aug 25, 2001
44,787
3,825
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and memory care units.
A quick search on the web leads me to AMD Turion or Turion X2 variant.
That jogs my memory. Speaking of which, I now remember, it had a "Turion X2" sticker on it, next to the "Windows Vista" sticker. Maybe I need to be in a "memory care" unit. :(

I also remember seeing that it had two SO-DIMMs in it, I didn't look at them closely enough to tell what they were. (I was looking for the HDD access panel, not RAM, so I quickly closed it back up.) Guessing at least 2x512MB RAM, maybe 2x1GB? I installed Windows 10 64-bit, I didn't look at the memory usage tab in Task Manager though. I probably should have.

I ran into her again today, coming back to my apt., and I informed her what I had found out about getting a replacement battery, from $7 (Chinese generic) to $50 (claimed Dell OEM original) for a battery. She kind of turned her nose up at the $50 idea. (Most of the Seniors here are on a more-or-less limited income. Some still work, even in their retirement years.)
 
Feb 25, 2011
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How many spare tablets do you still have (weren't you using a bunch of them to mine bitcoin or something?) Just do a straight up trade and sell the 1501 for whatever the eBay gods will give you. No sense wasting time on a 13-year-old laptop.

And to be frank, and a little P&N-ey I suppose, I've got a shut-in great aunt who could use a lot less internet in her life. Unfortunately, she has the odd tendency to believe everything she reads on it, and since her husband died, well... she doesn't spend as much time talking to meat-life friends as she used to... her Facebook feed is a bit of a hot mess. Maybe you should talk her into a Kindle and a crossword app or something, and go over occasionally to walk around the block, get the mail, drink tea and complain about that one guy across the way.

You know. Him. There's one in every subdivision. ;-)

Maybe she'll invite you to bridge night.
 

VirtualLarry

Lifer
Aug 25, 2001
44,787
3,825
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I have some tablets somewhere, but they're really poor-quality ones I got off of Newegg for like $30 ea. They're 7", have a 1024x600 screen, with "super resolution" to display Windows on 1280x768 (makes touchpad harder to use due to scaling as well), and basically poor screens, not much fun for an older person with lesser eyesight and coordination to use. I wouldn't think of swapping someone's working laptop for one of them.

I think that you're over-estimating how bad that laptop is, it's a Turion X2, so it's at least dual-core, and Win10 64-bit installed on it just fine. (With the caveat that I didn't check the total amount of RAM inside Windows, other than I noticed that they had two sticks, when I took the wrong access panel off of the back.) I think that she mentioned having a son, maybe he upgraded her at some point in the past (the RAM). If not, I have some 1GB DDR2 SO-DIMMs, I don't know if that's what that era system takes. I could upgrade it to at least 2GB DDR2 for free.
 
Feb 25, 2011
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I have some tablets somewhere, but they're really poor-quality ones I got off of Newegg for like $30 ea. They're 7", have a 1024x600 screen, with "super resolution" to display Windows on 1280x768 (makes touchpad harder to use due to scaling as well), and basically poor screens, not much fun for an older person with lesser eyesight and coordination to use. I wouldn't think of swapping someone's working laptop for one of them.

I think that you're over-estimating how bad that laptop is, it's a Turion X2, so it's at least dual-core, and Win10 64-bit installed on it just fine. (With the caveat that I didn't check the total amount of RAM inside Windows, other than I noticed that they had two sticks, when I took the wrong access panel off of the back.) I think that she mentioned having a son, maybe he upgraded her at some point in the past (the RAM). If not, I have some 1GB DDR2 SO-DIMMs, I don't know if that's what that era system takes. I could upgrade it to at least 2GB DDR2 for free.
I am not underestimating. A Turion X2 turns in a weaker CPU score than a two year old cell phone. And 2GB of RAM is unusable. Don't spend time or money on this, yours or hers. Especially not when stuff like this is available (and probably available for less money on eBay.)

You could also probably grab a much nicer box out of your storage unit, if she wouldn't mind a desktop system.
 

VirtualLarry

Lifer
Aug 25, 2001
44,787
3,825
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I am not underestimating. A Turion X2 turns in a weaker CPU score than a two year old cell phone. And 2GB of RAM is unusable. Don't spend time or money on this, yours or hers. Especially not when stuff like this is available (and probably available for less money on eBay.)

You could also probably grab a much nicer box out of your storage unit, if she wouldn't mind a desktop system.
I don't mean to beat a dead horse (much), but ... that laptop is: 1) Usable, and 2) Even with my modest labor charge for installation, is far cheaper than I would imagine that even a two-year-old "flagship" phone would cost.

I disagree also, that 2GB of RAM is actually "unusable". Maybe on some OEM installs, bogged down by McAfree pre-installs (*or other A/V suite).

2GB RAM isn't what I would call great, but it's on the borderline of usable. Even modern AMD APU laptops, entry-level ones with 4GB of DDR4, use quite a bit of that RAM for the iGPU. Much more than older Intel laptops, that basically never worried about having to have enough system RAM allocated as VRAM to play a 3D game on it. So even my recent Stoney Ridge laptop with 4GB pre-installed, doesn't give much more than 2-3GB of RAM for the CPU to use anyways.

But I'm not saying that 2GB is in any way a "great" amount of RAM, you're basically limited to maybe 2-3 tabs in a web browser, before it starts paging. Then again, with a REAL SSD in there, rather than eMMC, it can generally handle paging pretty well. At least, my N2830 Asus laptop with 4GB of RAM (PITA to get at to upgrade), is good up to like 7-8GB Commit Charge in Firefox.

Yes, if she wouldn't mind a desktop system, then I would be more than happy to give her one, for free. (I've got quite a few of them, currently.)

But... that would require a "Computer Shrine", whereas, the laptop can just be splayed out on the coffee / kitchen table for a short bit, then put away.
 

killster1

Diamond Member
Mar 15, 2007
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That jogs my memory. Speaking of which, I now remember, it had a "Turion X2" sticker on it, next to the "Windows Vista" sticker. Maybe I need to be in a "memory care" unit. :(

I also remember seeing that it had two SO-DIMMs in it, I didn't look at them closely enough to tell what they were. (I was looking for the HDD access panel, not RAM, so I quickly closed it back up.) Guessing at least 2x512MB RAM, maybe 2x1GB? I installed Windows 10 64-bit, I didn't look at the memory usage tab in Task Manager though. I probably should have.

I ran into her again today, coming back to my apt., and I informed her what I had found out about getting a replacement battery, from $7 (Chinese generic) to $50 (claimed Dell OEM original) for a battery. She kind of turned her nose up at the $50 idea. (Most of the Seniors here are on a more-or-less limited income. Some still work, even in their retirement years.)
Great story / ha

yea 50 is more than the laptop is worth so funny that that was a option for her ;)

true a desktop sometimes is as big as a desk but also can be as small as the vesa screws on the back of the tv its mounted to.
 
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fire400

Diamond Member
Nov 21, 2005
5,155
10
81
Triple play? Average cost of that is $165/mo, which means they're paying $1,980 annually.

How about just buy a new laptop? If they can afford $2,000/yr on information/media services, they can afford Geek Squad total tech support for $200 and a new high-end laptop.

Go figure. Go back to your neighbor and set them on the right course.
 

VirtualLarry

Lifer
Aug 25, 2001
44,787
3,825
126
Triple play? Average cost of that is $165/mo, which means they're paying $1,980 annually.

How about just buy a new laptop? If they can afford $2,000/yr on information/media services, they can afford Geek Squad total tech support for $200 and a new high-end laptop.

Go figure. Go back to your neighbor and set them on the right course.
I don't get it. This is an older person, on a (presumably) fixed income. Just because their ISP charges them $100+ for triple-play, does NOT mean that they have the budget for a shiny-new $2000 laptop. And their existing laptop wasn't unusable, with the SSD I put into it, it was at least usable for web browsing.

Anyways, I haven't heard back from her, or possibly I did, and didn't recognize the number. Anyways, I hope that she gets her internet straightened out.
 
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fire400

Diamond Member
Nov 21, 2005
5,155
10
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here's what i'd do-

1. get her a chromebook, to correct the battery life issues

2. call comcast and cancel everything except for internet

3. get a mobile cell phone for phone calling
 

VirtualLarry

Lifer
Aug 25, 2001
44,787
3,825
126
here's what i'd do-

1. get her a chromebook, to correct the battery life issues

2. call comcast and cancel everything except for internet

3. get a mobile cell phone for phone calling
Dude, you're so far off the mark, it's not funny. She watched TV, she doesn't want to get rid of her TV or phone.

Oh, I get it, you're telling me that so that she can save money. Sorry for my reaction. But I get the feeling that she doesn't mind paying her ISP/cable company, just that she doesn't have huge bucks to spend on a new laptop, when this one works.
 

ch33zw1z

Lifer
Nov 4, 2004
25,434
5,217
136
Dude, you're so far off the mark, it's not funny. She watched TV, she doesn't want to get rid of her TV or phone.

Oh, I get it, you're telling me that so that she can save money. Sorry for my reaction. But I get the feeling that she doesn't mind paying her ISP/cable company, just that she doesn't have huge bucks to spend on a new laptop, when this one works.
The older generation has a pretty tough time cutting the cord. It's up to them whether or not they will. I dont push it, it's what they've know and was the big thing for decades.
 

hoorah

Senior member
Dec 8, 2005
750
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Its been 6 months since you started this. Did she get her internet worked out?
 

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