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Project Revival: Averatec 4155 - Part One

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There has been this 4.3lb brick sitting in my closet for the past two years. No, I am not referring to a SCSI hard drive. I am referring to my old Avaratec 4100 series notebook. I call it a brick, not because it doesn't work, but because it might as well not work. The keyboard is missing a key, there is a broken USB port, the battery is toast, and the screen bezel has a crack in it. Here is a link to the exact model and my current specs so you can get a good idea.

Model: Averatec AV4155-EH1
Screen Size: 13.3"
CPU: AMD Turion MT-30 (1.6 GHz) - 25w
Memory: 1.2GB PC2700
Hard Disk: 80 GB

The specs are not-so-impressive, but I am looking for something that is like a netbook, but with a little more "balls". I want something light weight when carrying around in my bag, decent battery life, and small enough to take out when traveling by air. I also don't want to sink a bunch of cash into a 5 year old machine. Especially one that has been in a closet and out of commission for more than 2 years. I have set a maximum budget of $150 for repairs and upgrades to get this machine running to my specifications.

Today when I got home from work, the first thing I did was test the machine just to see if it would post and boot. To my surprise, it booted right into Windows XP and I was quickly waiting for all of the bloatware to load. This was not the original OS install as I nuked the drive about 3 years ago after getting a nasty virus. Even though it had a successful boot, I knew right away that this drive was going to get nuked again in preparation for a fresh install of Windows 7 Professional Edition. The second thing I did was test to see if the battery would hold any charge. As soon I unplugged the power adapter, the machine immediately shut off. After leaving the machine plugged in for a couple hours, Windows finally began recognizing some charge, but as soon as I went to battery mode, it only stayed on for approx 10 minutes. Conclusion: I need a new battery.

I began the search for a replacement battery. This is an opportunity to look for a battery with a longer charge life. I searched around and was able to find a company that makes a 9 cell battery for the machine instead of the normal 6 cell battery. The 9 cell battery was $75, compared to $55 for the 6 cell. Even though $75 is at half my budget, I decided the extra battery life will be worth the extra $20. With the battery order taken care of, I decided to address the cosmetic issues. The first issue was the missing key on the keyboard. I immediately found replacement keyboards on eBay ranging from $15-20. I held off on purchasing the keyboard because I wanted to make sure I could find the screen bezel. After about an hour of browsing notebook PC replacement part stores, I finally gave up.

Instead, I started searching eBay for some used or damaged machines that I could salvage some parts from. I got lucky and found a machine that had no hard drive, memory, or battery and a broken LCD screen, all for price of $39.99 with free shipping. The bezel looked to be in great shape and the entire keyboard was intact, which is all I need, but I like the idea of having other spare parts that I can pull from this dead machine. I immediately swiped it up with buy it now.

Now that the cosmetic issues have been addressed, my next task was to see what I could to boost the performance. The 1.6GHz AMD Turion 64 MT-30 is powerful enough for most basic tasks, but I wanted to explore my options for upgrading the CPU. Obviously, price would be a strong point as I only have $35 in my budget. The motherboard in the machine uses an AMD socket 754. Yes, it is extremely old. Remember, this machine was purchased new back in 2005, so any components I am trying to upgrade are going to be both rare and expensive. My searching on eBay resulted in a few different options. The best bang for my buck was a 2.0 GHz AMD Turion 64 ML-37.

The ML-37 runs at 35w opposed to the 25w of the MT-30. This additional power consumption will surely impact battery life, which is another good reason for the 9 cell battery, but seeing how this machine is not dual core, the 25% performance increase is surely worth the $22.95 investment.

So I am done for today. The last thing I accomplished was breaking out the isopropyl alcohol and cleaned the keyboard and casing of the entire machine. Other than having a cracked bezel, it looks good as new. I started installing Windows 7 Professional Edition and will follow it through the progress before I finally get to bed. All of the "parts" should be in next week. The machine should be ready for the build by they time they arrive.

I am currently $12.96 under my budget. Can anyone say "pizza" for dinner tomorrow?


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