Recovering from a laptop disaster using a consciousness transplant

The past few months have been somewhat tedious … It was a period full of various unexpected events: Mostly the kind of surprises you would wish on an evil enemy.

Along the way, there were also some minor computer-related disasters. One of those is the topic of this post.

At one point during this period, I traveled to Turkey to be with my mom for a short while. Before boarding the Turkish Airlines flight from JFK, I sat in a café in Terminal 1, and took some notes on my trusty old Lenovo 3000 N100.

When it was time to board the aircraft, I hibernated the laptop, waited for the HD activity light to turn off, and put in my laptop bag, next to the MacBook Pro I was carrying.

We arrived at the gate precisely at the scheduled time of 5:45 am local time, and by 7 am, I was sitting in an outdoor café in Levent, sipping my tea, and munching on a simit.

Everything, it seemed, had gone perfectly.

First, I noticed I had left my tablet on the plane. Not a biggie in the grand scheme of things, especially considering all the reasons I ended up finding myself in İstanbul on that morning, but, still, annoying.

Then, I tried to turn on the Lenovo, and I got nothing. Absolutely nothing.

I took out the battery, pressed the power button continuously for more than a minute … Nothing … Did that again, this time used the wall outlet … Nothing. There was absolutely no sign that the laptop was alive. After half an hour of trying various permutations of pressing the power button for an extended period of time, taking out the battery, putting it back in, connecting to mains etc etc, I was convinced my favorite computer was dead.

<sarc>A wonderful beginning to a trip!</sarc>

A couple of days later, my friend, super guide Serhan provided me with a set of tools, and an external enclosure along with an old ASUS netbook. This allowed me to verify that the hard drive seemed to be OK. I then proceeded to disassemble the entire laptop, trying to figure out if something had come loose to no avail. I lost a few screws along the way, but could not figure out why the machine was completely and utterly bricked.

I was worried about the security check for the flight back to the U.S.: Passengers flying from Turkey to the U.S. go through several additional checks at the airport, and, in the past, I had been asked to turn on my computers before boarding the plane. I wondered how airport security would react to a non-functioning laptop. Would they confiscate it?

So, I removed the hard drive, the new CPU, the memory modules, and the new WiFi card, wrapped them as well as I could and put them in the various pockets of my laptop bag. I wrapped the battery pack in shrink wrap, and put that in my laptop bag as well: AFAIK, lithium ion batteries are not allowed in checked baggage.

Then, I taped a big sign on the now hollowed-out shell of the laptop stating that it didn't work, and wrote my cell number and email address on it. I wrapped the laptop in a towel, and put it right in the middle of my suitcase.

At the same time, I logged on to Ebay, and started looking for Lenovo 3000 N100 laptops for sale. Goodwill Northern New England had one that seemed almost perfectly suited for what I was considering. No power adapter, no hard drive, and a realy modest price. It was worth a shot, so I ordered it.

Fast forward to when I finally got my hands on the shipment: First, I was astonished at how much cleaner this one looked than my trusty old computer. No cracks, no dust lining the Firewire port, no broken vent pieces. The battery had no charge, I plugged in my old charger (which has now lasted much, much longer than any Apple charger can ever dream of lasting), and booted into the BIOS setup screen where I was able to confirm that the shipped machine matched the description on the listing.

There were a few differences between this, and my laptop, even apart from the fact that mine no longer worked. This one has a glossy screen. I do prefer matté. The new one does not have Bluetooth on board, but that's OK 'cause I have a really good dongle lying around somehwere. The T2250 CPU that came with this only supports 533 Mhz FSB whereas the T7600 I had I upgraded to supports 667 Mhz. The BIOS was a few versions older than the most recent one for this model, and the Broadcom WiFi card onboard is just crap compared to Intel 7260. Oh, and the firmware on the DVD drive was the old version as well.

So, I cleaned the dust around the exhaust vent, and proceded to replace the CPU, the memory cards, and the WiFi adapter with the ones I had salvaged from my old laptop. I also replaced the battery with the one from the dead laptop. I verified that the computer still turned on, and recognized the new configuration. Then, I installed the hard drive from the dead computer.

And then, I turned on this new machine.

Windows 8.1 Pro proceded to resume from hibernation as if nothing had happened.

I am still shocked by this.

It just worked as if nothing had happened.

Everything on the screen screamed that this was still my computer. It was just the way I had left it. All my documents were there. The keyboard felt the same (just, much cleaner).

But, the unescapable fact was that this computer now literally had no parts in common with the one I had bought a decade ago.

I had literally performed a Self/less by transfering the consciousness of my old computer to the body of a healthy younger case and motherboard.

I have since stopped contemplating the existential aspects of this transplant. Still, the thought occasionally pokes at me.

I did go back and upgrade firmware for the optical drive, but the BIOS flasher did not work in 64-bit Windows 8. For that, I had to dig out the previous hard drive I used to have in this machine, and temporarily swap drives. All of a sudden, I was greeted by my good old Windows XP desktop (with all network connections disabled for the occasion). Flashing the BIOS worked flawlessly, and I swapped the drives again.

After a long pause, it was time to do a cpan-outdated | cpanm.

As usual, I discovered a couple of bugs in Perl modules.

PS: You can discuss this post on /r/Laptop.