Alex McLean

Making music with text

New old laptop

by Alex on November 1, 2011

My old laptop was falling apart, but buying a new one presented all kinds of ethical problems of which I have become increasingly aware.  Also new laptops are badly made and I always much preferred the squarer 4:3 screens that weirdly got phased out in the switch to widescreen five years ago (around the same time that storing a collection of films on a laptop became practical I guess).

So, I built my dream laptop from ebay purchases (all prices include postage):

  • IBM Thinkpad T60 with 1024×768 screen and 2GB RAM – £164.95
    The last IBM branded thinkpad, widely considered the best laptops amongst linux musicians :)  Apparently it is possible to find T61s with 4:3 screens but I couldn’t find one.
    I did buy a T60 for £118, which had a higher resolution screen but it arrived damaged, and only had 1GB RAM.  This one arrived beautifully reconditioned, well worth the extra, and the 1024×768 screen is good for matching projector resolutions.
  •  T7600 cpu – £94.99
    Replacing the 1.8GHz processor with a faster 2.33 GHz one, the fastest that the T60 is compatible with.  Installing it was tricky and nerve-wracking but a youtube video helped me through it.  £95 is expensive for a second hand cpu, but that’s because it’s the fastest of its class and so in high demand..
  • Arctic silver paste – £5.75
    To help keep the faster processor cool.  I was worried I’d have to upgrade the fan too but the cpu temperature has been fine so far.
  • A Kingston 96GB SSD drive – £85.00
    This probably makes a bigger speed difference than replacing the CPU, and makes the laptop much quieter..  I didn’t put much research into this but read that more expensive drives aren’t faster because of limitations of using an older laptop
  • 9 cell battery – £20.55
    The laptop came with a working battery, but £20 for a 6+ hour battery life is a no brainer.

So the total is £371, not that cheap but it’s a really nice, fast (for my uses), quiet and robust laptop.  Returning to a 4:3 screen feels like opening the door after years squinting through a letterbox.   Also, screw planned obsolescence, hopefully this five year old laptop will be with me for years to come.

5 thoughts on “New old laptop

  1. Oh my, this blog entry comes at a difficult time of my life when I’m about to upgrade my 3.5 years old macbook. It’s seriously making me think. That product line costs a lot of money. Avoiding the debate of whether it’s worth it or not, it’s objectively a lot of money.

  2. Alex says:

    Well this t60 is replacing my thinkpad t410 which cost a lot about three years ago when I bought it. Even though it’s two years older it’s just as fast AFAICT, and I prefer it.

    But more importantly, fuck apple! :)

  3. dumbledad says:

    Great post – I’m still loving my X61, though I have found the need to replace the plastic hard-drive cover with wide electricians tape. I like the SSD drive idea, though getting one comfortably larger than the Dropbox limit would prevent worry for me.

  4. Alex says:

    Heh, good work on the repairs Tim. You must have a much bigger dropbox limit than me! I’m not a big space user but I believe you can get much bigger SSD drives than 96GB.

  5. BigBen says:

    …belatedly….
    Great idea and a grand post, Alex. Well-chosen components.
    Agree with you regarding the dumb ‘widescreen’ trend. It’s not so dumb for the makers, because the measurement (eg 15″) is on the diagonal, and the wider they go the smaller the area of screen – ultimately you get a 15″ wide screen that is 1 pixel high.
    We have an early Acer Aspire One that was treated to a fat battery (14 hours), upgraded WiFi (BIG difference) and an enlarged SSD as well as a more appropriate flavour of Linux.
    It was purchased used for £85 with Ubuntu Netbook, which is pretty good c/w Windows. but Bodhi Linux uses significantly less RAM and runs noticeably faster.

    Our fave for rebuilds has been the Itronix GoBook 250, a rugged laptop which used to be available for around £30 – with a P3 CPU and 128/256MB RAM it badly needs a light weight OS, and Bodhi has worked best of the large selection we’ve tried.
    The 10-year-old GoBook has proven to be 4-year-old-boy-proof with its water resistant keyboard and casing – which is solid aluminium and built to last. The batteries are (at long last) dying off, and it’s pretty hard to crack them open and rebuild them.

    All the best, Ben

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