Tags: toshiba

What do you do with a broken notebook?

Here's a lesson to would-be web authors: Continuously updated running complaints will launch you near the top of Google. Actually, it's nice to have an anonymous person wish you well in trying to repair a computer. It's far better than having an anonymous person just throw in spam links in a comment to try to game Google. Hopefully, if thanks to me anyone learned that their machine is covered for a free repair, or even if they just figured out what could possibly be wrong with their machine, or even just found the series to be useful, then I'm glad that this hideaway could be of service to you. So, with regards to M~, and all the people who has stumbled on this site trying to find information on Toshiba notebooks, LCD backlight FL Inverters, and to that one girl who is looking for a new CD drive, this update is for you.

Things did not turn out well, however not because of the FL Inverter. The inverter was replaced and is good as new. However, the CD/DVD drive has since left us for the recording studio in the sky. Basically, the drive can no longer read any discs at all. What's worse, it doesn't even time-out when it attempts to read at start-up. This is bad, because the drive is listed as a boot device. It will attempt to read from the drive, even if it is empty, as long as the drive door is closed. Thus the result: If the drive door is closed at boot, the computer doesn't boot. If the drive door is closed while using Windows, Windows Explorer freezes up.

That would only be a middling issue in most circumstances. Yeah, it prevents me from using that drive to install software, and having to keep the drive door open at all times, but the machine comes with a USB port, which I could install a external drive. True, it's only a v1.1 port, which means cd reads and writes would be slow as molassass, but the laptop would still be usable.

However, this isn't "most circumstances." I was in the middle of re-installing Windows. That install wasn't successful. I have operating system to launch into. And most distressingly, the only devices this model Toshiba can launch from are the internal hard drive (blanked), a 3.5 floppy drive (effectively useless as no mainstream OS is installed via collections of 1.44MB disks anymore), through a network via the ethernet port (I have absolutely no clue how to set that up! Do you?), and the internal CD/DVD drive. There is no way to boot from any external USB device (which includes the external CD drive), thus no way to use the Toshiba recovery discs to reinstall Windows XP.

So, what should I do with a broken notebook?

Well, first I should try to repair it, right? When I first started looking for replacement drives, I couldn't find anything that was under $200. Actually, DVD drives for under $200 were as plentiful as 4, 5, or 27-leaf clovers. I was frequently breaking the $350 barrier. Man, if I was going to be bloodied figuratively like this, and then bloodied literally in the attempt to install the damn thing, I might as well buy a new notebook. I figured that my time and those pints of blood are worth $200, and technology has so advanced since 2001, even the low-end stuff is better than what I'd have after having to part with $400, significant amounts of blood, and with my luck a finger or two.

Thus, I bought a new laptop. To the likely shock and dismay to everyone who thought I have learned my lesson, this notebook is a Toshiba -- the Toshiba Satellite M35X-S111. I'm writing this out now, so if I wind up having problems, Google will be my witness. However, right now it has given me absolutely no trouble. The following is probably only a sad reminder of how far back I was tech wise, but this 1.5GHz Intel Celeron feels much speedier than whatever level of slow I managed to get accustom to on the Satellite 1805-S204. (1GHz, I think it was).

Of course, now what am I to do with a computer that -- for want of one apparently expensive part -- could still be usable. If you're still actually a regular reader, while I was on the Apple-commentary kick (PS: There's no way in hell you're going to get me to comment on the Apple-Intel story.), I snuck in this odd phrase and link, "As another example, ask me about my Toshiba sometime. It will be appearing here, very soon." My plan was to sell the machine on eBay, either selling the working components to others (still, I fear losing blood and fingers trying to take that machine apart), or to sell the entire machine to a person who may sell the components on his own (sacrificing his own digits) or just happens to have a notebook DVD drive lying around.

That was a good plan until I got a tip to check out an online hardware store called NewEgg. There I found the following...

To the one girl looking for a CD ROM drive for her notebook, pay attention now!

TOSHIBA Black 8X DVD-ROM 24X CD-R, CD-RW, CD-ROM slim notebook drive. Price: $65.00.

Yes, Sixty-Five Dollars. Thirty-Five below One Hundred.

Damn! I'm already $870 gone thanks to getting the new notebook, and this complicates my plans on selling to eBay.

Now, what do I do?

The LCD FL Inverter Issue. . .

I do not know what an FL inverter does, except that if it doesn't work properly, the laptop's LCD backlight dies, and you pretty much wish there was a way to stick a flashlight behind the screen. The liquid crystals still work, but viewing what is on the display becomes as hard as viewing a film strip without a projector. This is information I gleaned from newsgroups through Google search. If that sounds exactly like the problem that I described in my Toshiba, that's because it is. I've only learned the terminology because after 3 months of beating around Toshiba and failing, I finally got the original owner to scan in the documents she received. So thus, doing that previous search is cheating, kind of. Though even adding those terms to search would not find you the information on Toshiba's web site. That information was hidden in the Support Bulletin pages, along with gems such as "Why you can't upgrade a video card on a laptop" and various items about Windows NT 4.

Of course, as it turns out there was a website, mentioned on the document itself, that had PDF copies of all relevant documents needed. If she had noticed that, I wouldn't have been begging for 2 months to see the papers. But it was a legal paper using three-point type, so it was probably easy to overlook.

Yeah, the LCD FL Inverter Extension and Refund Program Website at http://www.lcdflinverteradmin.com. Now that that is all done, I can figure out if the repair is under warranty or if I have to pay upfront and ask for a refund.

Figuring out what is wrong...

Let's continue from the last post. I have a Toshiba Satellite 1805-S204 notebook computer. It was one of the first notebooks to come with Windows XP preinstalled on it. It was purchased in Texas in October 2001 (by the original owner) for $1100 retail -- though with the astronomical sales tax rate of 8.25% (this is a state that prides itself on having a light tax burden) the price paid was closer to $1200. It currently holds 384MB of RAM (16MB is used for video operations), a 1GHz Celeron processor, a 20GB drive, built in Ethernet, a DVD-ROM, and most importantly a 13.3" 1024 x 768 LCD display powered by a Trident CyberBlade XP Ai1 chip. Now, will all of that information, go over to Toshiba.com and try to find out what is wrong with my display system. Here's a recap: The display will occasionally dim out or blank out completely, with disregard to level of use experienced by the laptop. And if you wish to know, there's a plastic hinge joint missing on the left side of the display (See second image in this post). I suggest you take a day off of work, because you'll likely never find any information on the problem through normal means.

The screen dimming wouldn't come up often enough to warrant me spending spring and summer days beating Ask Iris (Toshiba's technical support search engine) into submission, and I had other things to worry about. And I didn't want to spend $200 and lose the machine for two weeks to hear "We couldn't reproduce the problem you reported." Such is the life of the never ending student.

But ah, this past November, the Toshiba's original owner receives legal documents in the mail. It appears that, with a little prodding from lawyers, Toshiba has admitted that this random display shutdown is not a desired design feature. Of course, I went back to ask Iris what to do. Iris continued to be useless. I decided to look into press releases from the company, under the assumption Toshiba wanted to let people know. Yeah, what was I thinking? Funny thing, Toshiba did release a statement about replacing a different set of notebooks because of memory problems. Yeah, I'm beginning to think I should go back to machines from that printer company. Or perhaps from IBM before they start becoming Lenovos.

So, now I have a problem. According to the original owner, the display does have an issue, but to get the issue resolved, not only do I need the forms they sent her, I also need the receipt (as proof of purchase) to the system. Not the receipt for the repair work (though they need that, too), but the original purchase receipt. Why? I suppose there is a huge rash of people stealing defective laptops and defrauding Toshiba by asking for warranty service. But that's OK. People normally keep receipts for purchases for at least three years. Yeah, and fifth graders can do statistical regressions in their heads.

Concluded two posts later >>>

Background on the Toshiba. . .

Comparing major computer manufacturers, Toshiba has possibly the worse layout and organization I've ever seen. Every time I've tried to find information, it took an excess of 30 minutes of navigating the maze of links and defective search forms before I give up and scoot off to Google to try to find information.  If I had to judge from their website, I can't even confidently say that Toshiba actually makes computers. So I was less than thrilled when I learned from the original purchaser of the laptop that Toshiba had settled a class-action lawsuit levied against them involving a defective component in the monitor. It takes at least 6 clicks to even get to where Toshiba sells computers, which is an activity which they want to be successful with. Now how hard would it be to find information Toshiba would rather me not have?

As I had mentioned before, the Toshiba a few weeks after the Compaq Presario , always finicky about wanting to work, seemed to die for good. (It turned out that the new IBM 20GB drive I installed to replace the 6GB drive had died.) Now, when I first received the Toshi, it was near dead as well.  The original plan was to salvage the memory chips and other removable parts and install them into the Compaq. But at the time of its arrival, the Compaq seemed to be headed to the happy computing grounds, so I decided to see if the Toshiba was fixable. The Toshiba almost booted up completely once before freezing and crashing -- hard. After that, it would not turn on...ever again.  At most, the cooling fan would start up. Not very much good news to be pulled from that. But it was a bit more hopeful a situation than the Compaq, so I decided to take in to a local repair shop, and hope it might be a cheap repair.

Not a chance. It came to a defective mainboard and $500. Yeah, now you can get decent notebooks for $700- 800 after rebate, but back then you'd be lucky to get something for twice the repair cost of the mainboard. $1400-1600 was more likely for entry level machines. (Now, it's considered mid-level.) Anyway, I decided to drop the change on Toshi and two weeks later I had a working portable once again. Working, except for one thing -- every so often, the screen would dim drastically or even blank out. It would blank out regardless of the power saving settings, regardless of whether it was running on battery or on AC, and regardless of whether I was actually typing on it at the time. Read that previous sentence again. It would blank out even if I was at the machine typing or using the trackpad to manipulate the arrow pointer. It appeared the screen had decided to go on strike.

I'll continue on this and get to the class-action in my next post... It's getting late, and I need to find the paper with the class action settlement's website. I'll give you a clue... no amout of searching Toshiba's webpage will lead you to it.

Continued >>>

My kingdom for a reliable laptop.

The signs probably say I was never meant to have a notebook computer. My most reliable laptop was the one I destroyed by accident by mixing up its AC adapter with a printer's. This is further proof that printer companies should not make computers. Unfortunately, even if it lasted to today, it'd would have to be sent to the retirement home. It came with Windows 98 and probably 32MBs of RAM. It was sent to the farm last July.

My next laptop is the infamous Compaq Presario (specs) with the missing battery cover, necessitating acrobatic style balancing of the machine for it to work. It's my fault for buying it at a traveling computer show without checking to see if it works. At the very least, I should have asked the vendor to disconnect the machine from the wall outlet and use it for 5 minutes before purchasing it. Right now, it is in a box, as it has been for a year. However, as it isn't as old (shipped with Windows ME, upgradeable to XP), and had been upgraded to 256MB of RAM. It can probably work again if I put down the $150-200 to fix the battery issue. Also a new larger hard disk couldn't hurt.

However, the real issue comes with the Toshiba. There's a comedy of errors with that one, which I'll be getting to in the next post. I have discovered I have a habit of posting long pieces in which the point of the actual piece doesn't appear until around the third paragraph. For whatever reason, LJ's search engine doesn't like when I do that. We'll just call this post the backgrounder.

Continued >>>