The Gateway 2150 (De)repair Saga – Part I

I tried posting this inquiry on some message board specifically intended for dealing with Gateway laptops. But it’s not the most active board out there. And after about a week of not getting any help I thought:

“Protozoic has always given me plenty of love. Maybe they’d have some insight into this whole issue.”

So here’s the project at hand:

We have this old Gateway 2150 laptop that we never used for about 5 years due to the fact that it ran really slowly compared to our newer computers, and had a tendency to crash even when operating standard Windows 98 applications.

Also the battery doesn’t seem to recharge.

And also the fan didn’t seem to come on ever.

But this year I decided I’d try resuscitating the thing. I only plan to use it for word-processing, a little e-mail checking on occasion, possibly to learn linux.

I assumed by this point any parts necessary to fix it would probably be available cheap. And for the most part that seems to be the case. All except the replacement battery which is still generally about $100+.

The road to recovery seems to have quite a few bumps along the way, especially for a guy like me who barely knows the inside of his computer from a toaster oven. So I take wild guesses.

When I noticed that the fan didn’t seem to be activating ever I thought maybe the thing was getting overheated as a result, thus causing all the other problems. So I started to take it apart. Instructions here were pretty helpful, but didn’t mention the fact that the cooling fan is wedged so far in the back corner that you need to unscrew the two halves of the machine to get it out.

But I finally got the whole machine apart and took the fan out. Then I fiddled uselessly with the fan a bit, put it back in, turned on the computer and it still didn’t work. A couple days later I put the fan back in again and suddenly it works!

But now that I’ve taken the thing apart and put it back together a couple times there’s a new problem:

When I start up Windows it runs fine for a maximum of 5 minutes and then spontaneously switches off like the power has been cut. This seems to happen whether I start it in regular Windows mode, in safe mode, or using a linux CD. Also, after a few more minutes, the battery light goes off as well (though the computer is plugged into the wall).

I’ve tried the following:

1) Checked for loose connections, but couldn’t find any obvious ones (ie. the wires connecting the motherboard to things in the upper half of the case seem secure).

2) Different batteries. I have the thing’s old battery and also a used battery bought cheap (as is). Neither seem to remedy the problem. Note that for years the thing would run even with a dead battery as long as it was plugged in.

3) Started it with the battery removed. In this case it seems to try going into hibernation during the disk-error-check portion of startup, but tapping a key wakes it up again. Then at some point it does a hard shutdown anyway.

4) Removing and reseating the CPU. This had no effect.

5) Starting it with or without the CD Rom installed. Again, no effect.

So… any ideas on what the problem of the day might be? Or how to remedy it? Or where I might even begin to look for a solution?

All help is certainly appreciated.

About Peter

This guy lives in Boston MA with his beloved wife and two kids. You can get some idea of his likes and dislikes from posts on this website or elsewhere.

5 thoughts on “The Gateway 2150 (De)repair Saga – Part I

  1. I don’t know that much about computer hardware in this sense, but I do know 2 things.

    • if you CPU is overheating bad, the computer will just shut off. When it shuts off, can you do a quick reboot? If you can, the second time the crash comes should be a lot quicker since the CPU should still be warm. Maybe that isn’t the problem though. Just made me think of it since you were talking about a fan not working.

    • bad RAM causes the craziest problems. If you ever have a computer that has problems that are almost impossible to track down (glitchy display, programs crashing, shutting down, etc.) it might be the RAM. This is more useful knowledge if you just installed new RAM which might be bad. I don’t think I’ve ever had a stick of RAM go spontaneously bad, but I guess it could happen.

  2. 1) I don’t think it shuts down particularly faster between one time and the next. And, oddly, it seemed less likely to spontaneously shut down before I got the fan to work again. With the case open I could put my fingers on the heat-sink (this huge metal plate touching the CPU) or on the actual CPU and they wouldn’t even be significantly warm.

    But, could there be some sort of temperature probe designed to shut the thing down if it overheats?

    2) I think the machine is about 7 years old now but I haven’t replaced the RAM (or anything else) ever.

    I was thinking of putting in a bunch of additional RAM (which I guess is now cheap), but figured I should make sure the thing will run before buying fancy new stuff for it.

  3. Hmmm… IF I was a betting man, I would say you have a bad mobo.

    Before writing off the mobo I would consider trying some thermal paste on the CPU (under the heat sink) and see if that helps. Most of the fans only come on at certain temps so that would explain why your fan isn’t on all of the time. Also, you may want to remove everything from the laptop… CD/Floopy/RAM and then try booting and seeing if it POST for longer than 5 – 10 minutes. Then add the RAM…reboot and see how long it says on, then add repeat with another item (CD/Floppy).

    Yes, the BIOS often has a temp gauge that will shut down the CPU to prevent serious damage.

  4. Thanks Thom.

    I could get to Revere via public transportation, though to be honest this is more than I’d really want to pay for a used laptop. I’ve seen some I might look into on e-bay for a bit cheaper.

    I’ll be looking into trying out your other advice in the near future though.

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