fixing a ten-year-old notebook computer for $5

I have, since late 2013, written on this blog about turning a Samsung R580 notebook into a personal Linux machine running Ubuntu. I won’t link, just search for Samsung and/or R580 to pick up the majority of the posts. The machine was originally purchased for my oldest daughter from Office Depot, and it came installed with Windows 7 Home Premium, or so the sticker on the bottom says. One day the Windows installation just seemed to eat itself up (probably due to a virus; my oldest wasn’t too careful in those days). I bought her a new one and put the R580 on the shelf for about six months. Then in late 2013 I pulled it down and for the hell of it installed Ubuntu 13.10 over Windows 7. And I haven’t looked back.

Not only have I kept it running Ubuntu since 2013, but I’ve also upgraded the hardware over the years, replacing the HDD with a 1TB Samsung Evo SDD when they got cheap enough and doubling the DRAM from 4GiB to 8GiB. It has done yeoman duty these past seven years. It was the first, and primary, Linux development platform, especially in support of my initial Raspberry Pi setup and support efforts.

All that changed over the past year as the R580 began to erratically fail. At first I thought the R580 was finally reaching end-of-life. But I discovered that the problem was with the power connector. It would fail to electrically connect with the power brick, and thus, the battery would run down and it would shut down. It got so bad that it went into the bag almost permanently around Halloween of last year. I wondered at the time if I would buy a replacement from System76.

Well, retirement and a fixed income can put the kibosh on grandiose plans that call for lots of cash. So I went looking around on YouTube to find any tutorials on fixing that R580 problem, found one I understood, ordered the replacement part from Amazon, and then spent two hours one evening disassembling this beast, replacing the power connector, and putting it all back together again. I had no leftover parts and it looks like I plugged every cable back in properly, because it came back on the first time I checked it out.

I have every intention of trying to update the R580 to Ubuntu 20.04 LTS, and leave it there, just like I’ve left it on 18.04 LTS. It does all I need, it’s speedy enough, and $5 is a damn sight cheaper than $100s for a new machine. Yes, retirement on a fixed income turns you into a cheap old bastard real fast.

2 thoughts on “fixing a ten-year-old notebook computer for $5

  1. I’m still running a 10-year-old Gateway NV58 with Linux Mint on it. I’d love to experiment with putting Linux on a Chromebook or a Win10 machine, but they’re all a lot of money for just playing around with; like you my retirement came with cash limitations. Someday I’ll find one to play with.


  2. I used Gateways right before that for Linux development. I installed SuSE on them. They were very capable machines for what I needed. As for putting Linux on a Win10 machine, I have another Samsung, a 17.2″ model from 2013 that came pre-installed with Windows 8. I let it upgrade to Win 8.1 and then the free upgrade to Win10. I would have put Linux on it long ago except the documented threat that you could brick the machine because of the BIOS on the machine. So now it sits in its bag, coming out every three months to pick up patches and updates, then it goes back into the bag and the cabinet. I keep it because it has historical development tools and code on it that I might still need.


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