… or how to upgrade it beyond recognition 🙂 I found an abandoned Latitude E5500 notebook on a shelf while visiting a customer. Being in good relations with them, I asked about the notebooks status and why it was lying there in a stack of other notebooks. “They’re just junk” I was told. Hmm, one mans junk is another mans gold. Read on for a great upgrade adventure. The notebook was: Latitude E5500 Celeron Mobile 575 2.0GHz CPU 15.4″ 1280 x 800 pixel screen German keyboard 2 GB RAM 80GB SATA 5400 RPM drive So all in all, I understand why they junked it. I’m Danish, but even if it had the right keyboard it would just have been too old and slow to bother with. I had a broken Latitude D830 notebook, one where the Nvidia GPU had gone wrong (as they all seem to do from that generation). It was completely stripped, no drive, no RAM – but it had a WUXGA+ screen 1920 x 1200 pixels. Yes, they’re hard to come by today, and they don’t make 16:10 screens anymore. The E5500 did not ship with this kind of screen, the highest resolution I could find was 1280 x 800 pixels. The D830 screen had the inverter bolted on to the lower part of the screen, but the LVDS plug to the display was the same, and in the same position as the original E5500 screen. Could it work? After drilling out some tiny rivets holding the inverter and also removing a bracket on the top of the screen, I plugged it in. Whoa – it just worked! So this got me thinking – I’ve always been under the impression that all you could upgrade in a notebook was RAM and harddrive. But what about the CPU? Could I take the unsupported T7300 Core 2 Duo 2.0GHz and put that in? Indeed – except for the machine complaining about an unsupported CPU when booting (and thus missing microcode update to the CPU), it works. I can live with an annoying beep and having to press F1 when booting. Also I “stole” the modem from the D830, and replaced the 80GB SATA drive with a much speedier 120GB SDD drive I had. Now we’re getting there. The German keyboard started naggning me. Everything worked, but the project just didn’t feel finished. I had to get the right keyboard. Browsing on Ebay I fould a backlit keyboard for the E6500 series. It had a trackpoint and three buttons not found on the E5500. Did I mention it was backlit? And only $25 with shipping. I *had* to try.
When it arrived, I disassembled the notebook again, this time taking the palm-rest off, and found my kapton tape and dremel. Do or die time, I removed the excess plastic Dell had left where the new trackpoint buttons would be. After sanding and making sure everything looked nice, I connected everything, and much to my surprise – it did *not* work. Argh! The keyboard worked, but backlight and trackpoint did not work. Again Googling around and also looking on ebay, I concluded that the trackpad, which acts as a hub for the keyboard, was the same on the E5500 and the E6500, but perhaps flashed with a different firmware. I found a company in New York that had palmrests for E6500 units for $7,- plus $17,- shipping. Hmm, that was a chance worth taking, so I ordered it and it arrived here in Denmark less than a week later. When the new palmrest with touchpad arrived, I discovered that the difference was not (only) firmware, but more chips populated on the same kind of board. The new board did support the trackpoint, but the backlight did not power on. I don’t know if that is because the cable from the motherboard to the touchpanel are missing some wires, or if the notebook motherboard lacks support. Anyway, I just soldered it up, so its on all the time when the notebook is turned on (and when it’s charging, it seems … whooops!) All in all – a satisfying mod.