The Walking Dead ... Laptop Edition


I would be willing to bet even the most mundane computer users has a graveyard of old computers laying around. There is a variety of reasons this can happen from the hinges busted apart on your laptop to you just plain filled your computer up with photographs of your first born. For this post I grabbed a fifteen year old paperweight laptop from my basement and replaced the keyboard and freshly installed Ubuntu 17.10 to make a full working and usable machine. Essentially I took this thing

and turned it into this

It's All About the Pentiums!

This was really just a fun experiment because I had never really opened up a laptop and messed with it internally until writing this blog post. The laptop needed a new keyboard and it was all too easy to order the correct one from Amazon for less that $10. Incidentally, you can buy individual laptop keys. I've used this site in the past. The keys are made up of the key, the hinge and the cup. I also wanted to get a nice set of screw drivers for computers and other house hold electronics. I ended up buying this set

from Amazon and it more than suited my purposes. With the new keyboard and fancy screw driver I was ready to breathe new life into my laptop.

Replacing the Keyboard

Replacing the keyboard turned out to be the easy part. Getting access to the screws that hold the keyboard down was a different story. All brands of laptops are different. The answer for me was getting the screws off the hinges and removing the plate above the keyboard that covers the screws that hold down the keyboard. Here is how it looked once I go that piece off.

In this picture you can see the keyboard is flipped forward and held in by one ribbon cable. Also notice that upper plate that has the power button is held onto the motherboard by a tiny ribbon cable. It's important at this point to not drop screws or ribbon cable fasteners into the bowls of the laptop. If this happens you'll have to take many more screws out and search for the lost city of Atlantis and the tiny pieces you dropped. Once you gently remove the ribbon cable holding down the keyboard you are ready to fasten on the new keyboard. Here is how it looks once you are ready to lay down the new keyboard

Enough Hardware, Let's Talk Software

Once the new keyboard was in it was time to format and install the operating system. This machine previously had Windows XP which was out of support so I used Ubuntu Linux because it's drop dead simple to install and seeing as I was already $30 into this I was running out of patience. I found a tool called Rufus to make a bootable Usb drive and install Ubuntu. Rufus was super easy to use and here is a screen shot so you can get a feel for what it's like

After making my bootable Usb drive and changing the boot order on my laptop it was a breeze to install Ubuntu and get up and running.

Wireless Networking

The internal native wifi adapter and Ubuntu were not getting along so I found an easy to use Usb wifi adapter that that worked via plug-n-play on Ubuntu. I ordered it from Amazon here. Here is how it ended up looking

It's About the Journey not the Destination

You might be asking "what you are you going to do with your new laptop ?". Naturally, I wrote this blog post on it, but I didn't do all of this because I desperately needed a laptop. I did it for the experience and because my Netflix queue was looking lean. However, if you have old computer hardware laying around you should consider saving any relevant data from it and either updating it, or disposing of it. If you are feeling ambitious you can strip your old machines for parts and sell them on Ebay. Everyone should contemplate this situation because all computer consumers will eventually have to make these decisions.