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ThinkPad 390X Upgrade and general information Topic

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ThinkPad 390X Upgrade and general information Topic

#1 Post by kacperas » Thu Jul 05, 2018 3:30 pm

TL: DR: A restoration guide for 390X plus some of my struggles to get things done.

I’ve spent a last few weeks trying to restore IBM ThinkPad 390X. If somebody don’t know this model, it was released around the same time as 600X and also supports Pentium II and Pentium III CPUs. Well, there’s one difference thought. 390/390E/390X are much less popular than 600 series. Because of this I decided to write what I’ve learned about this machine so far. First of all, below I’ve listed my 390X’s “base” specs before performing any upgrade:
  • CPU: Intel Pentium II 400MHz.
  • RAM: 192MB (64MB + 128MB)
  • HDD: Hitachi 6.4GB
  • LCD: 14.1” 1024x768.
  • Keyboard: German ISO layout.
  • Batteries: Both dead.
  • AC Adapter: IBM 54W (FRU: 02K6555).
Overall, it was in a really good shape visually. First power on showed two errors:
  • DateTime error.
  • Key is stuck error.
First error was easy to fix - new CR1220 battery did the trick. Second required some tinkering with “~” key. In any case, nothing too fancy. Once I was done with them, there was something else to take care of. I’ve noticed, that there was something odd with white color – it was shifting from white to blue. Also, brightness slider was kind of not working. I have downloaded an HMM and started to read how to disassembly this device. During disassembly it become evident, that LCD/cables/inverter or CPU/motherboard were damaged. Also, messing with these cables didn’t do any good, as white color became green. After connecting external monitor, it become clear, that motherboard and CPU are fine and something in LCD panel assembly was no longer working as should. At this point I would probably dispose of this device if I hadn't checked eBay for parts. Someone had to sell whole LCD panel assembly with working screen for acceptable price. I gave it a shot and after installation it works just fine.

As I was able to restore it to working condition, I’ve decided to upgrade 390X. Below I’ve prepared a list of possible upgrades.
  • Replace TrackPoint cap.
  • Upgrade RAM to 2x 256MB (maximum supported).
  • Get a working main battery.
  • Upgrade BIOS.
  • Get an official Windows 98 recovery disk.
  • Get 2nd disk drive adapter and use it for 6.4GB disk.
  • Get Ethernet CardBus card.
  • Upgrade HDD.
  • CPU upgrade to Intel Pentium III 500MHz.
  • Get QWERTY US keyboard.
Finding a TrackPoint cap was easiest thing to do. Then I started to research what other parts, which I need to get. HMM and old PSREFs were helpful there. Below information, which I’ve found:
  • 256MB module’s FRU number is 33L3070. Apparently, it supposed to be a PC100 low density module. Also, I’ve learned, that high density modules won’t work, PC133 probably also. So, I’ve looked on eBay and ordered two “official” modules. It took like a month for them to arrive. In any case, I’ve received two 33L3070, which were in fact low density PC133 modules (Micron MT16LSDF3264HG-133E4, 256MB, SYNCH, 133MHz, CL3). Once I’ve installed them, I was welcomed by statement, that OS won’t boot. I've checked BIOS readme to find, that there's a problem with 256MB modules support, which was fixed in newer BIOS version. Sadly, BIOS upgrade wasn’t possible without a working battery. Well, until I found out how to bypass it. But more about that later.
  • Regarding battery, lesson learned: get that thing while you still can. Because I’ve took my time, it got discontinued and it’ll be no longer produced (sic!). I’ve searched many places, even managed to get one just to return it day later, as it was damaged (probably EC give up a ghost). Finally, I’ve decided to write WTB post on Marketplace. But in the end, I didn’t need this battery… More of it below.
  • As getting battery was close to impossible, I tried to upgrade BIOS without it and without any success. Also, none of guides on the Internet were working on 390X. The usual flash2 /U was reporting instant response about successful upgrade, but as you can guess nothing has happened. After a few weeks, I’ve been reading posts about upgrading BIOS without a battery in other ThinkPads and something caught my attention. Someone was using HEX editor to disable battery check in one of applications. This give me an idea to check files, which were on the diskette. I took a look on CONFIG.SYS, which referenced to cmd.com, which referenced to F42.EXE and btflash.f04. At this point, I was looking for error, which BIOS update application has displayed, when it detected not working battery. F42.EXE didn’t had anything interesting, but btflash.f04 was some sort of script. On line 209 there was an error information, which I’ve been looking for:

    Code: Select all

        013 017 ##XY ." This process requires a highly charged battery to avoid an"
        013 018 ##XY ." accidental power off during an update.  After install a highly"
        013 019 ##XY ." charged battery, reboot the System Program Service Diskette." 
    Line 204 had a reference, which I was investigating next:

    Code: Select all

    Lines 104 and 113 had it:

    Code: Select all

        // ----------- Check Battery ------------------------------------
         not if ##.err_bat ##halt endif
        // ----------- Check Battery gauge ------------------------------
         ##smiON ##batteryFlag ##smiOFF
         not if  // failed to read battery gauge, let it go.
            dup 09 == swap // ==09 bb
            dup 08 == swap // ==09 ==08 bb
                01 ==      // ==09 ==08 ==01
                or or not
            if ##.err_bat ##halt endif
    At first, I wanted to comment them, but then line 95 got my attention:

    Code: Select all

      #Check_AC&BAT // [--] Check AC and highly charged battery. Press <ScolLock> to bypass
    At this point I started guessing how <ScrollLock> will be in German (my 390X have a German keyboard layout). After finding it’s <Rollen>, I once again booted BIOS update from the diskette. I’ve pressed <1> and <Rollen> at the same time and upgrade process has started. After successful upgrade, I’ve removed back cover and upgraded RAM.
    Some photos showing all RAM modules with FRU numbers (64MB, 128MB and 256MB), upgrade process and finally final effect in Windows.
  • For sake of “completeness”, I always try to get official Recovery images. From PSREF, I’ve learned there were two sets: Windows 95 + Windows 98 and Windows NT, but sadly no FRU numbers. There was nothing on the Marketplace, eBay and not much on the Internet either. Hopefully, Google provided a link to and ended listing on eBay. Someone has listed half of the Windows 95 + Windows 98 set. From photos I’ve learned, that whole set have FRU: 10K0454(ENG), Windows 95 disc have FRU: 10K0455 and Windows 98 have FRU: 10K0456. I’ve contacted with seller to found out, that nobody has bought them yet. After some talk, seller agreed to sell me these discs - I've received them after about two weeks. Apparently, there were two additional discs with applications bundled with 390X (according to PSREF), but I have no need for them. And recovery image of Windows 98 is in fact a Second Edition.
  • Hard Drive Adapter Combo Bay (FRU: 05K5525) looked like an easy to find, well until I started to look for it. After a few weeks, I’ve finally found, that one of companies from US have them available for $14.95, but $200 - $300 UPS/FedEx shipping costs slapped my hopes. Hopefully, a friend of mine had a business trip to US, so I could ship this part to a hotel. But… This still felt too easy, so I’ve researched this topic even more. I’ve found a post from Japanese forums, where people discussed this adapter. It seems, that this adapter requires an HDD Kitting Parts (FRU: 08K5833). It consists from two parts: bracket and PATA adapter. Luckily, seller included manual, HDD Kitting Parts and two screws, which are required to secure it in adapter. The was a single nuisance though. A metal bracket from HDD Kitting Parts was for 12.7mm disk, so it required some patience to install 9.5mm disk there. But as it screwed to adapter (or more presicelly to disk itself, as there are holes in bracket, which give an access to HDD's screw holes), this isn't a big issue.
  • At first, I wanted to get an official IBM 10/100 EtherJet CardBus module (FRU: 08L3160), but it requires an additional cable adapter (FRU: 08L3161), which is just too pricey for my likening. In the end, I got for a free a TP-LINK TG-5269 Gigabit Ethernet PC Card, which works fine with 390X. Someday I may look for a WLAN module.
  • Regarding HDD, I got a new 40GB HDD for primary OS (Windows 98 SE). Windows 95 was installed on old disk. Both of them were restored from recovery disks.
  • Installing two OSes from recovery on different disks is one thing, but dual booting them is an another. After some search, I’ve found a GAG – Graphical Boot Manager, which supports booting from two different disks and just works as it should.
  • US English keyboard have FRU: 02K4705 or possibly 02K6310. I may buy it one day, if I'll find it in acceptable price.
  • There were two revisions of 390X. First had either Celeron 400MHz or Pentium II 400MHz CPU and second either Pentium II 450MHz (14.1” panel) or Pentium II 500MHz (15.0” panel). There’s a special tool required to remove the CPU. As I don’t plan to replace it, I have no need to look for it.
Some other thoughts and observations:
  • During first disassembly I have noticed that screen assembly’s screw holes are fragile. So do not disassembly it, if you really don’t have to.
  • After many years thermal pad has glued to upper heatsink. It required some force to remove this heatsink. As thermal pad was in great shape, I’ve decided to not replace it.
  • Without battery and diskette/CD-ROM combo, laptop is noticeable lighter.
  • After removing 3.5” diskette drive and CD-ROM, laptop boots a bit longer. I guess it’s normal, as there’s no way to disable diskette check in BIOS.
Last edited by kacperas on Fri Sep 07, 2018 3:47 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: ThinkPad 390X Upgrade and general information Topic

#2 Post by JBUK » Tue Jul 10, 2018 4:44 pm

Wow you have certainly spent some time on your 390X which was one of my favorite Tpads. I think I still have got a 850mhz cpu that I used to use in mine somewhere. It has a switchable speedstep mod that made it run only at 700mhz to try and keep it a bit cooler.
It is surplus to my requirements now if you are interested.
Where to begin......
2 x T20
2 X T23 + 6 breaking for parts
1 X T23 with Samsung 840 SSD and XP Great combination !
4 X T60
5 X T61
2 X T601 15"

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Location: Poland

Re: ThinkPad 390X Upgrade and general information Topic

#3 Post by kacperas » Fri Jul 13, 2018 4:29 pm

JBUK wrote:
Tue Jul 10, 2018 4:44 pm
Wow you have certainly spent some time on your 390X which was one of my favorite Tpads. I think I still have got a 850mhz cpu that I used to use in mine somewhere. It has a switchable speedstep mod that made it run only at 700mhz to try and keep it a bit cooler.
It is surplus to my requirements now if you are interested.
I have no plans in replacing the CPU, but thanks for letting me know.

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