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  Sony VAIO PCG-GR214MP...

[May 2022] I found one of these old laptops for sale at a relatively cheap price on ebay. It was essentially listed as spares or repairs but it was shown as starting up as far as the BIOS and attempting to load an operating system, but no hard drive or charger were included. So I took a gamble hoping it would only need these things and Windows XP reinstalling, but of course anticipating there could be other things wrong with it.

Once I had a power lead and hard drive (combined costing more than I'd paid for the laptop itself) I set about checking it out.

At first it started up and reported the typical CMOS issue "Press F1 to continue... Press F2 for setup.." I got into the BIOS but I could get no further; it seemed the keyboard was only partially functioning; I could press Tab, but only some of the arrow keys, for example.

How to replace the keyboard and replace the CMOS battery:

I set about figuring out how to disassemble the laptop enough to check the internal keyboard connection - long story short, there is a single hidden screw towards the upper left area of the power button panel; once that is removed the whole panel can then be slid to the left and lifted away to reveal the single screw holding the keyboard in place.

Here I discovered a somewhat major issue; the CMOS battery was in the process of leaking (I could even smell it).

Windows XP Professional
Intel Pentium III 1.0 GHz
512MB (2 x 256MB SD RAM)*
40GB IDE Hard Drive (originally)
2 x PCMCIA slots
MG Memory Stick slot
3 x USB sockets
Weight: 2.88 kg

*Realistically this is not enough RAM for XP and I'd prefer this to be on Windows 98/SE/ME
**This optical drive can be simply removed to provide a second battery compartment.

2.4V Ni-MH battery - 2/V15H

I unplugged it and prised it out so that I could clean the area with IPA - I was hoping I had caught this issue in time to essentially save the laptop because these kinds of battery leaks can destroy a computer.

Reassembling the laptop (without a CMOS battery for now, but) sufficient to retest that keyboard and problems continued and I'm still trying to figure out what's going on;

  • Typically the laptop would repeatedly beep once I'd entered the BIOS and key presses would be unresponsive; this happened irrespective of whether the laptop's keyboard was connected or not, or if I was using a USB keyboard or not, but it was as if a key was stuck down.
  • Sometimes it seemed that if I left the laptop off for a while and then tried it I could get further, I even got as fart as starting to reinstalled Windows XP, that was until the install couldn't locate a file on the disc (perhaps a problem with my disc, or a problem with the drive).
  • Had I damaged some of the miniscule SMD components that were situated beneath the CMOS battery, since it was held somewhat firmly by aged adhesive tape? Or had the battery leak done some deeper damage? (the keyboard slot and IDE connector are both in the vicinity).
  • Perhaps the mainboard suffers from bad caps... (this could explain why things worked better after being left off for a while).
  • Perhaps the PSU I bought, being old, is no longer up to the task of powering this laptop.
  • Was my USB keyboard faulty (too)?

As a weird side-note, when I proceeded to purchase a replacement CMOS battery, I got this message:

I have not seen this before, but it appears the seller has me blocked; I notice that the battery is 'vhbw' branded and the company selling them is based in Germany (even though the listing states the item is posted from within the UK) - I vaguely recall having issues receiving a replacement camera battery of this brand and from a company outside the UK; the battery didn't arrive in the time stipulated and neither did the promised replacement and ebay stepped in and refunded me, only for then both batteries to turn up - I guess the seller wasn't happy with me about this...!

For now I'll put off ordering a replacement CMOS battery (I'm hoping that it not being present isn't causing some of my problems) - if I need to order from that company I'll just use my other ebay account! At the time of writing their feedback score is barely 98%, so they must have a long block list!


In preparing the pictures for this page of the area of the battery leak, I could see, once zoomed in, the extent of the damage (click for a closer view):

I knew some of these 6 components in the centre of the picture were somewhat crusty on top from the battery leak, but looking closer sill I can see that the traces on the board that run through this area from the keyboard connection at the top and the hard drive connection below out of frame, have suffered. I have also considered that damage continues through to the other side of the board which will involve more significant disassembly to inspect (something I haven't actually figured out how to do "yet"). I don't know what those 6 components are; there is one intact one which has 'COO' on it, and one with a remaining 'O'. These could potentially be replaced and any trace damage rectified.

If my assumption is correct that the system repeatedly beeps because it thinks keys are being held down on the keyboard when one isn't even correct, this could be attributed to a short damage in this area (again, damage to one or more of those components). So much for being hopeful I had caught that battery leak in time.

I had already ordered a second charger in case the first one was unable to provide sufficient power, but I'm now doubtful this is the issue.

[EDIT] I received a second charger in order to confirm the original didn't have an issue whereby it wasn't capable of providing sufficient current... the replacement performed the same. I have also done another clean with IPA, with no improvement.

Basically, the laptop will power up the first time without issue and you can enter the BIOS and proceed to install Windows (although this seems to only get so far), but as soon as you power down and back on or do restart, the system beeps repeatedly as if you have something on the keyboard, and will not all you to proceed far. I suppose there is a certain length of time where you could power down the system and return to it and start afresh without the beeps... This to me seems more like a capacitor issue - I would need to be able to dismantle the laptop further to see about those.

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