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Thread: The mysterious computer

  1. #1

    The mysterious computer

    Here is my latest computer adventure. Despite having roots in the mainframe era and having been totally immersed in PCs ever since Apples came on the scene, the machines still manage to embarrass me. My wife and I have gone through more than a dozen computers at home over the past 25+ years, and I have only had to take one out for repairs 3-4 times. Of those, most occurred in the early days when I was still learning. Well, it happened again this week.

    I am using a Gateway laptop these days, but I use it mostly as a desktop. I plug in a big screen placed at a comfortable viewing height so I do not develop a slouch, and use a good wireless keyboard and trackball. Why do I have a laptop? It does everything I need a computer to do, if I end up in bed for a few days I will be able to use it there, and my bad shoulders complain when I start pulling desktops apart. That brings me to the current event.

    Following recommendations, I leave the battery out and recharge it once a month. Supposedly charging is what causes lithium batteries to deteriorate. Minimizing charging can prolong the life. So it was time to charge it and I popped it in the laptop as usual. Immediately I noticed that the “charging” LED did not come on. I reinserted the battery and the same thing happened. I then got a “low battery” warning and realized it was running on the battery instead of the power supply. The power supply was plugged in and jiggling the plugs did nothing. Hmmm. I shut the computer down, disconnected the power supply, and checked the output voltage. A perfect 19v. Knowing the battery was low, I plugged the power supply back in to the laptop and attempted to start it so I could check the power management settings. Nothing! The power on button did not even light up. I put the battery back in and tried to start it. Again, nothing. I did all my magic incantations, jiggling, shaking, etc., but it was dead. I got online using my wife’s computer and went through the manual at Gateway’s support site. There was nothing in there that I had not already tried.

    I needed my computer. I am in the process of updating a webpage for a non-profit group. Nothing left but to seek expert help. I got the name of a nearby repair place from a friend and had to send my wife off with my computer. My mobility is very limited these days because I am without a power chair. That’s another story. As she insisted, I provided a note explaining the problem.

    She arrived with my laptop and power supply in one of those “Save the Earth” cloth shopping bags. A young guy greeted her and asked if he could help. She took out my computer and handed him my note.

    “It’s my husband’s computer. I know absolutely nothing about it.”

    The technician glanced at my note and pulled the battery off. He proceeded to open it and set it on the counter. Then he pressed the power button, holding it down while he checked his watch. After a bit, he released the key and said, “now let’s see what happens.” He plugged the power supply into an outlet and then the computer. Bingo! It booted when he pressed the power button. He then slid the battery into its slot and the charge light came on. “That does it,” he said. “if it happens again, tell your husband to take out the battery, unplug the power supply, and hold the power button down for at least 30 seconds. That solves the problem 25-30 percent of the time when these laptops will not start up. We don’t know why, but as you saw, it works.”

    My wife began fishing her wallet out of her purse having noticed the big banner sign stating that there was a minimum $30 diagnostic fee. He handed her the computer, which he had placed back in the shopping bag, and said there would be no charge. “Just remember us when you have your next computer problem.” He finished with the habitual, “have a nice day.”

    My wife brought the computer home and told me the story. She told it wearing her “you idiot” grin. When I got back on line, I did some Googling and found that this is a solution for some of the start-up problems. However, nowhere could I find an explanation for exactly what causes this problem. Any theories?
    You will find a guide to preserving shoulder function @

    See my personal webpage @

  2. #2
    I have two batteries for my laptop as well. One thing to do for sure is if you are going to store a battery and not use it for a while make sure it is fully charged before you do. Leaving a battery in an uncharged state for an extended period of time will kill its life. Some computers (my thinkpad for instance) has a setting in the power manager to extend battery life, I have noticed that every once in a while it will let the battery discharge almost completely even with the charger plugged in. Maybe see if your gateway has such a setting. This is the help text from the lenovo battery life extender setting:

    If you primarily use your computer with the AC adapter attached and only infrequently use battery power, battery deterioration may occur faster if the battery is constantly charged at 100%. Lowering the charge thresholds for your battery, periodically resetting the battery gauge, using Maximum Lifespan mode, or using Battery Health Mode will help increase its lifespan.

    To change the battery charge mode, click the Battery Maintenance... button on the Battery Information tab. On the ThinkPad computer with replaceable battery, there are three options listed below the Charge mode section. By default, Automatically optimize for battery lifespan is selected. This option sets the battery charge mode automatically by monitoring battery usage. Initial mode is Maximum Runtime mode and this option charges with full charge voltage. When the battery charge mode is set Maximum Lifespan mode, it helps to increase battery lifespan by reducing charging capacity. When Maximum Lifespan mode is set, Power Manager’s battery gauge displayed on taskbar is shown with green outline. Always fully charge (Start when below 96%; stop at 100%) uses Maximum Runtime mode. This mode starts charging when the remaining capacity of the battery is below 96% and stops charging at 100%. Note, this setting may not help to increase battery lifespan. You can also create your own stop and start thresholds by selecting Custom charge threshold and entering your preferred values.

    On the ThinkPad computer with embedded battery, there are also three options listed below the Charge mode selection. By default, Always fully charge (Start when below 96%; stop at 100%) is selected. If battery stays at or near full charge, it is recommended you select Optimize for battery health to set Battery Health Mode. Battery Health Mode immediately discharge your battery to 50% and set to stop charging at 50% and start charging at 46%. You can also create your own stop and start thresholds by selecting Custom charge threshold and entering your preferred values.

  3. #3
    Glad did not cost anything!
    I too use a Gateway laptop only. When we moved and had less space for a computer room the desktop found a new home. I had never had a laptop before. It was given to me by a group of friends and family when we left for Craig Hospital. It was a lifesaver keeping in touch, banking etc,Caring Bridge etc.
    About a month after we were there I spilled a vase of flowers right on the keyboard and was in tears. After a day of drying out it worked.
    My battery only lasts about a half hour now and assume it is because it is getting old.
    I had a similar issue a while back and turned out to be the power cord.
    I'm quite inept with these things and usually my kids figure it out.

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Oregon usa
    Didn't know about the battery thing, the only time I have had to use battery is when the powers out, but I have a generator hooked up to the whole house now so I don't even use it now. I'll have to see if my toshiba has a fancy battery save mode.
    I have never heard of the power button trick.
    c3/c4, injured 2007

  5. #5
    Senior Member rdf's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Someplace between Nowhere and Goodbye
    It'll die if you don't use it. Happened to me with my first laptop years ago. I never used it in battery mode. Battery was dead within a year, right when I needed it most. Now I run my laptops on battery alone a few times a month, down to 30% charged. The battery seems to last the life of the laptop that way, or at least a good portion of it.
    Quote Originally Posted by Sh1wn View Post
    Didn't know about the battery thing, the only time I have had to use battery is when the powers out, but I have a generator hooked up to the whole house now so I don't even use it now. I'll have to see if my toshiba has a fancy battery save mode.
    I have never heard of the power button trick.
    Please donate a dollar a day at
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  6. #6
    Like rdf said I too run my laptop on battery about 3 x a month I've had the same battery for 5 years
    I plan on purchasing a new replacement battery soon but I like to run the laptop with the pwr pack ( Wall Wart )
    Gateways have a battery Setting it is there probably in programs / hardware profiles look for settings ... ( Control panel )

    My Other Ibm laptop may need a new battery soon so maybe i'll just purchase 2 new ones . for both of them , I am waiting for my IBM to come back home .. IBM is upgrading my HD as it was under warranty .

    What do you think of the IBM Thinkpad T61 2 core Duo laptops ?

  7. #7
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Oregon usa
    Cool I guess I will start doing that, thanks for the tip.
    I got this computer a few months back and I'm still finding neat stuff.
    Last week I found a program on it that shows the cpu temp, fan speed, power use and it does have a gauge for batter health, but it just shows if its going bad. I guess I will just have to unplug a few times a month.

    I have never had a ibm but I have heard good things about them.
    c3/c4, injured 2007

  8. #8
    To me all computers are fun I like puzzles and it keeps me going .
    I hope you all had a lovely weekend

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by GL View Post
    What do you think of the IBM Thinkpad T61 2 core Duo laptops ?
    I love thinkpad laptops, have owned them for years (they got bought from IBM by lenovo a while back but it anything the quality has gotten better). I haven't used a T61, but I just got a new x220 to replace my old x300 and it amazing. With the 9 cell battery I have gotten 11 hours of battery life. It has an 160gb SSD, Core i5 and 8gb of ram. It the best laptop I have ever had. It may be a bit small for some, but I don't like big laptops.

  10. #10
    Hi T8 I love IBM products Leveno but my other ibm's are in storage My T61 was on my hospital bed table and a nurse bumped into the table and nedless to say 2 yrs back it took the nesea plunge The Hospital is paying for the repair ....
    So I decided to have them replace my HD lol

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