help my student get a working laptop
May 12, 2010 10:38 AM   Subscribe

Why can't I get into the BIOS on this Thinkpad? Alternately, how can I get this machine working?

I have a student at the high school that I work at who brought me a sort of working laptop. I'd like to get it working if I can. Here's the particular failure mode. Yes I have checked the other posts tagged Thinkpad. Yes it is his laptop. No he doesn't know the password.

- it's a Thinkpad 600 w/ no battery
- computer turns on like normal, fan goes on, HD seems to spin, CD drive light goes on
- no matter what key I hold [to get into the BIOS, to boot from a CD, whatever] it doesn't go into BIOS or do anything other than this routine, I don't even get the IBM splash screen. I hold F1 with the computer off and keep holding it, no love.
- what I DO get is the RAM count screen and then a weird password entry screen
- entering no password takes me to this next window (1, 2) which then hangs no matter whether I press OK or CANCEL
- entering the wrong password three times locks me at the password entry window

I looked up the errors and 161 and 163 seem to indicate that the battery is dead and the time/date aren't set. No problem. 301 is a keyboard problem of some sort, though the keyboard seems to work okay for entering passwords. So I'm assuming this means there's a password on the BIOS. Is there a way to get around this? Should I tell this kid he needs to get a battery?

The laptop belongs to a sort of hard luck kid at school and if I can fix this, get Ubuntu running on it or whatever, then the kid will have a laptop. If I can't fix it, he probably won't. So I'm hoping there's something I can do short of sending him off with another project. I have the laptop here with me. I saw the soldering project approach but that may be a little more work than I can do with the tools I have available. I've done some Googling but was hoping someone here could give me some advice on something that will work. Thanks!
posted by jessamyn to Computers & Internet (4 answers total)
Best answer: If it's just a power-on password (POP), you can erase that by shorting a couple pads as described in the Hardware Maintenance Manual (pg. 24). If it's the hard disk password or supervisor password, hacking those will be very complicated.
posted by zsazsa at 10:47 AM on May 12, 2010

Best answer: See here for the service manual for a Thinkpad 600/600E. If it's a 600X I think there's a different manual. Page 25 to remove power-on passwords:

How to Remove the Power-On Passwords:
If only the power-on password is set, do the following to
remove the power-on password.
1. Power off the computer
2. Remove the DIMM cover on the bottom side of the
3. Short-circuit the two password pads or put the
For the location of the password pads or jumper, see
the “Locations” section for each model.
4. Under the short-circuit condition, power on the
computer and wait until the POST ends.
After the POST ends, the password prompt does not
appear. The power-on password is removed.
5. Reinstall the DIMM cover.
If both the power-on password and the supervisor
password are set, do the following to remove the
1. Power on the computer by pressing and holding F1.
2. Enter the supervisor password. The Easy-Setup
menu appears.
3. Click on the Password icon.
4. Click on the Power on icon.
5. Enter the supervisor password and press the Space
6. Press Enter twice.
7. Click on Exit; then click on Restart.
The power-on password has been removed.

It seems that if the supervisor password is set you have to know it to remove it. There's no way to reset the supervisor password via a mobo hack.
posted by GuyZero at 10:48 AM on May 12, 2010

Response by poster: Okay, just tried that and no love. At least if I know it's a supervisor password problem, which this seems to be saying, I can explain it to the kid and we can know the next steps if he wants to get it taken care of. Thanks for the speedy responses, guys.
posted by jessamyn at 11:05 AM on May 12, 2010

Response by poster: I let the kid know there was a soldering solution to his problem. And then a random MeFite MeMailed me to say he had a ThinkPad moldering in his closet and would I like it? I said sure. He mailed it to me. I gave it to the kid. He and his mom and dad came to drop-in time this Wednesday [the last drop-in time of the school year] and I helped them get it set up with a typing tutor and some other software. Yay, AskMe works in mysterious ways. Thank you both for the help.
posted by jessamyn at 12:29 PM on June 11, 2010

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