Can I run a Dell laptop with a dead battery off another computer?
April 27, 2005 4:19 AM   Subscribe

I have a Dell laptop with a dead battery and no AC adapter at hand. Can I network the Dell to a Vaio and run the Dell off the Vaio's power supply?
posted by Toolshed to Computers & Internet (18 answers total)
Is this a real question? Jeeez.
posted by caddis at 4:23 AM on April 27, 2005

Now now caddis, wisecracks help nobody.

Toolshed, does either machine have Power over Ethernet connections?
posted by ajbattrick at 4:27 AM on April 27, 2005

posted by sdrawkcab at 4:30 AM on April 27, 2005

On the one hand, this would be pretty awesome. Distributed laptop power. On the other hand, it would only be useful in really limited circumstances. Also, you'd get a ridiculously short battery life if two laptops were using the same single battery, and since you have no AC adapter on hand, you'd then have no way to charge it. And I don't know if I've ever seen a laptop with Power over Ethernet capability (either to power or to be powered). USB and Firewire carry power, but probably not enough current to be used in this manner.

Toolshed, I'd say you're SOL, unless you can find someone with a) a Dell AC adapter (have you checked ebay?), or b) a non-dead battery that will fit in your laptop. One thing to note, though, I'd be fast about it. Lithium-Ion batteries have a safety circuit that requires some charge to stay active (around 2.5V, usually). If you store it empty or low for too long, the circuit will open and the battery will never charge, unless you pay to get it reactivated. And even then you're not guaranteed.

Read more about Lithium Ion batteries - the safety circuit info is below the table.
posted by Plutor at 4:46 AM on April 27, 2005

I once jokingly asked someone whether, if in the event my laptop battery died, I could run it from my cell phone battery via bluetooth. I know this doesn't answer the question at hand, but assuming your goal is to get to the data on the Dell, isn't it much much easier to connect the Dell's hard disk to the other computer?
posted by nthdegx at 4:52 AM on April 27, 2005

Best answer: Moving the hard disk will be your best bet if you need access to the data, but that still leaves you with a useless laptop. (By the way, when you boot the Dell-installed OS on the Vaio's hardware, it'll need a few minutes to figure out all the new devices. Keep an original CD handy in case you need drivers.)

I'd suggest picking up a universal AC adapter, or the DC version if youlre a car-a-holic like me. They're cheap now, CompUSA just had a pair of Kensington units for $30 each after rebate, so I picked up one AC and one DC model. That's cheaper than you're likely to spend for a single model-specific adapter, and it's a nice swiss-army-knife to have around. It's so nice when someone else is adapterless and I can come to the rescue, no matter what brand or model they have.

In a broader sense, a laptop that can tricklecharge itself via PoE would be so cool, as would an AC adapter that also bridges powerline ethernet into the laptop.

Feeding power into the USB or Firewire port is likely to damage something. Even if it worked, you'd be supplying parts of the laptop "downstream" from its internal power supply, so other internal devices that require different voltages would still get nothing. Theoretically it could lighten the load on the battery by letting the internal supply concentrate on the other loads, not the 5V stuff, but you'd only be looking at a few percent of runtime, not a replacement for an adapter.

A broader question to ask would be: Why does the industry put up with 256,571 different power adapters? I have much love for Panasonic, whose entire line of Toughbooks run from the same adapter. I'd appreciate it even more if they took straight 12-volts in, preferably with a standard durable plug like the Anderson Powerpole, but that's the stuff of fairy tales.
posted by Myself at 5:40 AM on April 27, 2005

If the idea is to just get the data off of the dell, you can pull the hard disk out and with the proper adapter (available here) put it in a desktop computer to transfer the files. If you're looking to use the dell, I agree your best bet is probably ebay.
posted by SteveInMaine at 5:41 AM on April 27, 2005

Unless you have a working power adapter for the dell laptop, or the power connectors are the same for both, you can't really run one laptop from the power supply of another. If they were the same brand or model of laptop, perhaps, but in this case it's doubtful.

If you take the Dell down to your nearest tech parts store you should be able to pick up a suitable power supply. Somewhere near the power socket on the laptop, there should be information on what voltage and current the laptop takes, and the tech on hand should be able to find the correct socket to go into the laptop. If the voltage/current information isn't on near the socket, it should be on a small sticker somewhere on the base of the laptop.

Failing that, as SteveInMaine suggests, yank out the disk and put it in one of the cheap external USB drive enclosures to rescue the data off it.
posted by gaby at 6:22 AM on April 27, 2005

Since the mythical ability to power devices via Ethernet is still largely nonexistent (except in some niche hardware): Radio Shack sells Dell-compatible laptop power supplies. They're not dirt cheap, but they should be easy to come by. Even the heavily toy and cellphone-stocked, consumer-oriented Shack near me -- possibly the last place I would think of going for actual useful parts -- has these things.
posted by majick at 6:32 AM on April 27, 2005

IF the batteries are the same voltage, couldn't Toolshed pull a McGyver--cut the lamp cord in his hotel room, remove the Viao battery, and wire it to the Dell with his homemade jumper cables?

/dangerously ignorant
posted by LarryC at 6:45 AM on April 27, 2005

I have a laptop with a dead power supply, similar to other dead systems mentioned in this question. All I want to do is get the information off the hard drive. I went to the link that SteveInMaine mentioned, but that seems to be a unit that allows you to mount your HD inside an existing machine. The idea that gaby mentioned briefly ("put [the hard drive] in one of the cheap external USB drive enclosures to rescue the data") sounds perfect for my needs.

Thing is, I'm PC hardware illiterate. I went to the site SteveInMaine mentioned and looked up "usb drive "enclosure", which gave me oodles of possibilities. But which one would do what I need, ie allow me to hook up my Dell laptop drive and suck the info off of it? I like the look and price of this one for instance, but I don't know enough about PC hardware to tell if it's the one I need. Any suggestions?
posted by NewGear at 7:22 AM on April 27, 2005

You might like this one even more
I just bought one... And the shipping cost is right
posted by Ferrari328 at 7:33 AM on April 27, 2005

Damn, can't beat that, can you?

It's worth ordering it even if it doesn't work for my needs.

Think it'll take my Dell laptop hard drive?
posted by NewGear at 8:14 AM on April 27, 2005

Yes, I belive Dell uses a normal thin harddrive that should fit.
I just bought a notebook hard drive on Ebay that will go into my case.
posted by Ferrari328 at 8:27 AM on April 27, 2005

I'd be very surprised if your hard drive were anything but 2.5", the standard for laptops, Newgear. Hence, any enclosure that says it works with 2.5" drives is the one for you. The one you're linking to advertises a max height requirement, implying there are drives that don't fit. You'll want to check on that; most enclosures I've seen don't imply such a limitation.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 10:11 AM on April 27, 2005

Dells often have the hard drive inside a removable plastic shell thingy, which you'll have to open up to get at the drive itself. I guess this is stating the obvious. Once naked, drives are generally completely interchangeable unless you have something really obscure.

On preview: Oh yeah, I think a lot of USB enclosures only accept 9.5mm thick drives, which are the only new drives shipping these days. Until ~2001, higher capacity drives tended to be 13.5mm thick. If you have one, you'll probably still be able to attach it to the circuit board and use it, but you won't get the case closed.
posted by cillit bang at 10:22 AM on April 27, 2005

Thanks for all the help, SteveInMaine, Ferrari328, Zed_Lopez, et cillit bang. These are the kind of helpful, informative answers that make Ask MetaFilter such a unique and wonderful little community!
posted by NewGear at 11:25 AM on April 27, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks to those who offered real help. I was somewhat surprised to receive sneering comments from techies at a time of anxiety--how do you think people learn? By being silent?
posted by Toolshed at 7:46 PM on May 3, 2005

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