HP laptop battery issues...
May 28, 2007 8:29 PM   Subscribe

Help me diagnose my laptop battery problems...

So I have an HP zt3000 series laptop that's about 4-5 years old and has just been functioning like a champ. I love this laptop.

However... These last few days, the battery has been going all wonky. While running, it sometimes charges, and other times just randomly stops charging and begins to discharge despite being connected to AC. No obvious precipitating factors. When it stops charging, the only way to get it to work again is to remove and reconnect the battery. Removing and reconnecting the power adapter does nothing, and the adapter looks fine. The system runs fine without a battery in place on AC power. Of note, this is the original battery and as expected, it ain't what it used to be as far as battery life is concerned. Also of note, these problems started after I started messing around with an Ubuntu dual boot (which is working fine otherwise for what it's worth). The problem is present in both Ubuntu and XP.

I doubt it's related to Ubuntu or some other software issue. Since I'd like a cheap solution, I'm really hoping this is a matter of a battery gone bad, and not something having to do with the motherboard or whatever hardware the computer uses to charge this thing.

Any ideas would be appreciated.
posted by drpynchon to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
It's simple: your battery needs to be replaced. Irrespective of charging pattern or usage, lithium batteries are good for about 3 years. (If you abuse them they're good for even less time than that.) After that their performance is drastically worse, often to the point of uselessness.

See this.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:10 PM on May 28, 2007

You'll probably need a new battery. They're not cheap, although prices vary depending on make and model. Shop around. There are some shops specializing in notebook battery replacements, and I would think they're your best bet.

If you're handy with a soldering iron, you can find guides online to making your own battery from individual cells. I've just tried to find such a guide but my Google-fu isn't working this early in the morning.
posted by humblepigeon at 1:29 AM on May 29, 2007

The battery in my six year old Dell Inspiron died pretty much exactly the way yours did. So I bought a replacement battery from this guy, because his price (including postage from Hong Kong) was less than half of the lowest local price I'd seen for a brandname Dell battery.

It arrived pretty quickly considering it had to come from overseas, but it didn't work (stayed on 0% charged for five hours, then wasn't even recognized as present) so I sent an eBay message asking what to do about a replacement.

There was no response to that after seven days, so I negged him; then he negged me, and sent me an email; then we withdrew each others' negs.

He told me
You can avoid incurring the extra postage by using the original envelope with the strings for convenient opening without damaging the envelope and mark "Return to sender" with sender's address clearly pre-chopped thereon and drop it in post office mail box.
I asked him
Are you sure this will actually get the parcel back to Hong Kong from Australia?
and he responded
I have given you the option of returning the item free of charge but since you have damaged and thrown it away, we have no choice but for you to pay the postage for the returning items.
I thought "wtf?" and went and asked my local postmaster, who confirmed my belief that Return To Sender with no postage would get my package delivered swiftly and efficiently to Australia Post's dead letter office. So I've paid for return postage to Hong Kong (in the original packaging, fwtw).

It's now been a couple of weeks since I sent it off, and I've heard nothing at all from the seller. Perhaps I will in fact hear something soon. But I suspect that money spent in pursuit of cheap aftermarket laptop batteries might actually be buying me a moderately expensive education.
posted by flabdablet at 6:02 AM on May 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

I have a zt3000 and I have intermittently observed a problem like the one you describe. I am also an Ubuntu (6.06) user, and I haven't booted XP since the problem started to occur.

Here is what I have noticed: when I start the computer on AC power, all is well--AC power is used. (the ACPI monitor on my deskop displays "power", and "charging" if the battery was not yet charged)

When I unplug AC power, all is well--the battery is used. (The ACPI monitor displays an estimate of time remaining on the battery). I don't get terribly long run times on battery, which is the behavior of aging Li-Ion battery packs.

When I plug AC power back in, the computer senses that AC power is available, but the battery continues to discharge rather than charge. (the ACPI monitor displays a decreasing battery percentage and "P" for power) If I remove the battery at this point, the computer powers off.

Fiddling with the power jack does not fix this problem while the computer is on. However, after powering off completely and restarting with AC power connected, all is well--back to step 1. When I notice that this problem has occurred, I use the operating system "hibernate" to completely power off without losing whatever I've been working on.

Since my problem seems to be fixed by powering off rather than fiddling with the power jack, I do not believe my problem is the one described on the howtofixcomputers page. However, I don't have an alternate theory either.
posted by jepler at 7:21 AM on May 29, 2007

Shit. You've reminded me of a comment I made in this thread. Fauxscot's post mentioned the connector issue, which I hadn't bothered to follow up on. I'm now really depressed having read the above comments from inconsequentialist and flabdablet.
HP, I don't like you or your shonky products
Having said that, getting 4-5 years life out of originally battery sounds like a pretty good run, to me so it's probably due for a replacement.
posted by goshling at 5:50 PM on May 29, 2007

My moderately expensive education might end up cheaper than I thought. I got contacted by the vendor yesterday, and he's going to ship me a replacement.
posted by flabdablet at 1:27 AM on June 13, 2007

Replacement arrived today, with 46% charge; after two and a bit hours, it has now charged to 100%. I'm a happy camper again.
posted by flabdablet at 1:20 AM on June 18, 2007

...and now I'm an unhappy camper again. The power went out when the laptop was on and I wasn't home. The system log shows that the laptop shut itself down once the battery got critically low.

I restarted it, and now the battery no longer charges, the part of the casing nearest the connector looks melted, the selftest button makes three lights flash, and I'm thinking I'm lucky my house didn't burn down.

I will write to the vendor and see if I can negotiate a refund.

Education wins.
posted by flabdablet at 7:05 AM on June 20, 2007

I thought "wtf?" and went and asked my local postmaster, who confirmed my belief that Return To Sender with no postage would get my package delivered swiftly and efficiently to Australia Post's dead letter office. So I've paid for return postage to Hong Kong (in the original packaging, fwtw).

Theoretically (it has worked fine for me on shipments between Canada and the USA), return to sender works just fine. The sender (now the receiver) gets notification of a package being held by their local post office, and if the sender wants it, the sender pays for the return shipping. In fact, Canada Post's online tools have "return by air" and "return by surface" radio buttons, to save the shipper a little on the return shipping, if the package doesn't get properly delivered.

That aside, I had a bad off-brand NiMH battery experience myself. I picked up a load of AA cells from ledshoppe. They were absolutely terrible. Many dead on arrival, and a couple that did take a charge suffered from very quick self discharge. Ledshoppe replaced cells for several customers who ordered at the same time I did, but since all I could get was replacement cells from the same batch, what would the point be ?!?!

There must be good battery deals out there. The truth behind the awful truism "you get what you pay for" is that you can always find a better deal. Just going for the cheapest price on ebay isn't going to get you that "better deal"..
(why am I putting this in the year old question, instead of the question just asked?!?! I don't know either..)
posted by Chuckles at 7:56 PM on April 7, 2008

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