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Chapter 17.  Portable Resource Guide

Chapter 17.  Portable Resource Guide

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Documentation

Laptop/notebooksystemsarenotoriouslyproprietaryintheir

construction.Unlikeatypicaldesktopsystem,manyofthe

componentsinamodernlaptopareuniqueandarenot

interchangeablewithotherlaptops,possiblyevenwithother

systemsfromthesamemanufacturer.Becauseoftheir

somewhatproprietarynature,itismoreimportantthatyou

havegooddocumentationtofacilitatefutureupgradesand

repairs.

Becausemanyofthecomponentsareunique,theyareoften

notinterchangeablewithothersystemsandinmanycasescan

beorderedonlyfromthemanufacturer.Mostmanufacturersdo

notpublishpartslists,andmanydonotsellsparepartsdirect

tothepublic,oratall.Thismeansthatasimplepartfailurecan

renderthesysteminoperable,andyouwillbeatthemercyof

themanufacturerforsparepartsorrepairs.Ifthesystemisout

ofwarranty,suchrepairscanbeeitherimpossibleor

exorbitantlyexpensive,oftenapproachingthecostof

purchasinganewer,fastersystem.

Mostlaptopsystemsaremoredifficulttodisassemblethan

desktopsystems.Laptopsystemstypicallyhavemanymore

screwsthandesktopsystems,andthescrewscomeina

numberofdifferentsizesandstylesandareoftenhiddenunder

stickersandcovers.Forexample,atypicallaptop,suchasthe

ThinkPadR-series,isassembledwithmorethan85screwsof

eightdifferenttypes!Thechassiscoversareoftenconstructed

ofthinplasticpartsthatinterlockandcanbetrickytoseparate

withoutdamage.Unlikedesktopsystems,whichare

substantiallysimilarinternally,laptopsystemscanvarygreatly

frommanufacturertomanufacturer,andevenfrommodelto

model.Forthisreason,itreallyhelpstohavespecific

documentationondisassembly/reassemblyaswellasparts

listingsfromthesystemmanufacturer.



Unfortunately,mostofthelaptopsystemsonthemarketdonot

haveadequatedocumentation.Bythis,Imeandocumentation

thatincludesapartslist,instructionsonhowtodisassemblethe

unit,andinformationaboutanyuniquetroubleshooting

proceduresspecifictothesystem.Infact,itissomewhat

difficultformetowriteaboutthistopicbecausethereare

currentlyonlytwolaptop/notebookmanufacturers/vendorsthat

producewhatIconsideradequatedocumentationfortheir

systems:LenovoThinkPad(formerlyIBM)andDell.Thissorry

stateofaffairsmeansthatmostsystemsonthemarketsimply

donothaveadequatedocumentation,makingthemsomewhat

riskytoown,becauseyouareatthemercyofthevendoror

manufacturerforfuturesupport.Self-supportandself-service

areeverythingIstandfor,andtheyaredifficulttoachieve

withouttheproperdocumentation.

Lenovo'sThinkPadlaptopsaregenerallyconsideredthebest

laptop/notebooksystemsintheworld,andthisisnotonlydue

totheirqualityanddesignbuttheirdocumentationaswell.

Lenovosetsthestandardfordocumentation,andthesimple

truthis,noothersystemsintheworldhavethesamelevelof

documentationandsupport.ThereasonisthatLenovo

publisheshardwaremaintenancemanuals,serviceand

troubleshootingguides,technicalreferencemanuals,anduser

manualsforallitssystems,anditmakesthemavailableforno

chargeonitswebsite.Thesedocumentsincludecomplete

disassemblyandreassemblyinstructionsandacompleteparts

list,includingdetailedexplodeddiagramsandpartnumbers.

Thedetailedservicemanualsalsoprovidetheinformation

neededtoaccomplishspecificcomponentreplacementsand

upgradesthatwouldbedauntingonothersystemslackingthis

information.Inessence,Lenovo'ssuperiordocumentation

makesitsThinkPadsystemsthemostupgradeablelaptop

systemsintheworld.

Dellisanotherstandout,providingdetailedservicemanuals

availablefordownloadingfromitswebsiteforallitslaptop



systems.Infact,theunfortunaterealityisthatcurrentlythe

onlylaptopsystemmanufacturersthatdomakeservice

manualsavailabletoendusersareLenovoandDell!Thatis

perhapsoneofthebiggestreasonsthesetwomanufacturers

areamongmyfavoriteswhenitcomestolaptops.

AlthoughDell'sdocumentationdoesincludedisassemblyand

reassemblyinstructions,unfortunatelyitdoesnotincludea

detailedpartslist.Thismeansthattoorderaspecificpart,

you'llneedtodescribeittoaDellrepresentativeoverthe

phone,whichoftenresultsinconfusionoverexactlywhichpart

youwillreceive.Evenso,Dellprovidesdocumentationthatis

superiortoallothermanufacturersexceptLenovo.

Toshibausedtomakeservicemanualsavailableforpurchasein

printedform,butinthelastfewyearsToshibahaschangedits

policy,andservicemanualsarenowavailableonlytoToshibaauthorizeddealers.Thegoodthingisthatinmostcases,ifyou

purchasearepairorreplacementpartfromoneofthepremier

ToshibaAuthorizedServiceProviders(ASPs),suchas

MicroSolutions(www.micsol.com),theASPwillincludecopiesof

therelevantpagesfromtheservicemanualdescribingindetail

theprocedureforremovingtheoldpartandinstallingthenew

oneinthesystem.

Mostifnotallotherlaptop/notebooksystemmanufacturersdo

notprovideservicemanualsfortheirsystems,whichIconsider

tobeamajordrawback.Virtuallyallofthemdoprovideuser

manuals,though,whichsometimesincludesimple

troubleshootingormaintenanceprocedures,butthesearenot

atthesamelevelasatrueservicemanual.Beforeyoupurchase

alaptopsystem,Ihighlyrecommendthatyouchecktosee

whattypeofdocumentationisavailable.Inmostcases,this

meanssearchingthemanufacturer'swebsiteforanymanuals

associatedwiththesystemyouareconsidering.Youshould

downloadanydocumentationyoufind,andexamineit

thoroughlynotonlytoseeiftheinformationisadequate,but

alsosimplytofindoutmoreaboutthesystemyouwantto



purchase.Inormallymakeapointtoavoidanysystemsfor

whichIcan'tgetdetailedserviceortechnicalinformationfrom

themanufacturer,becausemanualsmakefuturerepairsand

upgradesmucheasier.

Insearchingfordocumentationandsparepartsforasystem,I

usuallytrytogodirecttothemanufacturer.Thishasledmeto

discoveraninteresting"secret"ofthelaptopbusinessthatisn't

oftendiscussedthefactthatmanyofthewell-knownlaptop

brandsyoumightbefamiliarwithareactuallydesignedand

manufacturedbyahandfulofcontractmanufacturerslocatedin

Taiwan.OftenthetermOEM(originalequipmentmanufacturer)

orODM(originaldesignmanufacturer)isusedtodescribethe

companythatactuallydesignsandmanufacturesanitem,as

opposedtothecompanythatmerelysellsit.Forexample,the

HPOmniBook6200andAppleiBookaremadebyCompal,the

CompaqPresario700ismadebyArima,andtheDellLatitude

D400ismadebyWistron(Acer).Taiwanesecompaniessuchas

Quanta,Compal,Wistron,Inventec,andArimamakethe

majorityoflaptopcomputersintheworld,whicharemarketed

andsoldunderother(morefamiliar)names.Interestingly

enough,theseOEM/ODMcompaniesrarelysellsystemsunder

theirownnames.Instead,theypreferonlytodocontract

manufacturingforspecificvendors,allowingthevendortosell,

service,andsupportthesystems.Table17.1liststhetop

OEM/ODMlaptopsystemmanufacturersinTaiwan.

Table17.1.TheTopOEM/ODMLaptopComputerMakersin

Taiwanfor2003

Ranking



Company



Est.2003

Shipments

(Thousands)



Website



1



Quanta



8,440



www.quantatw.com



2



Compal



5,400



www.compal.com



3



Wistron(Acer)



1,930



www.wistron.com.tw



4



Inventec



1,540



www.inventec.com



5



Arima



1,500



www.arima.com.tw



6



FIC



1,500



www.fic.com.tw



7



MiTAC



1,200



www.mitac.com.tw



8



ASUSTeK



1,150



www.asus.com.tw



9



Uniwill



1,100



www.uniwill.com.tw



10



Twinhead



900



www.twinhead.com.tw



11



Clevo



490



www.clevo.com.tw



12



BenQ



400



www.benq.com.tw



13



ECS-EliteGroup 250



www.ecs.com.tw



Shipmentsinthousandsofunits.Forecastbasedonfirsthalf2003data.

Source:TaiwanHighTech.com



OEM/ODMcompaniessuchastheserarelysellsystemsunder

theirownnames;instead,theydesignandmanufacturethem

forothercompaniesundercontract.Infact,accordingtosales

informationQuantaisthelargestlaptopmanufacturerinthe

world,althoughnoneofitssystemsaresoldundertheQuanta

name.ThenextlargestmanufacturerafterQuantaiscurrently

Toshiba,followedbyCompal,Fujitsu-Siemens,andLenovo

(refertoTable17.2).

Table17.2.TopLaptopComputerManufacturers,

RankedbyUnitsShippedintheFirstQuarterof2003



RankedbyUnitsShippedintheFirstQuarterof2003

Rank



Company



UnitsShipped(Thousands)



1



Quanta



1,930



2



Toshiba



1,230



3



Compal



1,000



4



FujitsuSiemens



665



5



IBM/Lenovo



638



Shipmentsinthousandsofunits,firstquarter2003.

Source:TaiwanHighTech.comandIDC



Toshibahadbeenthelargestlaptopmanufacturerpractically

everyyearsincethemid1980sthatisuntilQuantaandCompal

bothoutsoldToshibain2001.Morerecently,Toshibasaleshave

beengaining,andittooksecondplacebackfromCompalandis

gainingonQuanta.Quanta'saceintheholeisthatithas

becometheprimarycontractmanufacturerforDell,whichis

Quanta'slargestcustomer.QuantaalsomakessystemsforHP,

Compaq,eMachines,BestBuy,andApple,amongothers.Dell

alsopurchaseslaptopsfromCompalandWistron(Acer),soit

isn'ttiedtoonesupplier.NowyoucanseewhyDell'sdifferent

modellineslooksodifferenttheywereactuallydesignedand

manufacturedbydifferentcompanies.Contractmanufacturing

bycompaniessuchasQuantaandCompalisalsothemain

reasonwhyyouseesomanydifferentbrandsoflaptopsystems

thatseemtolookidenticaltooneanother.Onepotential

drawbackoftheOEM/ODMgameisthatitismoredifficultfor



companiestosupportthesystemstheysell,becauseinreality

theydidn'tmakethemandmaynothavedirectaccesstothe

partsandmanufacturing.

Goingbysalesratherthanjustmanufacturing,Table17.3lists

thetoplaptopcomputercompanies.

Table17.3.TopLaptopComputerBrands,Rankedby

FirstQuarter2003UnitsShipped

Rank Company(Brand) UnitsShipped(Thousands)

1



HP/Compaq



1,370



2



Dell



1,240



3



Toshiba



1,230



4



Fujitsu/Siemens



665



5



IBM/Lenovo



638



6



NEC



482



7



Sony



447



8



Acer



428



9



Apple



298



10



Gateway



111



Shipmentsinthousandsofunits.

Source:IDC



Note

Ifyoucanfigureoutwhoreallymadeyoursystem

andcanlocatethatcompanyontheWeb,insome

casesyou'llfindmoredetailedinformationorbeable

togetnewerdriversandBIOSupdatesdirectfrom

themanufacturer.Ifyoudon'tknowtheactual

manufacturerofyoursystemandthevendordoesn't

providesupport,youmaybeinfordifficultyin

trackingdownrepairsandsparepartsforyour

system.



Unfortunately,mostOEM/ODMcompaniesdon'thavesupport

resourcesavailabletoendusersbecausealltheirsystemsare

producedundercontractforspecificvendorswhomustthen

provideallserviceandsupport,includingdocumentation,driver

updates,spareparts,andsoon.Whatthismeansisthat

althoughothercompaniesmightmakelaptopsforDell,

HP/Compaq,Gateway,andothers,ingeneralyouwillhaveto

gobacktothecompanywhosenameisonthesystemforall

yoursupportneeds.



FCCIDDatabase

Ifyouareunsurewhoisthemanufacturerforagivensystem,

andyoursystemissoldintheU.S.andcarriesanFCCID

number,youmaybeabletousethatnumbertoidentifythe

manufacturer,oratleasttofindoutmoreaboutthesystem.

Knowingthemanufacturermayhelpnotonlyforfinding

documentationbutalsoforfindingdriversspecifictothe

system.



TheFCCIDdatabasecontainsrecordsforequipmentthathas

beenCertified,TypeAccepted,orVerifiedbytheFCC.Tolocate

informationonaspecificFCCID,visitwww.fcc.gov/oet/fccidto

entertheIDinformationandsearch.

AnFCCIDconsistsoftwoelements:agranteecodeandan

equipmentproductcode.ThefirstthreecharactersoftheIDare

thegranteecode,whichispermanentlyassignedtoagiven

company,andwhichconsistsofanycombinationofcapital

lettersand/ornumbers.Theequipmentproductcodeis

assignedbythegranteeandisfrom1to14charactersin

length,consistingofanycombinationofcapitalletters,

numbers,andhyphensordashes.

LaptopsthathaveanFCCIDnumberwouldnormallyhaveit

printedonalabelontheundersideofthesystem.Tofindit,

turnthesystemoverandlookonanyandallstickersorlabels

forsomethingthatreadssimilarto"FCCID:

XXX1234567890ABCD."Inthisexamplethe"XXX"isthe

granteecodeandthe"1234567890ABCD"istheequipment

productcode.YoucanenterthisinformationontheFCCID

searchpagetolookuptherecordsonthatparticularproduct.

Unfortunately,duetorulechangesovertheyears,notall

electronicequipmentsoldintheU.S.willhaveanauthorization

fromtheFCC,inwhichcaseitwillnotbeintheIDdatabase.In

addition,somesystemswillhavealabelthatmerelysays

"TestedToComplyWithFCCStandards,"andincludesno

specificID.Unfortunately,anyequipmentdisplayingthattype

oflabelisdeclaredtocomplywithFCCregulationsbythe

manufacturerorimporterandwouldnotbeintheFCCID

databaseaswell.



UserForumsandSupport

SeveralInternet-basedresourcesareveryusefulforfinding



troubleshootinginformation,technicalsupport,andother

informationonvariouslaptops.Hereareseveralsites,forums,

andgroupsthatIrecommend:

www.groups.yahoo.com/group/Laptop_Repair

www.notebookforums.com

www.repair4laptop.org

www.thinkpads.com

NewsGroup:comp.sys.laptops







RepairParts

Althoughlaptopcomputersusemanyproprietarycomponents,

afewindustry-standardpartscaneasilybeobtained.For

example,virtuallyallsystemsuseeitherIntelorAMD

processors,whichcanbeobtainedfrommanysources.Also,

harddiskdrivesarefairlystandardized.Keepinginmindthata

fewdifferentsizesareavailable,youcanpurchasedrivesfora

laptopsystemfromanyplacethatsells2.5-inchdrives.In

particular,harddrivesthatareinthe9.5mm-tall2.5-inchform

factorwillfitinpracticallyanysystem,butthoseinthetaller

2.5-inchformfactorsmaynotfitallsystems.Other

standardizedpartsincludememoryandMiniPCIcards,andtoa

lesserextentinternalCD/DVDdrives.

Formoreproprietarypartssuchasbatteries,displays,hinges,

drivecaddies,ACadapters,andsuch,youcaneithergotothe

originalvendor(ormanufacturer)oruseoneofseveral

companiesthatsupplythesetypesofparts,suchas

ExcelComputer(www.excelcomputerinc.com)

ImpactComputers&Electronics

(www.impactcomputers.com)

LaptopRepairco(www.laptoprepairco.com)

Man&Machine(www.man-machine.com)

MicroNotebook(www.micronotebook.net)

MicroSolutions(www.micsol.com)

NationalPartsDepot(www.nationalparts.com)



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