Upgrading the Compaq Armada 1130T

(CMOS Battery and Hard disk)

Note: I take no responsibility for any damage you may do your laptop as a result of following these notes. If you are at all doubtful, take it to a repair shop. These notes are for information for interested people, and although written in good faith carry no guarantee. I recommend also that you read all of it, and don't do anything until you are sure about it.

NOTE: I no longer own this computer, don't have any disks or manuals for it.  Please don't write to me asking for these things!

Opening the case - and learning about torx screws ..........CMOS Battery .........Hard Disk ........Conclusions

Introduction

In May 1997 I bought a laptop. I chose the Compaq brand because of the name, and the 1130T because of its price as a machine with a TFT panel, 16Mb of RAM and 1.08Gb of hard disk. I live quite close to the Compaq repair centre in Colchester, which is fortunate as I had to send it there for repairs during the one year warranty period.

At the end of 1998 the CMOS battery died - the machine wouldn't remember the date/time, and then it failed to remember the CMOS setting. Luckily it can cope with this - it just takes a long time to boot, and beeps a lot while doing so.

Naturally I wanted a new battery. But as this is a laptop, everyone knows you aren't allowed to open up the case - the parts inside aren't user-serviceable.

So I called Compaq. They referred me to 'Out of Warranty Repairs'. They quoted me a fixed price of, wait for it, TWO HUNDRED POUNDS!! (For US readers, that's around $300). They also helpfully told me the part number, and that it would cost £1 to buy, but if I wanted one they would charge me £10, simply to process my order. Naturally this sounded silly, so I rang again another day, and got the same answer.

Judging from prices being asked for machines of better specification, my Armada is only worth around £300-£400, so this was out of the question.

I proceeded to search the 'net for information on the Compaq Armada 1130T - I was looking for alternative service shops. It wasn't long before I found pages offering third-party hard disk kits, in the US. Likewise batteries were available. I also came upon the Compaq Aero FAQ, which definitely gave a lot of advice about upgrading obsolete laptops. At least one computer upgrading handbook also has a section which tells how to upgrade laptops - I saw it in a bookshop, and read it avidly.

Finally I rang a local repair shop, who quoted me a range of prices to do an upgrade on both, depending on who I spoke to and how I phrased it. My suspicions were raised powerfully when they refused to allow me to watch the upgrade, for which they proposed to charge me £50.

In the end I did it myself. This page is for the benefit of anyone else looking for info, as I was.

Opening the Case - and learning about torx screws.

The case is held together by black screws with an oval looking slot. Naturally they are made of soft metal, and tightened apparently by "Giganto - The Man With Giant Strength" (or a friend of his). You can open these using a standard flat-blade screwdriver. But they are not normal screws...

Everyone knows there are flat-blade screws which have a slot, and phillips screws which have a cross pattern with a central recess. But few people know that there are also torx screws. These have 6 shallow flanges, rather than the 4 deep ones of the phillips, and a flat central area, rather than the recess. Unless you look carefully for the groove, the screw head just looks like a rivet. But these are what the Compaq Armada uses. The slot in the external screws would appear to be a combination version. I gather that manufacturers know that few people have these screwdrivers, and use them to keep people out of things they don't want unscrewed.

You really do need a torx number 9 screwdriver. I bought a set of Draper tx-star (I think torx is a trade-name) for about £3 from a specialist hardware shop near me.

Take the battery out - the button is at the front right, not on the right side as per the manual - and disconnect the mains. I suggest you remove your PCMCIA cards, and make sure you ground yourself at frequent intervals on something large and metal.

Unscrew the 7 screws on the bottom. Leave the others at the back alone.

Now turn the laptop the right way up, open the screen up. The bit that comes out is the keyboard. Stick your fingers in the PCMCIA slot and lift gently. It will now lift. There are clips at the front, which will stick, so wiggle these a bit, very gently. The hinges either side of the panel should just lift straight up. Place it somewhere safe. You'll see the electrical connector at the back which plugs in when the unit is in use.

CMOS Battery

The CMOS battery is a small silver cell battery held in a grey plastic clip at the top left of the case. The part number is 117099/001. This is identical to the one for the Compaq Aero, which leads one to wonder just how old some of these batteries are. The one in mine was in fact a Sony, and was labelled CR1220 3v LI. I found that Tandy had identical Lithium batteries, under the model number CR1220, but these were made by Panasonic.

The new battery should not be handled. I used a piece of paper to hold it.

The problem with changing these, is that the spring-clip that holds them in seems to be fragile. The battery would seem to be intended to be removed horizontally, with two arms of the plastic holder springing out. In fact mine had become brittle and just snapped. I know of another user who had exactly the same problem.

So, how did I fit my battery? There are two pins underneath, which push the battery up, and a metal clip which pushes it horizontally. The battery needs to be snug against both of these, or it will not function. The battery should be mounted with the side with the (+) on upwards.

I then applied mains power (don't use the laptop battery while doing config stuff, in case it fails part way through), and it all worked!

Upgrading the Hard Disk

Laptop hard disks are all 2.5" long, and they have a common width. Up until 1997 they all had two screwholes on each side, an inch apart. After that date, the screw holes were at the corners. They come in various heights, and are normally screwed into a metal frame or 'caddy', which is then attached to the case. The drives all connect to a standard 43-pin connector on the motherboard.

The Armada, needless to say, has the old-pattern screw holes. The drive in mine was a Fujitsu, and was 12.7mm high ( which is less of an odd size when you realise that is 0.5"). This is a normal height for drives of 4Gb and below. The frame was also sized for a drive of that height - nothing bigger will fit. The frame is held on by a single #9 torx screw at the front.

Make sure you are electrically grounded before touching anything. Only handle drives by their sides.

To remove the existing hard disk, undo the silver screw (no slot, so you will need that torx no. 9). Then holding the frame, gently pull it forward, so that the drive unplugs from the connector at the back of the frame. Then just lift it out. You can then unscrew the frame - slotted torx #9's hold it on.

Now I did something unfortunate. I rang up and bought a Toshiba 4.3Gb drive. Height was advertised as 12.7mm, and I knew I could always tape it in.

The drive was actually only 8mm high - even though it was labelled as 12.7mm! I presume the label must be a max height. Not really a problem, but of course a nuisance.

Needless to say, the screw holes on my Toshiba were in the wrong place. And I couldn't drill fresh ones in the frame, because Compaq, bless their little pointed heads, ensure that the frame doesn't exist in the areas where the holes would need to be. If anyone knows how to get a frame that would fit, please contact me. So I what I did, was to use the electrical tape, and tape the drive to the floor, then mount the frame over it, to restrain movement, and then put in the single screw and tape the frame to the case. Then I turned it all upside down, and it all seemed solid, so it will do for now - my laptop doesn't get bounced about a lot. Next time I would probably buy from the US, from one of the sites that advertise drives specifically for this laptop. The screw holes are it.

Once I had the thing in, I had to do a software setup, which in brief is as follows:

I found my new drive was both quieter and faster than the old, and Windows 95 loaded appreciably faster.

Conclusions

Having done all of this, and found it no harder than a desktop, I don't feel inclined to pay a repair shop large sums for these items.  However the battery change was not effective - it soon failed again, which means it probably fell out when I moved it around.   Only OK if you don't want to move the laptop.  A better solution would be good.

When I buy my next laptop, in 18 months time, it will not be a Compaq. Whatever I buy, I intend to find out what the post-warranty arrangements are, and how much they cost. I don't really need the hassle of worrying about upgrading the battery! And I'll look around the 'net to see what sort of pages there are on upgrades!

Last updated 22nd January 1999.  Minor changes 17th November 1999.


Gordon Shumway sent me the following further thoughts:

I read your Compaq Armada upgrade page, and using that as a foundation was able to get a tech to to the job for a lot less $$$ than Compaq wanted.

Some notes I made:

- on my unit the 2 upper rear screws had to be removed to gain access. Perhaps that was a design change.

- the battery holder....the correct way to remove the battery is to prise UP from underneath at the open end, then out once that end is free. Sort of like parallel parking. And the battery goes in in the reverse manner.

- comment on not touching the battery with bare hands didn't make any sense..after all it is just a $2 hearing aid type battery.

Other than that, thanks for posting the information. I wholeheartedly agree with you about Compaq...and I live in Houston!

Thanks for that feedback, Gordon.

Updated 31st May 2002.


Leigh Walker commented:

My reason for the email is to follow up on Gordon Shumway's comments on the handling of Lithium batteries, which you may want to include on your page.

As Gordon states it is only a battery and will not come to harm, or harm anyone if handled. BUT they do not like moisture, as found in a finger print. This reduces the life expectancy considerably. The old battery is being replaced, as it has no further use so will not suffer from finger prints. However, the new battery should be wiped, (carefully), with a soft cotton cloth, (glasses cleaning cloth is ideal), immediately prior to installation, to ensure that there is no print traces, either yours, or the packers. The battery should then be handled with this cloth for the installation, as fiddly as it will be, and very frustrating, but with care and attention it can be done. 

Battery life will be as good as can be expected, the general life can be 2/3 years, sometimes longer. Whereas with finger prints etc. it could be reduced to as little as 6 months.

This information applies to ALL Lithium† batteries, hearing aids, watches, laptops, and desktops, and any other device that has these batteries in them.

Thanks for that extra info, Leigh.

22nd June 2002.

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