Thursday, February 14, 2013

"LSDS - Laptop Sudden Death Syndrome"

The first time it happened, I just assumed something... *something* had gone catastrophically wrong with the machine.  One day the laptop computer was running normally, and then - after sleeping in the closet for a couple of months - it was completely dead.  Not even the power indicator light would come on.  Initially, I assumed the power supply had burned out, but a multimeter indicated it was working... still, I bought a new/used power supply just in case, and... no go.

Then the same thing happened with a second machine, and the common denominator to both machines was that they had sat in a closet unused for at least two months.  (Quick note about these machines.  With very old laptop computers, I use them as off-line word processors, which is why they tend not to be in constant use.)  I wondered if there was something about the battery going completely dead that was a factor, but that didn't really make sense.  The BIOS was held by the small on-board battery....

Ah!  The small on-board battery!  That seemed to make sense.  The laptops were around ten years old, so that on-board battery could very well be completely dead.  No BIOS, no computer, right?  After laptops number three and four experienced LSDS (Laptop Sudden Death Syndrome), I thought I'd try to confirm my suspicion that the on-board battery going dead was killing the BIOS and thus the whole computer.  (All of these machines I bought used, by the way, so they were old machines from the beginning from my standpoint.)

I ran that hypothesis by some computer friends (on-line) and the ones who responded said losing that battery shouldn't kill the BIOS - that I would just lose the time with the internal clock.  I was skeptical, because I couldn't think of anything else....  Wait.  While typing this, it suddenly occurs to me that this could be a delayed Y2K bug effect?  Is that possible?

Well, in any case, it happened again today!  And this time, it was a machine that I was using fairly regularly (once or twice a week, although it sat for a couple of weeks between when I last used it (with no problems) and today, when it became the latest in a string of different laptops from different manufactures to have LSDS.  I plugged it in, and... no power light.  I trusted the machine enough to first suspect the outlet at my desk had been disconnected, so I carried the laptop over to a wall outlet that was obviously live (running machines plugged into it) and tried again.  Nothing.  No power light indication and no response from the power switch.

And that's about it.  As for the machines, the first one I remember that happening to was a Dell laptop.  Then a second Dell laptop (one with a 486 processor and one with a P-I), then a couple of Toshiba machines (both with 486 processors), and now a Panasonic (P-I) machine that I rather liked (nice clear display, which was not to be taken for granted with that generation of laptop; and with a trackball instead of those horrible touch pads).

The next question in my mind is whether this is some kind of unavoidable thing that happens to all laptops?  Are they manufactured with timers in them that make the machine self-destruct after ten years or so?  The Panasonic was about 15 years old, so it lasted a good long while I suppose, but considering the light usage it experienced over the past ten years, I would have thought it would keep working for a longer period of time.  Or is this something peculiar to the early generation of laptops?

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

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