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Full restoration of an IBM “Butterfly” ThinkPad 701c

Full restoration of an IBM “Butterfly” ThinkPad 701c

2024-01-25 05:21:06

Simply over a yr in the past there was a discussion on Hacker Information in regards to the IBM ThinkPad 701c (the one with the beautiful folding “butterfly” keyboard). Particularly, it was a dialogue in regards to the unimaginable site which supplies very, very detailed directions on how you can dismantle, restore and protect these pretty machines.

Within the dialogue a chap said: “I’ve two in non-working situation, fairly beat up. If I could make somebody actually completely happy and so they need to restore them, be happy to ship me an e-mail. I wished to do it myself for the final 10 years it so however realistically know I gained’t. I’m based mostly in NL.” And I figured, he is not too removed from me, perhaps I might get them and create one restored machine from them.

A yr later my absolutely restored (and reminiscence upgraded!) IBM ThinkPad 701c is completed. Right here it’s:

It was an extended journey to get right here. I’ve written earlier than in regards to the painstaking operation to restore a broken ribbon cable for the pointer. 

This weblog publish is a deeper dive into going from these two machines (see under for consultant photos of the mess they have been in) to the image above. Every little thing I find out about restoring this machine got here from the web site and a few emails with its creator. With out him this could not have occurred. Thanks!

As you possibly can see every part is a multitude. The batteries have leaked and broken the circumstances, screws are lacking, components are warped, covers are lacking, the rubberized paint has develop into a sticky mess. However a minimum of one of many keyboards appears to be OK (however see above in regards to the ribbon cable!).

One of many machines would truly energy on with nothing on the show. The opposite was completely lifeless. Time to dismantle the 2 and see what’s salvageable.


The website and the IBM guide and video it hyperlinks to have detailed directions on how you can take these machines aside. As I took them aside case items that had been soaked in battery goo simply broke away in my palms. So taking them aside was a sluggish and delicate operation. Listed below are some inside photos throughout that course of.

One of many machines was an IBM ThinkPad 701cs (which has a much less succesful display than the 701c). As well as, the display body simply cracked aside as I used to be eradicating it. Nevertheless it did have a working modem:

Each machines had in depth injury from the batteries having leaked:

The state of the batteries as soon as I had managed to take away them from the circumstances:

This battery goo had broken one backside case to the purpose that it was crumbling in my palms. Fortunately, the opposite case had survived:

Between the 2 machines I had sufficient items to make a single machine. The most important case components have been there (they “simply” wanted stripping and repainting) and I had an entire set of screws as properly. The screws matter as a result of a few of them are T1 torx screws (not one thing you need to mislay). 

Earlier than making an attempt to see if I might get the machine besides into something I first wanted to wash up the battery mess.

Cleansing up battery leakage

As you possibly can see above the batteries had leaked contained in the laptops and made a multitude. Through a really sluggish strategy of utilizing 90% isopropyl alcohol (IPA) and a pointy device and a toothbrush all that materials was eliminated and with a multimeter I used to be in a position to confirm that each one the connections have been good and there have been no shorts.

In the long run the terminals ended up trying one thing like this:

You possibly can see how the metallic has been broken however fortunately the connectors are nonetheless intact. I additionally washed all of the circuit boards with 90% IPA and changed the outdated Kapton tape. Since I used to be going to finish up constructing a frankenmachine I caught colored stickers on components. All through the photographs you may see little pink and inexperienced stickers indicating which unique machine the components got here from.

Why no display?

One query that received instantly answered on dismantling the machines was “Why does one machine energy on however have a clean display?”. Reply: as a result of somebody has fully eliminated the display connector. I believe one machine might need been used as a supply of components in some unspecified time in the future.

Fortunately the opposite machine had a cable and so I used to be in a position to take a number of components from totally different computer systems and create one thing that begins.

Discovering a mixture of components that work

On first boot the frankenmachine complained about three issues: reminiscence, date and time and CMOS.

All of these issues are literally signs of the identical factor: the CMOS battery is lifeless and has misplaced settings and the machine has misplaced its manner. Nevertheless it’s a easy repair! Hitting ESC allowed me to run diagnostics on the machine:

It had lots to complain about however was bootable and even managed to get into Home windows 95 (for some time). It could subsequently crash as a result of there was an issue with the machine not figuring out how a lot RAM it had (8MB!).

Fixing the CMOS battery

To stabilize the machine it was important to switch the CMOS battery. It is fairly easy repair (see the web page for details).

Outdated battery earlier than elimination:

New battery put in:

(It was additionally round this time that I did the fragile ribbon cable restore for the keyboard) With the brand new CMOS battery in place the machine was not complaining about CMOS troubles.

And a run by means of the configuration utility and the machine was 100% steady and usable. Which introduced me on to essentially the most painful a part of the operation: stripping the paint off the case. At was at this level that I started to query ever having began this challenge.

A complete ache: stripping and repainting

As soon as once more the website will actually take you through the process, nevertheless it’s numerous work. I could not get the identical stripper and paint as I am in Europe so I ended up utilizing Tamiya TS-6 Matt Black Spray Matt and Tamiya TS-80 Flat Clear Spray Matt for the case. I stripped it utilizing BRUTUS graffiti and paint remover.

I extremely advocate having a pack of various grades of sandpaper and plastic razor blades.

Rubberized paint effervescent from the graffiti remover.

Scraping off rubberized and dissolved paint utilizing a plastic razor blade.

Time for sanding after scraping and graffiti remover appears to have accomplished its job.

Masking earlier than spraying.

See Also

Mid-spraying. I placed on three coats of the black paint.

Left to dry for a minimum of 48 hours.

As soon as painted and dried the case wanted the decals re-applied. However alongside the best way there have been little touchups like re-chroming and recolouring the IBM emblem for the lid.

And repairing the quilt for the reminiscence slot by gluing in place somewhat piece of plastic to switch the damaged latch. And so forth and so forth.


I purchased a pack of decals from and there make an enormous distinction. You simply have to use them very rigorously. If you happen to’re sufficiently old to have used Letraset you may be wonderful right here. However work slowly and punctiliously.

Ultimate reassembly

On each machines the metallic that connects the keyboard to the underside case had damaged off. As soon as the battery leaks and swells it applies stress to this joint and destroys it. Right here I glued it again into place with epoxy and punctiliously melted what little plastic dots I might to carry it into place.

The display could be reassembled as a single unit.

You may discover right here a PCMCIA Ethernet adapter in place. I purchased from eBay an entire set of equipment: docking station, cables, floppy disk drive and this PCMCIA card.

There are a complete load of small however vital issues that must be accomplished in re-assembly: glue the speaker again in place, reinsert the battery lock and its tiny spring, insert the spring and canopy for the ability button, do not break something. However you possibly can observe the disassembly directions in reverse.

A remaining boot check earlier than remaining reassembly. Simply complaining in regards to the lack of keyboard.

As soon as absolutely reassembled I had a completely working Home windows 95 machine. 

However who can resist an improve?

A reminiscence improve

The machine got here with 8MB of RAM however is upgradable to 40MB. Fortunately, it is attainable to purchase the wanted 32MB SODIMM on eBay. Only a easy matter of slipping it into the slot on the motherboard that is accessible from the again.

The SODIMM in place.

Sure, 40MB!

What’s subsequent?

Properly, I have never changed the sleep battery (apparently, there’s an organization in Hungary that makes a alternative however they will not ship outsider Hungary). And I can stay with out the sleep reminiscence mode and I truly disabled hibernate within the BIOS.
And I have never changed the main battery. I’ve all of the components however want entry to a big 3D printer to print the case. Someday.
And the machine would not have entry to the Web with this model of Home windows 95. It has a useful file referred to as Web.Txt that tells you what the Internet is! Nevertheless it does have a modem and PCMCIA Ethernet so needs to be doable.

However, I am prepared. 

So with this machine I am prepared.

So prepared for 1995.

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