NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Upgrade an Acer C110 series TabletPC

July 2007

I have an Acer Travelmate C111Tci-G tablet and, despite a few quirks, really love it, but at three years old, it was getting to be a bit slow and painful to use. Plus I keep lots of high quality scans of Medieval manuscripts, keep video for my teaching on the computer, etc., so the 60GB HD (biggest I could find in a laptop in 2004) was constantly full. Even with a 320GB external for seldom used files and backup, I wanted more storage on the laptop. So, here's a couple of upgrades I did which might help others. Everything here should work also on any C110 or TC110 series tablet. Some of it will also work on an Acer Travelmate C100 series, but I know from other websites that the memory upgrade will not.

Replace the battery on a C110 Series???

Lets face it, you're not getting the same life as three years ago. Major problem replacing...

Anyone know of a site to get good batteries for this tablet? I've purchased two replacements, both seemingly from the same (non-Acer) manufacturer (Chinese). One didn't fit well and charged only to 50% (purchased from laptoppower on eBay); the other fit okay and charged to 100% but quickly lost charge life. One month later it only charges to 38% (purchased from Etech4sale.com). Ideas appreciated. Will be back to the old battery soon.

As I've since found out, laptop batteries start dying the moment they're manufactured, whether in use or not. So most batteries will have the same issues as above. Only for a major brand with a major laptop (e.g., MacBook? ) would it make sense to keep manufacturing batteries after the laptop is no longer made (and even then, not making new batteries may be a good incentive to upgrade), so a great solution for Acer owners may not exist.

On a happier note, my second replacement battery (the one that actually fit) is working much better now: I've found that it has about 70% of a battery charge (not good, but much better than what I was getting before), however, it's often charging not from 0 to 70% but from, say, -30 to 40%. So that all the system software to shut down at 5% or what not was actually depriving of 35% of the battery life. And, what's nice is that after running the battery to absolute zero, the scale resets itself again (to 70%). One drawback: the laptop tries to charge constantly (since it's not near 100%).

Upgrade memory from 512MB to 2GB

This change had the biggest impact on my system. The best surprise: user switching now is back to the 1-2 seconds it was when the laptop arrived (before security updates, Anti-virus, helper apps, etc.). adding 1 GB (total 1.25 GB) should be a nobrainer for anyone with one of these. The 2nd GB is a nice touch but probably isn't helping that much. You can go to pricewatch or anywhere to buy the RAM -- It's not Acer specific (unlike my last beloved laptop, Sony N505). Buy you need these specifications: 200-Pin DDR. Not DDR-2. It's also called SO-DIMM, DDR 333 (PC 2700). It's less common than the newer, better DDR-2 Memory, so you'll pay twice as much! At Newegg.com the RAM was $80 each GB. They had two brands for sale--one had semi-good reviews, the other, "Crucial" had near perfect reviews.

To upgrade one DIMM, you take off the two screws on the cover which bulges out slightly on the bottom of the computer. The second DIMM slot is hidden under the keyboard. Five screws at the bottom are needed to take out to let you fold back the keyboard. Underneth you'll find a metal cover on the right side of the keyboard, held on by one screw. Take off that cover and the second DIMM is under there. Release either DIMM by squeezing in both metal "pins" on the side of the DIMM and pulling up slightly. Putting in the replacement is a snap.

My system just recognized the new DIMMS instantly

Tobias Senzig reports that the slots are slightly different sizes as some DIMMs expect; so if your new memory doesn't fit in one place try the other. I didn't have this problem, but good to know.

Upgrade HD

First read http://www.tabletpctalk.com/faqs/acerhdupgrade.shtml which says everything you'll want to know about how to physically replace the drive.

Now some things that page doesn't cover, mostly because they weren't relevant in 2003:

  • Yes, your Acer does support 48-bit lba internally -- or at least it seems to -- I haven't yet filled up the HD to test (yes, now the drive is full and it works). In simple language: lots of computers in the past couldn't use HDs over 128 actual GBs (=137GB as HD makers advertise them). So would my new 160GB Samsung work? Seems to say yes. I upgraded the 60GB Travelstar 4200RPM for a Samsung Spinpoint M Series HM160JC ATA-6 5400RPM drive ($99.99 at Newegg; 1 day delivery free) and it works great. The HD is the quietest thing I've ever (not) heard. And it runs a bit faster thanks to a bigger cache and 5400RPM speed. Other 160GB ATA drives were getting trashed in the Newegg reviews. Only the Samsung had high reviews. Note: you can't buy a SATA drive for the Acer C110, so at present 160GB is the biggest out there for internal use.
  • I could sync Windows XP onto the new drive without going through a huge procedure, using a desktop computer, etc. I had an old USB 2.0 2.5" USB case lying around, so I put the new drive in it and it was recognized immediately in windows (unformated though)
     
  • I had Partition Magic (or PartitionMagic if you prefer) 8.1 which I bought when I bought my Acer in order to get a big Data partition and small system. Here's a trick I couldn't find anywhere on the web: with the Copy Partitions function of Partition Magic, it can do exactly what Norton Ghost is designed to do, only (at least compared to Ghost 2002) much much much better! It must be because PM was designed by a different company than Ghost and only later brought into the Norton fold that they have two products doing the same thing. So I scheduled each partition to be copied to the new drive and enlarged (to 35GB system and 110GB data); ignored the warning that the new drive might not be bootable (true, in Dos 6.22!); rebooted; played Mozart and read Tony Doerr's new book for about two hours (the old drive was full), and Ta-da, PM had finished and rebooted. If you reboot again you'll now have the option of booting from either drive--except that if you try booting from the new drive you'll get a Stop blue screen of death. Don't panic. just turn off the machine, swap out the drive (as the other website shows), and turn back on.
     
  • You'll note that the first thing that happens after swaping is that partition magic reports that it's just finished--seems the old drive now thinks that it's the source drive for PM. hehe, silly, but fun. Now when you boot up, things might be extremely slow, explorer won't start, things look seriously wrong. Don't panic--the machine might take two to five minutes to find the new hardware and then ask you to reboot. After doing so, everything should be fine.

Get 54Mbs WiFi from the Acer

From Tobias Senzig again (his last name @ gmx.net): Many c110 come with a "intel 2100 3b" wireless adapter. Most of them are rather buggy, all of them only make 11 Mbps (MSC: I can confirm that I've never gotten above 11Mbps despite what the connection speed says). Try to replace them with an 2200 (802.11b & g - this one is used on some 1ghz c110s) or the even better 2915 (802.11a, b & g) chip; both have true speeds up to 54 mbps. You can get both adapters for less than 15 bucks at eBay.

(not) Fix a broken touchpad button

My left mouse button broke somewhat, so that only the right side of the button works. I had to tread extremely gingerly with it. Then I bought a new touchpad cover from Notebook Solutions Inc (NotebookSolutions.ca) -- expensive! $60 with S/H, but now I see how the whole cheap cover works and breaks. And I see from their "Installation Guide" (the Acer Service manual--available free with any purchase) that to replace the touchpad requires a major disassembly, removing the monitor, extracting the motherboard, etc. So with the peace of mind that comes with knowing I have a replacement part sitting at home, I've not fixed the button, but I'm much less ginger with it now.

Though with double-tap drag, I think I'll probably not get around to fixing the touchpad.

I've also fixed stuck keys with a lot of poking and proding with a paperclip, but I'm not sure what I'm doing exactly. :)

Finally, two things that really aren't Acer specific, but are making me really happy...

Buy a big external monitor

I bought a Dell 1907FP 1280x1024 (do the 1440x960 work with the Acer? Haven't been able to test) and keep it Pivoted at all times. With the "Select Scheme" option and UltraMon it's absolutely wonderful for writing. Use with MS Word in Full Screen mode (you've memorized all the keyboard shortcuts, right?) and keep work on one screen and play on the other. Also doubles as a nice USB hub for the external hard drive, MIDI<->USB connector, external mouse, and HP Officejet 5510 (inkjets are only expensive if you don't do 95% of your printing at work).

Upgrade Acrobat 5 to Acrobat 8 Professional

So far, all the bugs that tormented me are gone. Almost didn't choose professional, because I don't collaborate, have meetings, create forms, etc. What they don't say is that you need professional to run Batch operations, and these include, finally, Batch OCR. I have about 70,000 pages of scanned documents which need the OCR treatment eventually. You can do a whole folder--but unfortunately, my docs aren't separated by language, so I just open about 1500 pages worth of files in the same language and run Batch OCR all Open Documents in the chosen language every night. Also new in recent Acrobat: your system is still usable while it's OCRing.

Michael Cuthbert
cuthbert at nber dot org

 
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