PEI Laptop Project Page - Rebuilding laptops for needy local children!

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Dave Hunter -

Laptops for Kids!

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Several months ago I embarked on a project to find and repair laptop computers to be given to children on P.E.I. whose parents couldn't possibly afford to buy them a computer. While I can't even reasonably expect I will be able to make a difference in the lives of all deserving children, I can make a difference to the lives of some, one child at a time. I am not currently looking for a list of children - for the time being, I have a far longer list than I can supply. When I near the end of this list, I will place a notice here on the page to create a new list. Children with special needs will be given priority.

The inspiration for this project was my own experience with my son, Jeffery, building him his first computer when he was seven, and seeing how that simple act fostered his lifelong interest in computers. Throughout school (from elementary onward), he was the child the teachers would call upon whenever they had a computer problem. The teachers were great with him, realizing his knowledge far surpassed their own, and allowed him to embark upon his own projects.

By age 9, he had set up several servers in our home. When he graduated, he was hired by a community access program, and in his first hour there, solved a printer network problem which had frustrated their technicians for two months. Now, he works as the Network Controller for one of the largest high speed access providers on the Island, and is involved in the setup of fiber optic and RF installations across the Island.

I was hoping I could pass along this head start to other children - especially those whose parents cannot afford computers for them. Laptops are the most suitable machines, as they are truly portable, and can be used by the child at any location. As schools nowadays are requiring computers for some programs, this can be an incredible help to the parents and to the children.

So, I started off slowly finding used laptop computers, repairing them, adding memory and network cards to them, and giving them to children. In the past few months, I have been able to surprise twenty four children with machines through this program, and have several more awaiting hard drives and other parts. It is my sincere hope that through this program, we will be able to help many more families..

Each machine is outfitted with freeware antivirus and adware protection programs, and with Open Office, Adobe PDF Reader, as well as a PDF copy of the computer manual from the computer manufacturer's site when available. I have in most cases so far installed wireless or wired network cards on the machines to simplify internet hookup. On those without internal wireless support, an external PCMCIA card has been installed. In one very special case, a donated machine was also loaded with special accessibility software for a child with extremely limited vision. I try in most cases to maintain the original operating system, but clean each machine thoroughly of old data and files. It would be far easier simply to format the disk and reload Windows, but as I don't have a volume licensed copy, I have to use the original system wherever possible. This can be the most time consuming of all the processes in preparing a machine for a child as it must be done thoroughly not only to protect the children, but to remove old confidential information from the drives to protect the donor. If the machine came with its original restore disks, I get lucky - the hard disk is reformatted and a restore of system and original software is done using the manufacturer's restore disk.

There is no shortage of children in need of a machine. I am limited only by the availability of candidate machines, time, and parts available for the project.

To that end, I am always looking for used laptops, working or not, and am always looking for parts donor computers (i.e. got one with a broken case or screen?), and laptop parts such as memory and smaller laptop hard drives (upgraded your machine with a larger hard drive or more memory?), network cards, wireless cards, power supplies, CD or DVD Rom drives, laptop cases, manuals, installation and recovery disks, etc. Just about any part for a laptop could be a great help rebuilding a machine for a child. Memory and hard drives are number one on the priority list.

What's in it for me? Nothing! These machines are NEVER sold - they are presented free of charge and without any obligation to children on my growing list. In have come to a decision that where wireless network cards are needed, or where USB mice are wanted, or other "extras", I will charge for these items, but only at actual cost. The actual laptops are always free. Batteries are left up to the new owner - the computers will run perfectly when plugged in, and batteries may be added at any time. These "extras" were costing me a fortune, and I would rather put that money towards needed repairs and memory upgrades, so that I can help more families. This is not a business, but a hobby, and will always run at a net loss, but the good it will do will be immeasurable. What I do get from of it is seeing the smiles on those children's faces when they get what they thought impossible.

I guess I am getting foolish in my old age, getting such a kick out of doing this, but I truly feel it is an investment in the future of these kids.

Alas, doing this has presented a strain on my already limited budget, despite some very kind donations to the project, which have helped make several children and their parents very happy - there are always items I will have to purchase to keep this project going. However, I believe in the project - I just wish I could find enough machines and parts to make a real difference.

So, if you have any older laptop parts, memory or hard drives as detailed above and are looking for a place where they can do some good, please contact me at:

Your discards can not only be instrumental in changing the direction of a child's life, but can also help reduce the footprint made by disposal of household electonics upon our environment by keeping your discards in use..


The IBM Thinkpad 390x I have been refurbishing has been completed, hard drive installed, and memory boosted to 256 megabytes. I have placed notes on the repair of this machine on the server: 390x.txt.

This computer was bought at a moving sale for $20 with no hard drive in it (and of course it had lost its operating system), only minimal memory, and no Wireless connectivity. It now has all of the above and more. It will be going to a child soon.

A second machine in progress is a Compaq Presario 1255, shown left. It has a bad system memory chip on the board which will require changing if it is upgraded beyond Windows 98. Alas, this bad memory prevents the correct running of later Windows version upgrade disks. It is however, compatible with wired LAN connections, using its original Windows 98 operating system, and a USB lan adapter I have here.

This is a Dell Inspiron 8000 (shown playing a DVD) received July 24th from Virginia Iannini. This computer had an intermittent display problem, according to Virginia. The problem could have been the high voltage inverter board, loose connections, or the LCD backlight, but there is none of the typical pinkish cast given off by a gassy backlight. I have removed and re-plugged the connections to the display and inverter. Since then, I have been unable to make it fail.

This machine will also need an additional 128 or 256 meg of Ram in order to run Windows XP efficiently. I have wiped all personal data and bookmarks, etc. off the drive, and removed less useful programs, and loaded AVG Free 8.0 and Adaware 2008, and the system registry has been scanned with RegSupreme, removing old entries.

This machine has been going nearly two months now without a glitch, so it has now been given to a child.

This is the second or two IBM Thinkpad 390x's. It differs from the other in that it is faster, a Pentium vs. Celeron, and has a larger display. It was received July 28th from Computers for Kids, UAW, Local 200.

Memory has been added, and the operating system has been updated to Windows XP. A Linksys PCMCIA wireless card has also been added. I have decided to give this machine to the young fellow who was to receive the first 390x, due to its faster speed and larger screen. This went to its new owner July 31, 1008, and is being enjoyed immensely.

July 19 2008: Several parts machines have been offered to the project, most with no memory or hard drive. A number of stripped down Toshiba machines, none with memory of hard drive, and several with bad LCD screens were donated by Ernie Gallant and picked up July 18. These will be a good source of parts for similar machines. A parts Toshiba Satellite m70 machine with a bad motherboard and no hard drive has been received from Bill MacDonald, and a Dell Inspiron 8000 and wireless card (see notes above) has been received from Virginia Iannini. This machine has a bad LCD screen, and I will have to repair that. This machine is complete with hard drive and memory. Thanks to one and all of you for your assistance. Still needed: Memory, hard drives, parts machines, cd ROM's, DVD Rom's, power supplies, wireless cards, screens, motherboards, etc. of all laptop brands to be used to repair laptops for the project.

July 23 2008: Two happenings in the past couple of days. The Inspiron 8000 was received from Virginia Iannini. I now have to determine whether the cause of the display problem is the backlight or the HV inverter which powers it, or simply bad connections. So far, after redoing the monitor and inverter's connections, I have been unable to duplicate the problem (see notes above).

July 27, 2008 - About a week ago, I received an email from the seller of the second IBM 390x which I had purchased, telling me he is part of an organization which rebuilds and donates computers to children in another province, "Canadian Auto Workers, Local 200 Computers For Kids". He has offered to send the computer, along with some extra laptop hard drives and memory, and to charge only the shipping which he will take from payment I made for the computer, and refund the difference. This will allow me to give away not only the 390x, but also the parts should help provide several more working machines. This was a very unexpected offer, and one which will help our budding program out very much. These have been shipped and are on the way here. Thank you Robert Gibson, Jay McManus, and "CAW Local 200 Computers For Kids"!

July 29, 2008 - The 390x has been received from Computers for Kids in Ontario, and has been prepared for its new owner. With it, was sent 4 hard drives, and a considerable amount of memory, mostly small modules: 32 and 64 meg on each chip, which will help considerably in repairing other machines. This computer went to its new owner on the 31st.

Aug 11, 2008 - I had two more machines ready for adoption at the end of last week, the first mentioned IBM 390x shown in the top photo, and a Dell Latitude CPi. Both went to their recipients last Friday. I hope they will enjoy them as much as the other children did. A number of 54Mbps IEEE 802.11g PCMCIA wireless cards, and USB optical scroll wheel mice have been ordered at a very good price on eBay to go with these computers. These mice are ideal for computers with no touch pad and only a pencil eraser mouse. I hope to be able to maintain a stock of them, ready for use when needed. A post code reader has also been purchased to assist in troubleshooting dead laptop motherboards. This reader will read the codes sent out during the computer post and can be used to diagnose which part of the motherboard isn't working. With its assistance, I should be able to diagnose problems in machines which fail their power on self test.

Aug 19, 2008 - An HP Pavilion N3310 laptop was received yesterday from Ansley Star. It was repaired, by replacing its hard drive. However, the machine was damaged in shipping, with the result I need to find a new lid and screen bezel for the computer. Fortunately, the LCD and the high voltage inverter were undamaged. Once the lid can be replaced, this is a great working machine. However, as it is currently, I cannot give it away until the lid can be replaced. A search is on looking for needed parts.

August 20th, 2008 - A Toshiba 3005-S303 laptop (above) was received from Ken MacCallum. It is in excellent condition. It had been booting to the "Blue Screen of Death", so called by frustrated windows users familiar with this problem. This was a software issue, and is now corrected. I am in the process now of removing programs and personalized files, and uninstalling/installing software. This one will require more memory than the 128 MB currently installed and suitable memory chips have been ordered on eBay. Once the memory I have ordered for it arrives, it too will be ready for adoption, and I have a child picked out to receive it.

A parts donor machine for the Pavillion mentioned above was found on eBay for a very good price and should furnish the needed lid and other parts. Thanks, Ken and Ansley!.

August 30th 2008 - Two machines (above) were finished up this weekend. They are a Compaq Presario 1235 donated by Dorothy Farish and a Compaq Presario 1255 received some time back from Miriam MacDonald. Both machines required chiefly a reload from their manufacturer's restore disks and memory upgrading to their maximum. These were older models designed for Windows 98 and Windows 98 SE, and only have the capacity to take enough RAM for Windows 98. With Windows 98 loaded, they are very fast and reliable. They are almost identical machines, and the same software are loaded on each. Both have wired (as opposed to wireless) networking. Both the machines were in the hands of their recipients Friday!

Sep 04 2008 - Another machine was received from Ken MacCallum. This was a Toshiba Satellite Pro 4340 originally running Windows 98. I have boosted the memory of this machine to 198 meg, so it is capable of running XP, and it was upgraded today! It was given to a child Saturday.

An additional three wireless cards (additional to the six I have already received) have been ordered from China, as I find these cards quite reliable, and my shipment of USB optical scroll mice arrived this morning. The Toshiba 3005-S303 (photo above) also received from Ken has memory that I had ordered for it from eBay added. This machine was taken in with me when I went to work, and given to a child on Friday morning.

Sep 05 2008 - The parts machine for the HP Pavilion N3310 laptop arrived this morning, and I successfully transplanted its lid plastics onto the machine received from Ansley Star. Although the parts machine now has the broken plastics, no memory cover and no hard drive or caddy, it appears to have a good motherboard and lower plastics which may be useful in the future for repairing another machine. The N3310 will be given to its recipient Tuesday.

Sep 06 2008 - A Dell CPi and a IBM Thinkpad I - Series 1300 1171 were prepared for adoption today. These should be given to children next week.

Sep 17 2008 - A desktop eMachines computer donated a few weeks ago to the project by Joyce Craven has found a new owner. This computer is going to the family of an autistic child. First reports show that he is enjoying it very much, and his parents feel it will help him with his disability, and even if not, he will enjoy it immensely. Though I don't normally take desktop computers (due to the amount of space taken up by them), this was a beautiful computer, and I am sure the young fellow who received it will continue to enjoy it! I have added an additional 256 meg of RAM to it thanks to a recent donation of desktop RAM from Dan MacInnis. Thank you Joyce, and Dan!

This is the last of the current crop of computers, but hopefully I will find more soon to be repaired and given away! To that end, I am always looking for used laptops, working or not, and am always looking for parts donor computers (i.e. got one with a broken case or screen?), and laptop parts such as memory and smaller laptop hard drives (upgraded your machine with a larger hard drive or more memory?), network cards, wireless cards, power supplies, CD or DVD Rom drives, laptop cases, manuals, installation and recovery disks, etc. Just about any part for a laptop could be a great help rebuilding a machine for a child!

Oct 07 2008 - A number of new computers have been promised to the project, and one has arrived from Joann Czarny an Inspiron 7500. I am not sure the donor of the others wishes to be named, but I have a promise of 6 Compaq Armada 1700 laptops from the Summerside area, which I hope to pick up later this week. I also have a parts Thinkpad 9548-40U coming from Dan MacInnis in Ontario. I will have to wait till it arrives to see if it will be a candidate for repair.

Oct 13 2008 - The laptops were picked up Friday. Of the 6, two were operating perfectly, and the other four suffered from some degree of problem. Scrapping the poorest for parts to repair the others, I now have 5 machines (above) running well. I have experimented with one, reloading Windows on it, and it works well, but all will need a minimum of a 64k - better, 128k memory chip added. Over the next little while, I will reload their operating systems, and once I find memory chips for them, I will "put them up for adoption" by children. The lack of memory for them will be the greatest hold-up.

Oct 18 2008 - Two laptops are being given away to two children today, one a Dell Inspiron 7500 donated by Joann Czarny to the project a couple of weeks ago went to a 15 year old boy with aspirations of going to college in a couple of years and studying computer science, and the other, one of the Armada 1700 laptops above to a 15 year old girl. Neither had a computer currently - the boy had had one, but it burned up (melted, with nothing salvageable) several years ago, and there was no money to replace it. Wireless cards have been installed on both.

Oct 25, 2008 - A laptop, an IBM Thinkpad I series went to a boy with autism Saturday afternoon. I hope that he will enjoy it, and his parents will find it will help him.

Nov 07, 2008 - I am at a standstill awaiting memory for the machines shown in the photo above. However, a gentleman has donated three PC100 128 megabyte memory chips, threePC133 128 megabyte chips, and two PC2100 128 megabyte memory chips. Hopefully some of these will turn out to be compatible with the Armada 1700's, and I will be able to get them out to children. Alas, until they arrive, I won't be able to check them for compatibility. I have children lined up to receive these laptops once I have suffucient memory for them.

Nov 16, 2008 - The remaining four Armada 1700's went to children this week, three with added 128 mb. of ram, and one with 64 mb added, after the above-mentioned memory arrived. Two pieces of PC2700 512 megabyte memory and a few miscellaneous parts were also received Friday thanks to a reader in Summerside - this will be used in another machine.

Dec 02, 2008 - Two sticks of 512mb 2Rx16 PC-2-4200S ram have been received from Anne Ungar and a stick of PC133 256 mb from another source. These will be used on future machines.

Dec 18, 2008 - I took an older laptop in to a young fellow who has been on my list for quite a while this morning. This boy has multiple disabilities and is in a wheelchair. despite this, he is a very bright child. I am hoping to find a better machine for him, but this older one should tide him over until I can find a more suitable machine. Ideally, to run software which may help with his disabilities, he needs at the very least a 1000 mhz or faster machine which will run XP, and have the capability of being expanded to at least 512 megs of RAM (or more), generally one 6-8 years old or newer. One of this child's joys is the use computers at school - until today, he had none at home. I am hoping if I can find him a faster machine than the slow decade old Dell CPi I loaned him this morning, that it will not only help educate him, but also help him improve his hand-eye coordination and help with several of his other disabilities. It is these deserving children I enjoy helping the most. I now have another machine for him, and he will have it shortly.

Update Jan 14, 2009 - Two machines, a Compaq Presario V5101 XP and an HP Pavillion DV6000 Vista Dual Core computer have been received from Denise Reynolds in Telford, PA. These are wonderful machines, the HP only a couple of years old, and the Compaq only three or four years old. Both have their problems, the HP has a broken screen, and the Compaq, a bad power connector. Both have built in wireless, DVDRW and large drives and ample memory. I have had the HP booted up using an external monitor. I have ordered a new power connector for the Compaq and a new LCD screen for the HP from Screen Country. These will be perfect machines for these children. I will finally be able to give these kids machines which will help them with their disabilities, and to build upon their abilities. Thank you, Denise for your very kind donation. I would also like to thank her employer, who paid the shipping for the two machines. There is also a probability I will soon have two more machines capable of running Windows 2000 at least, but they are certainly lesser machines than the two above, but ones other children will love.

Update Jan 18, 2009 - Another machine, an older Toshiba Satellite 4020CDT PII machine was brought down by Mary Jane Hackett from Tignish. I have upgraded its memory, and resolved a few minor problems needing only parts I had here, and it will be ready for a child soon.

Update Feb 12, 2009 - The Presario V5101 and Pavillion DV6000 mentioned above have been repaired, and the Pavillion has gone to the child I intended it for on the 3rd. He was thrilled, as were his parents. The Presario went Wednesday morning to a wheelchair-bound child who's liver is failing, and who is going this weekend with his parents to Toronto for an operation to install a shunt. Obviously, I just got it ready in time. Needless to say, they were also thrilled. Both were wonderful machines - perhaps the best our program has seen, and though both needed major work, they are both essentially new machines. Thank you, Denise! It took some time for the screen for the HP and the power connector for the Presario to arrive, but with them, they are perfect machines! Both children who are receiving them have major disabilities, and it is a pleasure to see them going where they will do the most good.

Update Mar 30, 2009 - The Acer Apspire 4520 laptop computer above has been donated to the project by Philippe Bruneau. It was only six months old, but was displaying the symptoms of a dead motherboard. What I found when I got it here was a defective power supply, and a loose connector on the motherboard. I now have a power supply coming, and am using a universal desk power supply to set it's software back up. It originally had a Windows boot-up password on it - instead of trying to guess it, I used a linux editor booted from CD to remove the default password, allowing access to the system. This was a first for me, and it is great to have the linux disk and editor in the arsenal to help with this type of problem. The software is the "Trinity Rescue Kit", and is downloadable in ISO format on the net for burning onto your own CD. It is capable of solving many Windows disk and boot problems with a basic understanding of Linux.

I spoke to the mother of a 15 year old girl with Spina Bifida - I will be delivering this machine to her Thursday night. Her daughter used to have a laptop which burned out last year, and is she thrilled to be receiving this one. She used to use it for her schoolwork, but with all her medical expenses and trips for treatment, there was no money left over for a new machine. This is another case where I am truly happy I have been blessed by the ability to do this for kids.

Update April 05, 2009 - This morning, I drove into Charlottetown to pick up a laptop from Frazier Fitzgerald. It has been reapired, and as soon as I am certain it is performing 100% it ill go to a child.

Update April 09, 2009 - Again, another trip to Charlottetown to pick up computers. The time, a Kent street business gave 5 older desktop compters. I had one person looking for a desktop, so took that one into the house and fixed it up - the others will be given to a gentleman at work who repairs desktop computers for children, and has children waiting for them. Most ran Windows 98, but still are good machines.

We are back to the point where all machines worth repairing so far have been given to children or are spoken for, and are looking for additional machines to rebuild and give to children. These machines do not need to be perfect, in fact problems are expected. These are of use even if physically damaged, or even practically destroyed. If in really bad shape, or missing plastic or other parts, or have bad motherboards, they can still be used for a source of hard to find parts for other machines. We have to depend upon donated machines, because this program has no revenues, only expenses, which I pay for out of my own pocket. I do hope to be able to continue the program, but my being able to give laptops to children depends on donated machines. If you work for a corporation which replaces its employee's laptops every few years, please let them know about the program. All information will be erased from the hard drives. This is the ultimate form of recycling - to repair a machine and to have it go to the less fortunate rather than a landfill. If you have such a machine you would like to see repaired and given to a child, please contact me at

Most laptops donated need additional memory. Likewise, laptop power supplies are a problem. I have two extra Dell supplies, but require supplies for IBM, Toshiba, HP, Emachines and Gateway machines, Compaq, etc. Alas, not all machines coming into the program are complete with supplies. If you happen to have any memory or other parts in your "maybe I will use it someday" collection, I sure could use them for the program.

These will only be used in donated machines, and will not be sold. There will be a very greatful child.somewhere who will receive your donated parts in his or her machine!

Dave Hunter and The Island Register: HTML and Graphics

Last Updated: 4/9/2009 11:23:25 PM
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