A dead laptop battery can be disastrous for a traveling end user, but that’s what AC chargers are for, right? But what if the user reports the battery won’t hold a charge anymore? The obvious answer is to buy a new battery, but that isn’t always an easy task, especially for a rare, obscure, or outdated model. Finding such a battery can often seem like a wild-goose chase—believe me, I know.

I’ve experienced a litany of problems with a laptop of mine over the past several years, including replacing a bad battery. I’ve encountered difficulties in finding parts and making upgrades mainly because the manufacturer no longer exists. Supporting an older machine demands determination and persistence.

A battery that won’t hold a charge
TechRepublic member kbert5 recently turned to our Technical Q&A for help with a malfunctioning laptop battery. Kbert5 owns a Gateway Solo 2150 laptop. The computer has been used primarily as a desktop replacement powered by an AC adapter. After unplugging the machine for about a week, kbert5 attempted to boot up using battery power. He quickly discovered the machine wouldn’t boot. After connecting to the AC adapter and powering up, kbert5 learned the battery was empty but charging (indicated by an orange LED).

According to kbert5, no matter how long the laptop is connected to the AC adapter and supposedly charging, the battery status never changes from zero percent charge. Kbert5 asks, “Is this likely a battery issue or a failure of the charging circuit?” I immediately thought “bad battery,” because this is exactly what occurred when my laptop battery died.

Member TheChas concurs. “You are correct; the battery has failed. Specifically, the battery has a memory failure where it refuses to take a charge. You might be able to recover some functionality by connecting a 100-ohm resistor across the battery to completely discharge it and then using a bench charger or power supply to force current into the battery. Search for batteries on the Web; there are many sources for third-party batteries. There may even be a local firm that rebuilds battery packs. To avoid this [in the future], you should run the unit off the battery at least once a month and allow the battery to discharge.”

This is terrific advice, and it is exactly the action I took to replace my faulty battery. A quick search for “laptop batteries” on Web sites such as Google return numerous third-party dealers selling aftermarket batteries. Great, right? Not exactly.

Third-party battery dealers

Here are a few dealers who sell laptop batteries:

Finding a compatible battery
A conundrum develops when kbert5 attempts to find a replacement battery compatible for the laptop, a Gateway Solo 2150. He writes, “Replacement batteries have been hard to find. Batteries are available for models 2100 and 2200, but they don’t fit the 2150.” After looking at several sites, I discovered the truth in kbert5’s words. Many replacements exist for the 2100 and 2200, but the dealers specifically state the incompatibility with model 2150. Even Gateway’s site was no help. This left me seriously wondering if a replacement could be found.

After searching the Web and encountering countless unproductive page views and redirects, I had more questions than answers. So, as a last resort, I decided to employ a more conventional way of solving problems—customer service via the telephone. Yes, I can hear your shrieks. The idea of being put on hold for hours and forced to listen to Muzak is not very appealing, but I felt we’d exhausted all other resources.

Go to the source—customer support
Deciding to go straight to the source, I telephoned Gateway’s sales department using the number provided online. I was connected to a friendly, personable associate named Stafford within seconds. After describing my dilemma, Stafford quickly told me Gateway had several batteries for the 2150 in stock at a cost of $99, plus $7 shipping and handling.

I was flabbergasted. Not only did Gateway have the battery, but it was also in stock. Comparable batteries for other models list at much higher prices. After reading kbert5’s initial post, I immediately thought he would have to spend a couple of hundred dollars. I asked Stafford why Gateway didn’t list the battery online. Apparently, Gateway only offers OEM products on its Web site, not aftermarket replacement parts, which the 2150 battery is.

I hope my detective work will solve kbert5’s power problems for now. For more tips on laptop maintenance, check out these articles: