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The situation: a Compaq Presario R 3000 that turned on about a year ago, but since then only a little red light comes on with the battery in or out; I am not sure if this model was supposed to turn on with the battery out.

The question: Is this a repairable problem, and what might be the cause?

The machine was (I think) running Windows XP. When turned on it asked for a (now forgotten) password. If I can't get the machine to boot is it possible to take out the drive, put it in an enclosure, and access the files that way?

I am less familiar with Windows machines. Could I put the drive in an enclosure and link it to a more recent computer (say a Dell) and run it from there, bypassing the PW?

Thanks in advance

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    The most common failure for electronics of that vintage is probably an electrolytic-capacitor failure. If you look inside the machine, you'll see a bunch of things that look like metal cans, whose coloring is predominantly black or dark blue lettering on light blue or light gray, or vice versa. Typically they will have a stripe down one side with dashes on it. Those components are electrolytic capacitors, each of which will be marked with a number followed by μF and another followed by V, and many of them will dry out with time and eventually fail. Fortunately, such components are still...
    – supercat
    Oct 21 '20 at 17:20
  • ...being manufactured today, are readily available, and are not difficult for someone with a soldering iron and any degree of skill to remove and replace. Many people who restore old computers and electronics routinely remove and replace all of the electrolytic or oil-paper capacitors therein because many of those that haven't failed yet will fail within the next twenty years. In some cases, capacitor failures may cause other components to be destroyed, but electrolytic caps are mostly used in places where failure will render a machine operable, but repairing the cap will repair the machine.
    – supercat
    Oct 21 '20 at 17:24
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Is this a reparable problem

Generally, virtually all of broken computer problems are repairable, the right question is how much time, money, and other resources it will take to enact the repairs, and whether the benefits of the repaired computer worth the cost. If all you need is to pull some data - you're better off simply pulling the drive out of the machine, putting it into enclosure/dock and connecting it to a working machine.

and what might be the cause?

Is the red light that comes on supposed to be a power-on indicator? I assume the machine makes no noise of any sort? See the comment by @supercat - one of the possibilities is indeed electrolytic capacitor failure. I also have a couple of a bit older ThinkPads that similarly don't turn on, except IIRC in their case no light comes on at all, and the culprit is faulty DC-DC converters. Those are harder to replace, but not impossible either. The main trick is figuring out which component(s) is(are) faulty, and I'm afraid I don't know enough about hardware to provide a some kind of universal guide as an answer.

If I can't get the machine to boot is it possible to take out the drive, put it in an enclosure, and access the files that way?

Absolutely. The drives used in those machines are likely older 2.5" IDE drives, so you'll need an appropriate adapter/enclosure. IDE adapter would be different from more modern SATA, and you'll need one designed specifically for 2.5" IDE drives as it is different from 3.5" IDE connector - 3.5" IDE has 40 pins and a separate power connector, whereas 2.5" IDE uses 44-pin connector with smaller pitch that also provides power to the drive. I like this one from Yootop for portability, but you might want to get something like this universal Unitek adapter for a bit more future-proofing.

Could I put the drive in an enclosure and link it to a more recent computer (say a Dell) and run it from there, bypassing the PW?

Most likely - AFAIK until Vista Windows did not provide built-in full-disk encryption (though NTFS did support encrypted files/directories since Windows 2000 - feature called Encrypting File System or EFS), so unless someone ever encrypted some files using EFS or used third-party tools like TrueCrypt you should be able to connect the drive to virtually any modern system, be it a Windows, Linux, macOS, BSD, or even a Haiku machine and get the data off the drive. In fact, there are even some tools that may allow you to reset the user passwords in the OS on the drive, should you wish to attempt the repairs on the machine and put the drive back in. And no, unless the drive is encrypted (in which case you'll need to have the password or other key required to decrypt it) you won't ever need to know the original administrator password on that machine to access any unencrypted files on that drive.

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The machine should work even when the battery doesn't work. Just remove the battery: it should be able to run directly from mains.

You should be able to take the drive out and use it as an external drive. You probably need admin access (possibly the user called administrator) to view the files.

If you manage to get your machine started but have forgotten the password, just google for "Windows XP forgot password".

As for repairing, I've got no idea whatsoever.

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  • Thanks. Curious if I hook it up to a "modern" machine and boot from there if it will work, or if I need to find another compaq (and then presumably I can follow the PW reset procedure)
    – Jesse
    Sep 21 '20 at 18:25
  • I've only ever gotten this to work on machines of the same build. I've never gotten it to work on machines of different builds. This is both on Windows and Linux. When it does start, it freezes or blue screens after a few seconds, minutes, hours. You may be lucky: it may just work.
    – cup
    Sep 21 '20 at 21:22
  • just to be clear I meant if I put the drive in an enclosure...
    – Jesse
    Sep 21 '20 at 21:37
  • Putting the drive in an enclosure will work. You may need to be the admin user called administrator for this to work.
    – cup
    Sep 21 '20 at 21:44
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    You don't really need an enclosure. One of these amazon.co.uk/TeckNet-Docking-Station-Tool-Free-Installation/dp/… will do.
    – cup
    Sep 21 '20 at 21:46

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