How to fix my daughter's Y2K busted computer? : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

My daughter's 486 has apparently suffered a Y2K date glitch. It keeps throwing the date back to 1980. I reset the CMOS and redid the whole setup and the next time she turned it on, it was back to 1980 again. It won't go to Windows (95). How can I fix this monster?

-- Brent Cody (, February 24, 2000


You want the short, easy answer? Go purchase an iMac.

-- (, February 24, 2000.

Don't bother Brent, Too many ways to upgrade "on the cheap" nowadays to wrestle with a dinosaur. E-mail me and I send you a few links.

-- Michael (, February 24, 2000.

Darn fingers, I meant "I'll send you a few links"

-- Michael (, February 24, 2000.

I doubt it can be fixed. Get her a Thinkpad or something similar. Newer ones are compliant. At least mine is. Macs are still the equivalent of Beta in the VCR world.

-- canthappen (, February 24, 2000.

I just installed more RAM on the machine so I don't want to trash it. Can't something simple be done to fix it?

-- brent cody (, February 24, 2000.

I can't help you, but there are 2 sites (, and that should be able to help with info. Also these sites have 1000's of free, tested software and downloads and email sites to answer questions. They also have 24 TV programs on cable, Direct Dish Network, and regular C-Band. Hope this will help.

-- (, February 24, 2000.

Sorry, but there is no "simple" fix. Various schools were unloading 486s as fast as they could get them hauled away. All of the links mentioned will give you some good leads, but the bottom line is that you'll be in for a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to get windows working again on that machine, if it can even be done. Cut your losses and move on.

-- (, February 24, 2000.

Answer (A) set the date to sometime in 1996 and forget it.

Answer (B) start in DOS (Press F8 just before it says 'starting Windows' and select Command Prompt only from the menu that pops up) and type in EDIT C:\AUTOEXEC.BAT. If edit doesn't start type in C:\WINDOWS\COMMAND\EDIT C:\AUTOEXEC.BAT (hit enter, of course). Then add the line DATE to the top of the autoexec.bat file. It should now stop and ask for a hand date reset every time the machine is rebooted. So now you get asked to set the date before Win95 ever has a chance to screw up. Simple, no?

-- barfoo, the famous lurker (, February 24, 2000.

In order to avoid my daughter having to set the date each time she turns on the computer, I like the 1996 date idea better. If I do this, what about redoing all the pre-Windows settings that I did the other day that didn't stay reset? I got a blue screen with various things I could set or accept and I just tried to use common sense to set them but once the computer was turned off and on again, all my settings disappeared. I want it to go to Windows like it used to.

-- brent (, February 24, 2000.


Did this just start, or has it been happening since Jan. 1? If it just started, you probably have a dead battery. <:)=

-- Sysman (, February 24, 2000.

There is a simple fix. First, make sure you don't have a dead battery in your RTC, set the date to the 90's, reboot, and see if the date comes back as set. If it does, then your batteries ok, and this patch file from Dell should fix that 486 running DOS/WIN just fine, I've used it on several PCs:

Note: Unless you can follow the directions exactly and are comfortable editing DOS files, get someone who is "DOS" aware to do it for you. I'm not sure why your computer's not going to W95, it should do this regardless of the bios date, could be another problem. If you reboot with a 90's date, does W95 run ok?

-- FactFinder (, February 24, 2000.

Good grief Sysman, deja vue all over again.... I just posted my reply and now I see you have already responded, didn't this happen once before on someone else's computers way back in the 90's, before the whole y2k computer disaster thing that destroyed civilization as we know it...? lol...

Anyway, check my post for accuracy, and give your concurance or throw the flag as you see fit :)

-- FactFinder (, February 24, 2000.

Howdy FF, how's it going?

Just one comment. You said:

"set the date to the 90's, reboot, and see if the date comes back as set"

I think what you really mean is:

"set the date to the 90's, POWER OFF AND WAIT A FEW MINUTES, and see if the date comes back as set"

A reboot or reset, without power off, would keep the date, even if the battery is dead. <:)=

-- Sysman (, February 24, 2000.

Right'o' Sys! A HARD boot, ...shut'er down...

-- FactFinder (, February 24, 2000.

I'm not sure when the problem first showed up. The computer is at my ex-wife's house and may not have been used during the first several weeks of January. I became aware of the problem a couple of weeks ago when I went over there to put some additional RAM I happened to have from another computer. I decided not to do the RAM installation myself because the new RAM didn't seem to fit easily in the slots, so I put the cover back on and turned on the machine and discovered that it wouldn't boot to Windows but was asking me to reset the CMOS and upon checking the date, I saw it was 1980.

I took it to a computer shop and had them install the RAM and it seemed to work OK (they said they tested it and it worked fine), but I had to reset everything when I got it home. Then when my daughter tried it tonight it wouldn't go to Windows again.

What can be done about a dead battery and how do I find out if that is the problem?

-- brent (, February 24, 2000.


"but was asking me to reset the CMOS and upon checking the date, I saw it was 1980"

It's starting to sound more and more like the battery.

I'm not sure why Win won't start. After you entered the date in CMOS, what happens next? I assume that you are EXITing the CMOS setup OK. Do you end up at a C: prompt, or does the machine just hang?

The one other thing that I can think of, that would also happen when the battry goes, is that it also lost your hard disk type. Do you have a "autodetect hard disk" option, or something like that, as part of your CMOS setup program? <:)=

-- Sysman (, February 24, 2000.

The analogy of mac as the beta of the vcr world is not as accurate as this analogy.

Macs are the MERCEDES BENZS of the computer world, as opposed to the massess all driving the same black fords. Black fords with built in glitches, bugs, and so open you need an endless stream of patches and software fixes to retain your privacy. Dump the clone, spend the money, get a computer that you can use without spending half your time fixing it, or worrying about security issues. I've owned over a dozen in the past ten or so years, both kinds,and there's no comparison. Want some proof, not technogeekspeak, real world proof? Pick up any newspaper classifieds, check resale values. Windows clone machines drop in value very quickly, Macs don't, because people who actually have used them and owned them hardly ever go back to clones or the Windows operating system. Just because the "masses" use Windows doesn't make it the "best", the "masses" still think the TV news tells them what's going on. Think about it. Think different. Find someone you know who actually has a Mac, go over, have them show you what they have. Then make up your mind.

-- yougetwhatyoupayfor (buyquality@thefirsttime.yourmoney), February 24, 2000.

One other question, what is the exact message that tells you to check CMOS?

Does is say something like "CMOS checksum error"? This would most likely be a battery (or a real checkksum error, which is NO fun). Or do you see any other message before the CMOS message?

Well, two questions. Are you sure the new RAM in working? Ie. - do you see it during the power-on memory test? Some older (486) machines save the memory size in CMOS, and if it changes, it tells you to run SETUP. <:)=

-- Sysman (, February 24, 2000.

Yes, Sysman, 16 megs of RAM is showing in the booting procedure. I think I saw the checksum message you mentioned. I'll have to go over to my ex-wife's house and check it again. What do I do if it is a dead battery? And isn't it awfully coincidental that it happened just after the Y2K rollover?

-- brent (, February 24, 2000.

I exited the CMOS setup fine and the computer booted up to Windows 95 after I did this. I tried a couple of the programs and everything seemed to be working correctly when I did all this yesterday. Then tonight my daughter called me to say it wasn't working and she described the same CMOS setup problem I thought I'd fixed.

-- brent (, February 24, 2000.

With all due respect -- been there, done that, got the ill-fitting tee shirt! One last time: when you finish twiddling around, cut your losses and go buy her an iMac. She wants to use her computer, not watch you tweak wires.

-- (, February 24, 2000.

Kool, at least we know 95 can run, so that part of the problem is solved (grin). And the RAM seems to be OK, which could lead to CMOS problems, if it weren't.

So what else is left, that could cause you to get a message from CMOS? Actually not much, except hardware problems. Hence, I suspect the battery.

Why, now, just after 1/1? It had to go sometime. They usually last a few years, and a 486 is at least that old. And going back to 1980, another classic symptom.

Hopefully, it's easy to replace, but there is no "standard" battery type. It could be an external pack, that plugs into the motherboard. It could be a dime or nickel size "coin" that sits in a socket on your motherboard. It could even be soldered onto the motherboard, but most of these that I've seen also have the plug for the extarnal pack.

The most important thing is to get a replacement that is the EXACT SAME voltage at the original. A manual for the motherboard would be very helpful!

It only costs a few bucks, and it does have to be done, sooner or later...


-- Sysman (, February 24, 2000.

Why do try to avoid buying a battery? Cmos cannot hold any info without it.

-- W (, February 24, 2000.


I've got to go check my work "site" then crash (me, not the site).

If you are able to set CMOS to 2000, and if W/95 sees it as 2000, chances are that you don't have a "Y2K problem". Oh, there are exceptions. I've got an old 386 here that you wouldn't believe!

But even in these cases, the DATE in AUTOEXEC.BAT still works. It's a last resort, but easy...

See ya! <:)=

-- Sysman (, February 25, 2000.

Brent, Don't give up! All the 486 needs is a $5 battery & a $19 y2k software patch, or at worst a $39 card by Evergreen that plugs into an available slot, on the motherboard. The Evergreen card in effect updates the cmos to y2k compliant specs. has the cards, also the software patch, although it is probabley available for free on the web thru numerous sources. We run the card on 1, & the patch on our other 3 ancient 386's & 486's at my shop. Cold boots, power failures, dirty generator power, nothing fazes them. Of course, we run Win 3.11, which is just about bulletproof. The batteries come as a universal replacement kit. If you turn the machine on, & put a voltmeter across the battery connectors, you can get the needed voltage & which wire is positivive, which negative. Then check the replacement battery for proper voltage, pos & neg & hook it up. Check the old battery first! 1) leave the computer unplugged overnight. 2) check it with a voltmeter. 3) Turn on the machine & rechk the voltage to see if it is higher, i.e. 1.5 volts vs .5 volts. If the battery tests at 1/2 or less volts after sitting turned off compared to running voltage, it is probably shot. Or for $5, just test for matching voltage & polarity, slap one in, rechk. A good geek can pop a battery & a software patch in for about $60, if you bring him the machine. A close out 400 mhz machine can be bought for about $299 at office depot etc, so don't get buried in the old one. Good Luck, Greg

-- GregDonovan (, February 25, 2000.

If your problem turns out to be date
related, request by email my free Y2K
fix. It simply sets the date every time
the computer boots.

-- spider (, February 25, 2000.

Yougetwhatyoupayfor, I wouldn't disagree with your assessment. I have seen the endless debates over Macs vs. PCs. I really wasn't bashing Macs. I had and loved Betamax. Never understood why people liked the larger tapes for one reason. However, and very sad for me, Betas vanished. Maybe Macs won't. Betas hung on for a while, then POOF! Maybe my analogy was a bad one. Sorry.

-- canthappen (, February 25, 2000.

Thanks to Steve Jobs, the Mac doesn't look like it will disappear any time soon ...

We're very happy Mac converts, from IBM, long long ago :-)

It's really nice to see y'all experienced geeks helping out here! Computer snafus are very frustrating to the lay user -- too complicated!

-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (, February 25, 2000.

If it won't hold the settings, you got a dead battery all right. Some are easily replaceable, some are real little buggers. Most 486 MB's have a couple of pins to connect an external replacement generic battery. Hard to find, look near the existing battery for a couple of pins marked + or -, or possibly -batt+. Connect as logic would dictate.

BTW, used Pentium and AMD KII machines are going really cheap in the Yahoo auctions. For that matter, the wife bought me a 430 mhz celeron with 64mb of ram and 6 gb HDD plus a monitor and speakers with a net card included for $301 plus tax a couple weeks ago. Lucky buy, demo model they were marking down for quick sale at Sam's. Haunt the discount stores, you could get lucky too. (I'm STILL wondering what to do with that machine.)

-- barfoo, the famous lurker (, February 25, 2000.

By nature of being in the circuit, the battery could be getting a slight trickle charge when the power is on. turn it off for a few minutes, and it comes back up. Three days wait and it is toast. New battery.

Why buy a new PC, or a "Drag your files to a garbage can", if the current computer does what you want? It runs anything in Office97, IE5, NS4, AOL, dialup modem, network station, and a hose of other tasks.

Get real! Does having a 650MHZ Celeron mean you can type 20 times faster? If you are into high speed processers and graphics so you can play the blood and guts games, get a Sega64. It is a heck of a lot cheaper.

What can you do with the ole' 486? Use it as a dedicated proxy and print server at home.

-- Mike (, March 24, 2000.

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