I have been watching Latitude C400 auctions on eBay to get an idea of what they sell for. There have been a few decent ones that have sold for less than $40. Most have one or two things wrong with them, but nothing that can not be fixed with a $10 part. I figured if I got the C400 from Danika's mom up and running and liked it enough I might try to get another one to have a spare and/or use for replacement parts. After playing around with it for a while I decided it was a fairly nice laptop--small, light with enough horsepower to run most of the applications I use. I saw an auction come up for two C400s that the seller said he had gotten at a garage sale. He included the Dell tag numbers, so I could look them up on Dell's support site and see how they were configured when they originally left Dell. The price stayed pretty low, so I ended up bidding on them and winning them for $70 ($35 each).
When they arrived, I assessed their condition and here is what I had purchased:
Once I had assessed what I had received, I decided they were both in good enough shape that it made sense to get parts to get them both up and running. I started thinking about the updates they needed and looking for parts on eBay. I decided to get wireless cards for both of them, a new keyboard for one of them, a new palm rest for one of them (and one for the C400 I already had), a couple of AC power adapters and a PCMCIA wired NIC. I wanted both to have at least 512 MB or RAM, but I already had a 256 MB module to add to the one the only came with 256 MB, so I did not need to get any more RAM.
After a couple weeks or so, I had found and received all the parts. I had both laptops and the one Danika's mom gave me (telesto) completely disassembled. I cleaned them up, updated some of the parts and swapped parts between them. In the end this is what I ended up with:
Since the laptops do not include a floppy or CD/DVD drive I planned to use PXE to boot via their NICs to install a Linux distro onto them. I was a little disappointed when I discovered the onboard NIC on one of them was not working. The boot menu listed PCMCIA NIC booting as an option, so it was not too big a problem, until I discovered that it is nearly impossible to find a PCMCIA NIC that also supports it. I ended up pulling the hard drive, connecting it to another PC, installing GRUB and an install kernel on it, putting it back in the hard drive booting and doing the install. It worked OK, and in the mean time, I also got a docking port for it which also includes a NIC that the laptop can boot from.
So, I now have three relatively small laptops that are all in pretty nice condition and can run adequately run any of the applications I would throw at them for less than $70 each. That sure beats the price of a shiny new netbook with similar specs.