Compaq iPAQ Desktop 2.0

A recent pickup from eBay is a Compaq iPAQ Desktop 2.0.

It's specifications as it came to me are as follows:

  • Intel Pentium III running at 866 MHz
  • 128 MB PC-133 SD-RAM
  • Seagate ST310211A 10 GB hard drive
  • Onboard Intel PRO/100 VM ethernet
  • Onboard Compaq/ADI SoundMax Integrated Digital Audio
  • Onboard Intel 3D Direct Graphics (Intel 815/815e Chipset Graphics)
Despite being "legacy-free", it was fitted with the optional "backpack" which gives you PS/2 keyboard and mouse, serial and printer connectors.

This PC did not come with any of the possible expansion options and instead sports a blanking plate only. I am lead to believe that CD-R and LS-120 drives were made available and some of the similar period Armada and Evo laptops from Compaq have compatible drivers so I am on the lookout for one of those for a reasonable price.

It was listed on eBay and bought as "for parts" or "spares or repairs" as the PC only booted to a Windows 2000 Professional login screen and the password was not known to test further. I could tell from the listing photos that this PC appeared to have been used for a special purpose so I wanted to image the hard drive before playing with the machine...

On first boot, it was clear that the CMOS battery was dead which required a full strip down to replace. Whilst the RAM is easy enough to upgrade by pulling the screw-less side panel off, the CMOS was buried beneath some shielding which needs to be removed with 3 Torx T15 screws and a slide motion of the panel towards the front.

The RAM was increased to 256 MB by the addition of a second stick of 128 MB RAM. 512 MB is the max limit for this as far as I can tell (but I don't have any 256 MB sticks spare at the moment).

The PC will not boot USB thumb drives, not at least any I've tried, even though USB device is listed as a possible option in the BIOS. It does however boot from a USB floppy drive. Note that it doesn't correctly boot USB drives with the Plop Boot Floppy either.

I used CloneZilla in another machine to clone the original 10 GB hard drive on to a spare 60 GB drive I had. This way I can play with the clone and keep the original drive preserved.

With the cloned hard drive now installed, along with a new CMOS battery and RAM upgrade, it was time to "break in" to the machine and confirm if my suspicions of this PC from the original eBay listing were correct.

The PC didn't appear to be domain-joined by the look of the login screen so I figured resetting the last logged in user's password would be enough to get me in to the machine for a quick peek around.

The password for the built-in administrator account (called hpadmin) was reset to blank using a USB floppy drive and the older, floppy-based version of the Offline NT Password & Registry Editor.

Once logged in with the hpadmin account, it was time to take a look at the system in earnest.

The system appears to have been used in earnest in the early 2000s (up to around 2004) by Hewlett-Packard themselves at their (former) Bracknell office. For instance, one of the newest (2004) documents is a quote to a global mobile network operator, to provide a quantity of 72 GB SCSI hard drives (over 1 TB's worth) for around £37,000. There are also a number of HP internal marketing presentations and specification sheets for current (for the time) professional workstations (D330 for example).

As I can't easily reinstall the Windows 2000 operating system clean, and that I am running on a cloned version of the original install, I tidied up the assumed sensitive documents from it and installed Futuremark's 3DMark 2000 to see if it would make a very-light gaming machine for some older titles. It crashed running the benchmark in anything above 640x480 resolution but did complete at that resolution with the score of 2460. FPS on the demos were between 20 and 40 on the medium setting. In short then, no, it will not make a light gaming machine unless its Quake or Duke 3D which I don't own to test.