Welcome to my information pages for the
IBM Thinkpad 390 Series pages. In searching for information on
usage and upgrading the IBM Thinkpad 390 series on the web I became
quite disappointed on what I found available about these laptops on the
web. I'm sure others have ran into the same problem as I have so
I've decided to start a page to help fill this missing gap.
General information on the Thinkpad 390
The Thinkpad 390 was the first model introduced in the series.
Available with a Pentium 233MMX or Pentium II 233 & 266mhz
CPU's. Utilizes MMC1 CPU Modules and is not easilly upgraded past
The 390E built on the 390 by adding new processors (PII300 &
333mhz, & Celeron 366mhz) and adding a S-video out port. The
utilizes MMC2 CPU Modules. Base memory on many models of 390E
came with 64mb of ram and were upgradable to 256mb. Hard drives
as large as 6.4gb were available as well as a DVD Drive. 3 LCD
available. 12.1", 13.3" & 14.1"
The Thinkpad 390X Series came in many configurations. The
following processors are available on the 390X. Pentium II
400mhz, Celeron 400mhz, or Pentium III 450 & 500mhz. Base
memory was 64mb upgradable to 512mb. 3 LCD Displays were
available. 12.1", 14.1", & 15". Hard disk
drives up to 12.1gb were available as well as a DVD Drive.
Upgrading the 390 series
Hard Disk Drive
Upgrading the Hard disk drive is one of the easier upgrades to do on
these laptops. I've personally tested Hard Drives as big as 40gb
on the 390E & 390X with no problems. I'd like to test an
80gb, but don't have access to one at this time. To make the
upgrade process go as smooth as possible it is very important to
upgrade the BIOS to the latest revison before doing anything
else. Once the BIOS is upgraded power down the laptop and on the
backside is a large blade screw. Loosen this screw to remove the
cover and gain access to the HDD caddy. Once the cover is removed
on the Caddy should be a black fabric handle. Pull on this handle
remove the caddy from the laptop. The cover just snaps off the
caddy to gain access to the hard disk. With the cover off the
caddy remove the hdd, transfer the hdd connector to the new
drive. Installation is the reverse of removal. I did not
try to partion the drive using Windows 98. I went ahead and
upgraded to Win2K Pro and the full size of the drive was available
during the setup process.
CD Rom Drive
Upgrading the CD Rom or optional DVD rom with a CD-RW or DVD/CD-RW
drive is easy. Remove the CD/Floppy module. Remove the 4
screws that retain the CD drive to the assembly. Remove the CD
Drive and replace with a drive of choice. Either find a way to
obtain a drive with a face plate or you'll have to figure out how to
graft the face plate from the old drive to the new. I opted for
the first choice due to the ease of installation.
Upgrading the memory is a breeze. There is a memory access cover
on the bottom of the laptop. With the laptop flipped upside down
it is the cover on your right side. The 390E uses PC66 memory and
can use a maximum of 2 128mb modules. The 390X uses PC100 memory
and can use a maximum of 2 256mb modules. A friend of mine
recently tossed me 2 256mb PC133 modules. My 390X did nothing,
but complain about them. Most of the time the laptop would either
not post or hang during post. However the 256mb PC133 modules out
of my brothers Sony Viao FX laptop worked flawless. So PC133 memory(not
that you gain anything extra from it) is hit and miss.
Upgrading the processor can be easy or difficult depending on what you
are trying to accomplish. I'm going to break this down by
The 390 series used MMC1 processors. The fastest MMC1
processors are only 266mhz. Honestly I wouldn't spend much
time on upgrading the 390. Gains would more than likely prove to
be marginal. I've never seen the motherboard of a 390 to compare
with a 390E motherboard to see if upgrading to the 390E board is an
option. Somthing that needs research is Gateway used MMC1
processors on a couple of Solo models that ran as fast as 400mhz.
I happen to have a 400mhz MMC1 module, but no way to verify if this is
a possible upgrade route. Someone may want to take this info and
run with it.
The 390E series used MMC2 processors which is a bit of a help.
Seeing the 390E only supports a 66mhz bus somewhat limits it's
upgradability. As an example a 390E with a 300mhz processor could
easilly be upgraded to a 366mhz. Anything faster than that can be
done, but you'll have to buy an expensive processor to accomplish any
gains. In order to jump to 400mhz would require buying a 750mhz
processor. Any MMC2 processor except celeron which is 600mhz or
faster has speedstep technology. A 600mhz processor on a 100mhz
non-speedstep capable motherboard will only post at 500mhz. In
the case of the 390E a 600mhz processor would only clock at
333mhz. No 390 series laptop was ever speedstep capable.
There is a modification that can be done to the speedstep capable
processors to lock them in at the higher speed, but I've not had
success in making it work so I'm not going to cover it here at this
The 390X is the bad boy of the 390 series. The 390X supports a
100mhz bus which makes it a worthwhile canidate to consider
upgrading,. Especially if you have one of the PII 400mhz
models. The same issue with using speedstep processors applies to
the 390X. 700mhz will be the best you will do unless the
processor can be locked to boot at it's faster clock multiplier instead
of it's slower multiplier.
Connecting a TV to
the 390E &
the SVideo out Port
I found connecting a TV to the 390 series a challanging
experience. Since my TV only has RCA inputs made it that much
more of a pain.(my next TV will have S-video ports). I spent good
money on several cables that claimed to convert the S-video output to
RCA, but none of them proved to work. After much research I
ran across some info about using a ceramic capacitor on one of the
outputs on the laptop. I'll get some pics and instructions done
up sometime in the near future on how to build this cable. It
still needs some testing.