IBM ThinkPad 600 – Buying the best built ThinkPad Ever

HEY!

ITS TIME TO GET A THINKPAD

WHATS A GOOD THINKPAD!?

If you want to get one of the best ThinkPads ever, try the 600 series. They are the precursors to the T-Series, which did signify a difference in the way ThinkPads were being built. I wouldn’t classify this one a BentoBox ThinkPad but others might. Fun fact about these is the smell that they have. I believe that the ThinkPad black coating was from a different mixture than all other ThinkPads, get one and you’ll smell it. It’s worth the snuff.

ThinkWiki Info

  1. 600 – April 1998
  2. 600E – November
  3. 600X – December 1999 (nostalgia hard over the Y2K crisis)

ThinkPad Forum’s official 600 Upgrade Thread

The 600 was beloved by many years. As legendary as the T-Series was, there were a lot of users still using their 600E and 600X during the T40 era. If you want a tough ThinkPad, this was one of the best built, not to say the plastics and metal haven’t worn over time, people had use and abused these, and they still keep on going.

The 600’s were known for their 1024 x 768 13.3″ display, this was THE form factor before 14″ slowly started to take it away. However the original 600 did have lower options, a 13″ HDA display which has slow refresh rates and these panels don’t age well, if you see two sliders on the LCD bezel, one is for contrast, I would avoid these if possible. The other screen isn’t bad, but it isn’t good either, it has a 12″ TFT display that is 800 x 600 pixel res, might be good for some old gaming. If you want to connect to internet, the best way is to get an PCMCIA ethernet or WiFi card, because neither was built in.

IBM ThinkPad 600

The 600 was in a transitional period, it was sold along side the 770E and 380XD. It had two different processors, Pentium MMX 233MHz, and a few Pentium II’s @ 233, 266 or 300MHz respectively. The GPU was a Neomagic MagicGraph 128XD, which it shares with the 380XD and 560X, the 770E had a better GPU by CyberTrident 9397 w/ 4MB RAM, 2MB more than the 600. Speaking of RAM, all 600 series had RAM soldiered into the machine, but instead of one RAM slot like the X240, it has two slots for more fun. These use PC-66 RAM, which is becoming a pain to get. What makes this 600 different from the other two is that this uses an MMC-1 Pentium processor, so if you are deciding to upgrade your processor, please check the underside if it has two connectors.

IBM ThinkPad 600E

The 600E, or IBM 600 Enhanced, came with Pentium II’s & 300, 366 and 400MHz CPUs. 13.3″ TFT became standard, and had a better graphics card, a NeoMagic MagicMedia256AV with 2.5 MB RAM, that .5MB must of been a big boost :P. Other than the GPU upgrade, they were quite similar, some 600E’s came with a DVD drive while 600 did not. 600E and 600X use MMC-2 processors, likewise if you are looking to harvest or trade processors with a 770 series, the 770X or 770Z use the same sort of socket. With the 600E you are sort of limited to upgrading your machine to the best processors, though they will accept Pentium III CPUs.

600E’s motherboards by default don’t work with SpeedStep, so when you buy 600MHz or higher CPU, it won’t run at that MHz. It would run from 60MHz to 150MHz slower… However there is hacking involved and modifying to do in order to make it work.

One legacy of the 600E and 600X is they were the first FrankenPads!
Ok the 133MHz AMD 701C mod from Germany may of count too…

IBM ThinkPad 600X

Ah yes, the 600X, something about X sounding better than Z. Might have to do that Megaman X was a badass compared to regular Megaman, until we had to hear his voice from Megaman X4. The 600X is slightly different than the other two, it changed some parts of it’s layout. For one it removed the old audio jack that was used on other thinkpads, this uses a standard 2.5mm mic jack that’s still used today. And it added in a direct line in too, the 3 audio ports would stay with ThinkPads until the X32. The 600X also improved in having faster PC-100 RAM as standard, thanks to being introduced so late. Even though the T21 was released in the late 2000’s, you could still buy the 600X. Sidenote, I’ve found a lot of 600 series built in the UK or Mexico, I’ve yet to come across a USA built unit.

The 600X came with three processors by the factory

  • 450MHz PIII
  • 500MHz PIII
  • 650MHz PIII SpeedStep Enabled

If you wanted to upgrade, here are the CPUs

  • 750MHz PIII $50?
  • 800MHz PIII $75
  • 850MHz PIII $100

Prices are relevant as of 9/2017

Motherboards that came with the 650MHz CPU installed were speedstep enabled, so if you were to get a 450 or 500MHz model and upgrade to 850MHz it would most likely run at 700MHz. However, there are conflicting reports that it can just work without any modding.

The difficulty to get it work is the fun part! Like any modifications, there will be hiccups, ups and down. I’d wager this FrankenPad is second in popularity to the T601 motherboard swap,

But would you want to get one of these and go through all this hassle? The 600 is almost slimmed & smol version of the 770E, the reason why the 770 increased in size from the 765 was that IBM wanted to use current (at the time) processors for their flagship machines. MMC-1 was the mobile version of the Slot 1 processor socket, which was made to test the CPU and Cache RAM separately. Though some processors were socketed in previous laptops, a lot others were soldiered onto the motherboard.

Another bad thing to look out for is the lid of the laptop. You’ll most likely want to refinish it, plastidip can do a nice coat.

 

Price Guide

 

IBM ThinkPad 600 (all models) – $40 – 100 // 220 ~ 13 v 13

Since there aren’t too many of these, I’ll get them by individual prices
600

  • As is $36
  • Used $120, $130
  • Refurb’d $193, $203

600E

  • As Is $35 (I bought this, dead inverter & CCFL needs replacement)
  • Used $76
  • Refurb $203

600X

  • Used $75, $99, $120 (this last unit had a 800MHz upgrade!)
  • Refurb $203 (500MHz)

Parts Pricing

Motherboard $30, $44 or $60 (These were MMC-I units, not MMC-II for 600E or 600X)
Screen $15? $20, $36
Keyboard – $19, $24, $35
Battery – $20 to $38… maybe $50
Caddy – $5 to $12
Bottom – $15 to $40

When it comes to parts, you might be better off buying another 600 ThinkPad. The spare 600E I had that I thought was broken, actually just had a bad LCD, but it looked like it had a bad motherboard. But I wouldn’t of found this out had I not gotten another spare machine to test it out, because I originally thought the backlight was out, but instead I found out it was the inverter. :O
The battery is a hard sell… mainly because most sellers just sell a untested battery. I don’t recommend buying new, because it could be new from 2002, and thanks to cell degradation, they could be bad, on top of that you have the possibly of just getting a dud too. I’d recommend to buy from someone who has tested a machine and says how much the run time is. I currently don’t know how to re-cell a battery safely, nor a person or company who re-cells as a service.

Installing an OS

This can be a tricky part, mainly because the 600 series only allowed boot from Floppy and their CD-ROM drive. Despite DVD drives being available for the 600E/X, it will not boot from it. Booting from USB is out of the question, USB boot was not supported until the T22. I believe you can use a PCMCIA CD-ROM if the built in unit is faulty, because there is a high chance of disk drives not being able to read.

Where to find an operating system is tricky… For Windows you can try out the WinWorld Library, not sure how this site will stay. This supported Windows 3.x, 98, 2000, ME and XP. If you are looking to get XP SP3 or the Black Edition (; the 600 can barely meets the minimum requirements of 266MHz and 64MB of RAM. For Linux, I was able to get Zorin OS to boot off my 600X but it slags quite a bit. I did this so I could use ethernet with the PCMCIA card. Anti-X or Puppy Linux might of been a better choice, I would like to get some version of debian on there, but I just hadn’t had much time.

Since I’ve collected ThinkPads, I have been lucky to have a working 380Z, 770E and T20 which have hard drives that I clone from. Its a gamble which version of Windows will just work, but I’ve had success with Win 98 and 2000 to just work. Because of this, you’ll need to download the right drivers to get going, of which you should get from the ThinkPad Forum Database.

Overall thoughts

If you are ready to go for the vintage plunge, go for it! Despite the odd smell it has, I kinda like it. I think I spent $50 for an untested machine and it booted fine with CMOS error and no hard drive. I love my 600X despite it not being a particularly rare model like the 770X or 770Z with the 5:4 display. However thanks to its wide use, real world durability and many many forum posts, the 600 is one machine that someone can pick up, fix up and use quite easy. Its form factor is great, the typing is fairly good, and its just a neat machine to have, definitely iconic, the predecessor to the T20 and all T Series as well as the X300 and X301 being a halo machine with design aesthetics that are a callback to this machine.

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