Laptop Build Checklist

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This page has been migrated to a document on Free Geek's Google Drive.

Information remaining behind may no longer be relevant.


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Note: A version of this guide in LibreOffice format is available on the wiki at this link. That version is strongly recommended for printing.

The laptop you are inspecting should have been Evaluated and have a Keeper label. If you have questions, don't hesitate to ask your instructor, or fellow builders. Thank you for your help!

1. Inspect the System

☐ Check the system for missing or damaged parts.
☐ Make repairs as directed by your instructor.
☐ Note any cosmetic damage or unresolved issues on the Keeper label.

Things to watch out for
Take a moment to look over the system while completing the steps above. Keep an eye out for physical problems, such as:

  • Cracks in the case or bezel
  • Missing battery or cover plates from the underside of the laptop
  • Damage to the screen or hinges
  • Damage to any of the ports or power jack
  • Discoloration, scratches or marks on any surface
  • Dirt, dust, cat hair and/or grime above and beyond what can be cleaned

2. Verify Keeper Kabel Information

The Keeper label is used to:

  • Keep track of basic hardware information.
  • Track the laptop through RAM testing (called memtest), battery testing, and the build process.
  • Transfer notes about the laptop from builder to builder, and to the instructors.

Add any missing information to these fields:
☐ Laptop make and model
☐ CPU type and speed
☐ RAM size and type

If you need help
Follow the Evaluation guide for instructions on using the Hardware Detection Kit from the Free Geek network, or BIOS.

3. Check for an Imaged Hard Drive

☐ If a hard drive was not installed during evaluation, use the Laptop Specs (A-6) sheet, and ask your instructor for an appropriate hard drive.
☐ Make sure the hard drive information is recorded on the Keeper label.

4. Check Optical Drive Hardware

☐ Make sure an optical drive is installed if needed.
☐ Check the optical drive faceplate:

  • DVD-RW drives are preferred; CD-RW/DVD-ROM drives are acceptable.
  • Swap CD-ROM drives for a CD-RW/DVD-ROM or DVD-RW drive.

☐ Note the optical drive type on the Keeper label.

There are some optical drives available in the build room, sorted by brand. Ask your instructor if you are not able to find the drive you need.

5. Find an Appropriate AC Adapter

For an AC adapter to power the device correctly, it must:

  • Match the input voltage (V) of the laptop exactly.
  • Match or exceed the recommended amperage (A).
  • Have a plug that fits into the laptop snugly and provides power.

☐ Find the input voltage and amperage listed on the laptop. This may be printed on the back of the laptop, or on the chassis under the battery.
☐ Find an AC adapter that matches the voltage and amperage listed on the laptop. You will be looking in the output section printed on the AC adapter, which should look like this:

INPUT:  100-240V~1.9A
OUTPUT: 16V  4.5A 

AC adapters are sorted in bins by voltage, amperage, and brand; the bins are color-coded by brand.


☐ Boot into BIOS.
☐ Find the section for setting boot options. Set the following boot order:

First:    Optical Drive
Second:   Hard Drive
Third:    Network Device (also called LAN, Onboard NIC, or PXE)
  • Disable or ignore other devices.

☐ Verify that BIOS recognizes about the same amount of RAM as is marked on the Keeper label.

  • BIOS may report slightly less RAM than the total amount installed. It should not be more than a couple hundred megabytes. The 'missing' RAM is being reserved by the system.

Make sure that no BIOS or administrative passwords are set.

  • If you encounter a start-up or BIOS password, check with your instructor or visit the Free Geek wiki for further guidance.

Background information

  • BIOS stands for Basic Input/Output System. It is made up of software stored on a chip installed on the motherboard, rather than the hard drive.
  • Different companies manufacture BIOS firmware chips. This is why different computers can have very different-looking BIOS screens.
  • BIOS is being replaced by something called "Extensible Firmware Interface", or EFI. You may encounter this on newer systems. Functionally, it will appear very similar to BIOS.

7. Test Input Devices

These testing steps determine if the laptop keyboard, trackpad, and mouse buttons are functioning properly.

☐ Boot to the network menu. Refer to the Laptop Evaluation guide if you need help with this step.
☐ Select Laptop Build → Keyboard and Mouse Testing from the Network Menu list.
☐ Test the Keyboard:

  • Select Settings and switch the keyboard layout to Laptop Keyboard Layout. Hit OK.
  • Press each key to test. You should see the color of the key on the screen start out red, change to yellow when pressed, then change to green and stay there when released. If a key does not change color (or remains yellow even when released), make a note and finish testing the other keys.
  • For some laptop keys, you may need to use the Function (Fn) key in combination with another key, i.e. Fn + Num Lk for Scrl Lk.

☐ Test the trackpad, mouse buttons and pointing stick:

  • Switch to Mouse to test the trackpad functions.
  • Follow the instructions on the screen to test the trackpad and mouse buttons.
  • Scrolling functions may not be available, as drivers run by the operating system are needed.
  • If you have multiple mouse buttons on the keyboard/trackpad, hit Reset to test the second set.
  • Be sure to test the keyboard pointing stick, if there is one. It will look like a big colored dot in the middle of the keyboard.

☐ Hit Quit to exit the program once testing is finished, and restart. If you have to swap in a new keyboard or button, make sure to repeat the above steps.

What to do if something doesn't work

  • If any keys are non-functional, consult with your instructor. They may have you clean the keyboard, replace some keys, or replace the whole keyboard.
  • If the trackpad or mouse buttons are finicky or non-functional, consult with your instructor.

8. Boot into Xubuntu 12.04

☐ Login as the Default User, password freegeek.
☐ Notifications may appear that indicate additional drivers are available; please wait until indicated by this guide to do so.

9. Run Audio Tests and stress-test

At best, all audio outputs should work.

  • Note if speakers do not work, or are not present.
  • Note if the headphone jack does not work.
  • If neither the internal speakers nor the headphone jack work, check with your instructor.

Test Internal Speakers and 1/8" Audio Jack
☐ Open a Terminal and type speaker-test -t wav -c2 -l1

  • You should hear an audio file play from both the right and left speakers.

☐ Find the headphone jack; it is usually colored green or marked with a headphone symbol.
☐ Find a pair of headphones from the shelf.
☐ Repeat the audio test or use an audio CD to test the jack output; mark your findings on the Keeper label.

Use the same Terminal window and hit the up arrow to bring up a previously typed command, and then hit enter to repeat the command.

Troubleshooting Audio
In laptops, we cannot physically replace the sound card, like we can in a desktop system. This limits our options when things go wrong. However, we can:

  • ensure that the sound card is recognized by the system by running lspci | grep -i audio.
  • double check that audio is not muted in the operating system. Click on the audio symbol in the top panel of the Desktop to check the volume settings.
  • run alsamixer in a terminal and check that volume levels for "Master" and "PCM" are set around 90.

☐ Open a terminal and run stress-test.

  • If the test fails, consult with your Instructor. A failure typically indicates an issue with the CPU or motherboard.

10. Confirm Installed RAM

☐ Open a Terminal and type free -m
☐ Check the total column against the amount of RAM noted on the Keeper label.

  • The amount of total RAM will often be slightly less than the amount on the Keeper label, but should be within a couple hundred megabytes.
  • Check with an instructor if you have more than 3GB of RAM installed but significantly less than the total amount is indicated (e.g. 3.4GB appears with 4GB installed).

1024 MB (megabytes) is equal to 1 GB (gigabyte).

11. Configure Networking

All laptops sold or given away by Free Geek must have a working wired internet connection and must be able to browse to a website wirelessly.

Test wired internet connection

☐ Plug in an ethernet cable from the bench.

  • Watch the desktop panel, top right corner. You should see a ↑↓ symbol appear.

☐ Open a web browser (Xubuntu 12.04 uses Firefox by default) and navigate to a website, such as

Troubleshooting tips

  • Try a different cable. The workbench ethernet cables see a lot of use. If you do find a faulty cable, please notify an instructor so they can promptly replace it.
  • Check to see if the up lights are flashing on the LAN port. No lights may indicate a failed port.
  • Open a terminal and run ifconfig. Have your instructor help you interpret the results.

Test wireless internet connection

☐ Test wireless

  • Disconnect the ethernet cable.
  • Click on the WiFi symbol to select the FreeGeek network.
  • Load a website in Firefox. Pick a different site than you used for the wired networking test, such as

☐ If you run into issues, reference the Wireless Troubleshooting Guide (A-5) in the binder Appendix.

12. Install Restricted Extras and Check for Proprietary Drivers

Run the Restricted Extras & DVD Codecs Installer

Support for DVD playback, Adobe Flash, and several other proprietary features are not included in Xubuntu by default, but can be added with the following steps:
☐ Plug in an ethernet cable from the workbench if you are not currently connected.
☐ On the desktop panel along the top of the screen, navigate to Menu → Other → Install Restricted Extras & DVD Codecs

  • Answer "Yes" when prompted to confirm the installation and provide the default password when prompted.
  • Wait for the installation to complete and close the completion notification when it appears; if the notification informs you that the installation has failed check with your instructor.

Check for additional drivers

☐ On the desktop panel, navigate to Menu → Settings → Additional Drivers. If any drivers are listed, please check with your instructor.
Please do not install drivers without checking with an instructor, sometimes they can cause major system problems.

13. Test Optical Drive

Determine drive functions

All drives should have CD read and CD write functions (CD-RW) and DVD read (DVD-ROM) capabilities.
☐ Check the drive faceplate or Keeper Label to see if your drive has DVD read and write capabilities (DVD-R/W), or just DVD-ROM.
☐ Open a terminal and run /usr/lib/freegeek_show_cd_drives. You should see something like:

device:      sr0
model:       Optiarc_DVD+_-RW_AD-5540A
supporting:  cdrom, cdrw, dvd, dvdrw

☐ Make sure the drive functions listed on the optical drive faceplate match the Terminal output. If the functions listed do not match, ask your instructor for help.

CD and DVD read tests

☐ You will need two testing disks:

  • CD-R or CD-ROM disk, such as an audio CD.
  • Commercial video DVD (movie, television show, etc.)

☐ Insert your testing CD, and wait a few moments. A file manager window should pop up.

  • Confirm that the operating system can read the files or audio on the disk.
  • If the window does not appear, check for the disk in the Places menu.

☐ Repeat the test with a DVD.

  • A media player should appear and the DVD should start to play. If it does not start then consult with your Instructor as this may indicate a problem with the DVD codec installation.

14. Test USB Ports

Laptops should have at least two functioning USB ports.

☐ Note the number of USB ports on the system. Look for any physical damage, gunk, or oxidation around the ports.
☐ Use a USB mouse to test each port. Make sure you can move things around and switch between windows with the mouse cursor.
☐ If there is a broken port, make a note on the Keeper Label to be included in the printme notes, and cover the port with black electrical tape.

Note: Some ports may seem to work but are missing the internal plastic guide the protects the metal pins. These are considered damaged because the pins are unprotected and may short out, causing damage to the USB device or the laptop motherboard. Please point out any damaged ports to your instructor.

Troubleshooting tips

  • Run the command lsusb in a terminal to see if devices attached to each port are recognized by the operating system.
  • Check BIOS to make sure that all USB ports are enabled.

15. Run printme

☐ Open a Terminal window and type printme and press Enter. Follow the onscreen instructions.
☐ Have your instructor sign off on the digital copy of your work.
☐ Print a copy of the printme to the desktop.

  • Select Print from the green section of the printme document.
  • Select Print to File from the list of printers.
  • Name the file Laptop_Build.pdf
  • Change the destination folder to Desktop and click Print.

16. Next Steps

☐ Prepare the system for battery test:

  • Navigate to Menu → Settings → Settings Manager → Power Manager in the desktop panel.
  • On the On AC tab, set When laptop lid is closed: Nothing
  • On the On Battery tab set When laptop lid is closed: Nothing
  • On the Extended tab, make sure the box next to "Lock screen when going for suspend/hibernate" is unchecked.

☐ Review the Keeper Label:

  • Make sure all the Build section steps have been completed, and any notes or questions resolved.
  • If battery or memory testing has not been done yet, start needed tests on the testing station. Instructions are in the binder Appendix (A-3) and (A-4) section of your binder, there is also a copy posted at the testing shelf.
  • If there are still repairs or parts needed, make a note, and check with your instructor.