The Panasonic CF-25 Information Page

After finding there is not much information about the CF-25 online, I decided to put as much information together as I could and make it available online. This page is the result of those efforts.

In 2010, I ‘adopted’ a Panasonic CF-25 ruggedized Pentium MMX laptop that my college was going to throw out. Not long after, I broke the keyboard and sought another to help fix the first. At the time, there was very little information about the CF-25 online. These laptops are old and limited, but they do have some lingering utility and hobbyist value, so someone seeking information should be able to find it. That is why, in May 2010, I created Panasonic CF-25 Information Thread on NotebookReview.com and have since continued it here on my website.


Table of Contents

  1. Manuals & Documentation
  2. Drivers, Utilities & BIOS Updates
  3. Photos
  4. Original Specifications by Model Number
  5. Decoding a CF-25 Model Number
  6. Accessories & Expansion/Upgrade Options
  7. Clock Battery Replacement Mod/Hack
  8. BIOS Setup Menu and Limitations
  9. Clearing CF-25 BIOS Passwords

Manuals & Documentation (top)

Service Manuals

Service manuals are no longer available from Panasonic, however a user on NotebookReview was able to provide one to me:

Operating Instructions (User Manuals)

CF-25 user manuals can still be downloaded from Panasonic. Search for CF25. Direct links:


Drivers, Utilities & BIOS Updates (top)

Like manuals, these can still be obtained from the Panasonic Canada website. Search for CF25.


Photos (top)

Below are photos of my own CF-25 Mark 3 with the larger LCD.


Original Specifications by Model Number (top)

Panasonic typically releases multiple versions of the same model series, called marks. There are 3 ‘marks’ of CF-25. Within each mark, there are a variety of configurations sold.

Regarding the last character of the model numbers, M = USA/Canada, E = UK, G = Germany. The machines have the same specifications except for the keyboard layout, and each included a different AC power cord for the power adapter (which itself is ‘worldwide compatible’).

Common to all:

  • HDD type: 44-pin 2.5″ EIDE/ATA. Height is pretty forgiving because drive is suspended in gel.
  • RAM type: One slot for 144 pin 60/70ns 3.3V EDO SODIMM. SDRAM can fit in the slot, but will not work. You must use EDO memory!
  • Audio: 16 bit 44.1KHz w/mono speaker and headphone jack; for specific hardware details see each Mark.
  • Keyboard: sealed matrix water resistent rubber dome 87 keys (USA) or 89 keys (UK).
    German keyboard information is currently unknown.
    Mark 2 and Mark 3 can share keyboards, but not the keyboard/touchpad interface PCB that connects the ribbons to the motherboard; this PCB is a completely passive adapter in the Mark 2 but has additional logic on it for Mark 3. Mark 1 info unknown.
  • Pointing device: SMK 401ATA resistive track pad approx 2×1.5″, recognized as a standard PS/2 mouse
  • PCMCIA: 3 slots for Type I or II (bottom two are Type III aka Cardbus, bottommost is also ZV) all of which support 3.3V 400mA/5V 400mA/12V 120mA (current ratings are for all 3 slots combined)
  • I/O: DE9 serial, DE15 VGA video, DB25 parallel, PS/2 mouse/keyboard (sharing one port, common splitters work), IrDA infrared
  • AC Adapter: input AC 100-240V 50/60Hz, output DC 15V 2.6A
  • MP bay FDD: 1.44MB DSHD/720KB DSDD (high density/low density support). Note: no model seems to have included CD-ROM as standard equipment.
  • Original OS: Windows 95
  • Screen type: Active Matrix TFT LCD (except one model, indicated below) with native resolution of 800×600

Mark-specific information:

  • Mk 1
    • Common to all Mk 1 models:
      • CPU Socket: MMC-1
      • Chipset: unconfirmed but probably i430MX
      • RAM: 8MB, expandable to 40MB by adding 32MB
      • Graphics: Chips & Technologies (model unknown) with 1MB video memory
      • Audio: unknown
    • Examples of documented Mk 1 models and the variable specs:
      • CF-25CG82AAM: Pentium 100MHz, 10.4″, 840MB, NiMH 9.6V 3200mAh
      • CF-25EGC2AAM: Pentium 133MHz, 10.4″, 1.35GB, NiMH 9.6V 3200mAh
  • Mk 2
    • Common to all Mk 2 models:
      • CPU Socket: MMC-1
      • Chipset: Intel 430MX
      • RAM: 16MB, expandable to 48MB by adding 32MB. Larger SODIMMs will be ignored completely if installed.
      • Graphics: Chips & Technologies T65550-ES1 with 2MB video memory
      • Audio: ESS AudioDrive ES1788F
    • Examples of documented Mk 2 models and the variable specs:
      • CF-25DGC4DAM: Pentium 120MHz, 10.4″, 1.35GB, NiMH 9.6V 3600mAh
      • CF-25EGC4DAM: Pentium 133MHz, 10.4″, 1.44GB, NiMH 9.6V 3600mAh
      • CF-25FJF4DAM: Pentium 150MHz, 12.1″, 2GB, NiMH 9.6V 3600mAh
      • CF-25FVF4DAM: Pentium 150MHz, 12.1″ (Active Matrix STN), 2.1GB, Li-Ion 10.8V 2300mAh
      • CF-25FXF4DAM: Pentium 150MHz, 12.1″, 2.1GB, Li-Ion 10.8V 2300mAh
  • Mk 3
    • Common to all Mk 3 models:
      • CPU Socket: 7
      • Chipset: Intel 430TX
      • Graphics: NeoMagic MagicGraph 128ZV with 1.1MB video memory
      • Audio: Yamaha YMF715E-S (SoundBlaster PRO Compatible)
    • Examples of documented Mk 3 models and the variable specs:
      • CF-25LFC4EAM: Pentium MMX 166MHz, 10.4″, 16MB expandable to 96MB, 1.44GB, Li-Ion 10.8V 2300mAh
      • CF-25LGF8EAM (CPU-Z): Pentium MMX 166MHz, 10.4″, 32MB expandable to 48MB, 2.1GB, Li-Ion 10.8V 2300mAh
      • CF-25LJF8EAM: Pentium MMX 166MHz, 12.1″, 32MB expandable to 48MB, 2.1GB, Li-Ion 10.8V 2300mAh. Equipped with antenna pass-through for radio modem.
  • Undocumented but known to exist:
    • These are model numbers I have found in various places which exist but do not appear in any official documentation I could find. Specs have been decoded by “reverse-engineering” the model numbering system.
      • CF-25EGC4CAM: Mark 2, Pentium 133, 10.4″, 1.35 or 1.44GB HDD, 16MB. See CPU-Z Validation here.
      • CF-25FJF4CAM: Mark 2, Pentium 150, 12.1″, 2 or 2.1GB HDD, 16MB
      • CF-25FXF4CAM: Mark 2, Pentium 150, 12.1″, 2 or 2.1GB HDD, 16MB
      • CF-25LGM8EAM: Mark 3, Pentium MMX 166, 10.4″, unknown HDD, 32MB. A reader confirmed it came with a  Li-Ion battery.
      • CF-25LJM8EAM: Mark 3, Pentium MMX 166, 12.1″, unknown HDD, 32MB. A reader confirms his is equipped with a NiMH battery as well as the antenna capability for the radio modem. His unit has a 4GB HDD, though I think it’s too big to be original to the computer.

See also Decoding a CF-25 Model Number.

The majority of this information has been compiled by working backwards from the Mk1, Mk2, and Mk3 manuals. Some information has been obtained by cross-referencing known info or units I have and information provided by other users. Long story short, nothing here should be incorrect (incomplete if anything).

It is very possible that more models exist. Contact me with the info on yours if you have an unlisted one!


Decoding a CF-25 Model Number (top)

According to the service manual for Mark 1 CF-25s (CPD9609026CO), this is what the different positions in the model number represent:

CF-25abcdAAe

Where…
a represents equipped CPU
b represents LCD type
c represents hard drive capacity
d represents RAM capacity
e represents region

Though the service manual does not specify the mark or marks it applies to, we know it applies only to mark 1s because it only provides options for those variables that correspond to known mark 1 CF-25s.

By running the Mark 2 and Mark 3 models through this pattern we will be able to figure out what the unknown letters represent.

CPU Field:

Ex. CF-25LJF8EAM

  • C – Pentium 100MHz
  • D – Pentium 120MHz
  • E – Pentium 133MHz
  • F – Pentium 150MHz
  • L – Pentium MMX 166MHz

LCD Field:

Ex. CF-25LJF8EAM

  • G – 10.4″ TFT
  • J – 12.1″ TFT
  • V – 12.1″ STN
  • X – 12.1″ TFT
  • Multiple 12.1s might be explained by different suppliers

Hard Drive Field:

Ex. CF-25LJF8EAM

  • 8 – 840MB
  • C – 1.35GB, 1.44GB
  • F – 2GB, 2.1GB
  • M – ???

RAM Field:

Ex. CF-25LJF8EAM

  • 2 – 8MB built in
  • 4 – 16MB built in
  • 8 – 32MB built in

All models have some amount of RAM soldered onto the motherboard and an expansion slot. The capacity varies by mark and model.

Undocumented two-letter code:

Ex. CF-25LJF8EAM

It looks like this might actually indicate the mark, but there isn’t quite enough info to confirm this yet. If that is what it means, this is what they translate to:

  • AA – Mk 1
  • CA – Mk 2
  • DA – Mk 2
  • EA – Mk 3

Region/Area Field:

Ex. CF-25LJF8EAM

  • E – UK
  • G – DE
  • M – USA/CAN

If you find a model or information which conflicts with or adds to this listing, please get in touch and contribute the info so I can make this as accurate as possible. Thanks!


Accessories & Expansion/Upgrade Options (top)

The CF-25 has a variety of I/O options and a couple expansion/upgrade options.

External Accessories

  • External Battery Charger, part number CF-VCB251. Charges batteries outside of the CF-25 computer.
  • Port Replicator/Docking Station, part number CF-VEB251W. Allows easier interfacing in a ‘desktop’ environment.

MP

MP, or ‘multimedia pocket’, is Panasonic’s name for the removable drive bay.

  • Floppy disk drive, part number CF-VFD251 (drives are not marked with a part number, inferred from CD-ROM drive number formatting)
  • CD-ROM drive, part number CF-VCD252, there may also be a -251
  • RIM radio modem, part number CF-VEW251-AD. Allows for mobile network access. For use in models with antenna pass-through. Probably not usable anymore due to being rather obsolete.
  • Secondary battery, part number CF-VZS252. Output: 9.6V 4.2Ah.
  • Superdisk drive pack, part number CF-VFS251W. LS-120 ‘floptical’ disk drive.
  • External MP accessory cable, part number CF-VCF351. Cable to connect certain MP bay accessories to the serial port.

RAM

The CF-25 (all models) accepts one module of 3.3V EDO memory in a 144-pin SODIMM package. All units have some permanently installed (soldered to motherboard) RAM and thus do not require a removable module to be installed in order to operate. Removable memory modules are added to the existing memory amount rather than disabling it (ex. if your model has 32MB built in and you install a 64MB module, you will have 96MB of RAM). The computers, depending on model, have varying maximum memory limitations (refer to original specifications post to determine what it is for your model).

The maximum RAM capacity stated for Mk1 and Mk2 units is ‘firm’; the computer will completely ignore an installed module that is larger than the specs allow.

The maximum RAM capacity for a Mk3 is higher than stated in the specs officially. A 128MB EDO module can be added for up to 160MB total depending on how much permanently installed RAM your model has.

PCMCIA

The CF-25 has three PCMCIA slots. All three slots support Type I or II cards. The bottom two slots claim to also support Type III/Cardbus cards. The bottom-most slot also supports ZV cards.

I have previously stated on this page that 32-bit card support seems to not work correctly, but reviewing the resources that are available, I believe it is possible to make them work – they just won’t work with an “out of the box” Windows installation. A Panasonic utility, driver, or configuration change that is part of a reinstallation using the Panasonic first aid, driver, and tool disks may be the key to making 32 bit cards function.

2017-07-22: I have found that installing Win95 OSR2.5 and then using the PCMCIA drivers from “CF25mk3w95imageupdate.exe” from Panasonic will result in properly working 32 bit Cardbus cards. However, this is only so usable, because Win95 has very limited utility in today’s world…98SE doesn’t behave the same, even using the 95 driver. I’m working on this to figure out a solution.

For best compatibility, stick to 16-bit PCMCIA unless you have been able to negotiate the 32 bit issues.

3.3, 5, and 12V cards are supported. The cumulative max current consumption among all 3 slots cannot exceed 400mA for 3.3 or 5V, or 120mA for 12V.

I have found through experience that the following cards work in the CF-25:

  • 3Com Megahertz 10Mbps LAN PC Card 3CCE589ET
  • Linksys Combo PCMCIA EthernetCard EC2T
  • Xircom CreditCard Ethernet+Modem 33.6 CEM33
  • Xircom RealPort Ethernet 10/100 RE-100
  • Netgear 802.11b Wireless PC Card MA401
  • Linksys Instant Wireless Network PC Card WPC11
  • Avaya/Lucent World Card 11 Mb/s Silver PC24E-H-FC
  • A pair of generic Intersil Prism Wireless-B cards I bought on eBay from China several years back, which arrived with no identifying labels other than the MAC addresses and are impossible to source drivers for online but did include CDs thankfully. One is identified as “IPone Airgate2200EXT” and the other is identified as “INTERSIL HFA384x/IEEE”.

USB

The (mark 3) system’s chipset appears to include a USB controller. However, the system itself does not have USB ports, and the system does not assign resources to this built in controller. There is probably a way to make it work but it would involve a lot of research and modification of both hardware and firmware.

USB Cardbus cards will not work with a fresh-off-the-disc Windows install, for reasons identified above in the PCMCIA section. If there is such a thing as a 16 bit USB card, it will likely work.

Hard Drive

CF-25 computers accept standard 2.5″ laptop hard drives (IDE/ATA). The height of the drive is not as important as it is in other laptops because the drive mounts inside a soft gel-like lining.

With a Mark 3 (tested with BIOS 1.00-L15, so not even the latest one) you can use larger hard drives, such as 12GB and 30GB drives like I use. However, FDISK seems to get confused and only see the drive as 8GB. I’m not sure if this is a BIOS or FDISK defect. I get around this by having a smaller first partition, partitioned in a different computer, and everything seems to be fine once that’s the case.

My personal experience has been that a CF-25 Mark 2 with BIOS 1.00-L18 is unable to boot (at all, even from a floppy) if a hard drive greater than 8.4GB is attached. I updated that same Mark 2 to 1.40-L03 and it began functioning the same as a Mark 3 regarding larger capacity HDDs.

The BIOS setup menu of the CF-25 does not offer any information or configuration for IDE devices. It auto detects at POST and does not tell you what it finds. If the auto detection fails,  there are no settings to tinker with to try to correct the situation.

Other…

The serial, parallel and infrared ports are standards compliant. They should not require any special tweaking to operate with any peripherals intended for those connection methods.

The single PS/2 port is the typical sort found on a laptop of this age. The use of a simple passive splitter (can be found on eBay for a few dollars shipped) enables the use of both an external PS/2 keyboard and mouse on this port. It is also possible to connect a keyboard or mouse directly to the port without a splitter but only one device can be used this way.


Clock Battery Replacement Mod/Hack (top)

This is only recommended for people who are skilled with soldering and the safe use of the involved tools. You should understand that I’m simply telling you how I modified my own CF-25s, and these instructions carry no guarantee of success for you.

The CF-25 (all marks) has a 3V coin-cell clock battery buried deep within the computer attached directly to the motherboard.

With this battery being dead, the CF-25 will be unable to keep the date/time and will prompt you about configuration changes at each power-on. Note: the CF-25 stores certain BIOS settings, such as passwords, in nonvolatile memory.

My suggested solution is to remove the original battery and add in a battery holder in an accessible location so the battery can be replaced or removed as needed. Note that the spacing between the solder points is not wide enough to directly attach the battery holder to the board, so you must either get creative or put the battery holder on a wire extension like I have. The wire extension allows you to place the battery holder in a more convenient spot like the hard drive bay, as there is just enough room between the drive and palmrest for it to go there.

  • What you need:
    • Tools and skills for soldering and desoldering.
    • Button cell battery holder (can be bought in bulk on eBay for rather cheap prices, or harvested from dead desktop motherboards)
    • If you are relocating the battery as I do: About 5-6″ of thin, flexible wire (two conductors). A good source for this is old computer case LEDs, system speakers, etc.
  • Procedure:
    1. Open computer, remove motherboard from case
    2. Locate clock battery (unknown for Mk1, top of motherboard for Mk2, bottom for Mk3)
    3. Desolder the prongs from the motherboard.
    4. Solder sufficient length wires to the solder points, keeping track of polarity. I suggest attaching to the top of the motherboard (opposite side from CPU) because it helps with wire routing.
    5. Route wires over to hard drive bay, where the battery holder will eventually reside between the hard drive and the palm rest (unless you are not using the normal battery bay, in which case that is a better option).
    6. Attach the wires (being mindful of polarity) to a button cell battery holder. You should bend the pins sideways to reduce the height of the battery holder, and put hot glue over the soldered joints to prevent shorting on metal surfaces.
    7. Piece computer back together being mindful of pinches for the wires. You may choose to hack out a small chunk of the metal casing somewhere to provide an easy route for the wires. This isn’t necessarily required depending on how you route the wires, so study how it fits together before deciding.
    8. Install common CR2032 battery, fire up machine, default the CMOS settings, ensure all passwords reflect being cleared, save settings.
    9. Reboot, set settings as you want them and save again.
    10. Boot OS of choice, set date and time.
    11. Power off machine, remove main battery if you have one, disconnect AC adapter. Let it sit for a few minutes. Power up the machine and verify that the clock is still accurate.
    12. If it is, you’re good to go! If not, break out the multimeter and poke the solder points on the motherboard – are you seeing something near 3V? If so, try reversing the polarity.

BIOS Setup Menu and Limitations (top)

Screen images coming…someday…

CF-25s have an accessible BIOS setup menu. It is extremely limited in the configuration options it provides. It isn’t visibly branded (e.g. Award, AMI, etc.) though it’s visually similar to a setup menu used in certain IBM desktop PCs.

Clearing CF-25 BIOS Passwords (top)

I have observed with Mark 3 units that if the CMOS battery dies, a Supervisor Password will become “set” and I have so far been unable to figure out what it is (it isn’t blank, either). The Supervisor Password locks you out of some more advanced options such as the boot sequence. This same issue does not seem to happen to Mark 2s.

I have found KillCMOS to be completely effective in clearing CF-25 BIOS passwords (it wipes out the entire stored config). You can obtain it from MajorGeeks. Note that your antivirus and potentially also your web browser will go crazy about this file and warn you that it’s malicious – it’s totally benign unless you run it. Don’t run it anywhere except on the target computer. There is no warning prompt when you run it, it immediately acts and reboots the computer. My preferred method is to build a MS-DOS boot floppy and put KillCMOS on the floppy. I boot from the floppy, run KillCMOS, and the laptop immediately reboots with the config and any passwords wiped.