Panasonic CF-28 Toughbook Laptop Computer

© Brooke Clarke 2009

Model No.
Under Battery GPS, RAM, ???
External Power
    Upgrading the 30 GB HDD with a 320 GB HDD
Under HDD mini PCI slots
Right Side - LAN, dial-up Modem, PCMCIA, Ext Pwr
    LAN upgrade "Add Wifi in 5 Min" - Connector
Left Side - Multimedia Pocket, GPS Ant
Back Side - Docking Connection & many Interface Connections
Device Manager
Playing a DVD with WIN XP Media Player
    Combo DVD CD Drive CF-VDR282
    Vehicle Mount Port Replicator CF-WEB273
    Ext Floppy Cable CF-VCF271
    External Battery Charger CF-VCBTB1U
    MP Second Battery CF-VZSU1428
    Generic USB CD/DVD Drive

CF-28 Toughbook
Shown with the PCMCIA 802.11G wireless card operating.
The internal mini PCI wireless card is on order, but for now this is an easy way to connect.
                CF-28S Top
                CF-28S Bottom


The reasons for getting this ruggedized laptop computer were:
Newer Toughbooks are the CF-30 and CF-31.


The CF-28 was been made in three versions and as of Oct 2009 is not longer being made.
Starting Model
Op Systems
15.6 V
3.85 Amp
Mk 1
WIN 98
Mk 2
CF-28? ?
Mk 3
CF-28S 2000

Model No.

CF-28STJGEKMBKB (last letter may be "B" or "D"). This is a specification driven number where:
CF-28S Mk 3









Meanings: from Mk 1 manual:
CPU: M = P3 600 MHz
LCD: C = 13.3" TFT Color <mine has the 13.3" Touch screen>
HDD: F = 20 GB/128 MB RAM (is: 30 GB & 256 MB RAM  G?)
FDD: A = Floppy Disk
OP Sys: C=NT, D=2000, E=98
Area: M=USA&Canada, E=UK, G=Germany, F=France, S=Sweden, T=Italy, P=Spain

Note: If you press F2 repeatedly and quickly after powering up the computer you will enter the BIOS.
The first screen shows the Model and Serial numbers using a font that allows differentiating zero from one.
When filling out the registration on the Toughbook web page you can enter 00000000 (eight zeros) for the ESN.

the toughbook configurator

Ccan be used without registering.
Discontinued Models \  Toughbook 28 \
semi-rugged and Fully rugged appear on page.
Wait for:"Loading Configuration Data, Please Wait".
20 Nov 2009 - it does not work for me in Firefox 3.5.5, IE8 or Opera.


Was using Microsoft Security Essentials but have unisntalled it because it's a memory hog and this computer does not have the minimum 1GB needed.
Avast! has a free package (requires renewing every 14 months, but has a much smaller footprint).


CF-28 Toughbook with shoulder strap connected

CF-28 Toughbook with shoulder strap connected
A very important aspect of this laptop computer is the handle.  All my other laptop computers are rectangular boxes that you carry by holding the box.  It's very easy to drop them.  Not only does the CF-28 have a rugged carry handle it also has slots (0.59" 15 mm long) in the two front corners for a shoulder strap, like those used on the Nikon camera where the ends are straps rather than rings.


The LCD is hinged to the chassis.  There are other laptops that are "Convertible", meaning the LCD can be rotated 180 degress then closed, making a tablet computer.
The LCD has the "Touch Screen" option so you can just press "start" etc. instead of using the mouse.



The CF-VZSU18 battery did not charge when the AC power adapter was connected overnight.  BUT, using the BIOS "Refresh Battery" function found in the EXIT menu now has the battery working, but only with a one hour capacity.  The "Refresh Battery" function, charges the battery, discharges it, then charges it again.  During this process the computer is talking to the battery and setting it's internal data registers.   This is something needed whenever a new battery is combined with the computer.

Note the stock 5.4 AmpHr battery is rated for 3.5 to 5.2 hours, so this pack is well worn.
CF-28 Toughbook
        battery opened CF-VZSU18
The 9 cells are approximately 18mm dia x 64 mm long.  So they are the common laptop 18650 Li-Ion cells.  They are available in capacities of: 1400, 2200, 2400, 2600, mAH.  Which times 3 gives battery pack capacties of:
4.2, 6.6, 7.2, 7.8 AH

The factory pack at 5.4 AH must have used cells rated 1800 mAH.

The Black wire (G) connects to the two adjacent cells and the top of each string of three cells is connected to a wire (White, Yellow, Red).

When buying these cells from the China Disty's the cost of 10 cells is under $40.  With a new pack from China at $50 it may not make economic sense to recell the pack.  But that will be different in the future when this pack is no longer common.

The factory says NOT to leave the AC adapter or charger connected to the battery for more time than is needed to charge the battery.  This is consistant with the idea that you should NOT trickle charge modern batteries.

The 3 cells in the upper left are in parallel with their negative terminals connected to the black wire.  Their positive terminals and connected to the negative terminals of the 3 cells to their right.  The positive e terminals of these 3 cells are connected to the white wire and to the negative terminals of the cell on the right and the 2 cells on the bottom.  Thier positive terminals are connected to the red wire.  Each group of 3 cells must be matched.

On the back side thre are two small black wires going to the temperature sensor.

In the lower left of the photo above pointing down is the socket for using the external battery charger.

After unsoldering the wires that connect the battery pack to the protection/interface board the three parallel cells connected to the black wire were put on the Maha C777P2 charger. 
1. After 2644 minutes (2 days) 1593 mAh was put into those cells and the final voltage was 4.1V. 
2. After 2578 minutes (2 days) 1553 mAh was put into the cells between the yellow and white wires and the final voltage was 4.1 V.
3. After

Second Battery

The Multimedia Pocket will accept a second battery in addition to the Floppy or Optical drive. When charging the main battery is first charged to 100% then the second battery receives charge.  When using the laptop the main battery is drained first then the second battery supplies the power. 
13 Nov 2005 @ 3:00 pm
Like the main battery the secondary battery should be Refreshed when it's first installed.  I tried this from the battery state of charge window after double clicking on the second battery icon, but the main battery was being charged.  It did not do the refresh.  Using the BIOS\EXIT\Refresh battery function there is no option for the second battery. 

The Executing Refreshing Battery window says Charging and the "MP" LED is lit, so it's charging the second battery which implies it will also get it synchronized with the computer.  The second battery came with 14% charge.  The main battery icon and the AC Power icon are both green, implying that the main battery is charged.

I've found the Progress % bar has little meaning, so even though it's at 70% at 3:11 pm there's no way to estimate the time remaining.

Under the Main Battery


When the battery is removed under the black flap can be found the RAM printed circuit board (Edge 256 MB, P43097-13).  The computer reports 512 MB of RAM so the EDGE card must be the second 256 MB.


CF-28S Toughbook under Battery GPS top of PCB

The Yellow shrink wrapped item is the back-up battery for the GPS receiver.  It maintains the GPS almanac and ephemeris allowing for much faster startup.  It is not needed for GPS operation.

RAM is at the left.
CF-28 Toughbook laptop computer GPS
                PCB back
CF-28 Toughbook laptop computer GPS PCB back
  Also under the battery black flap is the Panasonic, Ref No. CN-GX0100A, s/n: 10128, Label: YEFM011059 GPS module.  But I don't see any trace of it in the software.  How to get the GPS operational?  If you know which BIOS is needed to work with the GPS please let me know.

The factory says you just need to load GPS software and use COM 3 or COM 4.
Factory says not shipped w/GPS.  Maybe the radome is on all CF-28S (Mk 3) laptops?

11 Nov 2009 - Under Accessories there should be a sub folder for Communications, but it had a corrupted title.  Once fixed Hyperterminal could be used to probe the COM ports.  Ports available are: 1, 2 (3 and 4 missing) and 5 through 12.  Note that the factory says GPS should be on port COM3 or COM4, but those are the missing ports.  COM7 had a fail to connect error, so may be is used for something else.

External Power

The External Power jack is located on the right side.  So far I've not been able to find any specifications for what range of voltages are allowed so have started to do some measurements using an HP 6038A lab power supply.  The DC plug is a 6.5 x 4.3 x 1.4 (Mouser 171-6014E).
HP 6038A Power
        Supply driving a CF-28 Toughbook computer
When the input voltage gets low the internal batteries take over but the "/\/" Ext power LED stays on.
When the screen saver turns on it draws more power than when WIN XP was showing (+ 0.5 amps more).


The 30 GB Hard Disk Drive is under the same bottom cover as the battery.  It can easily be unplugged. 
CF-28S Toughbook
        Hard Disk Drive
N3CABQD00009 1 3C

Some searching "IDE laptop hard drive" on eBay shows that there are 320 GB laptop hard drives available with IDE interfaces.  Note the newer SATA interfaces are very different so these 500 GB drives will not work.

I've been told that a 320 GB laptop IDE drive will work.

Upgrading the 30 GB HDD with a 320 GB HDD

Two seperate eBay sellers: one for the 320 GB laptop IDE hard drive and another for the Upgrade kit.
The procedure is:

CF-28 Toughbook Upgrading the 30 GB
                HDD with a 320 GB HDD

1. Install the new HDD onto USB interface.

The two USB connectors on one end of the cable may be to get more DC current for the drive.  The instructions say only needed for a PC not a Mac.

2. Copy Clone Software to CF-28

Since the CF-28 does not have a CD drive (yet) copy the CD to a shared drive on my desktop computer then use the wireless LAN to copy the CD to the CF-28.

Install the software and reboot.

CF-28 Cloning internal 30 GB hard
                drive to USB connected 320 GB hard drive

3. Cloning internal 30 GB hard drive to USB connected 320 GB hard drive

using Apricorn EZ-GIG software (any makers new HDD installation sofware should also work). 

The software runs after a reboot in the NTFS mode prior to WIN XP starting.

Note the current only went up by 0.1 Amps and it's working with only a single USB connector (the other cable USB connector is not connected).

The clone hardware is USB 2 so there was a popup saying it could run faster.  The CF-28 may have a USB 1.0 port on the rear panel.

There are PCMCIA cards that have USB 2 jacks that would have speeded up the cloning process.    Now 25% complete after 25 minutes so that total time will be about 100 minutes.

Took about 2 hours.  Maybe would have been 15 minutes shorter if I'd have noticed the error message and pressed R (retry) sooner.
CF-28 Toughbook HDD Upgrade

3. Replace 30 GB drive with cloned 320 GB drive.

30 GB on left, 320 GB on right.

Heater in center, copper heat spreader at top.

White rubber surround at upper right.

Didn't need to unplug the small plug in bottom center photo.

When WIN XP starts it finds new hardware, i.e. the new disk drive.  Local drive C: now shows 298 GB, 5.17 GB used.  I turned off "allow indexing to make searching faster".  But there was an error and Retry did not fix it, so going back to allowing indexing (it may slow down the computer).

Used Disk Cleanup to remove all the junk and then defraged drive (even though not required).

Installed old 30GB drive in matal box with USB interface.  It's not as small as a thumb drive but works just the same.

Under HDD

Two mini PCI slots.
CF-28S Toughbook
        mini PCI slots under HDD

Network Card


Modem Card



Right Side - LAN, dial-up Modem, PCMCIA, Ext Pwr

CF-28S Toughbook Right Side Lan & Telco Modem RJ jacks, two PCMCIA slots, IR window, 15.6 VDC power jack.
If you know the allowable range of input voltages please let me know.
The factory telephone help line could not provide any information about the voltage tolerance.
Linksys WPC54G Wireless-G 802.11G LAN
              PCMCIA card

Linksys WPC54G Wireless-G 802.11G LAN PCMCIA card

The CF-28 came with this solution for wireless LAN.  But it sticks out of the computer and I'm constantly worried that the black plastic part will get broken off.  It works well with my Linksys WRT350N wireless router.
CF-28 Toughbook Hidden mini PCMCIA

CF-28 Toughbook Hidden mini PCMCIA slot

To remove the LAN (CAT-5) - dial up modem cover:
1. Remove screw that is behind the normal PCMCIA door in the lower right corner in photo at left.

2. Remove bottom cover then remove the screw that's down a hole.  I lost mine so be careful.

3. Remove the HDD and unplug the LAN connector.

Gently pry the panel up.  Do not apply force to the panel tab (1) as it can easily break off.  I used a samll flat blade screwdriver applied to the thickness of the panel near the tab (1).

4. Remove the dial up connector to free up the panel.

The hidden mini PCMCIA slot will NOT accept a standard PCMCIA card, only the mini card.

Note the gray rectangle adjacent to the dial up jack (4).  That's the back side of some double sided tape that's holding the plastic panel on the frame.  A Wifi antenna might be mounted here.

              Toughbook LAN upgrade "Add Wifi in 5 Min"

LAN upgrade "Add Wifi in 5 Min"

Left PCB is the combined LAN and modem. 
Marked: Model 3CN3AC1556B
It has  two connectors on the left side.
The flap has three tear off stickers with the card's MAC address.

The PCB on the right is the Wifi board. 
Marked: T60H786.03
The upper left connector is marked "AUX" and the one below it "MAI" (main).  The large chip is by Atheros 5213A.

Testing existing interfaces:
1. Connecting a CAT5 cable to the RJ-45 port allows seeing the Network Places folders.
2. Connecting an RJ-11 cable to a phone line it's not clear which COM port to use in Hyperterminal.

The "Installation Instructions" that came on the CD was a link to a non existant web page.  Tried the Setup.exe for the wired LAN, but it did not work.  Needed to remove both these cards, uninstall and reinstall the Linksys software, which required using the Generic USB combo drive to restore the PCMCIA wifi.
CF-28 Toughbook Wifi Upgrade PCB Connectors
              Toughbook Wifi Upgrade PCB Connectors

CF-28 Toughbook Wifi Upgrade PCB Connectors

These are UMCX connectors.


USB 802.11
After unplugging and later plugging in the PCMCIA WiFi card it stopped working.  Plugging the card into another laptop turned on it's ppwer light and the op system found it as a LAN USB device.  So something happened to my PCMCIA slots in the Toughbook.

A simple fix is to use a very low cost USB to 802.11n adapter.  Since the USB ports on the CF-28 are USB1.1 and not USB2.0 it's hard to say how fast it really runs, but it's OK form most things I do.

The antenna is a seperate part with a 3mm male connector so will fit on other WiFi equipment like the Bowman radios.

Left Side - Multimedia Pocket, GPS Ant

CF-28S Toughbook Left
After the MP Release on the bottom is turned, the Floppy drive in it's caddy is ejected.  There are DVD-CD drives that fit, but the drives now on eBay do NOT come with the needed caddy.
If you have a DVD-CD drive with the caddy let me know.  The bump to the right of the MP slot is the GPS antenna radome.

Back Side - Docking Connection & many Interface Connections

CF-28S Toughbook Back From left to right:
PS2 circular DIN connector for Mouse or Keyboard
USB-A jack (small door in large door for access)
Earphone output
Mike input
Black Tape covering coax hole
Docking Station Interface (medium door in large door for access)
VGA Monitor output
DB-25 Printer interface
RS-232 interface
CF-28 Toughbook Rear coax hole
The black tape has been removed exposing the coax mounting hole.
This coax could be used with an external antenna and it mates with the port replicator.  Probably for wireless LAN but also would be usefull for GPS, so why not two coax ports?

Note micorphone symbolunder jack to the left of the coax hole.


PSG-9 CP-5131/GYC or PSG-9 Message Terminal CHS-2 Handheld Terminal Unit (HTU)

Toughbook Forum - some reference material related to all the Toughbook models

DRS ARMOR Rugged Mobil Computers - C12 Convertiable and X-10 Tablet


CF-30 Toughbook

Device Manager


Microsoft AC Adapter
Microsoft ACPI-Compliant Control Method Battery
Microsoft ACPI-Compliant Control Method Battery


Disk drives


Display Adapters

IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers

Intel AIM 3.0 Codec


Mice and other pointing devices



3Com 56k V.90 Mini PCI Modem (have not tried it yet)
Bluetooth DUN Modem (???)
Bluetooth Fax Modem (???)


Network Adapters

3Com 10/100 Mini PCI Ethernet Adapter (it works with a CAT5 cable)
Bluetooth PAN Network Adapter(Do NOT understand this???)

PCMCIA adapters

Ricoh R/RL/5C476(II) or Compatible CardBus Controller
Ricoh R/RL/5C476(II) or Compatible CardBus Controller

Ports (COM & LPT)

    Bluetooth Serial Port (COM10)
    Bluetooth Serial Port (COM11)
    Bluetooth Serial Port (COM12)
    Bluetooth Serial Port (COM13)
    Bluetooth Serial Port (COM5)
    Bluetooth Serial Port (COM6)
    Bluetooth Serial Port (COM7)
    Bluetooth Serial Port (COM8)
    Bluetooth Serial Port (COM9)
    Communications Port (COM1)
    Communications Port (COM2)
    ECP Printer Port (LPT1)


Mobile Intel(R) Pentium(R) III CPU-M 1000 MHz

Sound, video and game controllers

System devices

Universal Serial Bus controllers

Intel(R) 82801CA/CAM USB Universal Host Controller - 2482 (USB1.1)
USB Root Hub

Playing a DVD with WIN XP Media Player

With the DVD installed in the Media Pocket when the computer boots up it finds new hardware.
Matshita UJDA750 DVD/CDRW which is the drive inside the CF-VDR282 caddy.

Just after installation when a music CD is inserted it can be played using Windows Media Player, but when a DVD is inserted it will not play.
To get a DVD to play in Windows Media Player two things need to be done.

Enable DVD for Media Player

WARNING if you don't understand regedit it's best to have someone who knows how do this!
start \ run \ regedit
Open: CURRENT_USER \ software \ Microsoft \ Mediaplayer \ Player \ Settings
with pointer in the right name-type-data field right click new\string value and type:
EnableDVDUI <Enter>
now double click on that line and enter YES for Value Data:
exit regedit

Load DVD codec

I used tucows and searched for "DVD codec", clicked on Freeware, and downloaded the K-Lite Codec Pack.

Now a DVD will play in Media player.

While the movie is playing you can right click on the movie and select: Full Screen.
Press Esc to get back to the normal window.

Note:  I made the regedit change to my desktop computer and now it plays DVDs in Media Player since the codec was already there.


Model No.

                Toughbook DVD drive CF-VDR282
Combo DVD CD Drive

Marked as
i.e. it will play a DVD
or play/burn a CD,
but not burn a DVD.

Telephone Line Tester Modules
? contact me

Desktop Port Replicator

Vehicle Mount Port Replicator CF-WEB273
                Vehicle Port Replicator CF-WEB273 TopShown with the connector extended in the "Dock" position.  Need to press the brass button to allow movement. 

There's a coax connector to the right of the replicator connector.  It may be a SMA male.  It has no compliance so the mating SMA female connector must have compliance, maybe just an O-ring or maybe spring mounted.

Laptop is installed with front under bracket in front then the rear is lowered over the two location pins.  Then the knob is moved from UNDOCK to DOCK.
Toughbook Port
                Replicator CF-WEB273 Vehicle InterfaceThere is a 15.6 V power socket that's the same as on the laptop.  The TNC-f connector is for the coax (maybe for GPS or maybe for wireless LAN?).
                Vehicle Port Replicator CF-WEB273 Unknown InterfaceUnder the metal lip are a bunch of 0.1" on centers male header connectors for an unknown purpose.  If you knw what they are for let me know.
??is the above really this one, i.e. with cable??? Vehicle Mount Port Replicator
w/ Hi-gain Ant pass-thru Cable
Toughbook C-VCF271 External FDD
External FDD Cable
Replicator port to floppy
allows CD/DVD & FDD at same time, like loading the op system.

The long connector mates to the FDD and the DB-25 to the Printer connector(?)

                Toughbook Battery Charger CF-VCBTB1E
Battery Charger

Note the factory CF-VZSU18 battery has a small jack on the side allowing the "2' cable to connect, BUT the LPA-VZSU18 made in China
does NOT have this charging jack.  Battery List:
Charging MP second battery.  The same external power supply that's used for the computer is used to power the charger.

Main Li-Ion Battery
                Toughbook Media Pocket Second Battery CF-VZSU1428
11.1 V  3.6 Ah
MP Second Battery

AC Adapter (15.6 V)

128M RAM

256M RAM

13.3" LCD Protector

12.1" LCD Protector CF-VPF02U

CF2728 Sling Carry Case

Universal Carry Case

                Toughbook Generic UDB CD/DVD Drive
Generic USB CD/DVD Drive

Two options for DC power:
1) Worldwide 5 VDC wall wart
2) PS2 & USB-A to computer - DC powr to drive.


Panasonic Toughbook - If you have a model & serial number 24/7/365 support: 1 (800) 527-8675
Zen And The Art Of ToughBooks - overview of testing at Kobe, Japan factory

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