The iBook G4 is ailing

This blog was originally started with my 1996 Powerbook 1400cs in mind, but we also have 14-inch an iBook G4 that we got in 2003. It now pretty much qualifies for “This Old Mac” status, being 5 years old, and after that many virtually trouble-free years, it has a problem.

I think the hard drive is going. I’ve been backing up the user files, sporadically, to an iPod. Believe me, it’s easier than you think to use an iPod as a backup drive, and I’m so damn cheap, I don’t have any “real” backup drives.

I do now. With the hard drive failing — and before now with the prospect of that looming — every owner of a “modern” Mac needs a Firewire drive, which can serve as a bootable drive in OS X. I’m going to use the SuperDuper backup software to mirror the drive, if I can even do it. I think the iBook’s hard drive does better when cold, and when the computer is held at a 45 degree angle, so I’ll try first to get a new backup of the user files and then a full, bootable backup.

If I can then boot off the Firewire drive, and after that my problems go away (basically the computer stalls and shows me the ever-lovin’ beachball until we pick it up to the aforementioned 45-degree-angle), then I need to open it up and swap out the hard drive.

If only it was easier to do so. The fine folks at Apple aren’t producing these laptops as products designed to last, say, 10 years. You’re supposed to have backups all the time, and presumably if your laptop is 5 years old, it’s time to just give up and get a new one, because it’s tremendously costly to have complex repair work done on a laptop.

Of course, I’m going to do this myself, and I would NEVER retire a 5-year-old computer — that’s young in my book.

Luckily the Web site provides excellent instructions on how to tear apart Apple laptops and iPods. From that site I know now that I need a 9.5 mm ATA laptop drive, and I can get a used 80 GB model from them for $79.95. If I get the Firewire backup drive going, I’ll probably wait for a sale at Fry’s and, if it’s the right size, put a 120-or-so GB drive in the iBook.

Here are all the ifixit guides for Mac laptops, and here are all the guides specifically for 14-inch iBook G4 laptops, and, drilling even further down, here’s the guide on replacing the hard drive in the 14-inch iBook G4.

If I haven’t made it clear, it’s obscene how many things you have to do to get a hard drive replaced in one of these iBooks. I’m disgusted by whoever decided, from a design perspective, to do this.

Things that cost $1,000 should not be built as — and treated as — disposable. It’s just not right.

If it turns out to be a dying hard drive, and I’m 90 percent sure that it is, I will do this repair, but I will not be happy about it.

But it’s what I must do as a user of old computers.

Did I mention that I can swap a hard drive in either of my two PC laptops in under 5 minutes? I’m mentioning it now.

3 thoughts on “The iBook G4 is ailing

  1. Anonymous

    Thanks for this post – I’m looking at the daunting task of replacing the HD in my 5-year old 14-in dual USB iBook. Don’t really need a new computer right now, so I’m going to take a stab at it. Certainly will be cheaper than buying new.

  2. Anonymous

    I once performed the same repair on my 12″ iBook G4. I have since given the computer to my brother and purchased a new MacBook. (I know, sorry. I’m a CS student and have to have something faster.) Anyway, I managed to do the teardown twice – the second time because I left an essential piece out when I put it back together – and the computer has worked faithfully ever since. So yes, it can be done.

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