Operation iBook – iFixed It!

Sometime last year, while downloading a file on the Mac that I used as a backup and to do all my dirty work, it just froze. There was no Kernel Panic — nothing. It just stopped dead in its tracks, and a few minutes later the hard drive started clunking. ‘Oh. I guess it’s dead then’ I thought. My iBook G4, after 4 years of service to me had decided to kick the bucket Not bad going, I guess. I expected it to live a lot longer than that really, but I was certainly putting it through it paces every single day, and the little old 60GB HDD just couldn’t keep up with the pace. I looked into getting the drive replaced by going along to the store on London’s Regents Street, but the genius didn’t really have any ideas about prices, nor seemed particularly bothered about trying to find out for me unless I took it in. Seems a bit stupid. It needs a new hard drive. What would you charge to do it?Not going to make any difference if you see the machine or not right?

A few months went past and it sat on it’s stand collecting dust, and then I moved my XBox onto the desk in it’s place, and I figured I really should do something about it, my poor Macbook it taking a beating with everything i’m trying to make it do.

I decided to brave the water that I’d never tested before, and take the task of rising the machine from the ashes myself. I headed over to ifixit.com. Using their guide, I managed to figure out which machine it was I had, without even having to boot it up, good job they told me I could do that, because I had no idea.

I did some online shopping for a new 2.5″ HDD to put in, and I went for a 160GB after quite a bit of shopping around. These smaller drives are quite a bit more expensive for massive sizes, and as much as I wanted to cram a 360GB in it, I talked myself down to a more reasonably priced drive instead. Stuff goes on and comes off it again with a pretty quick turnaround anyway, so it’s plenty. I just like massive hard drives.

A spudger, a set of torx screwdriver and size 00 philips screwdriver later, and I just had to await the postman to bring me it all.

Last week, it all arrived, and I set aside a Saturday evening to get to grips with it, man up, and do some DIY on the poor thing. With my printed guide from iFixit, the living room table cleared and surrounded by tools, I set up my Xbox webcam (gotta own something Microsoft, right?) on the Macmini to capture a picture every 5 seconds using Gawker, and my Macbook in front of me livestreaming the fix for anyone bored enough to watch using UStream (ended up being two of my friends), and for a possible Google search if I ran in to any problems.

I was expecting the fix to take around 3 hours, after reading reports of it taking some people that long, but the actual drive replacement seemed to only take me around an hour and a half from first screw out, to last screw in.

The guides from Ifixit are a godsend, everything was simply explained and not to much info in each step, and the screw guide’s they have included in the PDF versions help you keep each steps screws separated so you can work through backwards and know where each screw goes. Of course, even with such a simple guide I still ran into a couple of problems, like forgetting to re attach the keyboards ribbon cable before screwing the ram cover on and re-installing the airport card. Luckily, that was only 4 or screws, though. No biggie, and I’m allowed one slip up. Right?

Fingers crossed, I booted it up and almost cried and the beloved machine chimed at me letting me know it was once again healthy.

I inserted a copy of OS X 10.5, expecting to just be able to install that, but it turned out those disc’s were the disc’s we were sent by Apple after my dad bought a new Macbook Pro with 10.4 on it only for a week later 10.5 to come out. So they were only upgrade disc’s, no good for a brand new install.

OK, I’ll try the 10.4 disc we have, again, but I just kept getting Kernel Panics. I was almost having a Kernel Panic myself at this point. Three hours into my fix, and I was stumped. Why the hell is it doing this? I’ve replaced the drive, and everything else is fine. Why are you doing this to me? I came to the conclusion the discs were for a Intel based Mac, and most probably tied to my MacBook somehow, so would be no good for me to use on the PPC iBook.

I went back to 10.5, as at least this one let me into disc utility. I partitioned the new drive, and gave it a name. Then, I had to search around in the loft of the house for the original discs that shipped with the iBook. Luckily, they were in view right as I went up there. Phew.

Dusting off the envelope which held all the original info that came with the machine, it was great to see how much Apple’s packaging has changed in just a few years. A huge Panther user guide, nicely designed iLife disc’s and some of the big Apple stickers you used to get. They seem to have shrunk them over the recent years, apparently. That is, if they’re even still bundled with things.

I insert them, and we have life! No more Kernel Panic on loading up the disc. No more “You cant use this disc as it’s an upgrade.” Just the sweet look of 10.3 loading onto the iBook. I gave a small cheer and a huge smile and sigh of relief. Once it was all installed, looking at the old OS was just like looking at the user guide. Oh, how they have changed. Not massive changes; just small UI changes.

What seemed like 50 system updates and countless restarts later it was back, my iBook was smiling at me once again and was begging to be used.

But it has to wait. I have a pesky ‘can’t mount’ error come up now when I try to mount anything. I’m now waiting for my dad to bring round the original 10.4 discs so that I can upgrade to that. Then I’ll upgrade to 10.5, and hope all the bugs are ironed out.

Phew, long post! A few quick notes, though:

To anyone with a broken Mac, iPhone, or iPod, do check out ifixit.com. They have guides for everything. I’ve used them before to fix a 2nd Gen iPod as well. The guides are amazingly easy to follow, and they have good forums and help sections if you run into any problems. You can also help them out a little by buying the tools and parts directly through them.

This fix was rated difficult on the site, so read through the guides, and if you don’t feel comfortable and don’t think you could do some steps, then it’s best to get help or pay for someone to do it for you. Nothing worse than jolting and scrapping your screwdriver along the motherboard, eh? :)

Here’s the time lapse I captured. You can’t always see what I’m doing as I needed light for some parts so had to face it the other way. I also needed to eat, so you see me get up and go off to cook some diner with my girlfriend. But, I’m no editor so it’s all in there with no music. Only a couple of minutes though, so no big deal.

Hey, I'm Simon Wicks. By day I'm a 27 year old media designer for lastminute.com in London UK, by night I'm a tech and social media addicted pro cheese taster. Ok, so maybe not a pro cheese taster, but everyone… Full Bio