Sunday, February 3, 2008

Powerbook Step-by-Step HD Upgrade

Alright, you've decided to become an outlaw and open the box on your Powerbook. Right on dude, stick it to the man! Now, in order to go forward you'll need a set of tools to assist you with this act of uncivil anti-corporate disobedience. The first thing to arm yourself with is a step-by-step instructions on how to replace the 2.5 in. hard drive inside your Powerbook.

If you go to the iFixit web site you will be able to download a PDF file with illustrated instructions on the procedure you are about to undertake:

Then you will need two or three essential tools -- a T6 Torx screwdriver, a very small Phillips head, a tweezer (or dental pick), a roll of clear scotch tape, a pencil or pen and a few sheets of drawing or sketch paper. One 8-year old child with tiny fingers not unlike those who make oriental carpets in slave factories in Asia. Seriously, I'm not kidding. Oh actually I am kidding...

The best strategy is to stay organized, be extremely patient and move slowly. This process will take hours not minutes. If you are a nervous, impatient and fidgety person -- fund suitable medication. Frankly, if you are this type of person, performing this hardware breakout is not suggested. Honestly, that's s the truth and you'll only be sorry and the destruction you wrought on your computer.


Take the papers and pencil or pen and sketch two schematics of your Powerbook -- one for the top and the other for the bottom. Leave space around the edge of the drawn of the bottom to also draw the sideview. Make simple indications for the placement of the main elements of the case -- the battery compartment, the small cover for the memory slot, the keyboard, the tracking pad, and teh DVD slot as well as the ports on he side of the Powerbook.

What you are going to do with the schematic is use it to tape all the little screws you are removing from the case as you dissemble so when it comes time to reassemble, you will have a precise reference for returning them to their proper places. Keeping track of the screws is one of the most daunting parts of this entire procedure. This is a procedure that manuals don't tell you to do but you will not regret it.


Being following the instructions in the iFixit Powerbook HD Replacement manual. As you go, tap each screw you remove to the map schematic you've drawn on the sketch book paper.

Now, you will want to remove the battery and remove the memory from the backside of your Powerbook. Make sure you are grounded (and I don't mean in psychology or character) when handling these parts and it is best to place them on a static free matt if you can obtain one.

Next you will turn the Powerbook over, open the cover and remove the keyboard. his can be slightly fear inducing, since, you basically have to pry the F1, F2, F11, and F12 keys off their mounts. The action feels a little bit like you are breaking them but as long as you apply consistent and even force according to the iFixit instructions they will come loose and, once free, it is also probably best to tape the keys to the sketch paper as well.

Between the F1 and F2 keys is a screw that fastens the keyboard to the base. Another one is located between the F11 and F12. If you are working on a Powerbook that has never been opened, upgraded or rebuilt before, there will be little round grey or silver pieces of tape overing the screw head. This is how you, and Apple, can tell if the case has been opened before, if you find them missing or tampered with. As well, throughout this breakout procedure, you will find a bunch of taped seals that if missing, removed or tampered with Apple will consider the warranty not longer valid.

As you are working the process, remember that you main objective is to cause as little stress as possible to the parts and structure of the Powerbook. Good experienced Apple repair persons have mastered the technics of doing a system breakout without stressing the parts. I am an Apple certified repair person (certification obtained in a previous job) and the procedures for fixing and upgrading are not that difficult. If there is an art to doing this work, it is in the touch - being able to know how to handle the components and their connectors.

For instance, when you removed the keyboard by undoing the screws and then lifting the top f the key and unlatching the bottom hooks under the OPTION and ENTER keys, remember the keyboard is still connected by its data ribbon - a thin plastic ribbon that runs between the keyboard and the logic board. If you yank on the keyboard and try to pull it away from where it is seated, you risk breaking this ribbon. Once you've freed the screws and hooks on the keyboard you will want to flip it face down on the tracking pad.

Most of the instructions require that you remove screws al around the case. They have different threading and lengths so it is vitally important that you return them to their exact holes when reassembling. The trickiest part of disassembly is pulling the connectors free of their terminal plugs. You will really mess you system up if you break wires or bust-off the terminals. Be very careful and take time to gradually remove the plugs. A flat head screw driver used to gradually slide the plug free will yield the best results.


Once you have removed the old hard drive and installed the new bigger, faster hard drive it is probably best to reinstall a fresh version of the operating system. If you haven't upgraded to Leopard, this might be the best time, provided 1) you have >512 and preferably more that 1GB of RAM available to run it and >867 Mhz processor or preferably 1 Ghz or faster CPU.

Otherwise, just take your old Tiger or Panther install disks and reinstall the system directly. The performance of your Powerbook can improve radically just from doing a fresh install of the systems.

AND, if you are doing all his work to buy another 2 or 3 years of usability for this Powerbook, I'd suggest you consider investing another $80 for a 1 GB memory chip to maximized the amount for future applications and heavy duty work you will be doing on this laptop computer.


In the bugger picture, I am a big supporter of upgrading computers. We live in a instant and disposable age, where computers are being make obsolete every six or 12 months. This rapid turnover is excessively wasteful truly shameful.

Back in the 1960s, there was a consumer movement that asked GM and other car manufacturers to stop the bleeding of "planned obsolescence" in the auto industry. Automobiles made in Detroit, it was alleged at the time, were being made to expire in 4 to 5 years and to encourage new car sales the manufacturers planned their expiration.

The fuel for this manufacturing wastefulness was greed. The computer industry -- all companies including Apple, Dell, HP, Microsoft, etc. -- are in the grips of the fever of greed that overtook Detroit in those times. Our new technology companies are better at this game that Detroit could ever imagine in its wildest profit generating dreams.

Upgrade your computer hardware. It is good for the planet!

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