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Easter Sunday PowerBook Resurrection

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#1 Frost


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Posted 20 April 2014 - 05:40 PM

There was a resurrection today! No, not that one. I brought my old PowerBook G3 Wallstreet back to life, and it's bigger and badder than ever before.

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The PowerBook had its original 128MB of RAM, a slow 40GB IBM TravelStar drive from who knows how long ago (the original drive died), and a dead PRAM battery.

I decided to get a new PRAM battery off eBay since Newer Technology sadly is no longer making them, max the RAM out to 512MB since it is cheap at OWC, and try out popping one of the old 60GB Transcend PATA SSDs that I found on eBay into it. (As an aside, I opted to try out the Transcend SSD due to a generally terrible experience with OWC's Mercury Legacy Pro PATA SSDs in my PowerBook G4 Titanium. I'm currently on the 3rd or 4th replacement in only a year, and they overheat and seize up when you do large writes even when sitting out in open air; in order to reload about 200GB of data to it I had to have it sitting on an icepack.) I don't know how the SSD will turn out, but if it doesn't work too well I'm considering one of those mSATA-to-IDE 2.5" setups with a 120GB mSATA Crucial M500 as a frankenstein solution.

First, I hooked up the SSD to my PowerMac G5 using Newer Technology's Universal Drive Adapter. For some reason these model PowerBooks can only use the first 8GB of data on a drive to start up, so the operating system must reside on that first 8GB. An easy way to make sure all files stay there is to partition it. I partitioned it with the first 7.5GB as partition 1 and the rest as partition 2.

After that, it's time to start the teardown.

Keyboard and heatsink cover off.

Pulled the HDD and mounted the SSD in its place.

Removed the processor module, which has the RAM on a daughtercard kinda like the Mac Pros. There's the 292 MHz G3 in the corner. Note a total lack of an attached heatsink or thermal paste in contrast to modern hardware.

Removed the 64MB SO-DIMMs on either side of the processor module and replaced them with the new 256MB ones.

Now it's on to the real teardown in order to get to that tucked away PRAM battery. Removed the made-in-Canada modem.

Popped the clutch cover off and tilted the display all the way back to prepare for removal of said display.

Unplugged two cables, removed four T8 torx screws, and the display slides right off of the case. Sure wish replacing displays was this easy and painless on PowerBook G4s/MacBook Pros. I still think the PowerBook G3 is the most user-serviceable laptop ever.  Several steps later, the teardown is complete.

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Time to replace the dead PRAM battery. After derouting the cable from the PMU and some poking and prying, the old PRAM battery slides out of its holder and I slide a new one in, then reroute the cable to the PMU.

Now I just do everything in reverse and get it buttoned back up. Aaand... out comes the Mac OS 9 box for a fresh install!

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RAM shows 512MB as expected, the PRAM battery is working, and the SSD shows up on the desktop. Time to install Mac OS 9.2.1 followed by Mac OS X 10.2.8.
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#2 macdude22


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Posted 20 April 2014 - 06:54 PM

This reminds me I should check all the old macs in the basement for exploding PRAM batteries. I meant to go through and pull them all a few years ago and never got around to it.
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#3 Thain Esh Kelch

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Posted 21 April 2014 - 02:46 AM

Very nice. That is one of the best designed laptops Apple has made IMO.
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#4 Diablofett



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Posted 22 April 2014 - 06:15 AM

PRAM batteries are just like a coin-sized "watch battery" from what I have seen. Energizer still makes those, among other manufacturers. What brand did you buy?
Also, was the modem really made in Canada? If so, I am surprised it was manufactured in the northern part of the western hemisphere.