How fixer-up-erable is this iBook?
June 22, 2010 8:28 PM   Subscribe

How upgradable is this iBook? A friend has an old iBook G4 he's indicated he'd be willing to let me have pretty cheaply. I use an iMac at home, but could use a nice portable laptop for occasional travel. The iBook as it is seems a little slow and sluggish to me - I'm just wondering, how "upgradable" is this model, for how much money, etc.? (details inside.)

Here are the model details:

It's running OS X 10.4.11 currently

Machine Name:    iBook G4
  Machine Model:    PowerBook6,7
  CPU Type:    PowerPC G4 (1.5)
  Number Of CPUs:    1
  CPU Speed:    1.33 GHz
  L2 Cache (per CPU):    512 KB
  Memory:    1.5 GB
  Bus Speed:    133 MHz
  Boot ROM Version:    4.9.3f0
  Sudden Motion Sensor:
  State:    Enabled
  Version:    1.0

Of course, I forgot to check how big the hard drive is - it looks like standard iBooks of this era were 60GB.

Will this run the more recent OSX versions? (my iMac at home is 10.5) Do I need to upgrade RAM or anything? Any other tips for how to get a slightly older iBook like this running almost like new?

I'd want to be able to run Photoshop (or Photoshop Elements) and Dreamweaver on it, at least.
posted by dnash to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
Check out Low End Mac's Compleat Guide to the iBook G4. I had one of these, eventually gave it away as well. You are not really going to be able to upgrade it, sadly, although it can be a nice little machine for web surfing or writing or playing music. Be warned: everyone else I know who has an iBook G4 has had theirs crash or otherwise stop working (frayed power cords, etc) over the past couple of years. It is probably not a very reliable machine at this point.
posted by oulipian at 8:33 PM on June 22, 2010

Start here:

find a match, and eyeball the teardown. Word of warning: I have torn down and reassembled more than ten miscellaneous Mac laptops in an ad hoc environment, and I currently am putting off a diagnostic teaardown on an iBook g4 which I have previously disassembled down to the motherboard. It's something that is time consuming and only fun if you find that sort of thing fun.

There's a flex issue with the mobos that over time leads to connection failure of either the main chip or the graphics chip or both. It's fixable, but not a home fix, and the fix does not rectify the design flaw that creates the problem.

So, upgrade: nah. Cheap is good.
posted by mwhybark at 8:42 PM on June 22, 2010

I have that computer. I've upgraded its hard drive to 160 GB; the RAM is maxed at 1.5 GB, as it is in the one you describe. Mine runs OS X 10.5.8 (it won't run 10.6.x Snow Leopard, which only runs on Intel processors), and it's still reliable and okay for everyday use. Flash has worsened in the last year or so, heating up the machine, blowing the fans, which makes YouTube and other sites like that iffy, but it's good at all the other stuff it was always good at. Photoshop Elements and Dreamweaver will run okay if unspectacularly.
posted by cgc373 at 8:43 PM on June 22, 2010

Best answer: What's pretty cheaply? I don't think the PowerPC Macs can really be recommended as a purchase anymore, but if it was cheap enough I'd probably buy it (like maybe $100?). Beyond memory and hard drives most laptops cannot be upgraded. It's already got the max ram. A faster hard drive (higher rpm or solid state drive) will help performance but you need a PATA drive (not the newer SATA). But given the overall limitations putting money towards a new drive would make less sense than putting that money towards a new(er) computer.

It will run OS X 10.5 (Leopard) although some reports were lower performance than 10.4 (Tiger). I did upgrade to 10.5 on a PPC PowerBook and in my experience it wasn't noticeably slower than 10.4, but it certainly wasn't any faster. If you happen to have a 10.5 install disc around it's probably worth doing just because more current software supports 10.5 than 10.4. But, again, it's probably not worth going out and buying a copy of 10.5.

I guess if you're happy with the price and can live with the performance as-is then it's a decent purchase. But putting any additional money towards it is an investment with no return.
posted by 6550 at 9:00 PM on June 22, 2010

My wife has one. If she ever needs to watch a youtube or hulu or something she has to use one of our better computers. It has it's advantages though: battery lasts forever*, it's small, it has my favorite mac keyboard. I haven't bothered to put 10.5 on it because I assumed what 6550 said above would happen re: speed.

You could put some PPC linux on it; If you're not into that type of thing it's probably not worth the time.

*we replaced it with a 3rd party one after the original died; it wasn't too expensive IIRC.
posted by low affect at 9:50 PM on June 22, 2010

I don't think Photoshop or Dreamweaver support PowePC-based Macs anymore.
posted by PueExMachina at 9:59 PM on June 22, 2010

We have a 1.3GHz G4 PowerBook, which is probably a similar speed to this. It's fine for the occasional web browsing (particularly using a lighter browser like Camino), but even with the RAM maxed out, more intensive applications like Word or Powerpoint aren't much fun. Even if you can get a PPC version of Photoshop or Dreamweaver, running them on the 1024x768 screen will likely be an exercise in frustration.

Also if it still has the original battery, chances are it'll run flat pretty quickly (minutes, not hours).

Unless it was pretty close to free, I wouldn't recommend it. Even then you may not get much practical use out of it.
posted by damonism at 12:14 AM on June 23, 2010

Best answer: I'd pass on it as well. If you were just going to use it for email and surfing, that'd be one thing, but Photoshop and Dreamweaver are very demanding apps -- you'd be better off with a newer, more powerful system. Also, those are two apps that rely on good color fidelity and the display on that model is well past its prime.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 3:53 AM on June 23, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks, folks.

I don't need Photoshop & Dreamweaver on it for any super heavy work - I'm mainly thinking of if I'm traveling somewhere and want to get a closer look at any photos I've been taking. And currently I have a little side job running a fairly basic website for a yearly event - during the event I work on it from a hotel so I need a computer I can bring with me. If I really had to I could make do with an FTP program and any basic web or text editor, but I use Dreamweaver at home, and it's better to have that continuity of workflow if possible.

But otherwise it sounds like it might work ok for basic web surfing and email, so it might work out ok.
posted by dnash at 4:52 AM on June 23, 2010

I have the fourth-gen G4 and unfortunately have to agree with the comments about Flash above. I used to be able to watch YouTube and other video sites; over the last few years performance has slowly deteriorated to the point where it's like watching a series of still pictures set to music. The latest Flash 10.1 update seems to be a better although still stuttery, and I noticed that Adobe now provides the option to 'upgrade' to 9.0 if you access their site from my Mac, which I haven't tried. If you're planning on doing a lot of browsing, don't underestimate how much you'll miss not being able to watch video on your laptop.

It still works great for photos on the go - I just use iPhoto to do quick touchups before uploading my photos. But I'm going to be upgrading to a MacBook pro that can run Lightroom and take SD cards before my next trip.
posted by Gortuk at 7:22 AM on June 23, 2010

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