Neither a brain surgeon nor particularly ham-fisted, should I dissassemble my iBook?
December 13, 2005 12:05 AM   Subscribe

The internal hard drive on my G3/600Mhz iBook is not long for this earth. I'm looking for advice from MeFis who have replaced the drive themselves; specifically, if faced with the task again would you say "Hell no!" or rather "Wow, that wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be"?

Disk Utility tells me that the old SMART thing says it's failing and recommends that I move anything I want to keep off of it. Just in case, I tried running DiscWarrior on it, but it only get's so far and then hangs.

While the drive kinda works right now, it's being flaky -- forgetting preferences, often getting stuck in what seems like an endless loop allowing me to enjoy the spinning beach ball simulator -- and is no doubt only going to get worse, probably soon.

(I do have a complete bootable backup (thanks SuperDuper!) so I'm not worried about the data)

I'll either buy a new 60 or 80Gb drive to put in or, less appealingly, put in a 20Gb drive I have sitting around.

I've looked at the 16-page step-by-step guide for opening the iBook to scoop out it's tasty nougat center (the hard drive) but frankly it's looks a bit the Frodo-esqe task.

My thoughts are that I'd open her up on a wide clean table, the guide and tools in front of me, putting each set of different screws in it's own little container or whatever so it's not like I'd be taking it apart in the gutting room of a pitching Alaskan fishing trawler.

My fears are thus:

- opening the whole thing up and then getting stuck mid-way
- doing everything and then, when trying to get it all back together it doesn't fit (picture me sitting on it like an over-stuffed suitcase pleading "Come on!")
- getting it all back together, going to turn it on and something doesn't work.

Your experienced thoughts?

(okay, and I just found this similar post from February of this year, but will ask again in case there are more people since who can respond)


A bit of background: When I originally bought the iBook it came with a 20Gb drive (that's the one I might put back in). In May of 2003 I took it into a local Mac shop and they put a new 60 Gb drive in. That's the drive that's now dying. As an optional bonus question: how long should one expect a new drive to last? I'm a bit dissappointed as it's not like I was using the iBook while riding a bronco. Is 2.5 years an acceptable/expectable lifecycle for a laptop drive? Might the iBooks "man this thing gets hot!" problem have factored in to the short life of the drive? And what exactly is wrong with the drive? I assume it's not like bad sectors or something it could learn to ignore, so is it like the motor driving the reading/writing arm is failing?

While I'm hoping that next year I'll be able to replace the machine with a newer, faster intel version, I'd like to keep this little guy up and running. That said, I'm a bit hesitant to spend $80 an hour (for probably 1-2 hours) simply for someone to open her up.
posted by blueberry to Computers & Internet (17 answers total)
Funny you should ask, I'm wondering a similar thing.

Personally I would proceed with confidence after having upgraded my wife's clamshell orange iBook, a truly obtuse experience. However, I did that without confidence, having accepted that I might kill the machine. YMMV.

All I can say is a patient newbie with a tight photo guide - and do look for the official Apple takeaparts, they are quite helpful - can indeed perform these upgrades themselves. Just do NOT drink a beer whilst so engaged the first few times.
posted by mwhybark at 12:13 AM on December 13, 2005

I've swapped hard drives.

It wasn't pleasant, even using the page that you linked to.

The computer never looked the same.

But it worked.

So I guess it depends on how much you like the look of your computer.
posted by k8t at 12:16 AM on December 13, 2005

Response by poster: What exactly do you mean by "never looked the same"? Like it never sat right on a desk again, that is, lost some of it's shape? Or was it more cosmetic like scratches and scuffs?
posted by blueberry at 12:25 AM on December 13, 2005

I'm the guy that asked the question in February. I ended up taking it apart, replacing the bad hard drive with a 100GB HD, adding a DVD burner and 1GB of RAM. I'm typing this on my Frankenstein iBook now.

It wasn't too bad, and in the same situation, I'd do it again. Those PBfixit guides are wonderful.

One of the best pieces of advice was to draw the location of screws on sheets of paper and scotch tape them in place, keeping the sheets in order. These things are like peeling an onion, so you want to keep track of which screws go on which layer.

I forgot one thing: the magnet near the DVD drive, so now it doesn't go to sleep automatically when you close the lid. I didn't discover that until it was totally re-assembled, so there was no way I was going all the way back just for that.

There are a few scuffs where I had to pry the case apart, but otherwise the only thing I notice is that it's faster. Good luck.
posted by letitrain at 12:54 AM on December 13, 2005

A few years ago, I replaced the CD-ROM drive in my old iBook 500 with a DVD-ROM (which is essentially the same amount of work since the hard drive is in plain view). It wasn't particularly difficult, and there were no noticable side effects from having taken it apart, although I did end up with one extra (internal) screw.

The most frustrating part was pulling off the plastic shell - The whole time, it felt like it was going to crack or break (but it didn't).
posted by helios at 1:09 AM on December 13, 2005

Best answer: I've a teeny-tiny Sony Picturebook that I've taken apart twice now to get to the hard drive. In my experience, this extremely compact notebook makes this task about as hard for the consumer as it will be. So here's some things I've noticed in the process:

As letitrain mentions, diagram where the screws come from and use something to safely store any screws and parts. Maybe a zip-lock bag.

But the absolute most important thing is to get on the net and find some photos of how to dissassemble the computer. Look for the most complete documentation you can find. This will make a big difference.

I'm pretty sure I used the same webpage (by a consumer), with docs and photos, both times. One more photograph would have helped me a lot. The point is, look at various peoples' attempts to document it. Compare everything to the website you've already mentioned. When doing anything at all, first try using the minimum amount of force you can. Before you pull something apart, look at it and get a sense of what you're doing. Use minimal force. Use minimal force.

If you do something that you don't already have a photo or diagram of, then make a photo or diagram yourself so you know how to put it back together. This especially applies to anything that you might get reversed, like a ribbon-cable connection.

Really, if you're careful and have a good idea of what you're doing, which you can by studying diagrams and photos, and you're careful, you'll be fine. If you're careful and don't be in a hurry. (If you get frustrated for any reason, take a break.)
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 1:12 AM on December 13, 2005

I have a PowerBook (DVI, 667 MHz) that I replaced the hard drive on a couple of months ago (maybe as little as six weeks). The first drive I put in died (fell over, sank into the swamp, etc.) within a week. I demanded a replacement from Dell, which they sent me. (Curiously, they haven't been too persistent about getting the old one back, as they said they'd send me a shipping label but didn't, and haven't bothered contacting me; it's in a box, ready to go, should the shipping label ever come.)

As long as you have the right screwdriver, and you've poked around in the innards of a laptop before (in my case, I installed some RAM), you are probably going to be OK, as long as iBooks aren't far more complicated than my PowerBook.
posted by oaf at 1:18 AM on December 13, 2005

I think I suggested the "tape screws to instructions" thing in the last thread, and I totally learned that from experience - the second iBook went a whole lot faster than the first one. Those are really great instructions. Don't forget the spudger (like a plastic screwdriver thing) - you'll need one, or at least something like one.

That's a kind of short life for a hard drive - is it still under warranty? SMART disk failures are pretty bad.
posted by sluggo at 3:49 AM on December 13, 2005

yea if the SMART is reporting failure, its been my experince it will not last much longer. and 2.5 years for a laptop drive, is a little on the short side

look around online for the apple "take apart" service manual for that model, if you cant find it, email me and i can get it for you.
the best tool you can use to help keep the screws in order is a ice cube tray. as you do one thing, put those in a cube. next thing, next cube etc. also a flat plastic stick is exactly what you need to get the bottom case off.

and the biggest piece of advice....take your time. trust me on this.
posted by ShawnString at 4:32 AM on December 13, 2005

I've taken apart my iBook (12" 1.25GHz G4) four times since I got it, to change the hard disk for various reasons. It's fairly simple:

- Undo a couple of screws and lever the bottom casing off
- Undo a load of screws and take the top casing off
- Undo a load more screws and take the top shielding off

That's it. None of these is very hard. The levering in the first step will leave some scuffs, but they aren't very visible (and I didn't do any other damage). There a couple of springs by the battery that you'll lose if you're not careful. I'd say it's easier if you don't follow the step-by-step instructions and concentrate on what's in front of you instead.

(Some instructions make you remove the bottom shielding. You don't need to, at least on my model)
posted by cillit bang at 7:22 AM on December 13, 2005

Best answer: Take a look at these instructions. They look particularly detailed and quite user-friendly. I bookmarked it a while back intending to do the same with a kaput iBook i inherited from a friend.
posted by DannyUKNYC at 8:10 AM on December 13, 2005


2.5 years is a little low for a laptop HD, but not unreasonable, especially if it travels a lot.
posted by mkultra at 8:30 AM on December 13, 2005

I did a HD swap on my old Toshiba Satellite. Once I figured out where all the screws were, and which bits needed to be removed before other bits, I could have that sucker disassembled within five minutes.

AFAIK, the iBook is even easier to pop open.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:34 AM on December 13, 2005

I did exactly the same thing to an iBook G3 700 a couple of months ago. I did it using the PBFixIt guide. It was time-consuming and tedious (at least one hour + reinstall), but it wasn't too difficult. As others have said, there's a hairy moment when you pop the case, but it does come off, so have faith (and strength).

I would particularly recommend using good quality screwdrivers of exactly the right size (Philips 0 and T8 if memory servers). I managed to grind the crosshead of one of the Philips screws. Rather than take it to a watchmakers or jewellers and have them remove it, I did something spectacularly risky: I scratched in a new groove using a kitchen knife, and removed it using a flathead screwdriver.

Otherwise, it's really not too difficult, and it sounds like you don't have a choice.
posted by caek at 12:46 PM on December 13, 2005

I just replaced the hard drive in a three-year old TiBook. I hate messing around the insides of computers, but the 'book was screwed anyway (so no loss if I messed up), and I got a good deal on the drive at

Once I got the right tools (T8 screwdriver and a combination of online guides), the process was a lot less daunting that I thought it would be. I now have a happily running "field" computer.
posted by ArsncHeart at 1:34 PM on December 13, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for all of the answers so far. I'm quite encouraged that no one has posted anything saying they killed their machine or busted a part (like the cover) by opening it up.
posted by blueberry at 10:13 PM on December 14, 2005

Response by poster: Update:

Just finished opening up my iBook and installing the new drive. Was a little hesitant, but I took my time and all in all it was pretty easy. Everything fit back together and there weren't any real spots where I had to force something back into place or anything.

You can see a few "in progress" photos here.

posted by blueberry at 2:50 AM on January 21, 2006

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