Help me help my iBook, please
May 17, 2006 3:44 AM   Subscribe

My iBook has started freezing on me. When I start it up, it starts making a buzzing, whirring sound from under the left of the trackpad, then won't do anything else. I'm thinking it's some sort of a fan problem or HD-related issue, but I'm at a loss, and very frustrated. Can you help?

It began a few days ago, when I woke up my 20-month-old iBook G4 from sleep and started using it as normal. It started running hot, as it normally does when I use it on my lap (it is a laptop, after all) but then started making this buzzing, whirring noise, and everything froze. So I put it on something solid, reset and tried booting again, but it wouldn't go on past the set-up for login stage.

I let it cool down for a while, thinking the heat might be the problem, and tried again. This time it booted up fine, let me log in, but moments after I started using it the buzzing sound came back and everything froze.

Since then it's been the same thing. I let it cool down, I boot, it freezes, I shutdown and try again later. Now, though, it won't even let me get past the grey apple screen stage. And it's starting to look less likely that heat is the cause, as it doesn't even get a chance to run hot. I just tried booting into target disk mode to connect with my desktop, but even then it started buzzing and whirring and froze up after a couple of minutes.

The only other AskMeFi question that seems to address this issue still doesn't answer it for me: what is going on with my iBook? Is it a hard disk issue? Is it a busted fan? Will it cost me a shitload to get repaired? Please help!
posted by macdara to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
Sounds like your harddrive is failing. If you've got an 80gb drive, check to see if it's a Toshiba with one of these two model numbers:


There is, apparently, a batch of bum drives that are failing right and left. Any reference to the problem seems to disappear from the official apple discussion boards, which is distressing, to say the least.

In any case, back up your data immediately and start shopping for a new drive. If you signed up for the extended Apple Care warranty, you're golden. If not, good luck.
posted by felix betachat at 4:51 AM on May 17, 2006

Response by poster: It's a 30gb drive - a Toshiba, I believe, because my desktop has a Maxtor.

As for backup, everything that's on my iBook is on my desktop so if it really is a hard drive failure I won't lose anything essential. It's the frustration of being lumbered with a €1,000 useless lump of plastic that's getting to me much more.

Unfortunately, I didn't sign up for Apple Care because I couldn't afford it (the iBook was breaking my budget as it was). I don't mind getting a service for a drive replacement, but if it's going to cost more than half of what a whole new computer would be that would be a waste of money. Any ideas what I'm likely to pay?
posted by macdara at 5:03 AM on May 17, 2006

Wait a minute...but those apple commercials said that apples dont freeze

try booting it on a flat cool surface, also try booting from a CD to see if that keeps the hard drive from spinning up to see if you can get any data off of it.

you can offload any important data to one or several of the online storage sites...or simply gmail them to yourself.
posted by I_am_jesus at 5:06 AM on May 17, 2006

Response by poster: My data isn't an issue, as I really just used the iBook as a portable mirror of my desktop. My issue is not being able to use the bloody thing!

I just tried booting again after letting it cool right down, and it worked fine, zero problems. I opened Disk Utility, and the SMART status is verified. So I popped in the install disc to try and run the hardware test, but when I rebooted the whirring and buzzing came back so I shut it down.

I'm going to try the hardware test again in a while, once it's cooler. Also, holding down the right key next time might help (d'oh).

Thanks for all the assistance thus far.
posted by macdara at 5:34 AM on May 17, 2006

Sounds like you have a logic board issue to me. Call the support line, explain to them what's going on, and they'll likely tell you it's a logic board issue. If you're really lucky they'll replace it for free. If not, you're going to need to make a pilgrimage to your local Apple dealer for some paid AppleCare.

Something else to consider is going to the Apple support forums for help. There's some really knowledgeable blokes that can definitely point you in the right direction.
posted by BioCSnerd at 7:16 AM on May 17, 2006

Response by poster: Well, I managed to do the hardware test, and the news wasn't good. The test threw up an error message:

2STF/8/3:ATA-100ata-6 - Master

- which seems to be the death knell of my hard drive, according to the googling I've been doing.

I followed up the test by booting my iBook from the install CD and running Disk Utility to repair or verify the disk, but that throws up its own error message:

Could not unmount disk (-10000)

(The disk, if it helps any, is a 30gb Toshiba MK3025GAS.)

It's peculiar, because if it's very cool it seems to run fine, but as soon as a little heat builds up it buzzes and whirs and freezes. I'm very annoyed, to say the least.

So my next step is, where do I find an Apple-approved repair centre in Dublin? We don't have any Apple Stores here yet (I bought mine from the Apple website) so taking it to a Genius Bar is out of the question. Oh, woe is me.
posted by macdara at 7:19 AM on May 17, 2006

Best answer: If you get it fixed by Apple, you'll pay a bundle. ~$300 just to look at it, I think.

A hard drive installation is pretty simple to do. I'd do some research, buy a drive, and pay someone to do the replacement. If it's a small drive, you shouldn't pay more than $200, labor included.
posted by felix betachat at 8:01 AM on May 17, 2006

Best answer: This is exactly how the hard drive on my G3 iBook died three years ago.

If you are patient and brave and have steady hands you can replace the hard drive yourself, following the instructions from ifixit. It's frustrating and no fun, but it can save you some money and limit the amount of time the machine is in the shop, and there is a certain amount of satisfaction to be gained from it.

If you do decide to do this make absolutely sure you keep track of the screws, where they came from and which ones are which. Be paranoid about this. There is nothing worse than closing up your machine and seeing a little pile of screws still sitting there. Oh, and you will probably scratch up the case a bit when you are prying the bottom of it off, so if you are obsessed with the aesthetics of the thing you probably need to have a professional do it.

Good luck.
posted by nflorin at 8:04 AM on May 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you both, that makes me feel a whole lot better. I'm going to suss out an Apple-authorised repair centre I've found in the city and see how much they'd charge me for such a repair job. But otherwise, I think I could dedicate a weekend to replacing the HD myself. I don't mind a few scrapes - the casing is scuffed up enough as it is; I just want by baby to work again.
posted by macdara at 8:17 AM on May 17, 2006

Replacing the HD shouldn't take more than an hour, if you use the excellent instructions nflorin linked to - just make sure you have the right tools and print out their chart showing each of the screws (in take-apart order), and tape each screw in the right place as you go. Otherwise, you'll definitely end up with extras, which might not be so good...
posted by sluggo at 9:03 AM on May 17, 2006

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