Please save my laptop
August 31, 2006 5:15 PM   Subscribe

My iBook G4 is sick, help!

I turned it on just now and right after I logged in the screen went black. Not completely black, but kind of like what it looks like right before it goes to screensaver. Regardless, I couldn't see anything and it was seemingly unresponsive (I pressed the volume key to see if I could still hear the noise it makes in the hopes that maybe it was just my display). I attempted to close and open the lid to see if that would revive it but no luck. Finally I held the power button down and tried again. This time I got logged in and started trying to troubleshoot the problem and about 5 minutes in it happened again. Now it happens before the login screen comes up. What could be the problem here? I know it's not losing power because like I said the screen doesn't go completely black and the apple on the lid is still illumiminated when I close it (however the slow blinking light by the latch doesn't come on). I don't even know where to start with google here so anything anyone can offer is appreciated.
posted by saraswati to Computers & Internet (13 answers total)
I hate to ask the obvious question, is the battery really close to dead? Try plugging it in and see if the problem persists. Failing that, detach the battery and make sure that the contacts are clean.

Also, when you have it plugged in, is the ring around the adapter point lighting up? Apple has some issues with their older powercords.

(and I'm saying this as someone who has to go buy a new cord tonight because mine just died)
posted by quin at 5:19 PM on August 31, 2006

Response by poster: Yep I tested it without the battery in and just AC power and had the same problem.
posted by saraswati at 5:27 PM on August 31, 2006

Are you still covered under the 1-year warranty that comes with the product, or did you purchase the extended Applecare? I know it sounds obvious, but I would think Apple might be best able to answer you question...seems a bit more serious if you've ruled out a possible battery issue.

I had the iBook preceding the G4 and was part of a logic board recall which caused my screen to be unoperational, so I know how frustrating it is, I'm sorry and I hope you get it worked out quickly.
posted by Asherah at 5:36 PM on August 31, 2006

Try logging in as a different user. Hopefully you have some type of backup account.

Reboot into safe mode by pressing and holding down the shift key after hearing the chimes.

This sounds to me like a logic board failure. Check:

to see if your computer is affected. If so, you'll get it fixed for free.

If not, you might want to take it to a genius bar at an Apple Store.
posted by SciGuy at 5:40 PM on August 31, 2006

Response by poster: Nope, it's a few years old and I didn't purchase an extended warranty.

SciGuy, unfortunately that program only seems to apply to G3's. It could still be a logic board failure though and the Apple Store is an option, though I was hoping it wouldn't have to come to that.

Thanks guys for your suggestions
posted by saraswati at 6:31 PM on August 31, 2006

Boot the computer with a strong light source behind the Apple logo. If through this arrangement you can see the Apple logo displayed on the screen as you normally would at boot up, it means the backlight is turned off on the computer. On iBooks, this is mostly caused by a short in the reed switch, a cable that runs inside the hinge that sleeps the system when the lid is closed.

So, if you can see the logo, probably a reed switch, cheap part, hour of labor if the shop is good at what they do.

If you can't see the logo, check to see if you have any external video by hooking it up to a monitor. If that fails, you have a bad motherboard and it isn't cost effective to fix. Save for a Macbook.
posted by machaus at 6:36 PM on August 31, 2006

Response by poster: Can't see the logo, machaus. Negative on external video as well. New development as well, last time I tried to turn it on it stayed black for a few seconds and then started scrolling horizontal lines up and down the screen.
posted by saraswati at 6:54 PM on August 31, 2006

Mine does this too! However, I am typing on said g4 right now. The screen just has to be at a certain angle. Annoying, but less annoying than the genius bar.
posted by sweetkid at 7:33 PM on August 31, 2006

Can't see the logo, machaus. Negative on external video as well. New development as well, last time I tried to turn it on it stayed black for a few seconds and then started scrolling horizontal lines up and down the screen.

The horizontal line symptom sounds much like the logic board mishap with my G3 iBook...not that that means anything, but I'm just sayin'...
posted by Asherah at 10:35 PM on August 31, 2006

ibook G4 + few years old + screen going out and other weird random startup shit = a dying hard drive. I thought mine was a logic board problem, too, but it ended up being the drive mechanics. All the diagnostic software tools I ran said my drive was fine -- but it wasn't, which became readily apparent later on.

Back everything up on an external drive NOW. Don't wait for the broken-blender-noises to start. Seriously, no one should have to hear that. I still have nightmares.

(One way to tell if it's the drive is to see if your problems get better/worse when you hold the ibook upside down. Sounds goofy, but it may be helpful.)
posted by turducken at 12:19 AM on September 1, 2006

Reset everything.
restart while holding Apple-option o-f. Wait for the open firmware screen. type (without the quotes) "reset-nvram"then hit return. type "reset-all" and hit return. the system will reboot. If that does not fix it then shut down, Disconnect the AC Adapter and remove the computer's battery. Press and hold down the power button for 5 seconds and then release the button( you may here a beep). Reconnect the battery and AC Adapter. Press the Power button to restart the computer.
posted by Gungho at 7:56 AM on September 1, 2006

Having had both hard drive and logic board failures with my G3 iBook, I'd say the symptoms here (screen going black, not going to sleep/waking, horizontal lines) sound more like the logic board failure (first I knew of the hard drive problem was unhappy ticky whirring grinding noises). Even if the screen isn't working, it should still be possible to recover your data by remote login, if you can hook it up to another computer. Good luck.
posted by Lebannen at 9:38 AM on September 1, 2006

Did you turn on SSH? I remember when my (g3) ibook died, I was able to get files via SCP off of it. This is because the ibook logic board failure was actually in the onboard video. I don't know if it's the same case, but at any rate, worth a shot to get the files off without paying the apple store to save your shit. I'd say rip out the hard drive yourself and back it up, but ibooks are notoriously bitchy to get apart without fucking something up. Though, you're out of warranty anyway so it doesn't really matter.
posted by cellphone at 7:56 PM on September 1, 2006

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