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August 9, 2007 1:33 PM   Subscribe

Is it worthwhile to upgrade the RAM on a six-year-old iBook?

I don't need a really robust workhorse of a machine for my at-home needs, but more and more I find that my iBook is not able to handle increasingly popular ways of presenting content such as YouTube video, or whatever is going on at this page, from a recent post to the blue, which like many other pages freezes my browser and obliges me to force-quit.

When it comes to computers I'm certainly no programmer and don't quite grasp all that's going on underneath the hood. But I know my machine is old and woefully weak compared with contemporary models. I'd prefer not to drop the cash on a new one, so I'm wondering if it's worth buying more RAM or making other upgrades to get it usable again for my modest needs? Or would that be throwing good money after bad?

The specs:
iBook purchased in 2001
30G hard drive, 800 MHz Power PC G3 processor
running Mac OSX 10.3.9
256 MB of memory
posted by donpedro to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't know about your iBook in particular, but increasing the amount of RAM is almost always the upgrade that will make the biggest difference in performance.
posted by winston at 1:37 PM on August 9, 2007

You can never have too much memory. Max it out, install 10.4, and enjoy the fun of a screamingly fast G3.

(Though, I think your YouTube problems may be that a G3 just can't decode flash at video speeds.)
posted by SansPoint at 1:38 PM on August 9, 2007

I'd say go for it. You'll get increased performance definitely for the time being, and when you finally do get a new one, you can use your old one as a dedicated music player. See if you can find compatible RAM that's not Apple branded - it's a lot cheaper.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 1:45 PM on August 9, 2007

Response by poster: Forgot to mention, I believe (but am unsure) that it maxes out at 512 MB. (?)
posted by donpedro at 1:48 PM on August 9, 2007

Flash always seems to have a performance hit on OS X, regardless of the hardware. But in your case, maxing out the RAM (I think 640MB is the upper limit) is definitely the best way to get more life out of your G3.
posted by holgate at 1:49 PM on August 9, 2007

Best answer: Not sure which one you have specifically, but this is the earliest listed G3/800 iBook, and it's from 2002. If that or something similar to it is yours, keep this in mind:

- There is one RAM slot, and it can only take a 512MB chip (for 640MB total, with the 128MB on-board RAM). You can get the chip for around $100, plus installation if you need it.

A G3/800 with 640MB RAM is still going to be pokey, though. Not sure if it would help much with Flash. Personally, I wouldn't invest another dime in it if you had anywhere near the resources to get a new machine. 5+ years is well beyond the life expectancy of a consumer laptop, so you're going to have diminishing ROI on upgrades. Apple doesn't even sell a machine with less than 1G RAM these days.
posted by mkultra at 1:50 PM on August 9, 2007

Response by poster: 5+ years is well beyond the life expectancy of a consumer laptop

... In the last year, I've already spent a few hundred bucks on a new logic board and the power adapter. And for what it's worth I live in Mexico, where repairs and hardware for Macs are ridiculously expensive. I waited until a trip home to replace the logic board, and saved $800.
posted by donpedro at 1:56 PM on August 9, 2007

I have a similar 2001 ibook (except with 500 ghz processor) with 640mb of RAM. I run 10.4 but it is noticeably and sometimes dramatically slow, and I also have problems with YouTube.
posted by zepheria at 2:18 PM on August 9, 2007

You may also want to consider getting a new battery soon. I've been using an old Dell laptop for over 5 years that I'm very happy with, other than the fact that the battery doesn't hold a charge as well as it used to.
posted by lockle at 2:23 PM on August 9, 2007

I don't think there is too much of a difference in store for you if you can only go up to 512mb but just in case I'd recommend you look at mac ram direct. I just got some ram there and I am glad to say they didn't send me a dead stick, which happens all the time.

or look at ebay. you should be able to shoot a decent powerbook for 500. the prices have dropped a lot since the mac books came out.
posted by krautland at 2:42 PM on August 9, 2007

n-thing that while more ram is better if you don't have enough, and you don't have enough, it isn't likely to hwlpwith youtube, and probably not with a lot of other flash sites either. Modern pages can be really memory hungry, but they are cpu hungry too.
posted by Good Brain at 3:15 PM on August 9, 2007

Best answer: In the last year, I've already spent a few hundred bucks on a new logic board and the power adapter

That was probably a mistake.

The grinding and relentless logic of the IT upgrade treadmill means that replacing broken parts in old machines is generally not price-competitive with buying a well-off-the-bleeding-edge new machine.

It used to be that buying extra RAM for an old machine was pretty much a no-brainer upgrade. But the sheer volumes that the industry has now achieved means that older RAM technologies are now in relatively short supply, and therefore expensive. The no-brainer choice these days is spending the extra fifty bucks to max out the RAM when you buy a new machine. Put at least twice as much RAM in there as you could conceivably need in the next two years.

As things stand for you now, YouTube is the bait, and the technology you'd need to make it work smoothly is the hook. Until you're emotionally ready to start treating IT as an ongoing expense like hookers and crack, rather than any kind of long term asset, you should just learn to be happy with what you have.
posted by flabdablet at 7:03 PM on August 9, 2007 [2 favorites]

if you want i have a 512 i can sell you cheap. I got a 1GB off ebay for my g4 ibook and took 512 out. drop me a email if interested.
posted by ShawnString at 7:06 PM on August 9, 2007

RAM might be the easiest way to get ahead, but consider replacing the battery & HDD on older laptops.

(and if you're adventurous, the LCD panel to a brighter/sharper/more expensive model.)

replacing that 30gb HDD with a larger or faster 2.5" model, and adding the most RAM that is compatible with the logicboard / mainboard will be the easiest way to breathe a bit of life into an ailing machine.

about flash, its really just a performance hog on any browser, perhaps trying firefox or opera rather than safari might make loading CSS pages and rendering flash and youtube pages a bit faster.
posted by toliman at 4:28 AM on August 14, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks all. mkultra was spot-on about which model I have. Think I'll wait a few months and buy a shiny new compu. It's time.
posted by donpedro at 12:12 PM on August 14, 2007

if you want i have a 512 i can sell you cheap. I got a 1GB off ebay for my g4 ibook and took 512 out. drop me a email if interested.
posted by ShawnString at 9:06 PM on August 9 [+] [!]

A G3 ibook takes SDRAM and will not take the G4's DDR RAM.
posted by cellphone at 12:28 PM on August 18, 2007

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