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I think my PB G4 is dead, what can I do with hard drive?

524 Views 5 Replies Latest reply: Jul 25, 2013 9:41 AM by Allan Jones RSS
Jason Kulas Level 3 Level 3 (525 points)
Currently Being Moderated
Jul 22, 2013 7:27 PM

I'm convinced my Powerbook G4 17" 1.5GHz OS 10.4 (let's call him "Mr. Dead") has died...maybe you can verify my diagnosis near the bottom.  Since I think he's dead, but I think the hard drive might be fine, I'd like advice on what I can do with the hard drive (for recovering data & looking at how I had the old system setup).


RESOURCES:  I have a new Macbook Pro on order ("MBP"), and access to 2 Powerbook G4 17" 1.67GHz, one running 10.4, the other 10.5.  The G4 10.4 is an sometimes-used system (let's call him "Useful"), and the G4 10.5 is one that's freshly-installed but no one is using currently (let's call him "Idle").


I thought of 2 basic options here.  Bear in mind I'm not a hardware guy.  I've installed RAM, that's it.  Though I expect I can manage to follow online instructions on how to pull a hard drive from a Powerbook.  My main worry is buying the wrong thing, which I think would be easy to do, since I don't know much about hardware tinkering.


SOLUTION 1) Put Dead's hard drive into a Firewire enclosure, then he can at least be a data drive to pull stuff off of.  Would I also be able to boot off of his install?  What do I need to know to buy the right enclosure?  Does anyone recommend any?


SOLUTION 2)  Put Dead's hard drive into one of the other Powerbooks, perhaps only temporarily.  Then I can boot it, look at it, put that Powerbook into Firewire Target Disk Mode, etc.  Will that work?  Is it hard?  Are there any issues with the dissimilarities between Dead and the other Powerbooks (the other 2 are faster chips, and one is already at 10.5)?


Are there pros/cons to solution 1 vs 2?


DIAGNOSIS:  Why I think Dead has died:


He's been acting weird the past 2 days or so, freezing, requiring hard shutdowns.  Then Monday, he wouldn't boot...what I could most often get out of it, after resetting the PMU, is to get the POST to give me 3 beeps (bad RAM).  But I've tried the RAM modules from Dead in the other Powerbooks, and the RAM is fine. 


Every once in a while it ALMOST acts like it wants to boot...I get a chime, or a chime with a burst of static, but even then, the hard drive then quiets down, the screen stays black, it goes silent, and the system remains dormant.

PowerBook, Mac OS X (10.4.11), 17", 1.5GHz G4
  • BGreg Level 6 Level 6 (17,500 points)

    Cleverly written. The easiest thing would be to buy a converter cable, like this one. It's a little cheaper at Amazon.  And there are other cable arrangements that will connect an ATA drive usually to a USB connection, which works as long as you don't want to boot from it. Another one is here.


    Cases, I like the OWC cases that use Oxford chipsets, as they work well with macs, however, I couldn't find an ATA/PATA 2.5" case .... everything has been serial ATA/SATA for years now. I'd probably look at, as I'd expect they would have cases that would work. They also have gobs of user comments to help pick one, if you want to go with a case.


    I would probably do one of those options rather than opening up one of your other Powerbooks and swapping hard drives.  It's not impossible, but can be a bit annoying, and after you forget to connect one of the wire connectors well and you have to go back into it, after the first time it gets old. 

  • BGreg Level 6 Level 6 (17,500 points)

    Powerbooks did have an issue with their lower memory slot going bad, and Apple even did a warranty extension for a very small number. You might test that to see if that's making it look like the RAM cards are bad, by trying to boot with just one card in the upper memory slot.


    Have you tried to run the Apple hardware test? May not be enough life in the Powerbook to run it, the way you've described it, but it would sure be interesting if it would fire up and run the test.

  • Allan Jones Level 7 Level 7 (29,605 points)

    My recollection is the bad memory slot issue only affected the 1.5 and 1.67ghz PowerBooks with 15-inch displays. However, BGreg's suggestion of RAM swapping should reveal if it somehow affected a few 17s.


    Every once in a while it ALMOST acts like it wants to boot...I get a chime, or a chime with a burst of static, but even then, the hard drive then quiets down, the screen stays black, it goes silent, and the system remains dormant.


    That does sound like a dead hard drive but my 17-inch 1Ghz has, like almost every other PowerBook, a dead PRAM battery and they are nearly impossible to find other than as "used/pulled." Sounds like buying used chewing gum to me!


    If I let the main battery (which is an original Apple replacement and still good) run down the computer will not start from the A/C adaptor alone. If I hit the start button when the main battery is flat, I get similar noises that you describe but it goes nowhere. If I walk away, leaving the charger plugged in, the computer will boot 5-10 minutes later.


    So if your are living with a dead main battery and we accept that nearly every PowerBook has a defunct backup (PRAM) battery, you won;t get far without replacing the battery. Apple no longer sells PB batteries so that throws you into the third-party pool where not all batteries are created equal.


    If you want to get an new main battery, I'd try these guys first as they are an established Mac equipment vendor with excellent customer service:



    Pricey for a pre-2006 machine that may have a dead hard drive.


    One old trick is to turn off the computer, remove the main battery and leave the PB on the A/C unit for 24-48 hours, then reinstall the main battery and try booting. The theory: the backup battery is rechargeable and there is the off-chance that it will get "pumped up" enough during that it will help with the next boot. It's a good step in that the only cost to you is 24-48 hours of time.

    PowerBook G4 1Ghz 17", Mac OS X (10.4.11)


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