I am a bit tired today but have quite the sense of accomplishment as I am typing this on my newly restored laptop. Last week I regaled you with the tale of my laptop going down and the choices I faced in buying a new one, fixing the old one, or buying a used one. Turns out I did both of those last two.

First off I decided not to drop fifteen hundred dollars on a new one. Mainly because whenever I decide to get a new computer I spend at least a year saving up for it. I just spent all my money on a new car in October and therefore had none saved for a new laptop. I don’t like to spend money I don’t have.

I also wanted to see if I could get away cheaper than the $400+ it would take to fix mine at the Apple store. That also seemed like a large chunk of money. I also considered that the price of the logic board I needed to replace was about $300. I think that was even for a used logic board. After all, they don’t make them new anymore.

I then checked on Ebay and watched some auctions for a few days. My model (2005 12” G4 Powerbook Aluminum 1.5 GHz) was going for about $350 give or take fifty bucks. Some were souped up with programs (which I don’t need), RAM, and bigger hard drives and those were the more expensive ones. I bid on a couple of nice ones but they went over my $300 limit.

After that I decided to go for a crappier, cheaper one and strip the logic board out of it. A bold decision that I hoped I wouldn’t regret since I had never done anything like that before. But I had walkthroughs of the process on YouTube to help me. I got one for $236 with the shipping included. The screen was a little battered, the battery useless, and there was a problem with a speaker but I didn’t need any of those parts.

I hate to complain about the Post Office since they generally do a good job. I’ve mailed things Priority Mail to California that got there in two days and another package that got to Hawaii in three days. That is amazing. But what is also amazing is that it took the same Priority Mail three or four days (I’m not positive which) to get the package from Danbury CT to my house in Rockland County NY which is only 50 miles away. It went from Danbury CT to Kearney NJ to Bethpage NY (on Long Island!?) back to Kearney NJ and finally to me. Aren’t tracking numbers great?

I got the package, opened it up, and turned the computer on. The speaker made a weird buzzing sound like the seller said and then muted itself like the seller said. I went in and messed with the sound settings and then the buzzing sound came back on and wouldn’t stop. Any thought about using this battered one and not rebuilding mine was driven out of my head by that loud buzzing noise. Time for action!

I decided to take mine apart first so I got a whole bunch of little containers to keep track of the screws. There are a lot of little screws. I had to remove about 30 screws just to get the case off and have access to the insides. I wouldn’t call the whole process hard but it takes concentration and in generally annoying. So many little screws of all different sizes to keep track off. They don’t make it easy.

I followed the YouTube videos step by step. Once I got the case open I removed the hard drive, DC-DC board, the modem, the heat sink, the rib cage, and finally the logic board (remove the Airport card first! They didn’t tell me this and it caused me trouble). Each part involved unscrewing screws and unhooking cables. It took a a steady hand, quite a bit of concentration, and repression of the fear of breaking things.

After I got mine apart I went to work on the second one. Since the screws were so confusing I took a different approach. This time after I took out a screw I taped it to a piece of paper and wrote a description on where it came from next to it. I’m glad I did this because with the first laptop even with the screws in separate containers I was getting mixed up. I was having a have a hard time telling exactly where they came from.

So I got both the laptops apart, grabbed the good logic board, put it in my laptop, and then put it back together again. Cables, screws, and my head spinning. I now had either one working laptop or two broken ones. I fired it up and nothing happened. Then I put in my original OS install disc and tried booting from that. Oddly enough the machine then booted from the hard drive and told me the disc was unreadable. Plus the track pad didn’t work nor did the airport card.

I decided to shut down and check my connections. I opened it up again and made sure all the cables were properly connected and everything was seated in place. I fired it up again. The disc could be read, the wireless card worked, but still no trackpad. I booted from the CD and used Apple hardware test to check things out. All the parts were good. Phew. I opened it up one more time to check things out and when I put it back together the keyboard didn’t work. Turns out I forgot to attach its cable. Whoops. But an easy fix.

This whole process took about three to three and a half hours. There were times when I had just wished I bought a new/used laptop and never started messing around with this one but when everything, except the track pad, was up and running I called it a night with a nice sense of satisfaction.

The next morning I reinstalled and updated my software and then decided to try and get the track pad working. I did a safe boot, zapped my PRAM and even reset my PMU (power management unit). This is what worked years ago when I had track pad problems but it didn’t work now. With everything else running fine I decided to remove the keyboard (only seven screws) one more time to check my track pad cable connection. I unplugged it and plugged it back in. Forcefully. Upon restarting the laptop the track pad worked! Huzzah! Everything was up and running again.

My biggest complaint about the whole process is the keyboard keys. In order to remove the keyboard you have to pop off four keys. The problem is that the “Popping off” process can easily break the thin plastic mechanisms that hold the keys on. Two of the mechanisms were already broken as I took them off. Now two keys aren’t properly attached. It’s annoying.

But anyway it took some doing and $236 but I have my machine back, some spare parts in case I need them, and a sense of satisfaction that I got it done myself. I hope it keeps running for a while. I’ll let you know.