Powerbook 12": The Upgrade


Powerbook 12-Inch

The hard drive on my Powerbook was giving up the ghost. First, it started making a high-pitched squeal. Then it started “sticking” intermittently – the machine would just hang there until I gave it a bit of a shake – very unsettling. Finally it just refused to boot.

Gentlemen, we can rebuild him.

Screen shot showing new Powerbook configuration

Three weeks ago, I received my Powerbook 12″ back from Daystar technologies.

It left me with a 60 gig hard drive (dead), a 1.33 GHz G4 processor and 768 meg of ram. Having undergone essentially a brain transplant, it has returned to me with a 1.67 GHz G4 processor, a 120gig hard drive and 1.25 gig of ram. Total price including shipping was £437.88. Was it worth it? I only paid £850 or so for the thing off the apple reconditioned store in summer 2004. I could have bought a refurb Macbook for £580 today. So from a price / features perspective it may not have been the most rational choice. However, I really don’t like the Macbook — for one, I can’t see myself getting used to that keyboard and for another the thing’s just too damn heavy! I really like the form factor of my 12″ Powerbook so I was reluctant to give that up. But that was the choice I was faced with.
Well… having used it was three weeks, I have to say that the operation was a complete success.

The only issue is that this thing gets hot. Subjectively, it doesn’t get that much hotter than it used to. I can still comfortably use it on my lap. But the fan is nearly always running at low speeds. Before the upgrade, I only used to hear the fan kick in when I was doing something
comute-intensive (for example, the few times I booted up Second Life, it started to sound like a jet engine). According to my “istat nano” system monitor widget the normal operating (CPU) temperature tends to hover around 131ºF.

One other minor issue I had was with Apple’s backup software. Upon restoring, I found that, when asked to do a “full” backup of my personal folder, it apparently did not back up my iTunes music or my iPhoto photos. Luckily, I had recent copies of both on our home machine so I didn’t lose too much, but I found this rather annoying, to say the least. Something to watch out for.

The speed boost is definitely noticeable, and is probably due to a combination of all three upgraded elements (CPU, memory and disk driver — which is significantly faster than the old drive). The result is a machine which feels new, and which for my uses remains more than adequate.

Am I a happy customer? Definitely. Daystar was also a pleasure to work with. They were friendly and efficient and there was always someone on the end of the line when I wanted to know how things were going. It was only after receiving my Powerbook back, by the way, that I learned that the lead “tech” who had been working on my powerbook and who I had been talking to all this time, Gary Dailey, was the president of the company. Thanks, Gary, and all the rest of the Daystar staff for rescuing and upgrading my Powerbook!

Late-breaking news: there are renewed rumors of a light-and-thin Powerbook making its way into the Apple line-up sometime soon, so I am now doubly sure I made the right choice.

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6 Comments on “Powerbook 12": The Upgrade

  1. I miss the days of my 1Ghz powerbook when the fan never really started and I could use it most of the time on my lap without getting burnt.

    The 1.67 Ghz was an unlucky computer and had many memory issues and I discovered many other customers had the same problems. Even with the 1.67 the fan ran most of the times after 20-30 minutes of use and it got VERY hot especially when recharging.

    The new Intel Core Duo 2Ghz is somehow halfway. It does get hot and using it on my lap after a while is too much, but it’s already much better and WAY faster than the 1.67 in many tasks.

  2. Hi there,
    I was googling for the CPU upgrade for my Powerbook and came across this site – I looked on the xlr8 website and the link to the CPU upgrade for Powerbook is blank. Do you have the full URL or a contact number/email for them at all please? Would live to give this machine a new lease of life!

  3. The Daystar site is: http://daystartechnology.com/ – that’s where they still sell the upgrade, I believe. FYI I’m still truckin’ along with the upgraded 12-inch. I resisted the urge to buy a Macbook Air and I’m glad I did considering all the problems that have cropped up with it (overheating, crashing, etc..). I’ll wait for the next rev before I upgrade.

  4. It’s funny that you mentioned the Macbook Air in your last post. I had quite a bad experience with that. The logicboard died that’s quite and expensive expense. The mac technician guy that opened the computer when the computer crashed down told me that he saw many MBA coming with those sort of problems.

    The funny part is that after mourning my MBA that I had for 5 months in 2008-2009 I decided to go for a powerbook 12 inches. I was looking for information about upgrading it a little and I found your blog. I got this powerbook for 200 cdn$ and it’s in very good shape. It looks almost as good as a brand new computer. I installed a fresh leopard version and it’s quite an amazing machine considering its age. I’m looking into upgrading the memory to its full 1.25 (I’m at 768) and I’ll see from there.

    So far and I must say almost in 2011 I’m very happy with my new “old” powerbook g4 12 inches and I’m back on MrACk (Mac track).

  5. Hey Jonathan – thanks for your comment! I am now happily on the MBA for about 18 months (I haven’t had any logic board problems, happy to say). Glad to hear about your experience with the G4 12″ though – it really was a great machine.

  6. Hey Dan,

    So is the MBA the next rev? Did they make significant changes to the inside build? I guess they had to with all the problems they encountered at first. What happened to your powerbook G4? Did you sell it to an Apple museum?


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