Fighting with computers

Computers are not always friendly.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Reasons not to upgrade a G4 iBook

Years ago we bought one of the latest G4 iBooks as a bit later Apple started using Intel processors. The 12" laptop served us well but now battery and hard disk were dying a RAM was just 256MB. Acting against my own advice I decided to upgrade the system instead of buying a new one.

Buying RAM was not easy as mini DDR 333Mhz RAM was not popular anymore. Luckily I bought it second hand from a friend. A new battery was required to get more than one hour of autonomy again, so I bought a new battery from a Chinese source on eBay. So far so good.

I knew that replacing the hard disk would be a real PITA but I fell short. I bought a 160GB 2.5" on the local shop for less than $90. I would say that physical replacement is not something you will enjoy doing more than once in a lifetime but I got the job done with only one screw missing. I had to reopen the thing because I forgot to put back the standby magnet, it was not fun.

So once I thought everything was fine as the new hard drive was put in place, all the screws back in place and the system was making the initial chord I thought I was done. I was wrong: My Leopard disk booted but after long time fiddling with the DVD-ROM I was told a former copy of OS X was not found in my system so I could not proceed with the setup. Ok, my fault. Next I put in the Tiger install DVD, this was quick: a kernel panic complaining about PowerBook6.5 platform not being supported (Is this because this DVD was from my Intel iMac?).

Ok, do not panic: What about the original Panther DVD that came with the iBook ages ago? Well, my wife found it somewhere. We can't go wrong with this one --I thought--. After some minutes of booting noises I am greeted with the OS X setup screen and after choosing the language I can see there is no hard drive to install on: the hard disk selection area is just blank as if no hard drive were installed in the system. Ok, ... now I'm worried. Time to go online to Google for other people with similar problems. Luckily I learn that new hard drives need to be erased with the hard disk utility (included in the installer). So after erasing the disk contents I can see my new disk as a possible destination for the install. I fire the install process. This time the install works and after 2 hours or so the iBook was booting Panther again using the new hard drive.

I say to myself that now it is a good moment to upgrade to Leopard (though I'm worried because the laptop barely reaches the minimum system requirements). I reboot the system with Leopard DVD and press "C" to cause the DVD unit to boot. I can "hear" the system is booting from Leopard (it did it first time as I mentioned before) but apparently after almost one hour of different noises on the DVD-ROM unit and the rotating beach ball on a dark gray background I've got nothing. Same original DVD as before but different behavior. Who knows.

When I'm reinstalling applications I discover that I cannot install Firefox 3.0 on Panther as it requires Tiger (10.4.9). I cannot install Microsoft Office 2008 for the same reason, so I have to go back to MS Office 2004 (at least I still have the CD-ROM). And, after all I'm telling to myself: "I told you, old computers are just trouble when upgraded".

The story were not very different should I have upgraded an old PC.

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