My PowerBook G4 12" Journal - Full tear down, SSD upgrade and CPU Fan.

Discussion in 'PowerPC Macs' started by AphoticD, Aug 3, 2017.

  1. AphoticD, Aug 3, 2017
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2017

    AphoticD macrumors 65816


    Feb 17, 2017

    I recently decided to give some attention to my PowerBook G4 12" 1.5Ghz, SuperDrive with 1.25GB RAM, which I acquired earlier in the year.

    The previous owner didn't know what the specs were and had it listed as an 867Mhz original series with CD-ROM and 256MB RAM. I took a punt and snapped the old girl up for a low, low bid of just AU$6.50 (plus $30 shipping), in turn, saving it from the grave.

    Early Diagnosis...

    When the courier delivered the PowerBook, I found it wasn't booting beyond a blue screen. A quick Single User Mode run of /sbin/fsck -fy got the previous user installed Tiger up and running. I was delighted when I saw the specs in System Profiler, revealing it was not the original 12" series, but the final 2005 model! It was a pleasant surprise to also see it had a 1GB stick of RAM already installed. It looked like it was used for audio recording/performance based on the installed Native Instruments software, Ableton Live and Reason.

    The exterior had been absolutely beaten around. Grubby stickers were plastered all over it, the bottom case was all bent out of shape around the battery, the optical drive was all out of shape and the base had been heavily scratched up during it's life as a road warrior.

    Non-critical issues found:
    - The bottom case was bent out of shape around the perimeter.
    - The battery was completely toast.
    - The optical drive was rejecting every disc I tried.
    - The Firewire port refused to recognize any devices.
    - The sleep light did not pulse or illuminate.
    - The CPU fan ran constantly and is VERY noisy (sounds like worn bearings).
    - Hard drive was noisy during regular use and occasionally makes "clunking" sounds.
    - Gparted reported hard drive had numerous bad sectors which had been blocked off.
    - CPU Temps exceeded 50C under minimal load.
    - GPU temp exceeded 70C under minimal load.

    Sure enough, this machine needed some work.

    Initial Repairs

    Within a week I snapped up a bargain, brand new Apple genuine battery (boxed and sealed with the original retail AU$199.00 sticker price on it) for $12 inc shipping. Once the battery arrived, I decided to pull the machine apart to clean up and reapply the thermal paste.

    Stripping it down was a mighty job, but thanks to the iFixit Guides, it was really just a process of following the steps. Inside was caked in dust and hair, all the components received a clean up with cotton tips and an old toothbrush. I didn't pull the logic board at this stage as it looked too involved for me. I just cleaned it all enough to apply new silver thermal paste. I reused the original silicone heat pads (even though they looked terrible), because I didn't have any replacements.

    I did my best to bend the bottom case back into shape by hand and also with some blunt/soft tools. Once I was happy enough with the shape, I put it all back together again.

    Semi-Successful Repairs:
    - Battery replacement at 4800mAh, 0 cycles - ran in OK. Performs perfectly.
    - Cooling fan is coming on less during regular CPU load.
    - CPU running around 42C on average with new silver thermal paste.
    - GPU running around 60C under Leopard, non-intensive work.
    - GPU running up to 76C under load (Tested with Doom 3 and UT2004)
    - Bottom case bent back into shape OK.

    The CPU cooling fan was still loud and came on more often than I would like.

    Installing an array of Operating Systems...

    Once it was all back together again, I learned that it can be difficult to install an operating system on a PowerBook which has a faulty Firewire port and a dead optical drive. I really didn't want to pull it down again, pull out the HDD and install the OS via a different machine, so I set out to find a way.

    As I couldn't boot off a Tiger or Leopard install DVD and I couldn't use my handy Leopard installation iPod (20GB Firewire), I was limited to installing via USB. USB booting via Open Firmware seems to only selectively support particular USB thumb drives. None of my 8, 16 or 32GB drives were recognized, however I had an old 4GB drive which worked.

    I initially wanted to bypass Mac OS X and go straight to Linux with the little 'book. So, the first step was to prepare an Ubuntu Mate (PPC 16.04.1) install ISO restored onto my "known-to-boot" 4GB USB thumb drive. I found the restore was best performed using an existing instance of Ubuntu MATE with Applications > Accessories > Disks, then use the menu to Restore Disk Image... to copy the ISO onto a USB drive. I did this via VMware Fusion on a Mac Pro. Mac OS X Disk Utility refused to make any kind of bootable Linux USB thumb for me.

    Ubuntu MATE installed okay and I used Gparted to re-partition the drive to accommodate for Tiger, Leopard and an extra temporary 8GB partition for the Leopard Installer. I repeated the bootable 4GB USB method with an ISO of the Tiger install DVD. Once Tiger was installed I was able to use Disk Utility to restore an ISO of Leopard install DVD onto the temp partition and installed Leopard as well. I then used Gparted again to wipe the Leopard installer temp partition and regain the space.

    I found the CPU cooling fan ran much more frequently under Leopard as the GPU takes on more of the standard OS GUI than in Tiger.

    I used the PowerBook for about 6 months like this. I really like the size and design of the machine and have tried to make it my go-to portable Mac.

    Further Repairs

    I knew the hard drive was on it's way out and the fan noise was bugging me so I planned some further repairs.

    Firstly, in my 15" PowerBook G4 (1.5Ghz), I use an OWC Mercury Legacy Pro SSD (60GB), but I felt it was overpriced and doesn't perform anywhere near the speeds I've gotten from SATA based SSDs.

    So I did my research and settled for upgrading the 12" PowerBook with an mSATA Kingspec 64GB mini-PCIe SSD (ordered in from Hong Kong) installed via the Lindy mSATA<->IDE 2.5" interface (ordered in from Poland).

    I also ordered in a second hand CPU Cooling Fan to suit this model from the UK and bought a 100x150mm sheet of 2mm Silicone Thermal Padding from a local distributor.

    Once all of the parts had arrived, I took a few days to prepare myself and got started last night on the repair...

    1. Preparing the PowerBook 12". iFixit's website is loaded on the PB 15".

    2. Note the heavy scratches, a missing screw from the RAM door and missing front-left foot. I stuck some 1.5mm 3M pads to prop up the front evenly.

    3. My assembled mSATA to IDE 2.5" interface.

    4. This is the correct CPU cooling fan for the 1Ghz - 1.5Ghz models:
    SUNON QC054509VH-8A V1.B659.F DC5V 0.8W
    (This one arrived pre-caked with dust)

    5. The components are all lined up, ready to install.

    6. The cooling fan after a scrub up with IPA on a cotton tip and a toothbrush.

    7. In order to remove the keyboard, you need to gain access to the small screws under the F1/F2 and F11/F12 keys. This is one of my most dreaded steps. I always feel like the little clips under the keys are going to snap.. And I can see a whitening of fatigue forming on the weak points of the clips.

    8. The keyboard is safely removed, now to remove another 20 screws or so to get inside...

    9. From all reports, this stage has stumped many people who have tried to pull on the Mic and Power Button leads from above the top case via their access holes only to find that they've pulled too hard and the entire plug assemblies have come clean off the logic board (solder and all). I find that propping the top case up to the side like this, then gently using the spudger to separate the plugs from their sockets with a little leverage and/or twisting of the tool prevents the logic board from being destroyed in the disassembly!

    -- Maximum files uploaded -- continued below..
  2. AphoticD, Aug 3, 2017
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2017

    AphoticD thread starter macrumors 65816


    Feb 17, 2017
    Further Repairs (Continued 1)

    10. After another load of screws, the heatsink is finally out.

    11. The screws are beginning to pile up. See the back of the heatsink where the old decayed thermal pads are. These became sticky and jelly-like with age and clearly did not work any more.

    12. The DC-to-DC board is removed and placed to the side..

    13. Spaghetti of cables. You can see the 256MB of onboard RAM here, along with the bus controller and G4 processor covered in silver thermal paste.

    14. The metal frame is finally removed after another dozen or so screws. We have to pull this out to replace the cooling fan from underneath.

    15. The screws and components lined up so far...

    16. The logic board is finally liberated! What a job that was. Now to take a closer look and clean out all the grime.

    17. More parts added to the line up. I ended up taking the top case off the SuperDrive and blasted the dust bunnies out.

    18. The shell. I took it apart further, just to get in behind the speakers to clean out the years of crumbs and gunk.

    19. Very close inspection of the logic board near the Firewire port reveals a blown component. There is a brown mark on the underside of the metal frame which matches this. It looks like the Firewire went up in smoke!

    -- Maximum files uploaded -- post continued below..
  3. AphoticD, Aug 3, 2017
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2017

    AphoticD thread starter macrumors 65816


    Feb 17, 2017
    Further Repairs (Continued 2)

    20. All parts have been cleaned and reassembled by this stage... Next up is the heatsink.

    21. New 2mm silicone thermal pads cut to shape and applied to the underside of the heatsink.

    22. Heatsink successfully reinstalled with newly applied silver thermal paste on the CPU (only).

    23. All re-assembled and the moment of truth... It springs to life and my pre-loaded Leopard installer jumps to action.

    24. Come morning and the little PowerBook is happy with all Leopard updates applied, ready to install Tiger and Panther in a triple-boot setup.

    25. The Newertech USB Universal Drive Adapter is a handy little device to hook up an internal drive without messing around with cases and screws.

    26. Tiger is installed and my files are transferring back into the newly installed operating system.


    With all the repairs completed I can proudly report that running temps have dropped substantially.

    CPU average temps 35 - 39C
    GPU average temps 39 - 46C

    (This is running in Leopard!)

    And, the replacement CPU cooling fan is quiet. The fan did run while Spotlight was indexing the drive, but nothing like before.

    The SuperDrive is now working! I haven't tested burning, but I popped in the Doom 3 (Mac) DVD and it installed and ran perfectly fine.

    The sleep light is miraculously working again! It must have simply needed to be re-seated.

    It's worth noting that the 1.5mm thermal pads would probably work just as well, however I recalled the gap being more like 2mm, so I went with that. It was a tight squeeze to get the heatsink back down. I also put a decent sized thermal pad under the top case, directly above where the G4 CPU sits.

    I am very happy with this PowerBook G4!

    Temperatures under load.

    A 20 minute run through Doom 3 with Energy Saving settings to "Better Performance" and temperatures are reported as:

    CPU 46C
    GPU 53C

    The cooling fan is only lightly spinning.. Nothing drastic like it would before.

    Previously, I would avoid running anything 3D on the PowerBook because I knew the GPU would quickly exceed 75C, which felt a little unsafe.

  4. pixelatedscraps macrumors 6502


    Jul 11, 2017
    Hong Kong
    Great job. I like hearing stories like this, brings back a lot of nostalgia.

    I've got a 2007 black MacBook 13" that needs a bunch of repairs and is waiting on eBay shipments of a hard drive caddy, new battery and RAM. I can't get past the flashing folder boot up icon or the blinking power light yet, so this is going to be saved for a rainy typhoon weekend...
  5. AphoticD thread starter macrumors 65816


    Feb 17, 2017
    Thank you for persevering! It was an epic post. :)

    I'm happy with the results of the job. It's always satisfying to repair what you've got. Better for your pocket and better for the planet too... Although the Quad G5s might not be considered eco-friendly!

    The black Macbook is a classic. The repair will be worth it. A Core 2 Duo at >2.0Ghz still packs a punch. Max out the RAM, drop in an SSD and reinstall Snow Leopard for the best performance out of it.
  6. pixelatedscraps macrumors 6502


    Jul 11, 2017
    Hong Kong
    You've got me looking up old PowerBooks and a 2007 MacBook Pro on Amazon that I used to use at work now!

    I might need your advice on this actually as you seem to know what you're doing (and probably know more about Apple error messages than I do).

    Despite iFixit / Google being great resources, I'm stumped with the blackbook. I bought it with my first ever sizeable pay check a decade ago so it has some sentimental value and I'd love to have it running again. I replaced the keyboard and trackpad about 7 years ago after AppleCare expired so I do have some experience with tinkering with notebooks.

    Specs are: 2.16Ghz Core 2 Duo, 2GB RAM, 200GB HDD.

    I've since purchased 4Gb of the same type of RAM as the blinking power light error seems to indicate a RAM issue. I've also got a spare 120GB OCZ Agility SSD for it. However, I'm missing a battery and a hard drive caddy.

    Issues with it:

    1) Blinking power light (even with new RAM installed, one stick at a time, both, etc.)
    2) Prior to the blinking power light, I had a flashing grey folder icon on boot up (can't get further)
    3) Bought the original 10.4.10 OSX Tiger Restore DVD for this series - DVD drive spins up but I still got the flashing grey folder icon.
    4) I've tried installing from a USB drive but I never seem to get into the installation screen.
    5) Using an 85W MBP Pro 17" power cable instead of the original as I can no longer find it - hope this isn't an issue, although it shouldn't be.

    My alternative should nothing work once the hard drive caddy arrives would be to find one in good condition off Amazon or eBay but then it wouldn't be mine...
    --- Post Merged, Aug 4, 2017 ---
    ****, I just realised I should have created a new thread for this instead of hijacking yours. Eek!
  7. AphoticD, Aug 4, 2017
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2017

    AphoticD thread starter macrumors 65816


    Feb 17, 2017
    Have you tried an SMC reset? Sometimes this controller can be at fault for strange boot behavior.

    There is an archive of Apple Service manuals available online here.

    Download the macbook_13in.pdf (85MB) file. This was the service manual provided to Apple Authorised repair workshops and covers lots of troubleshooting procedures. Have a thorough read through and see if you can identify the problem.

    I don't have much experience with MacBooks prior to my Unibody 2008 model, but I have seen an original MacBook Core Duo model repeatedly overheat and fail, requiring multiple logic board replacements. I hope that's not the case with your Blackbook!
  8. pixelatedscraps macrumors 6502


    Jul 11, 2017
    Hong Kong
    Yep, I tried an SMC / PRAM reset at the beginning, no dice. I'll get cracking on that PDF though - thanks.
  9. weckart macrumors 601

    Nov 7, 2004
    I basically had to do this for my 12" PB, which was also a bit of a punt when purchased. Turned out the gpu was dying and would only work in safe mode. Luckily I managed to snag a replacement logic board fairly cheaply, which meant total disassembly of the PB. Took me 6 hours start to finish because I am clumsy by nature and really did not want to yank a connector from the logic board nor bend the case or destroy any retaining clips by rushing things. Also, like socks disappearing from washing machines, you always seem to end up with a spare screw or two after putting everything together again.

    Fortunately mine was clean inside so I didn't need to spend much time clearing dust or gunk. Threw in an SSD on the same converter as yours and it is running like a champ. Temps are cooler than I had been led to believe from PB owners in the past posting in Macrumors.
  10. AphoticD thread starter macrumors 65816


    Feb 17, 2017
    Good work. It's quite an involved job. I probably took even longer. It became a real time warp.

    I was moving along slow and steady and by the time I had finished it was 5am... oops. I had to be up and moving in a couple of hours to get my boy to school. Needless to say we were late. :confused:

    I am blown away by how nice this little Mac is now. It's no speed demon, but really enjoyable to work on.

    I think I'll disassemble my Titanium PBG4 next. It runs hot and noisy and I believe I can improve on that. :apple:
  11. zappaesque, Aug 4, 2017
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2017

    zappaesque macrumors member


    Jun 10, 2017
    Nice work. I've got one of these (1.5 ghz as well) that I snagged from the 'bay for $40, untested. It worked great when I got it, except for a slightly washed-out screen. An old iBook screen from a dead unit took care of that issue, and it was a very easy process to swap the screen. Other than a small dent on the top that I could pound out if I'm arsed, it's in great condition. I took my time looking for one that wasn't mangled from years of rough use, and I got very lucky. The only other work I've done on it was to clean it out a bit, regrease the CPU and drop in an mSATA SSD with adapter. The fans are controlled a bit by G4fancontrol and only seem to spin up on any video-intensive sites (embedded or otherwise).

    Anyway, this will be a nice guide for anyone else looking to restore their 12" PB to good working condition. Thanks for posting!
    --- Post Merged, Aug 4, 2017 ---
    I love my 12" as well. A little heavy in weight, but a nice small machine to cart around. I bring it out more than my much faster Macbooks (2,1 and 3,1). Leopard Webkit is a joy to use once sites are fully loaded, and TFF isn't that bad either. With PPC Media Center and a Fox Box for Youtube, I can watch 720p video with Coreplayer with little if any stuttering or blocking. A very usable machine.

    I'm looking to snag a Titanium as well. I'll take my time, just like with the 12", to find one that isn't abused and oxidized to hell. It seems to be a little harder with the Titanium Powerbooks, but I'll find one someday.
    --- Post Merged, Aug 4, 2017 ---
    Just as I read this, one popped up on the local craigslist for $50. Looks to be a 2.0 ghz 2,1. I'm awaiting the return email.

    EDIT: aaaand it's mine. On my way! (My apologies for swaying off-topic)
  12. AphoticD thread starter macrumors 65816


    Feb 17, 2017
    I forgot that the screens can be disassembled on these things... There's a sizeable dent in the top case and if I pull the top apart I should be able to repair it. Anything post-PowerPC is full of glue and layers of thin plastic/glass, not exactly enjoyable to work on!

    Thanks. I hope it inspires others to tackle their own repairs.

    I got lucky with my Titanium in June. I waited and waited and finally found an 867Mhz, final revision TiBook in excellent condition so I snapped it up. It wasn't the cheapest purchase at (AU)$80, but it is very beautiful, without scratches and all the paint is still intact. It looks like it spent it's life at a desk because it had a "department of education" tag on the (clean, almost new looking) power adapter and there was little label stuck on the rear door, labeling the Ethernet port.

    Woohoo! Great score! :apple: :apple: :apple:
  13. weckart macrumors 601

    Nov 7, 2004
    I've done that too. You need to be super careful. The white painted rim can crack/shed paint if flexed too much and the plastic frame on the bottom lid has a tendency to detach with age. A bit of superglue fixes that.
  14. AphoticD thread starter macrumors 65816


    Feb 17, 2017
    Thanks. I will be careful with the paint, I wouldn't want to ruin it! When I replaced the hard drive, I did superglue the plastic inner frame back into the bottom case, it was already lifting out.

    It's a shame how much glue and adhesive strips Apple use to keep their products together. I'd really like to see this trend come to an end. There is nothing wrong with quality threads and screws to hold things in place. It just costs that little bit more to manufacture.
  15. weckart macrumors 601

    Nov 7, 2004
    Apple's love of slimness and 38% profit margin did not come from nowhere.
  16. zappaesque macrumors member


    Jun 10, 2017
    I'll post some pictures tomorrow. It was a 2.0 ghz 2,1 with 4 gb RAM in decent condition (some scratches), but with a new battery and brand new keyboard (as in, ZERO chips and no wearing of the trackpad!). The 320 gb drive checks out, and I'll be installing Mountain Lion and Yosemite on it via MacPostFactor. The screen has some pressure marks on it, but I've got a good condition spare from a dead Core Duo 1,1 that I can use to replace that. It was definitely a lucky score!
  17. weckart macrumors 601

    Nov 7, 2004
    Is it even usable with unaccelerated graphics? The GMA950 is pretty bad enough under Lion as it is. If so, I'll haul out mine and give it a go.
  18. zappaesque macrumors member


    Jun 10, 2017
    (Sorry if I'm hijacking your thread, @AphoticD. I'll gladly remove my posts and start a new thread if this is bothersome)

    It's quite reasonably useable. I had it installed on my white Macbook 2,1 already, so I was aware of its quirks. There are graphics glitches here and there, a bit of choppiness when scrolling (not too bad), and some slow-down in rendering Launchpad and any grid stacks, but it'll play 720p video on the 'tube, and using Mpeg Streamclip or Movist will allow all other video to be played (VLC and Quicktime supposedly don't work, but I didn't test them). I guess DVD Player doesn't work either, but I never use it anyway. Everything else I've tried works just fine, within reason.

    The other quirks are that it won't wake from sleep, and brightness controls don't work (full brightness at all times). You can install NoSleep and Shady, respectively, to handle those issues. I also installed cDock to customize the dock to a more Yosemite-like appearance. The sound kexts need to be installed as well using Kext Utility; at install and after every security update.

    Refer to this thread for info:

    Pictures of my new black Macbook attached. 20170805_153644.jpg 20170805_153553 (1).jpg 20170805_153614.jpg
  19. bobesch macrumors 6502a


    Oct 21, 2015
    Kiel, Germany
    What a great job! Especially what you've told about the complete spring-clean of the inside resulting in resurrecting optical-drive and light-sensor.
    I had also trouble with a constantly running fan on my 12"PB 1.5GHz after swapping the spinning drive for an mSATA with IDE-converter, since that harddrive-replacement produces more heat than the spinning drive getting the temperature-management inside the small case out of balance (no such problem with the 15" and 17" PowerBooks, cause the heat-producing part a more separated in the larger case).
    I also applied new thermal paste to the CPU (Ceramique2) and new thermal-pads, but your results are much much better!!! I guess, it's thanks to your clever trick of enhancing the pads both in thickness between GPU and the sink and in applying an additional thermal-pad between sink and top-case, so heat is conducted much better to the top-case below the keyboard. That is a really great idea - many kudos! I think, I'm gonna open the case too, to apply that trick as well, as soon as if there's spare time...
    Finally I found out, that main reason for my constantly running fan even after repasting the CPU and applying new thermal pads was the 40° threshold for the harddrive, that was exceeded by the mSATA-IDE-converter-combination. Help came from "G4FanControl" (whicht is now freeware) to rise the temperature threshold for the fan (CPU/GPU about 65°C, mSATA about 50°C).
    So under heavy workload by VirtualPC with Win2K or WinXP there's a steady state of about 65° of CPU/GPU now that's bearable (or even convenient on cold winter-evenings, haha...) and most of the time I place the PowerBook onto an iLap-stand (Rain Design) which I do with all my aluminium-Books. If that's not sufficient (on hot summer days and heavy workload plus additional Spotlight-action) I use a cooling pad from the fridge rapped in a kitchen towel (our fridge came with two cooling-pads both in the size of a 13-15" book) to be placed beneath the PowerBook.
  20. AphoticD thread starter macrumors 65816


    Feb 17, 2017
    Thanks. I think you're right about the thicker heat pads making a big difference. I can't take credit for the pad under the top case as there was already a small square stuck there (about 25mm). I replaced it with a square about 40mm.

    Since I did both the spring-clean and the SSD at the same time, I only saw temps drop, so I can't account for an increase from the SSD.

    It is winter here in the southern hemisphere, but it's not cold where I am. The ambient temps at night inside my studio are about 18 - 22°C (no heating needed). I'll record some more running temperatures with the SSD results included in the mix and get a better average now that everything has settled in.
  21. weckart macrumors 601

    Nov 7, 2004
    It's summer here in the northern hemisphere and those ambient temps are pretty much what we are getting here in the UK. In the daytime. A bit cooler at night. Not complaining, the rest of Europe is frying and I would rather be able to sleep at night.
  22. bobesch, Aug 13, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2017

    bobesch macrumors 6502a


    Oct 21, 2015
    Kiel, Germany
    You may check the temperature of CPU/GPU/Drive "HardwareMonitor"
    and alter the fan threshold with "G4FanControl"
    Maybe, your mSATA-To-IDE-Converter doesn't sport an temperature-sensor that might trigger the fan-activity?
  23. Lastic macrumors 6502a

    Mar 19, 2016
    North of the HellHole
    Good morning

    Since my PB 12" 1.5Ghz PATA SSD fan is starting to make an annoying sound , I'm going to install a new fan , apply paste and thermal pads also on mine, luckily this is a excellent additional guide to the iFixit one.

    Out of curiosity so I don't get ripped off when buying parts how much did you pay your thermal pad sheet and your fan approx. ?
  24. AphoticD thread starter macrumors 65816


    Feb 17, 2017

    Powerbook G4 12" DVI Fan Assembly - 922-6242, GC054509VH-8A - Used
    AU$3.07 + Shipping (UK to Australia was about $20)

    Thermal Pad:
    Silicone Pad Thermal Pad 50x100mm 2mm Thick Cooling Pad for CPU GPU
    AU$4.86 inc shipping
  25. Orizence macrumors 6502

    Nov 10, 2014
    This has honestly been an amazing write up to read! Also those temps are pretty amazing. I might wanna do something like this when I plan on getting my G4 going again.

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