PowerBook upgrade or New Mac? Poor Highschool teacher needs help!

Discussion in 'PowerPC Macs' started by hunterofmacs, Sep 23, 2008.

  1. hunterofmacs macrumors newbie

    Sep 8, 2003
    Hello all, I am an school teacher and academic who is in serious need of advise in terms of should I refurbish my existing computer or replace.
    Some context: I am a high school teacher and part time graduate studies student in a Liberal Arts program (history). I use my computer for writing (in word), gathering academic documents (pdf files) from the internet, and general email and web surfing. On occasion I watch a DVD (but this is not an essential thing for me).

    Presently I have an older PowerBook G4 17inch, not sure what generation it is but I got it just before they switched to the intel chips.

    I’ve been having problems with it recently – it’s slow, it cannot handle some webpages, applications crash frequently, sometimes it does not really want to bootup correctly, some applications seem to be too old to update to accommodate new internet pages (flash, etc…)

    Anyways – I’m thinking I have two options - replace or refurbish

    Refurbish – take it in for a tune up, repave the HD, reinstall the OS, upgrade my 512 of Ram to a Gig (which I think is the max) – will this work for me?

    Replace – should I just resign myself to the fact that its too old to interface with most modern applications.

    My conumdrum is, if I replace -- what to replace it with? I bought the 17 because I like the big screen – but it is so heavy and its so hard to fit into a briefcase; so was thinking of going the other extreme – MacAir.

    Again – no games, no graphics, just document processing and viewing documents on web and general internet searches to pull pdf files of academic papers.

    Should I just stick with what I’ve got after a tune up? Will this yield reasonable results?
    Is the MacAir robust enough for me, or do I need the book or Pro?
  2. Jonnyfive macrumors regular

    Feb 28, 2007
    British Columbia
    I would refurbish it. It's still an awesome machine and a OS re-install should fix all your problems!

    It will be cheaper than buying a new one and from what you use the computer for you probably wouldn't notice much of a difference for the money you would spend on a new macbook pro.
  3. Peterkro macrumors 68020


    Aug 17, 2004
    Communard de Londres,Tiocfaidh ár lá
    I'd also vote for a refurb stick 2gigs of memory in it and a bigger hard drive and it'll be perfect for your use for some time to come. The bulkiness of the 17" is overplayed some times and yet there's no substitute for having that much screen at your beck and call.
  4. iToaster macrumors 68000


    May 3, 2007
    In front of my MacBook Pro
    Do you know what speed the PowerBook is? The maximum amount of RAM for any 17" PBG4 is 2 GB, which should speed things up considerably compared to the 512 you're on now. You'd be surprised how speedy a machine can be made of it still, but if you do want to get a new computer, I'd go with a MacBook Pro, just so you aren't constricted by the Air's shortcomings in ports, spaces, and maybe power too.

    By the way, welcome back to the forums hunterofmacs, it looks like it's been a long time since we heard from you.
  5. dmw007 macrumors G4


    May 26, 2005
    Working for MI-6
    For your stated uses a 17" PowerBook G should still be quite viable.

    I would recommend that you:

    1) Repair Disk Permissions (under Go/Utilities/Disk Utility then click on Repair Disk Permissions. This step may help resolve some of the issues you have stated.

    If that does not work, you may want to reinstall the OS - very easy to do, just backup your files to a CD or USB Flash drive. Insert the disc into the disc drive and restart your Mac and press and hold the "C" key. The installer will walk you through the rest.

    If you continue to have problems, you may want to take it to your nearest Apple Store and have a Genius check it out (for no charge) just to make sure there is no faulty hardware causing any of your problems.

    2) Max the ram! Check out what model you have by opening "About This Mac" and then check out www.datamem.com for some great deals on RAM for your PowerBook G4.

    Hope that helps! :)
  6. a456 macrumors 6502a


    Oct 5, 2005
    I would be very reluctant to update such a new machine, especially with what are fairly basic needs. One question:

    You're not using Word v.X by any chance are you? If so upgrade if possible to 2004. Entourage was awful in v.X to the point where it would crash immediately on me, and Word wasn't as good as 2004 version either.
  7. hogfaninga macrumors 65816


    Aug 16, 2008
    Chestnut Tree Cafe
    Did you read his post? He is clearly on a budget and what he uses a computer for, a Macbook Pro is wayyyyyy overkill. The only thing he can justify for getting the Pro is for the bigger screen. Most people (even those who can afford it) can't justify spending that much more just because of a screen size (for those who don't utilize the Pro for what it can do--just buy it for bigger screen size). The Air is a good recommendation and so is the Macbook. Heck the low end Macbook will be just fine for his purposes and he can get a new one for under 1K or less if he gets a refurb.. Either one will show a drastic speed difference in what he has. If he can live with a 13.3" screen then the Air and really the Macbook is the best option.
  8. dburges macrumors newbie

    Feb 27, 2004
    Your MBP certainly has some life in it and it's worth maxing out the memory for starters. Sooner or later you'll want to replace it though- after all, the current OS X 10.5 is the end of the line for PowerPC machines.

    Let me share my strategy when it's time to buy that new machine- don't keep it so long! I also work in academia, and I buy myself a new Mac every nine months or so- and believe it or not, I haven't laid out a penny of my own money to do so in several years.

    I always shop for close out deals at the University bookstore or MacConnection.com, etc. and then sell my old machine on craigslist while it's still under Apple's warranty. It never ceases to amaze me how much people will pay for used Macs on craigslist (Seattle area); almost always more than they would have paid buying it online or through an academic discount.

    Another tip is to always max out the machine's RAM capacity with cheap memory that from Fry's, etc. that you install yourself. When it's time to sell you can compare the price to what Apple charges for the same memory pre-installed (always an arm and a leg) and your machine will seem like an even better value.

    So that's it, pretty simple. After my initial investment I've been using the latest Macs, always under warranty, for free for several years now. And they say Macs are more expensive than PC's! (DON'T try this trick with a used PC of any kind!)

    Good luck!
  9. Squonk macrumors 65816


    Mar 15, 2005
    If you go the refurbish route and you can afford it, I'd suggest a new and faster hard drive. After maxing the RAM, this is the 2nd best upgrade that you will FEEL the performance difference! You'd probably want a 7200rpm drive as I believe the 17" PB's came with 5400rpm drives.

    I still use my 15" 1.25GHz PB and it does pretty darn well for my needs. I have a 5400rpm perpendicular drive from Seagate in it and I noticed a significant speed up from the stock 4200rpm drive. The perpendicular drives have performance just a tab below the 7200rpm drives.

    If the rest of your system is in good working order (ports works, screen is still bright and the keyboard it fully functional), for a couple hundred $$ you can definitely breath new life into your PB. If you do go up to 2GB of RAM, you should consider going to 10.5 as well.
  10. marbles macrumors 68000


    Apr 30, 2008
    EU mostly
    Go with the refurb . max the RAM , OS reinstall , after saving all data then hey ho ...it'll feel like a new machine :)

    Oh , just ask back on here if you need any help with any of what's been mentioned in the thread .

    "poor high school teacher" ...your having a laugh... I've never met a 'poor' teacher in my life :p :D
  11. Freewayjim macrumors regular


    Aug 2, 2008
    Metro Atlanta
    IMO if the OP is considering a MacBook Air then it would make the most sense for him to buy a low end Refurbished MacBook and max out the RAM, that would seem like the best bang for the buck. He would also have enough $ left for a decent external monitor if he decided he might like to have the extra screen real estate.
  12. hunterofmacs thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 8, 2003
    Thanks all for the advise!

    Wow – all I can say is thanks to all for all the advise.

    I’ll admit when I originally wrote my post, I had effectively all but decided, to just replace my laptop with a MacAir. I was just trying to solicit differing perspectives in posting.

    However you have all changed my mind – I am going to bring my laptop in for servicing – mainly cleaning the dust bunnies out of the inside and to do the complete reinstall of the OS (I would do it myself but I sort of want to “pave over” HD to remove any fragments of things which might be causing problems – not sure if that is totally necessary? I am running OS X 10.3.9 – so I might even consider an OS upgrade depending on the relative advantages/disadvantages.

    I’ll also max it out in ram – which I’ll buy and install myself from a third party vendor.

    Even if I spend a few hundred on this and it does not work well enough that I decide to buy an new one anyways – it will breath life into this one which I can use in my high school for showing movies and general internet searching strategies; also expose them to the superiority of the Mac environment/ I’ll keep the MacAir for my university work.

    Anyways I’ll let you all know how it turned out.

    Thanks again for all your help cheers

    $2000+ for a new laptop is a week in a few of my favorite historical cities: Montreal or Paris
  13. marbles macrumors 68000


    Apr 30, 2008
    EU mostly

    To give yourself a little extra cash on those trips to your favorite cities , don't take the book in for an OS install ....

    To write over any 'bad blocks' that may be causing issue ,Insert the disc that came with the machine , re start from the disc then select: Erase & Install (only after backing up your stuff of course).
    The options on the start up disk give you the ability to write over the main HD disc once or many many times , either way this will totally wipe out the drive & reinstall the OS thus saving you another bunch of cash .( that's what they will do in the shop anyway!)

    I'd stick with the software you have now , then after you upgrade see how the your machine feels ....maybe then go for 10.4 Tiger.

    I personally won't bother running OSX 10.5 Leopard until I own a Intel Mac

    Just ask back on here , loads of folk will help out if you get stuck :)

  14. eXan macrumors 601


    Jan 10, 2005
    Don't spend money on old OS. Get Leopard! Its just soo m u c h better than Tiger, I can't even imagine the improvement over 10.3 Panther! O_O Even Tiger feels extremely outdated after you've used Leopard for some time.

    But don't forget to get 2 GBs RAM - really a sweet spot in RAM capacity for moderate usage.
  15. leighonigar macrumors 6502a

    May 5, 2007
    Just to add another voice. I agree with those who have said refresh. I'd drop in 2GB RAM, replace the HD with a nice big fast one, if that's not too hard (I haven't done it on my iBook because those things are a pain to open up) and buy a copy of leopard. After the new HD is in just pop the disk in and do a clean install. You can drop the old disk in a cheap USB drive case and use it for backup or something.

    Leo should run fine. Seems fast enough for my purposes on a G4 800 iBook!
  16. allmIne macrumors 6502a


    Sep 17, 2008
    United Kingdom
    Why didn't you consider the macbook? The macbook air is expensive overkill - you're on a budget, right? - and the macbook pro is just too much computer for your needs, in addition to being pretty expensive.

    The macbook would have been the better option, imho. That said, I agree with the advice above to upgrade what you have :)

  17. marbles macrumors 68000


    Apr 30, 2008
    EU mostly
    I understand your point but on his particular hardware would it not be 'better' to run Tiger ? which would still be a big improvement over 10.3 Panther.

    What I mean is would Leopard run slower than Tiger on his hardware?
    Just a thought because by the time Snow Leopard is released his PB will be feeling more outdated so he could then upgrade to the current machine at that time ...skipping this version of Leopard and going to Snow Leopard with a new machine .

    Actually you know I've changed my thoughts on this ..... if it where my Powerboook and used it the way the OP described ,I wouldn't bother updating to either Tiger or Leopard! ...I'd stay with 10.3 Panther ....... re install the OS , up the RAM to 2Gb , then toward the end of next year , after Snow Leopard is released I'd go out buy a brand new machine at that time , saving money on not updating the at all OS now .
  18. madfresh macrumors regular

    Dec 21, 2006
    San Francisco, CA
    I'd replace it with a used Macbook if I were you. IMO it's better to get something more new than stick with something more old.
  19. eXan macrumors 601


    Jan 10, 2005
    Of course its better. Just a bit higher RAM usage. His PowerBook has the same GPU as my iMac and its runs Leopard faster than it did Tiger. Not to mention loads of USEFUL new features like Spaces and Quicklook, much more streamlined user interface and the fact that a lot of modern solutions don't support anything less than Leopard (like MobileMe)
  20. marbles macrumors 68000


    Apr 30, 2008
    EU mostly
    ..... if it where my Powerboook and used it the way the OP described ,I wouldn't bother updating to either Tiger or Leopard! ...I'd stay with 10.3 Panther ....... re install the OS , up the RAM to 2Gb , then toward the end of next year , after Snow Leopard is released I'd go out buy a brand new machine at that time , saving money on not updating the at all OS now .

    just what I would do in his situation , that's all :)
  21. leighonigar macrumors 6502a

    May 5, 2007
    IMO with leo this mac would be fine for at least a couple of years. I know people who use G4 400MHz comps for the tasks described here. If it works, don't fall into consumerism's baited trap. The reason you don't stay with 10.3 is that neither firefox or sarari have support for it in their latest versions and the old ones just weren't as good. 10.5 makes a mac feel modern again.
  22. chaosbunny macrumors 68000


    Mar 11, 2005
    down to earth, far away from any clouds
    I agree with most others that a last generation PowerBook G4 is still a very capable machine, especially for the ops uses. I still have one too, with 2 gb ram it has no problems with 10.5 and even CS3. I say put 2 gb ram in that baby and install Leopard, you will be able to run most current software. As for a hd upgrade, I think you will have either a 80 or 100 gb hd, before paying a store to upgrade that I'd rather get a bigger, faster & cheaper external hd for storage/backup you can also use with a new mac in 2 years or something.
  23. jdesign macrumors member

    Sep 24, 2008

    My first POST :)

    Hi my girlfriend is still using my old powerbook 17" , I upgrade the RAM to 2gb and it works great for her. My powerbook is pretty old it's only 1ghz model (before intel ) and i think it's around 4- 5 years old now. The RAM upgrade did the trick. I used RAM from Kingston, and it's pretty cheap.

    1. OS. although leopard is great - tiger was a bit responsive with this machine. though if i do it again i'll still install leopard

    2. viewing flash webpages still not as smooth as you want to. but with newer imac this sometimes also happens.

    3. playing DVD, .mov. avi. etc is great. just make sure you have the right software.

    4. still not convinced ? I am using LOGIC 8 in this machine.. runs pretty well surprisingly. Also it runs photoshop, indesign, dreamweaver and flash. although for the design software I must admit it's slow.

    5. everything runs smooth, although the latest microsoft programs ( words, excel , takes like forever to load ) better to install prev version ( 2004? )

    I could go on forever, but it's just this machine never dies... :)
  24. marbles macrumors 68000


    Apr 30, 2008
    EU mostly
    True , but with new releases just around the corner.....

    The OP doesn't really need an up to date OS from what I read ...I was just thinking of saving him some money ....then the guy can go off and visit more of his favorite cities .
  25. rjphoto macrumors 6502a


    Mar 7, 2005
    I'm running OSX 10.5.4 on a PPC 867mhz 12" PowerBook with no real complaints with only 1.25gigs of ram.

    I'm using it mainly for the same thing the OP.

    I could use a bigger hard drive (40gig is limiting my video downloads), but I keep waiting for the next cool laptop to come out.

    Anyway, my vote is up the RAM and get the latest OSX (what are we up to now, 10.5.5?)

    Let us know how it goes...

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