Weird iBook Hardware Problem...please help!

sjcaguy

macrumors regular
Original poster
Nov 24, 2003
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Hi there,

Thanks in advance for the help. My iBook G4 has been working flawlessly since December of 2003-- until today. I was doing nothing different (reading the news, emailing, listening to music) and all of a sudden it seemed like the system just hung. Music stopped, but the cursor still worked, which was weird. Essentially, nothing was happening. I listened carefully and noticed a sound that I always associate with the computer "thinking". I don't know how to describe the sound. It's the noise the machine makes when it's doing something that's taking a while. Sort of a rhythmic clicking, but not really. Hard to describe. I stopped what I was doing and tried to restart, which took a very long time.

This is when things got weird. I went to move my laptop onto my lap, and then I noticed that if I angled the laptop toward the right, left, or up and away from me, it works fine. As I write this now, my iBook's left side is propped on a pillow and I'm typing away on a keyboard that's slanted down and to the right. If I move the pillow, everything sort of hitches/hangs again. When it does the hitching/hanging/stopping thing, I can pick up the computer maybe 1.5 inches and then everything starts again. This is perhaps the strangest problem I've ever encountered with a computer.

Basically, the only way to get it to work without propping something under it is to press down pretty hard with my right palm on the area to the right and below the trackpad. Essentially, where my hand normally is when I'm using the machine. It's over the battery, but who knows what is in the case between the top and the batter area. If I let up, it stops working.

Just to be safe and make sure nothing was weird that I could help, I repaired permissions, made sure my software was up to date, ran the UNIX cleanup scripts through MacJanitor, emptied my trash, etc.

I'd really appreciate any help or guidance anyone can offer. I'm worried by this development and not sure what to do about it.

Thanks!

Basic Data: iBook 933mHz G4, 640mb RAM, 60G HD, OS X 10.3.9
 

sjcaguy

macrumors regular
Original poster
Nov 24, 2003
126
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could this be one of the dreaded logic-board failures? An HD failure?

What's weird is that when the machine is propped up, everything works as normal. It just can't sit flat for very long w/out doing weird stuff.

I'd really appreciate any help anyone can offer...thanks!
 

iBunny

macrumors 65816
Apr 15, 2004
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I am by no means a Mac expert. So if someone has a better answer... please...

however I build and deal with PC's greatly. And what it sounds like, is your hard drive is probably dying. And you might be on the verge of losing all your data. I would suggest a back up asap. Burn the Stuff to a CD/DVD or external Hard drive... and a Hard drive replacement is probably in order.
 

sjcaguy

macrumors regular
Original poster
Nov 24, 2003
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Thanks for the reply-- I'm getting nervous about this...what in particular makes you think the HD is dying? Just curious.
 

e²Studios

macrumors 68020
Apr 12, 2005
2,104
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sjcaguy said:
Thanks for the reply-- I'm getting nervous about this...what in particular makes you think the HD is dying? Just curious.

I had something similar on my 1st iBook before it was replaced. I think they said the video cable thingy was being pinched by the hinge when it was at a certain open or closed spot. When that cable got pinched it would cause the video to either black out or get all "squiggly"

Im not sure if this is whats going on, but i dont think its HD related.. Hope this helps

Ed
 

sjcaguy

macrumors regular
Original poster
Nov 24, 2003
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if it is in fact HD failure, is this something I can replace myself? my iBook is out of warranty and I don't have applecare. I once replaced an HD in a Dell laptop and have installed RAM myself (not on my iBook) as well.

Also (forgive my ignorance), if I replace the HD does it take any special sort of HD for an Apple machine?

Should I boot from the system disks and try to run Disk Utility?

Thanks for any help...
 

iBunny

macrumors 65816
Apr 15, 2004
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Well you described the hard drive "grinding" "thinking" whatever Noise while you first had this problem. Also. The hard drive is the only part of the computer inside that accually "moves" and if you have to tilt the computer to work. Tilting the machine would only effect the hard drive as far as I know. because everything else is all electronic and stationary.
 

sjcaguy

macrumors regular
Original poster
Nov 24, 2003
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Ed H said:
I had something similar on my 1st iBook before it was replaced. I think they said the video cable thingy was being pinched by the hinge when it was at a certain open or closed spot. When that cable got pinched it would cause the video to either black out or get all "squiggly"

Im not sure if this is whats going on, but i dont think its HD related.. Hope this helps

Ed

it's not really that the video is hanging...it's that the system itself doesn't respond very much. it'll still do some stuff but i get a lot of the beachball stuff.
 

Where's Drew?

macrumors newbie
Apr 28, 2005
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0
I'll second the dying hard drive idea. I bought my iBook G4 in Jan '04 and after 5 months the hard drive started making clicking noises. System response (especially Safari) got very, very laggy, and I'd get the beachball from doing just about anything. I ran every diagnostic I could, and they all indicated irreparable hard drive errors.

To make things even worse, I was living in South Korea at the time, where Mac support is a total joke. It took over 2 weeks to get the hard drive replaced, but at least it was covered by the warranty.

And now I think that drive's dying too. I've begun getting the laggy system symptoms and occasional drive clicks. I've got Applecare, so it'll get fixed for free. And if it takes two weeks for Apple Japan to fix it? No biggie.

I pick up my new PowerBook today! :D
 

sjcaguy

macrumors regular
Original poster
Nov 24, 2003
126
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iBunny said:
Well you described the hard drive "grinding" "thinking" whatever Noise while you first had this problem. Also. The hard drive is the only part of the computer inside that accually "moves" and if you have to tilt the computer to work. Tilting the machine would only effect the hard drive as far as I know. because everything else is all electronic and stationary.

The thing that's confusing is that it's not a particular direction that it needs to be moved in to work again.
 

e²Studios

macrumors 68020
Apr 12, 2005
2,104
5
iBunny said:
Well you described the hard drive "grinding" "thinking" whatever Noise while you first had this problem. Also. The hard drive is the only part of the computer inside that accually "moves" and if you have to tilt the computer to work. Tilting the machine would only effect the hard drive as far as I know. because everything else is all electronic and stationary.
I need to *stop put down the drink, and read* i saw "logic board problem" and immediately thought it was a video issue, im sorry :p Yea it sounds like a HD issue then if its making noises.

Here is a guide to getting to the HD, i can tell ya right now its not as simple as opening up a wintel laptop, its quite the job it seems :) GL if you try it, and i always get Applecare on my laptops :p Link To Open iBook for HD replacement

Good Luck,

Ed
 

zach

macrumors 65816
Feb 14, 2003
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Medford
Go to Disk Utility, select the harddisk, and look at the bottom of the window, where it says "S.M.A.R.T. Status".

If it says "Verified", well... It still could be your harddrive, S.M.A.R.T. is notoriously dodgy.

If it says something OTHER than Verified.. It's probably your harddrive.

S.M.A.R.T. is a system developed by harddrive manufacturers to attempt to predict disk failure, in case you're wondering...
 

sjcaguy

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Original poster
Nov 24, 2003
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Ed H said:
I need to *stop put down the drink, and read* i saw "logic board problem" and immediately thought it was a video issue, im sorry :p Yea it sounds like a HD issue then if its making noises.

Here is a guide to getting to the HD, i can tell ya right now its not as simple as opening up a wintel laptop, its quite the job it seems :) GL if you try it, and i always get Applecare on my laptops :p Link To Open iBook for HD replacement

Good Luck,

Ed

Called Apple and they wouldn't help me unless I paid them, since I'm out of warranty and didn't buy Applecare.

What else makes noise inside a computer, other than hard drives? I had an HD that died once on a Dell and that was making a very specific HD sort of noise. This is almost like the system is 'thinking' too hard. I guess that makes it an HD sort of problem, but at the same time it works when I turn it sideways a little so something is still working. When it's turned sideways it makes no noise at all and acts normal. I've done some backing up of essential documents but need to figure out a way to get my media files and stuff off of this machine.

Any other repair options using software? I don't have DiskWarrior and DiskUtility couldn't repair the volume. I also got an error code from the Hardware Diagnostics but couldn't find any info about it online.

It just seems weird that it would work perfectly when turned a bit to one side or tipped up a bit...i realize the data could be lost soon but it's just a bizarre problem.
 

zach

macrumors 65816
Feb 14, 2003
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Medford
Well, if you're already outta warranty, and you don't mind experimenting..

Open it up, see what's under the right handrest panel. Maybe something simply shifted, the harddrive got dislodged, and it's as easy as that.

I'm guessing it's not that easy, but never hurts to try :)

I'd still check the S.M.A.R.T. status though, could verify the harddisk problem for you.
 

mkrishnan

Moderator emeritus
Jan 9, 2004
29,641
12
Grand Rapids, MI, USA
I would definitely check SMART status if you haven't already. But in terms of other possibilities, it's also possible that there is a loose cable or plug, which is just making contact at certain angles but not when the computer is flat, or that there is some metal object rolling around in there, that rolls to a safe place when you have it angled, but mungs things up when you have it flat
 

sjcaguy

macrumors regular
Original poster
Nov 24, 2003
126
29
zach said:
Go to Disk Utility, select the harddisk, and look at the bottom of the window, where it says "S.M.A.R.T. Status".

If it says "Verified", well... It still could be your harddrive, S.M.A.R.T. is notoriously dodgy.

If it says something OTHER than Verified.. It's probably your harddrive.

S.M.A.R.T. is a system developed by harddrive manufacturers to attempt to predict disk failure, in case you're wondering...

S.M.A.R.T. status is Verified. Of course, I couldn't get disk utility to do anything unless I tipped the machine up a little bit to get it out of it's weird cycle. It almost sounds like the machine is stuck in a loop of sorts until I tip the thing one way or another.
 

sjcaguy

macrumors regular
Original poster
Nov 24, 2003
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mkrishnan said:
I would definitely check SMART status if you haven't already. But in terms of other possibilities, it's also possible that there is a loose cable or plug, which is just making contact at certain angles but not when the computer is flat, or that there is some metal object rolling around in there, that rolls to a safe place when you have it angled, but mungs things up when you have it flat

Is there any way to tell, other than ripping the thing apart, what could be loose? It just feels like that's what it is rather than an HD problem, since right now (propped up) the thing is working perfectly.

Don't know what could be moving around...there's nothing sound-wise that indicates anything rolling around, and nothing has happened to the machine to break anything loose-- never been dropped, always gently placed either on the bed or the desk. It doesn't really leave my house, either.
 

mkrishnan

Moderator emeritus
Jan 9, 2004
29,641
12
Grand Rapids, MI, USA
sjcaguy said:
Is there any way to tell, other than ripping the thing apart, what could be loose? It just feels like that's what it is rather than an HD problem, since right now (propped up) the thing is working perfectly.
Probably not unless you are *extremely clever*, or have an X-Ray machine handy. :eek:
 

zach

macrumors 65816
Feb 14, 2003
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Medford
Yeah, it would be a bit hard to tell. Of course, taking an iBook apart really isn't that hard, I've done mine a couple of times and gotten everything back together just fine, and since you're out of warranty, you don't have much to lose, unless you think you'll break something else.
 

mkrishnan

Moderator emeritus
Jan 9, 2004
29,641
12
Grand Rapids, MI, USA
zach said:
Yeah, it would be a bit hard to tell. Of course, taking an iBook apart really isn't that hard, I've done mine a couple of times and gotten everything back together just fine, and since you're out of warranty, you don't have much to lose, unless you think you'll break something else.
But if you're a n00b (like it sounds Zach *isn't*, but...no offense, from the "I listened carefully and noticed a sound that I always associate with the computer 'thinking'" comment....the OP might be), then be *very* careful that you collect all the screws, keep track of which ones came from where, and put them back correctly. Because the iBook has a bunch of different screw diameter / type / length, and even some skilled people have said that they've ended up with a pile of leftover screws when they put their iBook back together.
 

zach

macrumors 65816
Feb 14, 2003
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Medford
mkrishnan said:
But if you're a n00b (like it sounds Zach *isn't*, but...no offense, from the "I listened carefully and noticed a sound that I always associate with the computer 'thinking'" comment....the OP might be), then be *very* careful that you collect all the screws, keep track of which ones came from where, and put them back correctly. Because the iBook has a bunch of different screw diameter / type / length, and even some skilled people have said that they've ended up with a pile of leftover screws when they put their iBook back together.
Yep.

I still have one screw, that for the LIFE of me I can't find where it goes.

iBook still seems to work fine though :)
 

haiggy

macrumors 65816
Aug 20, 2003
1,309
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Ontario, Canada
Hey man,

this sounds story sounds so familiar to me. After a year of having my iBook I heard strange noises coming from the hard drive and it always worried me but it wasn't a problem. Then one day, the computer became unresponsive, beachball, etc. So I restarted, same thing. I tried restarting AGAIN and I heard the drive as if it was crunching metal -- and it wouldn't work. I popped in the Hardware Test CD (which you should too) and ran that test. Came up that my hard drive was dead. So I was freaking out, panicking because it was JUST past the year warranty I had (didn't buy AppleCare). I pressed the power button and I wouldn't even hear a chime unless I booted off the CD. Anyways, I was like to my sisters "My computer is broken" and they're like "yeah, right... prove it" so after I had let it just sit on my desk for about an hour or so, I pushed the power button and it... turned on. I was soooo happy. I backed up everything ASAP and made sure I didn't do anything that might over heat my drive (not sleeping it at night, etc... which I think was part of the problem ... I just let it stay screen open downloading things). So what my advice is you to you is BACK UP YOUR FILES, and don't do anything crazy with your computer (letting it run all the time). BTW my drive has been fine ever since that experience but I've got back ups of everything. Just installed Tiger... woot :)
 

sjcaguy

macrumors regular
Original poster
Nov 24, 2003
126
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mkrishnan said:
But if you're a n00b (like it sounds Zach *isn't*, but...no offense, from the "I listened carefully and noticed a sound that I always associate with the computer 'thinking'" comment....the OP might be), then be *very* careful that you collect all the screws, keep track of which ones came from where, and put them back correctly. Because the iBook has a bunch of different screw diameter / type / length, and even some skilled people have said that they've ended up with a pile of leftover screws when they put their iBook back together.

mkrishnan-- i realize in hindsight that made me sound pretty stupid...the 'thinking' comment. obviously i was at a loss for words there and came up empty. I wouldn't say I've done a lot with respect to taking computers apart, but I'm relatively mechanically inclined and have installed ram, cd drives, etc in Wintel towers. I think I'm hesitant because I don't know how buried things are inside the iBook and wouldn't want to risk damaging anything.

I was thinking that if I attempt the repair myself that I'd get a pack of small bags and label the screws in groups...the phillips-head ones from the outside of the case, the allen ones from the outside, etc. Just get super anal-retentive about the job. Here's my other concern-- do I basically have to take the entire thing apart, or is the drive relatively accessible once I get the case off? Any good online guides for removing the case and getting access to the HD (perhaps with photos)?

Thanks!