Ibook G4 Crash...no Hard Drive!



Today my computer locked up and I restarted the machine and all I got was the grey screen. I thought I better put in the system disc and when I did, it didn't even see a hard drive so the system disc will not install a new system. I am stuck. What should I do? Thanks.

Tom Beckman
Hi, Tom,

I'm having the same issue, exactly as you described it. My fear is that our iBook g4s are simply old creatures. I had bought mine refurbished in the fall of 2004 (4.5 years ago.) I'm not sure when Appple introduced the G4, but there's a possibility my model could be that old. After all, the iBook is not a MacPro G4 tower. But here's to hoping that the HD on the iBook can still be found, since we both probably have some data on our drives that we need to salvage.

Here's some backstory: About 8 months ago, just before my Applecare protection was about to expire, my iBook G4 froze up during normal operations. When I restarted it, I got the gray screen. Occasionally on different start-ups the computer would cycle through red, green and blue screens. I spent some time on the phone w/ Apple's tech support (great folks), and we ran through some tests (which I can't now recall). They told me it was likely my logic board that needed replacement. Luckily, the applecare plan was still in effect, so I just brought it in to the nearest certified technician, and everything was taken care of, free of charge. I had a fully functional iBook g4 on my hands.

That is, until October or November, when I was importing some video through the G4 to an ext. HD. The playback screen on iMovie got all glitchy -- no other part of the screen, though -- and iMovie "unexpectedly quit" (Applespeak for "crash," anyone?). Same thing as last time, but now no AppleCare. Cut to three days later when I try, out of sheer desperation, re-starting the iBook: IT WORKS!

And things were pretty fairly well like that up until now. I probably shouldn't have kept working on the machine, which I realize now. But shelling out another 900 to 1200 bucks for something that could handle the kind of video editing I need to do just hasn't been feasible. So I kept working on it while backing things up on an external HD -- which is now also wonky, vis-a-vis its performance w/ my wife's 526 MB RAM 1.8 gHz MacBook. (Not the best RAM/processor to be trying to regularly edit video on as well, I realize.)

So -- now my advice, belated because I needed to just get that whole ordeal off my chest -- if you've got applecare, use it. You might get 3 months or 2 more years out of your machine. If you don't have applecare, your options seem to be as few as mine are now.

Find a local tech shop that can install a new logic board for you. Not sure how much that's gonna cost, though. You might also locate your local college's computer science club. Ask if they can find you the right logic board and install it for you. If this works, and the harddrive is recoverable, I would suggest purchasing an external HD and saving everything onto that machine when you work. That way, a crash is not such a big deal -- you know, aside from not having a computer to work on.

But, if it's irreparable, you'll have to bite the bullet and purchase another computer. From my perspective, this G4 has been through a lot -- I've put a much heavier workload on it that a laptop should really be asked to handle. And it served me well the last four and a half years, especially for being a "new-to-me" refurb-ed model.

See if either the shop or the CompSci club can salvage the data from the HD. I'm guessing you and I are both out of luck here, as the install disk isn't reading any hard drive whatsoever.

Sorry to be the pessimistic bearer of bad news, but I'm of the opinion that iBook G4s are an endangered species. If you can get around some of the technical problems now or simply retrieve your data, you're probably best getting a newer model.

You're right about the age of these machines. They have served us well. I fixed the problem long ago. Applecare provided me with a new machine. I win!

Its probably just a bad hard drive. If disk Utility isn't even recognizing the HD your chances of getting data are not good. You can get a hard drive fairly inexpensively. Probably want to pay an Apple authorized shop to install the HD. The ibooks are one of the more difficult HD replacements, especially for those with no experience repairing laptops. I do them all the time and get calls from folks who try it on their own, then destroy something, then ask for my help when its too late and now they need a logic board also.

But those things are known for bad logic boards. If that's the case cut your loses and get a new machine.
You may be in luck. I also have a G4 iBook that "died" just two weeks ago.

The odd thing being that over the past 4 months, I have been coming across increasing number of iBook failures on various boards (not just computer boards). In hindsight, I guess it isn't odd as all these G4 iBooks were made during the same period and are therefore reaching the same age in their product life.

The pic is of my actual iBook utilizing the C-clamp method. Yeah, a bit cumbersome, but it allowed me to clone my hard drive.

The problem appears to be one of the mini-chips on the logic board working it's way loose...nothing outright "broken" (except some solder links). By applying pressure in the right spot, the iBook starts up like nothing's wrong.

I was skeptical when I first read about the "hack", but after nearly 50 failed boot attempts I was pretty desperate. On the first try with my left elbow firmly planted on the spot, she booted right up. The next day I plunged for the $4 clamp.

Don't go nuts with over tightening, just try for slight pressure. If that doesn't work, try just a little tighter. Rinse, lather, repeat until you find the sweet spot. If you start hearing grinding sounds from the hard drive, you've gone too far.

Hope you have as good a luck with this method as I did.

For a more technical fix, check out this link...



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