Need for Speed


I don’t really have a need for a lot of speed; about 90% of what I do relies on writing (blogs, emails, articles, books), and the other 10% makes up for the occasional game, image scanning and other bits. But just occasionally, particularly when swapping applications, or when the disk drive is busy in the background, you really notice the speed of your machine. Not it’s raw processing power – very few people really ever feel that effectively due to multitasking and ins and outs of the job they are doing – but the speed at which you can do the day to day operations that make up the bulk of most people’s daily work.

I also find I need a lot of space. I don’t do video work (not yet), but I frequently have to download 2-4GB disk images of new software, operating systems and the like and it can take a while before I get to offload that onto the server.

So, I decided to bite the bullet and get a 100GB 5400rpm Toshiba unit (unfortunately not a 100GB 7200RPM unit). This replaces, in the original PowerBook at 60GB 4200rpm unit. Given the power elsewhere this seems like an odd choice, but hopefully I’ve redressed that.

Right now, I’m installing OS X; I always do a complete rebuild when I change a hard drive. Not, necessarily, because my machine needs it (although it probably does after two years), so I have no idea if the drive really is any faster yet, but be assured I’ll let you know as soon as I do. So far though I can say that the new drive is significantly quieter; I often can’t even hear the machine anymore.

What really amazes though is the insides of my Powerbook. Mine’s one of the original 1GHz 17″ units ordered within a few hours of the original announcement. Getting into the case is surprisingly easy; undo all the screws and pop off the top portion (including keyboard) of the bottom half of the case and you’re in and you have complete access to everything you need. I could have upgraded the DVD drive (no need) with relative ease. There are a lot of screws – I lost count at about 20, but with them out of the way it really is just a case of lifting off the top.

It surprises me each time just how neat it is inside and how many little things, put together, can make such a tidy little box. The cables are neatly tied away. There’s also a surprising amount of space, although I suspect that isn’t the case in the 15″ units and definitely not in the 12″. It’s the simple things, like rubber washers on the drive mounting (for protection and silence) and the neat way the cables and heat components are attached and fitted into the case.

As long as it doesn’t void your warranty, and you are relatively proficient, it’s worth opening up your PowerBook or iBook just to take a look inside.

The whole process from start to finish (undoing the first screw to doing the last one up) took just 15 minutes. A remarkably quick process for such a complex operation. Meanwhile it’s taken me almost two hours to install OS X 10.3 and then the upgrade to 10.4. I’ve still got applications and other bits to install, but that should mostly be a copy only job with only a couple needing full installation.


Gareth Potter

For anyone just wanting to “take a look inside”, I must caution against trying to open up an iBook. Unlike the PowerBook which, as you say, is very easy to get access to (and, at least from the Titanium days, always has been), the iBook is a totally different beast, and rather like the Mac mini, requires that its plastic casing be effectively prised off to access the innards.

But even a comparison with the Mac mini is a bit misleading. Make no mistake – iBooks really weren’t meant to be opened. Unless you really need that hard drive upgrade (or it’s already buggered), think before you break out those Allen keys.

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