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R.I.P. iBook: December 31, 2002 – March 7, 2009


Our old 700 MHz iBook G3 passed away quietly on Saturday evening. My wife had used it to check her email that morning, and all had seemed well, but when she tried to wake it for a late-night check just before retiring, it refused to respond.

Over the next several hours I tried every method of resuscitation I could think of, plus some more than I looked up on the Internet, but no joy. The screen remained black; No start-up chime; no hard drive sound; indeed no sign of life at all other than a hum (normal) from the power manager when the AC adapter was plugged in. I tried the reset sequence for this model (Control + Option + Shift + Power) several times, also reset the PRAM, tried removing the battery and unplugging the power adapter and letting the machine sit for several hours, and eventually overnight. Nada.

Perhaps a motherboard failure. I’m doubtful that the problem is the hard drive, since the screen remains dead. Evidently, this sort of failure is not unheard of, or even terribly uncommon with the G3 iBook, which was not one of Apple’s better efforts in terms of OS reliability, and this one being past its sixth anniversary in service was probably overdue, although up to now it had been a trouble-free machine.

I bought the iBook — the first iteration of the “opaque white” dual USB model, on the last day of 2002, just under the wire for a tax deduction on that year. I was very happy with it. I loved the look and size, interestingly quite similar in the squared-off lines and footprint dimensions to my first Apple laptop, a PowerBook 5300, although much thinner and lighter in weight. I also loved the bright, razor-sharp 12.1-inch display with its tight pixel density (for the time).


On the other hand, I’ve never much cared for the keyboard or trackpad — the former having a cheap and clunky feel, and the latter being exceptionally “jumpy” and hypersensitive. Neither was a problem for this iBook’s primary role during the first three years of my ownership, during which it served me faithfully and well as my production workhorse, sitting on a laptop stand and connected to an external keyboard and mouse.

This was a basic, $999 entry-level iBook with a plain-vanilla, drawer-loading CD-ROM drive and a smallish 20 gigabyte IBM hard drive, and it remained essentially stock (not that there’s a whole lot you can do to upgrade or expand an iBook anyway) throughout my ownership except for being maxed out with 640MB of RAM (not enough toward the end of its workhorse days).

The computer, which originally shipped with Mac OS X 10.2 “Jaguar,” was progressively upgraded through OS 10.3 and then 10.4, and finished its days running OS 10.4.11, which it did very comfortably. With only 16MB of video RAM and an ATI RADEON 7500 GPU, it just barely supported the more advanced Quartz Extreme and Core Image graphics technologies in OS 10.3 and later.

The only real functional issues I had with it were some modem problems and USB crankiness (that caused a few kernel panics) with OS 10.2 the early revisions of OS 10.3, but that disappeared with the later Panther builds and with OS 10.4. I did outgrow the capacity of the 20GB hard drive before I moved on, but the little IBM drive was reliable, and remained whisper-quiet throughout the iBook’s six-year plus lifespan.

I replaced it as my a No. 1 production Mac in February 2006, with an Apple Certified Refurbished 17-inch PowerBook, which has proved a superb performer, and the iBook was demoted to serving as my “road” laptop for a year and a half. It was compact and relatively light to lug around, but as previously mentioned, I wasn’t a fan of the keyboard and trackpad, and I eventually replaced it as my mobile machine with a hotrodded G4 Pismo PowerBook.

I’m sorry to see the iBook go, but it died with its boots on, so to speak, still in the harness when it expired from what appears to have been a major internal organ failure. It was a likable computer, will be remembered fondly, and if my new unibody MacBook serves me as well, I’ll be more than satisfied.

18 Responses to “R.I.P. iBook: December 31, 2002 – March 7, 2009”

  1. YourMacFriend

    There is a small battery in the laptop that last for years. When this battery expires, the iBook will not start up. Some repair shops will tell you you need a new mother board. They charge you for one, but only change the $2.00 battery. We had one shop here in Panama City, FL that did this all the time.

    The battery is inside under the keyboard. In some Books you have to remove the hard drive to get to it. Apple suggest you take it to a certified service center, but I have done this to many laptop Macs without any problems, except the Duos.

    The old Pizza Box Macs (LCs) were famous for this after only three years of use.

    I just bought a new Summer 2009 MacBook Pro 2.8GHz 17in. I’m going to sell my retired iBook 1.33GHz 12in for about $400. I still have the box and everything that came with it. Still looks and works like new.

  2. skinnie

    I bought a few months ago a 800MHz Ibook 12′,because carrying a 17′ HP [email protected] is horrible.
    The ibook is so much “better” than the HP,I still get about 4h of battery of it,coconut battery shows 93% health with 357cycles!
    I think it was good idea to try fixing your ibook,like aplying pressure or heat…you won’t waste money and can take an “old friend” back..
    Someday I’ll trade the HP for a macbook or macbook pro,but the ibook will stay,I love the thing!

  3. I bought a computer like yours at a thrift shop…It would not go on at all, not even a sound…..So I gave it to a friend to look at it…..his little girl plugged it in and it works great…I have no idea what happenned…..I took it to a few mac stores and they said just get rid of it it no good…so maybe one day just try again and you will have my luck….Lori

  4. I think it knew that you’d just received a new unibody MacBook — can’t be a coincidence — and figured that it was time to make room for the new guy.

  5. Charles,

    I feel bad that it finally died, when people would try and tell me about the poor reliability of ibooks I would always point them to your Compleat ibook guide on lowendmac and mention how your 700mhz unit has been going non stop. Ive had my 600mhz 16vram ibook about a year since i bought it for 40 bucks dead and i installed a logic board in the unit and its been solid as a rock where as my other mac laptops including my 17 inch G4 have failed. I feel the dual usb is a great design and that you should maybe look into replacing the logic board as they have gotten to be pretty cheap on ebay.

  6. Charles,
    My 800MHz iBook did something like that in 2006 – but the charger plug didn’t glow either. It ended up being a dead power brick. It still runs great today with an aftermaket power brick… but lately the power plug seems a bit wobbly (perhaps the dog snagging the cord too often). I hope to get as many years from my iBook.

  7. Daniel Finegan

    Charles, if you look on the Apple User discussion sites, you’ll find some suggestions about either replacing the logic board or else trying fixes like applying pressure to certain parts of the computer.

    I had a similar iBook sudden death, was able to get it re-started a few times but it was never reliable and eventually sold it for parts.

    It’s a shame. I agree with you – the Icebook ibook was one of my favorite Macs ever!


  8. I just sold an 800 mhz G3 iBook on eBay. I had had it since 2003, and it had worked perfectly through most of that time. I did have to send it back to Apple for the recalled logic board replacement. I also had to replace an inverter cable about a year and a half ago. (I love!) But other than those little “upgrades” it just kept chugging along for almost six years. It was my wife’s computer during most of those years, (I purchased a 12″ Powerbook G4 a year after the iBook.) I still think that the 12″ iBook/Powerbook size was the ideal size for a portable computer.

  9. My late 2004 model 12″ iBook died last year with a logic board problem and the Apple store was going to charge almost as much for it as the cost of a new notebook. I used it the previous night and it wouldn’t start the next morning. I didn’t get it repaired but kept it with me for emotional reasons :-)

    So, basically last week I took it out of the box and found that if I applied some pressure over the palm rest (above where the hard disk is present), the thing would start up.

    I opened up the cover and inserted a couple of folded papers and closed the cover and the iBook works again now :-) I don’t know how long it’ll continue to work like this but I’m happy.

    I still feel that the 12″ iBook was the best notebook Apple ever produced.

  10. Douglas Anders

    I had an iBook that I got for Christmas 2002. Sadly, it only lasted until February 2004 when it fell victum to a toddler’s tantrum (it was on the floor, closed and he literally jumped on it).

    I loved that guy — haven’t had a laptop since.

    I think I’m going to cry now.

  11. petergarner

    My first ever laptop, a G3 600 iBook, is still going strong (like yours, running 10.4.11, though mine only has 8 MB of VRAM!!). Never had any of the logic board problems so frequent with the “icebooks”; the only trouble we ever had was a hard drive failure about 3 years in. It was my workhorse for over 3 years and my wife still uses it regularly. We used it as our “vacation computer” as recently as last summer.

    Alas, though it’s still running, it will be put out to pasture within six months, and probably sooner, as its graphics capabilities are just too limited for anything but word processing now. Even web browsing is becoming a chore on it.

    That said, it’ll be a sad day in our house when we finally mothball the old girl. I’ll always have a soft spot for her. My condolences for your loss, Charles.

  12. My G3 iBook is chugging along on the breakfast table, I use it to read email and browse the net over my cereal, and in the evenings to check recipes for dinner!

    A few years ago I sold it to a friend, and then bought it back two years ago.

    Saying that, I am about to take it on the road, for what I think will be the last time, a trip around the far east for a month is just too long to be lugging around my mac book pro, so the iBook will get to see the world, at least one more time.

  13. GoldFishy

    My first Mac, a G3 iBook 14″ was purchased in June 2002 and is still serving my friend Anne quite well. Not sure how long it will continue to function, but her needs (so far) are few, and she’s happy with it. Thanks for the story!

  14. adam Jackson

    I’ve actually never had a computer just die on me and then recycled or thrown away. It may be good for “parts” on ebay and you’ll get $100 for it which is a 6 year old mail in rebate in my opinion :P

    I get a new computer every 6 months. Not because I’m rich but because I get a good deal on the computer on eBay like I got a last gen 2.6Ghz MBP in April 2008 for $1850 “buy it now” but it was used.

    I just sold that same computer for $2400 on eBay last week w/ a new battery, power adapter and case. And bought a used 2.53Ghz unibody on eBay for $2,000. There’s no reason most users can’t do the same.