The Next Do-It-Yourself Mac

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You bought an early Titanium PowerBook and then kicked yourself when the next model shipped with a SuperDrive. You're pining for a digital photo frame, but you don't have $1,500 to spare. You want to digitize and store your massive music collection and share it with everyone in your home, but you don't know where to start.

Your hardware dreams can come true. We'll show you how to upgrade, supersize, fine-tune, and expand a wide range of products. Just like last year's " Do-It-Yourself Mac " (August 2003), this guide has step-by-step instructions and easy-to-follow pictures that will make you a do-it-yourself expert in no time.


What You'll Need:
#1 Phillips screwdriver
#8 Torx screwdriver
Grounding strap (optional)
Nonmetal probe tool (optional)
Razor blade

The original PowerBook G4 (released in January 2001) was a stunning piece of engineering, with its beautiful 15.2-inch liquid-crystal display and slot-loading DVD-ROM drive enclosed in a Command-inch-thick titanium case. It was almost a year later that Apple made CD-RW and Combo drives available as options, and anyone wanting a SuperDrive-equipped PowerBook G4 had to wait until November 2002. With the recent availability of high-speed replacement internal optical drives, proud PowerBook G4 owners can satisfy their desires to burn without breaking the bank. (Other World Computing [] offers a 24x Combo drive [$230] and a 4x SuperDrive [$400].)

If you're comfortable replacing the internal hard drive on a PowerBook, you should have no problem installing a new optical drive. A few standard caveats: First, replacing your optical drive will void your warranty. Second, the components inside a PowerBook are susceptible to damage by static electricity. As such, you're encouraged to use a grounding strap and to refrain from touching any components inside the computer unless necessary. Third, be very gentle while taking apart and reassembling your PowerBook.

The following instructions show you how to replace the DVD-ROM drive in an original PowerBook G4 with the Mercury Ti SuperDrive 4x. Although the general process is very similar for other models and types of drives, these instructions apply only to the original Titanium PowerBook G4. Your drive may come with its own instructions, but not all do. And if you purchased a drive on eBay or salvaged one from another PowerBook model, you're completely on your own. That's where our instructions will really come in handy.

Step 1: Remove the Battery and the Bottom Case

You must remove the lithium-ion battery from the PowerBook to prevent the computer from accidentally turning on while it's disassembled. If your PowerBook is powered up, shut it down and wait 30 minutes to allow the internal components to cool. Now place a soft towel (to prevent sliding and scuffing) on a flat surface with plenty of room, and then place the closed PowerBook top-down on the towel. Slide the battery's latch to the right, and then lift and remove the battery. Next, using a #1 Phillips screwdriver, carefully remove the eight visible screws on the bottom case in the order shown. Place the screws in a small container so that you don't lose them. All the screws are the same size, so don't worry about keeping them in order.

Now that the screws are removed, gently pull the right side of the bottom case toward you, with one hand near the display hinge and the other hand pulling from within the empty battery compartment. The right side should pop free with little force.

Release the left side of the bottom case in a similar fashion. Now carefully lift the bottom case at the edge furthest from you, and pivot it toward you until the front edge comes free from the small retaining clip that is located at the center of the optical-drive slot. The bottom case should be easy to remove. If you feel a lot of resistance, don't force it. Stop and make sure that all the screws have been removed, and that the right and left sides are properly released.

Step 2: Remove the Drive Connector and the Plastic Shield

Using a probe tool (or your fingers, if you're feeling daring), carefully pry off the 3/4-inch optical-drive connector A from the logic board, rocking it from one side to another in small increments if necessary. Do not pull on the cable itself or pry off the wider PMU (power management unit) connector b adjacent to the optical-drive connector. If any tape is covering the connectors, gently peel it off so that you can reuse it after installing the replacement drive.

If your PowerBook model has a black plastic shield covering the rear of the optical drive, you'll need to slice the left c and right d edges of the shield with a sharp razor blade. Do not cut the shield off entirely -- just flip it up to prepare to remove the optical drive.

Step 3: Remove the Optical Drive

Grasp the leftmost metal edge of the optical drive e, and gently lift up until the left side of the drive releases from the PowerBook. Then pull to the left and remove the drive completely. Always hold the drive only by its metal edges. Never touch the green circuit board or connectors toward the rear.

Step 4: Remove the Drive Screws and the Connector

Using a #8 Torx screwdriver, remove the four screws at the corners of both the left and right sides of the optical drive f. As you do so, take care to note the shape and position of the rubber mounts surrounding the Torx screws. While the screws are identical, these rubber mounts aren't, and it's important that you install them on the replacement drive in the exact same location and orientation. If all four rubber mounts aren't on the drive, look inside the PowerBook to locate any that may have fallen off.

Using a probe tool, carefully pry off the optical-drive connector g from the rear of the optical drive.

Step 5: Attach the Connector, Screws, and Rubber Mounts to the New Drive

Now take your replacement drive, and attach the optical-drive connector securely to the rear of the replacement drive (in the same location as the drive you just removed it from). The connector is keyed to prevent it from attaching incorrectly, so if it doesn't fit, don't force it. Then use the #8 Torx screwdriver to attach the four screws at the corners of both the left and right sides of the replacement optical drive. Now place the rubber mounts on the correct screws -- otherwise the bottom case won't close properly and the drive won't align with the slot on the front of the case. Lay the optical drive flat in front of you, with the connector at the left rear. Place the flat, circular rubber mount on the front right-side Torx screw h. This leaves you with three rubber mounts, two of which are identical. Place these on the left-side Torx screws, with the wider portion flush against the metal edge, and the half-moon shape facing up i. The remaining rubber mount goes around the rear right-side Torx screw, with the wider portion flush against the metal edge j.

Step 6: Install the New Drive

Flip up the black plastic shield so that it's out of the way, and then carefully guide the two rubber mounts on the right side of the optical drive into the receiving holes on the frame that separates the optical drive and the internal hard drive k.

Gently push in and down on the left edge of the optical drive, making sure the PowerBook's case doesn't pop off the two remaining rubber mounts and the optical-drive connector cable isn't pinched behind the drive. Then flip the black plastic shield down over the rear of the drive. Line up the optical-drive connector on the logic board, and press firmly until it's properly seated L. If the connectors were covered by a piece of tape, put the tape back in place now. You're almost done.

Step 7: Reassemble the PowerBook Case

Place the front of the bottom case along the front lip of the PowerBook, and then lay it down toward the rear, essentially pivoting it back into its original position. Gently push down and back until you have visually aligned the screw holes. Insert the eight screws into the holes in the bottom case, and then partially tighten each to ensure that the holes are properly aligned. Now securely tighten the screws in the order shown. If you encounter any serious resistance, don't strip the screw by trying to force it. Instead, try unscrewing and then reseating it, or pushing the bottom case toward the rear to alleviate lateral pressure on the screw's threads.

Now pop the battery back in place, and power up your improved PowerBook. You can now launch Apple System Profiler (OS X 10.2 and earlier) or System Profiler (OS X 10.3) and check the ATA bus to verify that the PowerBook recognizes the replacement optical drive as a burn-capable drive. If so, you should be ready to burn in all your favorite applications, including iDVD, iMovie, and iTunes. If not, check with your optical drive's vendor for any driver that may be necessary. -- owen w. linzmayer

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