Disassembling Macs for fun and photos

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I’ve spent most of the day in the photo studios of Peter Belanger, who shoots most of the original photos that appear in the pages of Macworld. We’re working on a story for the next print issue, and my presence has been required so that I can disassemble a Mac mini and a MacBook Pro.

Last week I snapped some shots of a somewhat-disassembled Mini and posted them for the world to see. This job was even crazier, since I even pulled out the motherboard and popped off the heat sinks, pulled out the AirPort Extreme card… the works. (By the way, that teensy AirPort Extreme card is the same one you’ll find in the MacBook Pro, as I discovered today…)

Today’s take on the insides of these systems: they’re not ones for the timid to explore. The Intel-based Mac mini is somewhat harder to disassemble than its PowerPC predecessor. The RAM’s much harder to get to, and there’s a ribbon cable running from the audio riser card to the interconnect card that gets in the way of lifting out the drive cage. And getting the Core Duo processor out of its socket requires you to lift out the motherboard — pretty serious stuff.

The MacBook, on the other hand, is relatively easy to get into, but remarkably hard to completely disassemble. I didn’t even bother taking it down all the way to the logic board — if you’d like to see how to do that, the guys at iFixit have documented the entire process. However, I did finally learn the answer to the most frequently-asked-question among people who’ve taken out the MacBook Pro’s battery: that little bit of circuitry you see underneath the battery compartment? It’s the bottom of the trackpad. So much for my ability to visualize 3-D objects. No wonder I’m so bad at Halo.

In any event, I’ve reassembled the Mac mini and, miracle of miracles, it actually booted! Given that I went so far as to pop the Intel Core Duo processor out of its socket — no, I didn’t replace it with a faster chip — I’m pretty relieved that I haven’t destroyed $799 worth of Mac hardware.

Which puts me ahead of my colleague Dan Miller. The iMac that Dan disassembled so that we could photograph its innards for our current print issue is still sitting in pieces in Dan’s office. Seriously, we’re considering the possibility of selling it on eBay… with a small disclaimer that reads, “Some assembly required.”

If you’ve got any questions for me about these systems and their innards, feel free to leave them in the comments attached to this blog post.

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