Make your Old PowerBook Scream (In Agony)

If anyone reads this column more than once it would be a shock. Not quite as shocking as Bigfoot hauling him or its fictional self out of the Great Northwest and running for a dog catcher, but right up there with William Shatner admitting he wears a rug. Still, supposing that I have a regular reader (there's always a chance; I understand some prisons are internet-enabled), this person may have noticed a subtle change in the columns lately. There is a good reason for this; my ideas are running low. You can only say "Windows Sucks" so often. And the one product review I took a stab at happened to coincide with a better writer writing a better review on the same topic published on the same day. So this week I am taking the plunge. I guarantee this will be the only article you read about this subject. I'm talking failed PowerBook surgery.

If you want to play along, get yourself a nice used PowerBook 5300cs. Go ahead. I'll wait. Got your PowerBook? Okay, the first thing we need to realize is that any accidents from here on out are just learning experiences. My PowerBook had the annoying habit of sleeping without warning. I asked folks, e-mailed around the web, etc. and found no fix. I did notice it wouldn't happen if I had the zip drive hooked up, but who wants to haul around a zip drive? My solution: install a new hard drive, say a 3GB beauty picked up at a used computer store. The drive set me back thirty bucks (check compatibility on the web if you're playing at home). So now that you have a new hard drive and a seemingly useless PowerBook, you're almost ready.

We're going to need some tools. Come to think of it we're going to need a lot of tools. So here's a list of the bare essentials: Torx drive T8 (available at RadioShack), tweezers (available upstairs in the little zippered thing; avoid marital strife and put tweezers back when you're done), grounding strap (or just wrap a piece of copper around your wrist), hammer (trust me), a one to three foot pry bar (I used the tire wrench from my car - talk about money savers!), and finally a six pack of your favorite beer. Go and collect these items. It's okay. I'll be here when you get back.

Now take a good look at your PowerBook 5300cs. Oh sure, it's a nice bundle of technological coolness, but what good does it really do? The screen is too small for decent web browsing and it's too slow for SETI. If you're really attached to it, you may want to photograph your 5300 at this point and, for those deeply sentimental folks, plant a quick kiss on it's dark grey replaced plastics. Flip the 5300 over and scratch off the serial number. Why scratch off the serial number? Well, it's just not necessary. First, no one would steal a 5300, and if they did wouldn't you prefer the insurance money? Secondly, our program is going to void the warranty like pouring sugar in the gas tank of your new Mercedes. Remove all cables and drives. If something looks like it's not a built-in part of the computer, it's not. Make it gone.

It's time to get down to the nitty gritty. See those torx screws in the bottom? They are your enemy. Make them go away. Above the torx screws you'll see three holes. In these holes are three small phillips-head screws. So, taking your smallest screwdriver, remove these screws, remembering that they are very hard to catch and very hard to feel. So be patient. I'll wait. Actually those are just holes; I led you astray so you can fully experience the fun that is ruining a computer. Now it's time to turn our attention to the pop-up feet. Press the little buttons to make them pop out. Depress the feet and repeat the process. This has nothing to do with our project, but I think the feet are pretty cool.

Fetch the prybar at this point. The top should open like a drawbridge. If it doesn't you've missed a screw OR you're not forcing it enough. Use the prybar and make that baby open up. At this point you should be looking at the guts of the computer. Find the hard drive. Remove it. Plug in the new hard drive. Fire it up just to make sure it's not working. Once you are assured it's not working remove the battery and all other power sources. Remove grounding strap. Rub your feet along carpet to build up static. Touch computer internals like crazy. Your computer should be completely fried at this point. If not, drink six pack and continue repairs, drizzling beer freely over components.

Okay, so I am kidding. I actually tried putting a new hard drive in my PowerBook, but it didn't work. I took the whole mess to a computer place and now it works fine. Unfortunately, I can't think of anything to do with the PowerBook. I'd be grateful for hints and any info on where I could get a CD-ROM drive to hook to the silly thing.