Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Biting Into an Apple

I typically stick to the software end of technology, but every once in awhile I dig out my set of electronics tools and tear into a piece of hardware. A few months back a friend of mine had given me an old busted up Macbook in exchange for recovering her data off the hard drive. The data recovery went easy enough (once I realized I needed to read the drive as super user in order to see all its files under Linux) and I was shortly in possession of my first ever Apple product.

The laptop was in pretty bad shape when I received it. The half of the screen that did work had cracks across it, the battery had seen better days, and the case itself had been covered with more stickers than I had ever seen on one system. It was a slightly older model, an A1181 - one of the first Macs to use an Intel chip, but it would still fully usable if I could get it back into a functioning state. In the end it turned out to be fairly easy to track down all the parts I need for the thing, a few Google searches and 280$ later I had obtained a replacement screen, a new battery, doubled the RAM, and upgraded the old 60gb hard drive to a 500gb one. Not a bad price to have an extra computer around to use.

The true thing worth talking about regarding my restoration of the Macbook is the screen replacement. In order to install the new screen I had to disassemble the entire upper portion of the computer. After having to do so I would like to say this: Apple does think differently. The design is poorly done for little reason other than they could. Surrounding the screen alone there are at least four different size screws in various positions. They are all close enough in size they are almost indistinguishable from each other and while magnets to hold the screen shut are a great idea - try removing/replacing a screw right next to a magnet. So in addition to the tediousness you normally experience when working on smaller electronics you also have to take care to note the position of each and every screw you remove so you can be sure they all make it back into the proper spot. Just because I am a glutton for punishment (and curious by nature) I also opted to open up the rest of the computer while I was at it. All in all there are close to ten different screws of varying lengths and head sizes in the laptop (by comparison most other laptops typically get by with only three or four different ones).

Around two hours later I had finished my re-constructive surgery of the Macbook and it was ready to be used. My friend had misplaced her discs needed to reinstall OSX so I went ahead and booted Linux Mint on the system. Within half an hour I had the system fully up and functioning - all my replacement hardware was working like a dream. Once I figured out how to set the "Apple" key to be "right-click" I was good to go.

The final piece to my story is just another reminder of how stupidly expensive Apple products are. I already owned two laptops before the Macbook (a netbook and a 15.4" gaming laptop) - so I really did not need another computer sitting around the house. After a few days of usage I was sure all my replacement hardware was working as intended I promptly listed the Macbook on Craig's List and within a week I had someone trade me 600$ cash for the A1181 (its amazing what people will pay for hardware with a fruit on the side of it). All in all it ended up being a profitable investment and a learning experience all at the same time (I have since replaced screens in two other Macbooks to the tune of 50$ each).

All in all while Apple products are not bad hardware they are very over priced hardware. When it comes to physically taking them apart they are a huge pain to work with (different for the sake of being different and not for the sake of being useful is a poor idea Apple).

And lastly - to all the Apple fan boys out there remember your Mac is a Personal Computer.

~Jeff Hoogland


  1. hi. i'm happy with my macs. and glad you were able to hobby and profit from it. but please don't compare a regular Macbook, to anything high end or "gaming" that's just silly, a Macbook is the lowest end laptop they make. Macbook Pros and Mac Pros are very great PCs, and if you take the time to price their components, they are very cost conservative.

  2. If the Macbook costs the same as some higher end laptops why not compare them to said laptops? Fun fact - not a week before I sold this Macbook for 600$ I had sold an Asus G1Sn for 550$ - the tech specs on the G1Sn crushed the Mac in every way, shape, and form. However because the Mac was a Mac fan boys where willing to pay far too much for it.

    As for Macbook pros - I'm not saying they are bad hardware. Just very, very, overpriced.