RAM and Hard Drive Upgrades Make the Clamshell iBook Viable

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Date: Tuesday, October 15th, 2002, 08:00
Category: Archive


It was the summer of 1999. One year after the original (Rev A) iMac, Apple was to unveil its new consumer ‘portable iMac’. On a sweltering July day I went to the Javitz Center to see it. The Blueberry/Tangerine iBook was like nothing ever seen before, or since. I ordered mine the next day.

Although the iBook was unique, it was woefully underpowered even for 1999, with only 32MB RAM and a 3.2GB hard drive. Yet here I am using my (modified) iBook with virtually every Mac OS 10.2 (Jaguar) feature three years later, just as my Apple Care Protection Plan winds down this month (no, they won’t renew it). How can this be? The (not too surprising) answer is lots of RAM and lots of hard drive.

There are some great features in the original clamshell iBooks. They are very rugged, the 12.1 inch screens remain very bright, they are all equipped with AirPort, the keyboard is less flimsy than later iBooks, and the original CD-ROM drive is still reasonable at 24x. It’s too heavy for road use, but fine for moving around the house.

Also, Mac OS X software upgrades have helped a lot. Jaguar works a lot more efficiently with my 300MHz CPU than earlier versions of OS X. Same for iPhoto, which now supports over 1,000 photos on my machine. Quicktime 6 got me get back into multimedia. Its efficiencies have compensated for the tiny 4MB ATi Rage Mobility graphics card. A lot of Jaguar improvements help the challenged CPU, but in return you need more RAM than ever.

Most people don’t realize that the clamshell’s one SDRAM slot will accommodate a 512MB chip. All official specs state 256MB maximum (it was originally 128MB before a firmware upgrade). But you can find some RAM sellers who offer a 512MB chip for these iBooks, and they work fine. I purchased mine from MacSolutions.com.

But none of this makes any sense unless you replace the user unserviceable 3.2GB hard drive. Luckily, MCE Technologies has a send-in program and replaced the HD with a 12GB HDD two years ago. Today you can go up to a 60GB HD… which maybe a bit of overkill for this iBook.

My Blueberry wonder will not replace my 17-inch SuperDrive iMac. But it is surprisingly competent and not just at simple tasks like email, Web browsing and word processing. If you have one of these sitting around you might enjoy the boost of a 512MB chip and try moving into the brave new world of Jaguar and its unique applications. I have posted some Screenshots of my iBook running Mac OS 10.2.

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