Firewire Deafness Plagues PowerBook G4s

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Date: Monday, July 8th, 2002, 13:00
Category: Archive

Has your TiBook had its Firewire port go dead? Mine has – twice – and it has happened to a friend of mine as well. Both are 400MHz models. Mine was purchased recently as a refurbished product from the Apple Store and the other was purchased brand new, through the education channel and was fixed just days before the warranty expired. There are hundreds of postings on Apple’s support message boards about this problem. If your machine is out of warranty and you have not purchased Applecare this can be quite costly to fix. Will these machines continue to require inconvenient returns for repairs?

If the Firewire port is seen by Apple’s System Profiler but the device does not mount on the desktop, these are likely to be symptoms of a hardware failure. Certainly a PRAM reset and power manager reset should be attempted first and this appears to work if the Firewire port is not seen by System Profiler, but if it’s a hardware failure, it probably means that the logic board must be replaced.

I use the Firewire port several times a day for bus powered devices on my PowerBook G4 and my PowerMac G4 Quicksilver. I have not had a problem with the Quicksilver but it appears that this issue plagues TiBooks.

The problem is reported with video cameras, external HDDs, and CD burners as well as iPods. The common thread appears to be the Firewire circuitry of the TiBook. When I asked if this was a frequent problem, the Apple service tech that helped me said that he did not believe it was. On both occasions, I received a hard sell to purchase Applecare with the impending repair used as an example of why I needed it.

This appears to be the response given to many of the people posting to Apple’s support pages and the tone there is not upbeat, especially from those with multiple failures. Some people have taken to using Firewire PC cards rather than pay for costly repairs and are not happy about it. It does not appear from my experience that the replacement logic boards are any better and the growing popularity of the iPod and other Firewire devices has probably exacerbated the problem. With no official acknowledgement, it is not clear that the problem has been solved in currently shipping models.

Visiting the PowerPage several years ago helped me to inform a colleague that she could get her PowerBook 5300 repaired at no cost by Apple even though it was long out of warranty. The Twentieth Anniversary Mac user Web site became a clearinghouse for information regarding the “Speaker Buzz” problem which plagued that machine, including my own. Apple eventually offered some TAM owners new G3 computers in exchange for those machines on a case by case basis.

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