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Thread: Trouble with old PowerBook

  1. #1
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    Default Trouble with old PowerBook

    I don't know if this belongs in this forum, or in OSX General...

    Recently I've started having trouble with my old TiBook 667. (Please note that the machine I'm having trouble with is NOT the machine which is detailed in my signature below.) I imagine this might be due to a lack of free space on the drive, but I've already deleted everything I feel I can afford to get rid of.. it's a standard 30GB drive, with 7.8GB available. 512MB of RAM (I know, I know.. "get more RAM" will be an obvious response).

    Here's the problem: recently, I've begun to have episodes where I'll be working along and suddenly I start to hear what sounds like extremely rapid disk-chatter (much faster than "normal"), and whatever app I'm using at the time seems to just completely lock up until the chatter stops. This will last anywere from two minutes up to maybe five minutes. While this is happening, I have a spinning ball, and everything is locked (I can't even get the Force Quit window to come up). It's similar to what happens while Spotlight is indexing, yet I think the Spotlight index is pretty up to date, and these episodes can happen maybe 20 or 30 minutes apart. It seems to happen mostly while I am entering text, either while composing an email message in Eudora, or while composing a response to a forum post in my browser (happens both with Flock and while using Safari, so I don't think it is "application-specific").

    Any suggestions? I'm sure the most obvious answer will be to clear more space on the drive, but I'm just curious to know if there might be something else going on. I've recently repaired permissions, and rebuilt the disk directory with DiskWarrior, and checked/repaired the drive with DiskUtility. It seems to happen even before I've filled the RAM buffers and before I'm getting PageOuts. This is very frustrating, to say the least.

    Thanks for the help!! You guys on the Gurus forum are great at figuring this kind of stuff out, and at offering useful and informative insight.

    Cheers.
    jb
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  2. #2
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    sounds like it's time to change your hard drive, may be time to decide whether it is worth putting a new HD in it or upgrade to a new one. Hd's are relatively cheap these days, if you can install it yourself then fine, it's probably worthwhile. the noise you are hearing are probably bad sectors on the drive, these can happen due to wear and tear, probably the case in your situation. I'd never run a laptop HD anywhere near full, osx, with it's built in defragmentation is great, but not good news for laptop HD's (they wear faster then normal HD's) where it will wear down the remaining sections of the drive.

  3. #3
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    I am not sure checking things over with disk utility and disk warrior will be enough. You could have a bad sector on your hard drive and or the drive is getting ready to fail. If possible, boot from an external drive and run the disk tools program Apple supplies with Apple Care. This is what was done to my powerbook at the apple store by the genius folks and they determined the hard drive had bad sectors and elected to replace it. I also had a bad hard drive in my daughters iBook, bad sectors discovered by the disk tools app, and when we tried to copy files from it prior to replacement, the machine would freeze - probably when it came to the bad sector. We even tried to get the files off the drive after installing it in an external FW enclosure and it would freeze when it came to that sector.
    In other words, when it comes to a hard drive having a bad sector, you are in deep trouble.
    If your data is important, I would get it while you can and replace your drive.
    Sorry and good luck.
    living in a powder keg and giving off sparks

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by bif View Post
    If possible, boot from an external drive and run the disk tools program Apple supplies with Apple Care.
    Bad sectors?? Ouch!!!! Man, I hope not. Can't afford to pay a service tech to replace the drive right now, and I've always heard that it is NOT a good idea for users (dumb clumsy ones like me) to open a PowerBook up to do anything in that tight and tiny space.

    Are you talking about TechTool Deluxe that comes as a part of AppleCare coverage? I tried downloading the update for that (to the latest version available, which is 3.1.1) and my machine totally locked up with the rapid disc chatter when the download reached 72%. I had to shut down the machine to get out of that freeze, I rebooted, deleted the partial download and tried again. Once again, as soon as the download reached 72%, it froze up again. So I suspect that the "bad sectors" thing might be exactly what's happening. When I get back home tonight, I'll download on an external boot drive and try to run it from there to check my drive. Wish me luck... Can that actually repair the drive, or is only a diagnostic utility? Is there any good, safe utility anyone knows of to block out bad sectors so they don't get accessed?

    Cheers.
    jb
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  5. #5
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    I would say that the first thing to do is make sure you keep and maintain a good backup. You can do a complete backup to a Firewire drive and even boot to it and run from it. You can even sleep the internal drive preserving it for now. But if it is near failure, the choices are truly limited. First step though, Backup! Then, if you want, try an erase and reformat and see if the problems go away.

    Hoping it isn't a failing drive is not going to make it so. If the drive fails the powerbook is out of service until replaced and the data is gone. Protect what you can.

    Online guides make replacing the drive hair raising but not really hard. Fairly simple. You probably need the little replaceable tip screw driver set from Radio Shack to properly fit the screws. And then just find an online guide with good pictures and concise instructions. First time is always exciting, but it isn't technically tough or anything.

    Rick
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  6. #6
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    Thanks for the encouragement, Rick! I have always heard that it's a bit dangerous for "unqualified" folk to open up a PowerBook, simply because everything is so tightly and precisely packed in there that there's just no way you can ever hope to get it all back in the right places. So you're saying not to be afraid, eh?

    Yes, I do have a fairly recent back up on a FW disc, which is bootable (made with Carbon Copy Cloner). I guess I should re-do that tonight so I'll have a completely up to date version, and then proceed from there with analysis and what not. Thanks for the direction, and the encouragement.
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by ricks View Post
    just find an online guide with good pictures and concise instructions.
    There used to be a straight forward guide available on the Apple site.. "User Installable Parts" or something like that. I just went through their site and can't find it anywhere.. Where else would anyone suggest I look for something like that?
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  8. #8
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    Here is a good place to find a guide:
    http://www.ifixit.com/Guide/Mac/

    Personally I would not backup your clone at this point. You may well be transfering the bad block corrupted data to your clone. Just my personal feelings. k

  9. #9
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    Exclamation How soon is now?!

    I agree with Kaye.

    Don't risk your clone if you think most of the data on it it worthwhile and reasonably current. Start a separate backup or manual transfer of your most critical or most recent data now.

    That drive could go months, die this second, or it could have already started corrupting data......I have seen running laptops with slowly failing drives eat data as they go, with the user not nowing until they click on a file to open, only to find it corrupted. Then another file, then another....

    Really.

    Always assume any laptop could die at any time......like Russian roulette. Your odds are better than 1 in 6.....but take any laptop 3+ years old with the original drive, and your odds are probably something like 1 in 60 that you will lose data on a failed drive. And that is before the drive starts making funny noises or showing any signs of impending doom.
    "Imagine if every Thursday your shoes exploded if you tied them the usual way. This happens to us all the time with computers, and nobody thinks of complaining." -- Jef Raskin

  10. #10
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    Default DIY on the Ti.

    Just looked at the ifixit guides, and you are a lucky fella. One of the easiest HD swaps of most modern Mac laptops. Should be pretty easy for anybody handy. If this hands on stuff isn't your thing, any friend who works on a PCs should be able to handle it with the guide.

    Should take a tech less than 30 min. to do the swap, so maybe they won't kill you on labor if you can find an honest pro....
    "Imagine if every Thursday your shoes exploded if you tied them the usual way. This happens to us all the time with computers, and nobody thinks of complaining." -- Jef Raskin

  11. #11
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    Well, I went ahead and did the back up before I came back here to read the suggestions NOT to.. which make a lot of sense to me now that I think about it. Anyway, I updated my backup, then ran TechTool Deluxe from an external boot drive. Interestingly, the full disk scan reported NO BAD BLOCKS, and I didn't hear the drive chatter one single time during the entire testing process. TechTool Deluxe gives the whole machine and the drive a clean bill of health.. all the tests for read/write/directory, all that.

    So, is there something about using the internal drive as the boot drive that could cause trouble that doesn't show up when it's not the boot drive? Or is there some cache file that is in play when I'm booted from the internal that could be causing this when booted from it, but not when booted from a different drive? I'm really scratching my head over this one..

    Thanks for all the suggestions and help, but in spite of that all I feel like I'm still a bit up in the air on it all. Does it make sense that the drive would periodically chatter loudly and freeze the whole machine when I'm booted from it, but not make a peep of a sound when I'm testing it while booted from an external FW drive?

    Cheers.
    jb
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  12. #12
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    Well, based on the age and symptoms, I would still not trust the drive much. Utilities are good, but not perfect.

    If you have a complete clone, you could test it (boot to it), then erase your HD and zero it out. Basically, instead of doing the quick initialize that is the default setting in Disk Utility, you select writing zeros to the entire drive. One of the best tests that I am aware of....a bad drive will usually not finish the process.

    If it completes, you can clone your saved image back to it, and give it a whirl. One nice fringe benefit of a file level copy is that your entire drive will be defragmented.

    Keep in mind none of this addresses three fundamental problems:

    1. The drive made strange noises. Never a good sign.
    2. The drive is old. In my book, any laptop drive around 3 years of age is old.
    3. Sounds like you are out of space no matter what. Only a drive replacement will help.

    If it were me, and as greentree said, unless you are thinking of upgrading 'books anyway, I would spend the bucks to do the replacement in the near future no matter what. Did I mention new, current drives are faster, cooler running and quiet too?
    "Imagine if every Thursday your shoes exploded if you tied them the usual way. This happens to us all the time with computers, and nobody thinks of complaining." -- Jef Raskin

  13. #13
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    Sounds like very good advice. I think I should consider myself lucky and proceed as you suggest. Simply can't afford the new MacBook route right now, so I guess the new drive option is really the easy way off the hook.

    I hope I make it through till I can get the drive replaced, with no serious mishaps. At least I've got a current bootable back up, so I shouldn't loose much but new email, even if the worst happens. But I'm going to choose to hope that doesn't happen.

    Thank you all for helping me through another little emergency. Funny.. since doing the new back up and the testing routine, I've left the external drive plugged in and rebooted from the internal, and haven't had the chatter/freeze problem once since... Still I think your advice is good, and I'll head in that direction.

    Cheers.
    jb
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  14. #14
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    Zeroing it out has the added advantage of mapping out bad blocks if the old drive does not belly up. Have you tried Hardware Monitor to see if the operating temperature is running high? Most drives it is 55C max operating. The new Seagate Momentus 5400.3 is 60C. Yes it is 5400RPM but is considered a fast drive for laptops and has other modern features. k

  15. #15
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    The Seagate Momentus, eh? I saw that one.. There is a 7200RPM version of it for not much more. Can I really put a 7200RPM drive in this old machine? Or would it run too hot? What's in here now, according to System Profiler, is an IBM-IC25N030ATDA04-0 which I guess is 46RPM, right? I'm thinking the bump up to 7200 would make me think I am flying. If I get the go-ahead that it should work without issues, I think that's what I'll do.

    I was wondering which brand might be good.. is the Seagate better than say a Hitachi Deskstar? I guess with the "other modern features" that Kaye mentioned, it might be. Is it relatively quiet?

    I haven't tried Hardware Monitor because I think when I tried that a long time ago it told me that this machine didn't have the required sensors or some such thing.. maybe I'll give it another go and see.

    EDIT: Ok, I just installed Hardware Monitor and started it up. It reports this drive is running at 39C (well under the 55C max quoted by Kaye). The bottom of the case doesn't seem any warmer than it usually does, so I'm going to guess that this is about the normal temp of the drive. I couldn't get Hardware Monitor Lite to start up, but about 2 minutes after I started up Hardware Monitor, the computer froze up again. I think I need to order a new drive tomorrow.. so let me know if the 7200RPM Momentus will work or not.

    Thanks again.. this is a great place when a guy's in trouble and he knows he's in way over his head!

    Cheers.
    jb
    Last edited by jb; 04-12-2007 at 02:47 AM.
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    jb, that drive is a 30GB, 4200RPM, 2MB cache. That's all I can find out about it. k

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    I would err on the cautious side myself but I think eric has a thread on installing a 7200RPM in his PowerBook. Another point is to be sure you get a drive with the proper interface. I think you have PATA, not SATA. k

  18. #18
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    Right: PATA.

    Only the most recent Mac laptops are SATA.

    No idea what the performance difference between the modern 5400 and 7200 drives would be, but I can tell you that the bump from a years old 4200 to a current 5400 will be noticable. Last time I checked 7200s also use a bit more juice, so they also will shorten your battery run time a bit too. If you need max battery run time, the 5400 is probably the way to go.

    Oh, and there are two different Ti models, so be sure you are looking at the instructions for the yours. Does yours have DVI out?
    "Imagine if every Thursday your shoes exploded if you tied them the usual way. This happens to us all the time with computers, and nobody thinks of complaining." -- Jef Raskin

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by unclemac View Post
    Oh, and there are two different Ti models, so be sure you are looking at the instructions for the yours. Does yours have DVI out?
    I think the one I have is what the folks at ifixit refer to as "Onyx." Mine looks more like those photos than the ones under "DVI." Interesting that in identifying it on the Apple site, they seem to just call it a TiBook GigabitEthernet model.

    Anyway, I just ordered a Momentus 100GB 7200RPM PATA drive.. I'll let you know how it goes.

    jb
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  20. #20
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    Good.

    Be prepared, keep track of which screws go where, go slow and be patient, and feel free to post if you have any questions.

    Should be pretty straight forward with the guide and pics, but if you are ever at a point that you are concerned about exactly what everything looks like reassembled, a good trick is to snap some digital pics yourself before you disassemble. Really handy if you need to take a break, get interrupted or something.
    "Imagine if every Thursday your shoes exploded if you tied them the usual way. This happens to us all the time with computers, and nobody thinks of complaining." -- Jef Raskin

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