Model A1181: 1.83, 2, 2.1, 2.13, 2.16, 2.2, or 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo processor

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Anything worth salvaging in a 2006 MacBook 13" Core 2 Duo?

I've been looking at fixing this old Macbook, because I'm tired of having a machine I can't use. It needs a new battery, the case is cracked, and the optical drive doesn't work.

At first I made a list:

- Replace the optical drive with a SSD, but it's only got SATA 1, so I won't get the real benefits.

- Replace the case, but I can only get a plastic one that's going to crack again next week.

- Upgrade to bluetooth 4.0

- Install Chromium or Ubuntu, because Apple isn't offering security updates on Mountain Lion

- Replace the battery, but at this point, why?

I thought about selling it, but the best offer I've seen online is $10.

So how can I get something out of this machine? I really want to salvage something, and I want to learn how to build and maintain my computer, so working on a consequence-free Macbook is like free lessons for taking care of my 2010 MBA.

Should I build a home server? Should I turn it into a desktop? Are there some parts I can salvage and use to build something else? If it helps, I also have my wife's old iPad 2 I can salvage from.

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Why I commend your tenacity on trying to mod your system. There is just only so much you can do with the parts.

Sadly, you can't resurrect your parts into something else here. The problem is the parts where designed as a laptop system not anything else. As much as you might want to alter it it just won't fly as a desktop or home server.

So what to do here?

Fixing the system up is one direction but since so much needs repair is it cost effective? If you could locate a second system (junker) which to steal the parts from maybe you could fix your system up. I wouldn't spend to much here given the systems age its lifespan is limited (OS & apps).

Or ...

I would try selling your MacBook to someone else as a junker and look for a newer (used) system to invest in that has a longer lifespan.

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I sell thousands of these a year, and they are still perfectly functional laptops for people who do not need to run power-user-level applications (video editing, multitrack audio editing). Here are some upgrades:

4GB DDR2 SODIMM kit on eBay for $15 shipped. New battery on eBay for $17 shipped. Replacement A1181 Superdrive for $18. 120GB SSD on eBay for $45 shipped. Sort on eBay from low to high, and you'll find the cheapest possible part.

So basically, for $95 you can give this computer a complete overhaul, if you want to, or any increment of the above for even less. An SSD will give you a massive improvement even if you're not benefiting from ATA3. This laptop takes Lion, which is still a stable OS and can handle modern browsers...if you happen to have the 2009 2.13GHZ, you can go all the way to Yosemite.

I wouldn't bother with the topcase since it's just aesthetics, and you'd probably pay more than the SSD for a good one.

So anyway, moral of the story is that parts are cheap, and the computer can still be perfectly functional if you want to go in that direction. There is no reason to toss the laptop just because it's old, as many would suggest.

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working on a consequence-free Macbook is like free lessons for taking care of my 2010 MBA

In my opinion, this is the key value to this repair project, and both the earlier answerers miss it. Both of their answers are right, as far as they go, but I don't think they follow your questions to their logical conclusion.

Dan is right, in that the expense of fixing this computer won't be recovered if you try to sell the computer - the computer is nine years old, and you wouldn't get much of a price even if it were in perfect condition. But what if you don't want to sell it? The replacement parts you're likely to use (hard drive/hybrid/SSD, optical drive, battery, case/keyboard) are readily available from iFixit and elsewhere.

rdklinc is also right, in that used replacement parts are widely available at low cost; the design hung around for years, so there's a huge installed base. Because of that, there are also supplies of new replacement parts available, especially batteries; I don't think I've ever paid as much as $25 for a new battery on eBay. Where s/he misses the point is in speaking about the A1181 MacBook generally, rather than about your specific Late 2006 generation.

There are some particular quirks you'll need to keep in mind when making decisions about this early MacBook:

  • The total amount of addressable RAM is 3GB (2GB in one slot, and 1GB in the other). If you install 2x2GB, the computer will only see 3GB; the limitation is caused by the memory controller chip Intel was using at the time.
  • The hard drive bus is SATA I (1.5Gbps), not SATA II (3Gbps) or SATA III (6Gbps). Many SSDs have difficulty downcycling speed from SATA III to slower speeds. iFixit has listed the drives I linked to above as compatible with your generation; I hope they've tested them to be sure. Crucial.com, a major SSD/memory manufacturer, lists their BX100 and MX200 SSD product lines as compatible with the Late 2006 MacBook; those drives are available in sizes from 120GB to 1TB.
  • The optical drive bus is PATA (or ATAPI, if you like) - not SATA. You can't just swap your old SATA hard drive into the optical drive bay without using a PATA-to-SATA converter module.
  • Fortunately, this model has USB 2.0. That's the only way you're going to get Bluetooth 4.0 on this computer - through a USB dongle like the Iogear GBU521 (a lot cheaper at Amazon). But there's a lot of chatter on various forums that BT4 dongles on older Macs don't enable modern OS X functions like Airplay and Handoff. What are you hoping to get out of Bluetooth 4 that the onboard Bluetooth 2.0 doesn't already do?
  • A Core 2 Duo is a 64-bit processor, so it's still supported under all the modern variants of OS X: 10.8/Mountain Lion, 10.9/Mavericks, 10.10/Yosemite, and 10.11/El Capitan (released this morning). That said, its slow CPU, slow drive bus and limited RAM suggest that some of those OSes will be pretty slow. I run Mavericks on a Mid 2009 A1181 (2.13 CPU, 6GB RAM, 7200 HD), and it's not speedy. Still, it's serviceable.

I've owned and used several A1181 MacBooks, mostly of the later generations. They're tough machines, and cheap enough these days that you don't need to worry about them much. If you repair this one, you could certainly use it as a local file/media server, or a quasi-desktop; maybe keep it in the kitchen as a recipe display screen/music player. You can load Ubuntu on it, which will eliminate the OS X speed issues (while you take on the universe of Linux issues, of course). Or you can give it to a kid or older person who needs a computer; the fact that it's slow for you won't be an issue to someone who doesn't have a computer at all.

Even if you try to fix it and fail, I think your observation is very wise. You'll be making mistakes on a computer you don't depend on, so there's little risk to you. Working on the MacBook will tune up your skills, so you'll be more confident if you need to open your MacBook Air.

Here's a shopping list of relevant repair guides for the issues you've described:

MacBook Core 2 Duo Hard Drive Replacement

MacBook Core 2 Duo Optical Drive Replacement

Installing MacBook Core 2 Duo Dual Hard Drive

MacBook Core 2 Duo Upper Case Replacement

MacBook Core 2 Duo Lower Case Replacement

Good luck!

EDIT 2015.10.02: rdlinc makes a comment that this machine does not support OSes past 10.7.5, and it looks like s/he's absolutely correct and I am mistaken; the MacBook2,1 Core 2 Duo only supports 10.7.5, not 10.8-10.11. The earlier Core Solo/Core Duo MacBook1,1 was 32-bit only, and dropped out with 10.6.8, while support for current OSes didn't come in until the all-64 bit MacBook5,1 Aluminum. So the OP's original idea of loading Ubuntu in order to get current security patches seems to be a more practical alternative. My bad; sorry for misleading people.

9.5 mm PATA Optical Bay SATA Hard Drive Enclosure Image
1 TB 5400 RPM 2.5" Hard Drive Image
1 TB SSD Hybrid 2.5" Hard Drive Image
PC2-5300 1 GB RAM Chip Image

Product

PC2-5300 1 GB RAM Chip

$9.95

PC2-5300 2 GB RAM Chip Image

Product

PC2-5300 2 GB RAM Chip

$14.95

MacBook Upper Case with Keyboard (Black) Image
MacBook Lower Case Image

Product

MacBook Lower Case

$49.95

MacBook Replacement Battery Image
MacBook 8x SuperDrive Image

Product

MacBook 8x SuperDrive

$49.95

MacBook Core 2 Duo Hard Drive Image

Guide

MacBook Core 2 Duo Hard Drive Replacement

Difficulty: Easy15 - 30 minutos

MacBook Core 2 Duo Upper Case Image

Guide

MacBook Core 2 Duo Upper Case Replacement

Difficulty: Moderate45 minuten - 2 uren

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@adlerpe - You have some good points here! I'm with you on fixing the system. These are great web surfing & email systems which really don't need to much RAM or storage with an older version of OS-X. I just didn't want him to think he could mode this into a server system or a speed demon which I think was his direction.

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Mneh; there are servers and there are servers. It wouldn't be practical for a fast-response application like a web or database server, but it would be fine for a local file or media server, or even for an Internet FTP or mail server. Gigabit Ethernet can cover a lot of hardware sins. If you need throughput rather than a lot of quick responses, it should do fine...In my own practice, I run across a lot of older folks who need a computer for light surfing, emailing the grandkids and watching the occasional DVD; they don't need superfast machines. And there's a lot of kids who could get a lot of value out of a computer to do their homework, who will never get one unless someone gives it to them. It's a better use of an old computer than tossing it in a box of junk, for sure. The fact that the original owner develops some repair chops (and the confidence to use them) is a bonus.

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By the way, this machine will NOT, as you suggested, boot with any OS beyond Lion. Only the 2009 2.0/2.13GHZ A1181 will take anything beyond Lion. As for the other "missed points" that you suggest I'm guilty of, I intentionally mention 4GB RAM because a 2x2GB kit is the most practical way to buy memory, especially when it's $15 for the kit. The 1GB that wouldn't be addressed is of no consequence. As for the SSD, performance would be significantly improved regardless of whatever SATA bus it's got. Yes, some SATA3 drives have compatibility issues, but I've put hundreds of random SSDs in A1181s, SATA1-3, and it's a problem that is talked about far more often than it is actually a real problem.

OF COURSE there are functions that do not make sense for this laptop. But for the right level of user, with reasonable expectations, A1181s still have years of life left. I sell hundreds a month to happy customers.

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Zack will be eternally grateful.
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