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How do I turn my PowerBook G4 12" into a "Netbook"?

I have a PowerBook G4 12" 1.33 GHz - 786MBs RAM - Currently running (though not very well!!!) Leopard 10.5.8. Here's what I want to do:

• Sync iPhone 4*

• Surf the Web

• Watch movies/video (Disks and Files (VLC/YouTube))

• Word Processing

Here's the deal - I have had this laptop since it came out in 2004-2005. It has worked like a champ until VERY recently. Now, the MAIN issue is that the fan starts up when the processor is being utilized (..., right?), sounds like the computer is about to take off into the stratosphere, then it will puts itself to sleep.

I have 2 other Macs, but this one is just so compact and portable. I don't need to run CS5 on it or anything, and would really just like a total computer reconfiguration that makes the PB G4 just work like a normal laptop ("normal" meaning = I can surf, watch, sync, and type). I am almost certain that I am going to need to either replace or reseat the heat sync, and do some other things internally to the computer (that's fine - I've taken it apart and put it back together successfully already)...

Here's the end-all-be-all: I know it's an old computer. Nonetheless, if there is ANYONE out there who is well-versed in slimming down Mac OS X Leopard, and maybe some Open Firmware or Terminal commands that will aid the process (I'll even get in to the System Files and Library - I'm not scared), that'd be great! Obviously this is not my "Go-To" computer... But it still works well, and all I want is for it to behave like a regular laptop. I want to be able to take it with me here and there and just jump on the Web... Or sync my iPhone... Blah, Blah... I think you get picture.

ANY AND ALL HELP WILL BE SO GREATLY APPRECIATED THAT YOU MAY GET PAID! That's how serious I am about this. I LOVE the body and profile of the PB G4 12". I am not asking this thing to be an i7... Just want it to perform without too much trouble! Thanks in advance!!!


- J.L.

P.S. If there is any molecule of info that I neglected to inform upon, please let me know! I'll get you the info. I know where to look for all of that.

- J.L.

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Thank you all so much for the advice. I'll try the board change. And I heard that Leopard was a "lighter" OS than Tiger. It baffled me at the time, but I did my research. The RAM is soon to be maxed at 1.25 GB. Would installing a priceable SSD be worth it? Let me know


- J.


Leopard is a FAR more bloated and resource-intensive OS that Tiger. For example, Tiger will run fine with as little as 192MB (and will run, although badly, with 128MB), whereas Leopard requires 512MB just to install, and need more RAM that that to run optimally. Tiger does have some limitations (browser selection, no Time Machine, etc.), but it's still capable of most functions. I didn't think there was a such thing as an IDE (non-SATA) SSD drive, but I looked them up and low and behold they do exist, so I can't think of any reason that wouldn't be a great upgrade, if you're willing to invest $150 or so in one.


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To reduce some of the clutter use Monolingual to free up hard drive space---link provided. Next open up the computer and clean the fans and redo the thermal paste under the CPU. Finally max your memory to make Leopard perform better.

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I hear ya...the PB12" has long been my favorite model, but unfortunately it's more than six years old and has problems keeping up.

First off, definitely replace that 512MB module with 1GB! That's going to be your most substantial performance increase, and it's obviously very simple to do, so I'd do that first and re-evaluate the situation from there, before taking on the more severe upgrades. Be sure you get PC2700 RAM, and that you don't slow the machine down by using anything less.

If you didn't have the iPhone 4 requirement, I'd say downgrade to Tiger, since it's much faster, and eliminates the constant fan noise caused by the bloated mess that is Leopard. If you can get away with using Tiger, the 12" PowerBook is a very nice and snappy experience, but most of that goes away with Leopard. Maybe sync the phone with another machine, and keep Tiger on this one? With iCloud, etc., there's not a huge need to sync phones anymore, after all, and in order to take advantage of iCloud features, you're better off syncing your phone with a machine that has Lion anyway. There are lots of ways to reduce the size of Leopard, but I've never heard of tweaks that speed it up significantly. Who knows, maybe they exist.

While you're putting in new paste, you could always swap the board for a 1.5GHZ. It's not a huge difference, but you seem to be eager to squeeze out every ounce of performance.

Beyond that, maybe a 7200RPM drive, although it will likely cause additional heat.

Good luck!

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Hello John--iCloud will not work on his computer. Link provided to the requirements.


I know -- that's why I suggested he use a MacBook with Lion to take advantage of iCloud.


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I've used a KingSpec PATA (IDE) SSD in my Powerbook Pismo, and should work great in a Powerbook G4 as well. You may have to do some research first, but I'm pretty sure there's a KingSpec model with a more desirable controller chip.

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I keep my 12-inch PB going even though I have an recent MBP with all the bells and whistles.

Further to some of the above suggestions, do note that you cannot swap in a 1.5 logic board into your model without changing everything else (case etc).

Leopard is do-able and preferred for the versions of the other software you need to run for syncing etc. Just be sure to manage the start-up programs among other settings.

ICloud works with the Safari browser (for now anyway) but it won't push to your calendar nor can you update with calendar directly but I manage okay through Safari.

Firefox is a no-no but there is a useful off-shoot of Firefox called TenFourFox specifically for the PPC stalwarts.

Some streaming has become problematic but if you just download to disk you can play with the appropriate software.

VLC greatly widens your media playability - perhaps you need an older version so will have the version you need.

Get the old version of Skype from oldapps too! And Flip4Mac.

By all means, maximize your RAM and do get an SSD. With the SSD your little G4 engine will forget its age! ;) OtherWorldComputing carry the legacy version of SSDs. This could well be the most important upgrade.

While I love CS6 on my main machine, CS3 Master Collection works very well on G4 and CS3 is no slouch for most things.

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Hmmmm Does your laptop get really hot when the fans spin fast? If the fans just spin really fast all the time you can check out this app called G4FanControl

And you can clean out the PB and add some more ram and whatever other upgrades you want

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Yes i ediT will be eternally grateful.
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