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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Mac Notebooks > iBook Clamshell – Replacing the HDD with Compact Flash

iBook Clamshell – Replacing the HDD with Compact Flash
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Jul 19, 2007, 08:13 AM
 
My quest to upgrade my Clamshell continues apace. Now that I’ve got the RAM maxed-out, I’m considering moving onto the hard disk. I read a couple of articles of Low End Mac about replacing the hard disk with an Addonics Compact Flash adaptor.

I’ve pretty much set my mind to it (when I can get a pair of 8GB CF cards for a reasonable price), but I do have a couple of questions someone might be able to answer.

Will it give it a performance boost, or will it remain roughly similar to booting off the 4,200RPM hard disk that’s in there already? Low End Mac were a bit vague on it.

Second, will the battery life be any better? Again, LEM seemed to give conflicting answers on this.

Finally, how long can I expect the CF cards to last? I understand that NAND flash has a limited life-span, but LEM was vague to the point of uselessness of specifics.

On an unrelated note, anyone who wants a free 64MB of RAM for their Clamshell, I’m offering it on the thread below: http://forums.macnn.com/59/marketpla...-g3-ram-64-mb/
     
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Jul 19, 2007, 07:30 PM
 
Performance will depend entirely on the cards you buy. You need to check the read/write speeds on your existing drive and compare them with published spec on the cards before you buy. You also need to factor in the speed your iBooks ATA bus is capable of. Clamshells are ATA-2, which as I recall is a theoretical max of 66MB/sec. Check that, I could be way off. Check for any potential bottleneck on the CF adaptor too.
Flash certainly has the potential to give a massive boost. You would notice the difference if you just went to a regular 5,200rpm drive.
There are actually ATA 2.5" flash drives available nowadays for top speed. But these cost a mint. We're talking four figures for 32GB.
     
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Jul 20, 2007, 12:50 AM
 
Which clamshell do you have? I still have a blueberry ibook (second revision). I've always wanted to gut it out, since I'm a big fan of the casing. Handles should be standard.
     
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Jul 20, 2007, 11:20 AM
 
Also be aware that flash has limited read/write cycles. Using a flash drive as swap or virtual memory is an extremely bad idea - and replacing the card when it craps out will be a pain, because of how much time it takes to get to the hard drive in your clamshell.

You'll get a noticeable performance boost by upgrading to a 7200RPM drive. I would recommend that over using CF.
     
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Jul 20, 2007, 03:49 PM
 
Originally Posted by Waragainstsleep View Post
Performance will depend entirely on the cards you buy. You need to check the read/write speeds on your existing drive and compare them with published spec on the cards before you buy. You also need to factor in the speed your iBooks ATA bus is capable of. Clamshells are ATA-2, which as I recall is a theoretical max of 66MB/sec. Check that, I could be way off. Check for any potential bottleneck on the CF adaptor too.
Flash certainly has the potential to give a massive boost. You would notice the difference if you just went to a regular 5,200rpm drive.
There are actually ATA 2.5" flash drives available nowadays for top speed. But these cost a mint. We're talking four figures for 32GB.
The adaptor is from Addonics, and its speed is dependent on the card(s) inserted into it. More information on the Dual CF Adaptor can be found here. I also need to make sure it supports UDMA, as stated in this article on Low End Mac.

I looked into the 2.5” ATA drives, and they’re perfect. Only thing is, to make it worthwhile you need to have more money than sense. (Sadly, I don’t.)

Originally Posted by PEPPERRULES View Post
Which clamshell do you have? I still have a blueberry ibook (second revision). I've always wanted to gut it out, since I'm a big fan of the casing. Handles should be standard.
I have one of the ‘Paris’ SE clamshells (466MHz, DVD and FireWire). It’s a rather lovely little machine, though the hard-disk does lag something chronic...

From what everyone says, opening the thing up is a pain and a half, so it’s not something you want to do too often. To this end, see shifuimam’s post below...

Originally Posted by shifuimam View Post
Also be aware that flash has limited read/write cycles. Using a flash drive as swap or virtual memory is an extremely bad idea - and replacing the card when it craps out will be a pain, because of how much time it takes to get to the hard drive in your clamshell.

You'll get a noticeable performance boost by upgrading to a 7200RPM drive. I would recommend that over using CF.
I knew that was a potential downside. I’m quite tempted just to risk doing it anyhow, perhaps in the name of science, perhaps just for fun. I’d take regular back-ups of it onto my iMac, to minimise the threat of losing any data.

I think I might just do it anyway, and to hell with the consequences. If it craps out in three months time, all I’ve lost is some cash and a little time; I can upgrade it to a 7200RPM then.

Many thanks for all the advice though—it’s much appreciated.
     
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Jul 20, 2007, 04:03 PM
 
Wow, I'm behind on the upgrade 'bandwagon'. This would be rather cool but I'd wonder, like shifuimam it would be worth the effort.

shifuimam: have you put a 7200 RPM HD in your clamshell? If so, did you notice a large improvement?
MacBook Pro | 2.16 Ghz CD | 100 Gb HD | 2 Gb RAM | 10.4
iBook Clamshell | 466 Mhz | 60 Gb HD | 576 Mb RAM | 10.4
     
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Jul 20, 2007, 04:33 PM
 
Originally Posted by mBurns View Post
Wow, I'm behind on the upgrade 'bandwagon'. This would be rather cool but I'd wonder, like shifuimam it would be worth the effort.
Yeah... It's a bit of a quandary. I'll have to give it some serious thought before sinking any money and time into it...

As for the upgrade bandwagon, my next upgrade after I get my beloved iMac upgraded is to rip out my clam's screen and replace it with a 1024 x 768 one salvaged from one of the dual USBs. It looks like a major pain in the ass, but would very much be worth it--especially as the only thing I've got against the clamshell is the screen resolution.

I printed out the thread (all 120+ pages) where shifuimam and her fellow adventurers undertook the task and succeeded in it. Once I've digested it, I'll give it a go. That's if I can digest it.
     
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Jul 20, 2007, 06:02 PM
 
Originally Posted by mBurns View Post
shifuimam: have you put a 7200 RPM HD in your clamshell? If so, did you notice a large improvement?
I personally haven't, because I'm too cheap to buy a new drive. I used a stock 20GB Hitachi drive from an IBM ThinkPad. However, I think at least one person in the clamshell modding thread did use a 7200RPM drive, and it made a difference. It should speed up load times on running applications and opening large documents.

Originally Posted by Koralatov View Post
Yeah... It's a bit of a quandary. I'll have to give it some serious thought before sinking any money and time into it...
Someone's selling a 12" iBook G3 LCD in the marketplace right now for $60. That's about the best deal you're going to get, if you can be sure that the LCD is still working. He says the video board is bad, so there's no way to know if it's the board or the display itself. But it could be worth a shot.

As for the upgrade bandwagon, my next upgrade after I get my beloved iMac upgraded is to rip out my clam's screen and replace it with a 1024 x 768 one salvaged from one of the dual USBs. It looks like a major pain in the ass, but would very much be worth it--especially as the only thing I've got against the clamshell is the screen resolution.

I printed out the thread (all 120+ pages) where shifuimam and her fellow adventurers undertook the task and succeeded in it. Once I've digested it, I'll give it a go. That's if I can digest it.
I'll try to update the first post with the instructions on how to make it all work - I'm busy with work and other stuff IRL right now, but I'll try to get to it this weekend. Really, the take-apart time is about an hour. Pop the display in, jimmy it in place, and reassemble, which should take less than an hour.

I can tell you right now, though...it's definitely worth it. Once in awhile I'll switch my clamshell back to 800x600 just to gape at how unbelievably crappy that resolution was.
     
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Jul 21, 2007, 02:54 PM
 
Originally Posted by shifuimam View Post
I personally haven't, because I'm too cheap to buy a new drive. I used a stock 20GB Hitachi drive from an IBM ThinkPad. However, I think at least one person in the clamshell modding thread did use a 7200RPM drive, and it made a difference. It should speed up load times on running applications and opening large documents.
I imagine it would make a hell of a difference; the 4200RPM can be just painful at times, and really doesn't allow you to get the best out of the clamshell. I think I might just go with a 7200 over the CF upgrade; it has fewer inherent flaws than the CF idea...

My only concern is its effect on battery-life. Do you know if the 7200RPM will suck the battery dry much faster than the current one, or will it not be too severe a difference?

Originally Posted by shifuimam View Post
Someone's selling a 12" iBook G3 LCD in the marketplace right now for $60. That's about the best deal you're going to get, if you can be sure that the LCD is still working. He says the video board is bad, so there's no way to know if it's the board or the display itself. But it could be worth a shot.

I'll try to update the first post with the instructions on how to make it all work - I'm busy with work and other stuff IRL right now, but I'll try to get to it this weekend. Really, the take-apart time is about an hour. Pop the display in, jimmy it in place, and reassemble, which should take less than an hour.

I can tell you right now, though...it's definitely worth it. Once in awhile I'll switch my clamshell back to 800x600 just to gape at how unbelievably crappy that resolution was.
Thanks for updating the post--it makes it much easier to carry out the upgrade now. I've just upgraded my firmware to the newest version, 4.1.7. It was pretty painless, and I've provided a walkthrough on how to do it in this post on the clamshell upgrade thread.

I did get slightly ahead of myself and apply your firmware hack before I upgraded the screen, and it's now booting into 1024, the result being that the right and bottom sides of the image go off the screen. Oops. It's not a major concern, and will act as a spur for me to carry out the physical upgrade much sooner.

I'm keeping my eye on a few screens on eBay here in the UK, so fingers crossed. I'm hoping to spend about £30 or so on it. I don't want to end up making the clam a money-pit for the sake of a new screen.

On the subject of the upgraded resolution, shifuimam, do you have a strange delay when your machine powers up before the screen comes on? It starts up (I can hear the HD spin up) and then the screen stays blank for ~20 seconds before I hear the Apple tone and the machine starts normally.
     
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Jul 21, 2007, 07:06 PM
 
Originally Posted by Koralatov View Post
I imagine it would make a hell of a difference; the 4200RPM can be just painful at times, and really doesn't allow you to get the best out of the clamshell. I think I might just go with a 7200 over the CF upgrade; it has fewer inherent flaws than the CF idea...

My only concern is its effect on battery-life. Do you know if the 7200RPM will suck the battery dry much faster than the current one, or will it not be too severe a difference?
It's going to make a difference in battery life. I don't know by how much, but it will. However, keep in mind that the LCD upgrade will also decrease battery life. I get about four and a half hours now, whereas before I upgraded the LCD I could get as much as six hours with the brightness turned down. My guess is that the XGA display requires more GPU power to push the higher resolution, and the hardware itself probably just requires more energy to stay turned on.

Thanks for updating the post--it makes it much easier to carry out the upgrade now. I've just upgraded my firmware to the newest version, 4.1.7. It was pretty painless, and I've provided a walkthrough on how to do it in this post on the clamshell upgrade thread.
No problem! I'll add your firmware update instructions to the OP.

I did get slightly ahead of myself and apply your firmware hack before I upgraded the screen, and it's now booting into 1024, the result being that the right and bottom sides of the image go off the screen. Oops. It's not a major concern, and will act as a spur for me to carry out the physical upgrade much sooner.
I replied in the clamshell mod thread on how to reset your NVRAM. Try that and see if it takes care of the problem.

I'm keeping my eye on a few screens on eBay here in the UK, so fingers crossed. I'm hoping to spend about £30 or so on it. I don't want to end up making the clam a money-pit for the sake of a new screen.
This guy is selling a 12" XGA for $60 USD. If shipping isn't terrible (USPS int'l shipping is cheap as hell compared to UPS, FedEx, and DHL), I'd jump on it. That's a very good price.

On the subject of the upgraded resolution, shifuimam, do you have a strange delay when your machine powers up before the screen comes on? It starts up (I can hear the HD spin up) and then the screen stays blank for ~20 seconds before I hear the Apple tone and the machine starts normally.
Yes, I do get a delay. I believe it's between the startup chime and the gray boot screen, but the theory at this point is that the delay is due to the machine having to read the custom NVRAM edits to identify the hardware, rather than the built-in identification for the default hardware. I don't know that there's any way around that.
     
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Jul 22, 2007, 11:08 AM
 
Originally Posted by shifuimam View Post
It's going to make a difference in battery life. I don't know by how much, but it will. However, keep in mind that the LCD upgrade will also decrease battery life. I get about four and a half hours now, whereas before I upgraded the LCD I could get as much as six hours with the brightness turned down. My guess is that the XGA display requires more GPU power to push the higher resolution, and the hardware itself probably just requires more energy to stay turned on.
That was my suspicion. It's not a major issue, just something I wondered. I think having a maxed out clamshell with an XGA screen more than compensates for losing some battery life.

No problem! I'll add your firmware update instructions to the OP.
Please do. It wasn't rocket-science to find out about it--I googled "ibook firmware upgrade" and it was the first result--but having it all in the one place seems sensible; it gets your post one step closer to being the definitive guide to the upgrade. Glad I could contribute something; I was feeling a bit useless up to now!

I replied in the clamshell mod thread on how to reset your NVRAM. Try that and see if it takes care of the problem.
Yeah, I saw it, and it worked perfectly. As I said there, thank you.

This guy is selling a 12" XGA for $60 USD. If shipping isn't terrible (USPS int'l shipping is cheap as hell compared to UPS, FedEx, and DHL), I'd jump on it. That's a very good price.
Looking around, you're right, so I've PMed him asking for a shipping quote. Who knows? Within a week or two I may be in that very exclusive club of members who have XGA clamshells! (I can live in hope.)

Yes, I do get a delay. I believe it's between the startup chime and the gray boot screen, but the theory at this point is that the delay is due to the machine having to read the custom NVRAM edits to identify the hardware, rather than the built-in identification for the default hardware. I don't know that there's any way around that.
I'm not too fussy about the delay, as it's not a major issue. I was just wondering if it was because I'd screwed something up in my firmware editing (adding a rogue space or something). I think the current theory is likely on the money: now that my firmware is reset, the delay is gone. This would indicate that the NVRAM edits are what causes the delay.

Once again, shifuimam, thanks for your help.
     
   
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