Hardware Stability

Apple PowerBook G3 Series 'Wall Street' Computer

## AN IMPORTANT NOTICE TO ALL CONSUMERS ##

Apple and selected Apple resellers are selecting incompatible hard drives for installation on certain demonstration models of the PowerBook "Wall Street" computer. By incompatible, we mean hard drives drawing more current than it should as the PowerBook are not manufactured by Apple to properly cap the current to the correct value because of negative thermal resistance (ie hard drives gets hotter and hotter, thereby drawing more and more current from your computer). As a result, excessive heat will cause hard drives to behave erratically and cause data corruption and the RAM cards may not get picked up properly by the RAM slots as the pins lose their grip.

Please be aware that any Apple reseller trying to sell you a hard drive with a current rating less than the original component installed by Apple at time of manufacturer, you must reject the component immediately and insist on obtaining the correct item. If that is not possible, you should use any legal avenue at your disposal to have your Apple computer refunded. If necessary, feel free to use the information in this web site to influence Apple.

Also be aware that the original black rectangular power transformer for this PowerBook (Model Number M4402) gets dangerously hot and must be returned to Apple for a replacement before April 2005. After this date, you will need to purchase the updated yo-yo shaped transformer used in the iBook clam-shaped G3 laptops for at least A$250 or more.

But more seriously, the two clutch hinges for holding the screen in a certain position for this PowerBook are designed to weaken and break after a period of 6 to 12 months of normal use. There has never been an improved or updated clutch hinge for this particular PowerBook model by Apple. If you do purchase a second-hand PowerBook "Wall Street" computer, please read below for a tried-and-tested method of strengthening the clutch hinges.

Based on current evidence, it is our belief that Apple Inc. (formerly Apple Computer, Inc.) is trying to insert incompatible and poorly designed components (in particular, the hard drive) to create in-built obsolescence in a very short period of time so Apple and its participating Apple resellers can inspect people's hard drives for various reasons before properly repairing the computers. Otherwise people will be forced to purchased new Apple computers.

Are you unfortunate enough to have one of those Apple PowerBook G3 Series "Wall Street" computers? We are talking about the black plastic laptop with a white Apple emblem on the lid?

If so, you may have noticed quite a number of hardware problems that have plagued this "lemon" of a machine. For the latest information as to why this PowerBook was poorly manufactured, please click here.

However, if you want to know what are the problems plaguing this machine and how to fix many of those pesky hardware problems, then read on. We can assure you it's worth the read, especially if you want a good laugh!

Please note that Apple Inc. (formerly Apple Computer, Inc.) has also introduced a special "demonstration version" of this PowerBook containing a revision 1 processor board and comes with an ATA/IDE Toshiba MK2105/4105/8105MAV 700mA internal hard disk (actually all Toshiba hard disks have a maximum current rating of 700mA). This particularly PowerBook (sold by resellers) is designed not to allow customers to upgrade the internal hard disk to the standard 500mA hard disks due to a serious overheating issue (i.e. Apple deliberately created a manufacturing fault whereby a higher current is supplied by the PowerBook to the internal hard disk) causing file corruption and how Toshiba will not sell their internal hard disks to Apple Inc. (formerly Apple Computer, Inc.) or any other computer reseller for some reason as a separate component to their laptops.

There are other hardware problems to contend with on the "demonstration model" version. Owners of this machine have noticed the thin and poor quality plastic and the very thin metal pins used on the internal hard disk connector on the motherboard does bend and become brittle when repeatedly heated by the computer and internal hard disk, causing eventual loss of contact with the internal hard disk. Owners will notice a question mark in the middle of the screen during startup when this happens. And when the computer bumps against a hard surface, the plastic part of the hard disk connector can break.

Similarly, the RAM card connector on the processor board sitting on top of the motherboard also suffers the same heat problem and will lose contact with the RAM card after a period of time. The damage is accelerated if you use an incompatible hard disk with a lower current rating of 500mA or less.

You should be aware that Apple Inc. is fully aware of these problems and have made important changes to later models of the PowerBook G3 Series. However, if you ask about it in an official letter, Apple will choose to keep quiet and avoid answering specific questions on things like the correct type of hard disk to use on the "demonstration" model or anything to do with the way they have manufactured the machine.

You may also discover some Apple resellers are aware of this problem as well by the way the technicians look eager to have your original Toshiba hard disk as part of the repairs for no good legal or technical reason (but they will try to make one up where possible to get what they want).

The main problems

What you need to know:

  1. There are two (possibly three) different "Wall Street" models from Apple Inc. (formerly Apple Computer, Inc.). The first one was released in June 1998 for the Revision 1 version and was quickly discontinued. In August 1998, the Revision 2 version of the "Wall Street" computer was released to the public. Then there is believed to be the "demonstration version" of the Revision 1 "Wall Street" computer with a Toshiba 700mA hard disk.
  2. Owners are warned not to purchase (second hard or otherwise) this demonstration model (or the proper Revision 1 commercial version) since the hard disk is not upgradeable to the standard 500mA or less hard disks from IBM, Fujitsu etc now available in the marketplace. Only the Revision 2 version comes with a standard 500mA IBM hard disk and this can be upgraded with other 500mA hard disks.
  3. The processor board of the original June 1998 "Wall Street" Powerbook uses the revision 1 board with some known faults (e.g. the use of a poor quality RAM card connector). The updated "Wall Street" computer now comes with the newer Revision 2 version with enhancements to the RAM card connector etc. NOTE: The RAM card connector of the Revision 1 processor board is susceptible to heat damage under normal use and its very thin metal pins can bend too easily under this heat over time.
  4. Apple Inc. (formerly Apple Computer, Inc.) will not officially inform all Apple resellers and customers that the only 700mA hard disks from Toshiba are not sold by Apple as a separate part. Instead, Apple will let Apple resellers say all hard disks (including 500mA ones) will work because it draws only the current it needs. And if they are forced to reply in a court order as one Apple customer has done, an email will arrive from an Apple reseller claiming Apple does sell Toshiba hard disks but no official Apple letter will be supplied to the customer to confirm this. Apple will only officially provide a 500mA hard disk of its own choosing (usually an IBM) irrespective of whether the customer asks for a 700mA Toshiba and not the 500mA variety.
  5. A few selected Apple resellers are aware of the Toshiba hard disk upgrade problem. And according to one Apple customer, it would appear some Apple resellers are working with Apple Inc. (formerly Apple Computer, Inc.) to inspect the contents of the Toshiba hard disks of "Wall Street" owners when the computers are brought in for repairs. You will see this by the way the Apple resellers are unusually insistent in having the original hard disk (preferably intact) for repairs even though it is not legally required (and no technical explanation given why it should be supplied).
  6. The hard disk connector where the hard disk joins with the motherboard also has been reinforced in the updated Revision 2 "Wall Street" model. The earlier design was prone to breakage during normal use due to excessive heating inside the computer which causes the thin plastic connector to break and thereby lose proper connection to the internal hard disk. Also any minor rotations of the hard disk after the computer is accidentally knocked can break the connector resulting in the computer unable to find the hard disk during startup.
  7. The original and updated version of the "Wall Street" computers are plagued by the common clutch hinge design problem. Every 8 to 12 months of normal use, the hinge breaks through lifting and closing of the LCD screen because the thin metal skin covering the rotating hinge mechanism suffers metal fatigue and breaks off. Once the hinge is broken, it is generally not possible to use the PowerBook without damaging the expensive video cable running over the hinge to the LCD screen from the computer (i.e. it will rub against the sharp ends of the damaged hinge as the screen is moved).

    This idea is reminiscent of the problem existent on the G3 iBooks introduced after October 2001 as if Apple has not learned from its mistakes.

    Also, once the hinge is broken, the screen cannot be kept to an appropriate angle as gravity will pull the LCD screen down because the hinge has lost its grip on the rotating spindle.

  8. Be aware that some original "Wall Street" computers may have a faulty battery connector underneath the trackpad whereby if you press the battery accidentally inwards when carrying the computer, the computer can switch off. There has been numerous occurrences of lost and corrupted data on the hard disk because of this problem. The reason for this is because there is a broken solder joint in one of the battery connection pins on the power management board. Also be aware that if you switch off the computer in this manner at startup and just at the point when the Password Security control panel shows its dialog, the next time you restart the computer, it is possible to bypass the Password Security dialog and get to the desktop.
  9. It is also officially known to Apple and owners of the original "Wall Street" PowerBook is how there is insufficient mechanical strength to keep the AC power socket on the AC power management board in the top right-hand corner of the computer. The AC socket relies on its three or so soldered connectors to stay on the circuit board (without a screw to keep it in place). As a result, the tightness of the AC plug around the AC socket during regular charging and discharging of the battery would often lead to a weakening of these soldered joints until at least one of the joints break free from the circuit board. Apple Inc. (formerly Apple Computer, Inc.) is fully aware of this problem when they made the AC plug/socket connection less tight in the newer iBook model. The updated PowerBook "Wall Street" also has improved mechanical strength around the AC socket.

If purchasing a PowerBook G3 Series computer, we recommend getting the version known as "Pismo". Or better still, go for a titanium G4 PowerBook (but not that much better).

Fixing the "Wall Street" computer — the main check list

Problems with the original black AC power adapter

If you notice the AC power adapter (the original black rectangular version) is not recharging and/or powering your computer, this means that either:

  1. the poor quality "stiff" (i.e. not carefully weaved for flexibility) cable joining the original black transformer unit with the AC plug for direct connection to your computer has a tiny break in the wire or has broken from the solder joint inside the plug causing short-circuiting (i.e. a clicking sound) in the transformer before going dead; or
  2. the solder joints connecting the female AC socket to the circuit board inside the computer has broken.

Fixing the AC power plug

As far as the AC power plug is concerned, you are better off buying a brand new Apple-made transformer at Apple's usual inflated prices and help the Apple resellers make a profit. Given the specialised nature and design of the AC plug (i.e. it contains a standard three-way 3.5mm stereo plug with an extra outer metal cylindrical negative plate to help grip onto the outer part of the AC socket inside the computer and so provide safety to computer users because it does deliver a solid 1.875 amps of current at 24 volts - three in the centre pin of the stereo plug of which only two of them are active for safety reasons and one active "negative" outer plate) and the way the plug and wire are permanently attached to the transformer, there is no way you can repair or replace the cable and plug using available standard plug and wire fittings from an electronic store. Unless you are prepared to replace the entire AC socket and plug with a standard variety and add extra wires on the circuit board to help distribute the power needed by the computer to recharge the batteries and run the machine, you will have to buy a brand new transformer (thanks Apple for protecting our environment and making it easy for all of us!). Please visit your Apple dealer to get a replacement (it should be free-of-charge now that Apple has officially approved the decision to replace the original black transformer with the round plastic "transparent" iBook power adapter).

UPDATE
February 2002

Apple Inc. has sensibly approved a free replacement program for the old black rectangular power adapters included with the Apple Power G3 Series computer in favour of what was believed to be a better rounded "transparent" adapter. The replacement was instigated because a US Government Department involved in the safety of products told Apple Inc. to resolve the overheating problems of the old adapter after a consumer complained of experiencing a fire in his study room as a direct result of the power adapter.

Despite the replacement for a newer rounded version, another problem has appeared. This time the quality of the wire connected to the rounded transformer breaks too easily through normal use, forcing consumers to pay between A$30 (for a new AC cable) to A$150 or more (to replace the transformer) roughly every 8 to 12 months of normal use. Such a problem is not known to exist with other computer manufacturers. Click here for further details.

Fixing the AC power socket

This is another very common problem. To repair the tiny breaks in the solder joints on the "sound card / power" circuit board, you will require some fine soldering work:

  1. Shutdown the computer.
  2. Disconnect the AC power plug from the computer.
  3. Remove the Lithium-ion battery and CD drive from the expansion media bays.

  4. Close the LCD screen.
  5. Turn the computer upside down.
  6. Remove the 8 screws using the Torx-8 screwdriver (non-magnetic). Place the screws somewhere so you can remember how to put them back in the right order.
  7. Turn the computer the right way up.
  8. Lift the LCD screen to a 90 degree angle.
  9. Remove the keyboard. The trick here is to feel for the two square plastic tabs (one in each media bay) with your fingers just below the keyboard. Press and drag them towards you. The keyboard should suddenly pop out slightly.

  10. Lift the keyboard carefully and slightly upwards with your fingernails and pull the keyboard gently towards yourself until the keyboard slips out properly. You should be able to free the keyboard from its original position and turn it upside down and rest it on top of the palm rest and trackpad area.

  11. You will see a large metal plate called an aluminium heat sink (the plate also touches the internal hard disk metal casing in the top right-hand corner of the picture below). Touch this metal plate with your fingers to remove static charges that may have built up on your body.

  12. Remove this aluminium heat sink covering the motherboard of the computer. To do this, you have to remove two screws holding the heat sink in position. Use a Philips screwdriver to take them out.

  13. Where the bottom screw use to be for holding the heat sink, gently lift up the metal wire handle. Keep pulling upwards slightly and towards yourself until the entire metal plate lifts away from its position.

  14. Remove the internal IDE/ATA 2.5-inch hard disk on the right side of the motherboard. It is held in place by one specialised torx screw (thanks Apple for making it easy for everyone!). Just unscrew it enough to allow the hard disk to be lifted up with your fingers. Place your fingers just underneath the metal tab on the top left end of the hard disk and gently lift upwards (to about a 30 degree angle) and pull out.
  15. You will see the CPU card sitting in the centre on top of the motherboard. It sits in the middle of another metal heat sink plate and is where the RAM cards are attached. Remove the CPU card by lifting it from its two connectors on the right (close to the hard disk connector on the motherboard).
  16. We are now going to remove the LCD/TFT display screen. Place the Lithium-ion battery at the back of the computer.

  17. Push the LCD/TFT display back further until it is nearly horizontal to the table. Let the screen rest on the Lithium-ion battery.

  18. There is a black plastic clutch cover positioned over the power, volume control, mute, contrast and brightness control buttons. Unsnap this piece of plastic from its position by lifting the front catches carefully.

  19. Lift the LCD screen back up into the 90 degree position.
  20. Carefully unplug the two ribbon cables (known as the data and inverter cables) connecting the LCD screen to the motherboard.

  21. Look at the back of the computer and open the plastic lid covering the ports. You will see four torx screws. Remove them with a Torx screwdriver. This holds the clutch (hinge) of the LCD display.

  22. Lift up the entire LCD display.
  23. Use the Philips screwdriver to remove the screw holding the modem in place.
  24. Unplug the brown-coloured connector next to the modem. This is the cable to the front keyboard/trackpad assembly.
  25. There are another three Torx screws, two of which are next to the LCD display ribbon cable connectors on the motherboard. Look for these carefully and remove them.
  26. You can now lift up the entire top of the machine. You will find a plastic catch at the front of the trackpad button, so lift the case up on the back to disengage the front catch. And don't forget to unplug the speaker cable from the sound card just above where the hard disk was located.
  27. The sound card can be easily lifted up and out of its connector to the motherboard.

  28. Check the soldered joints holding the power jack to the sound card. If necessary, carefully resolder the joints with a fine tip soldering iron.
  29. Once the power jack has been properly soldered to the circuit board, carefully reassemble the computer, remembering of course which screw goes where!

Broken LCD display clutch hinges

This is (yet again!) another common problem for PowerBook G3 "Wall Street" series computers. If you have a damaged LCD display clutch (hinge) like the ones shown below:
 

From original 13-inch passive matrix LCD screen of "Wall Street"

and

From original 14.1-inch active matrix TFT screen of "Wall Street"

  1. Perform steps 1 to 2, 4, 8 to 10 and 13 to 18 in the previous problem solving procedure.
  2. Now that the LCD display has been removed from the computer, remove the broken piece of the clutch hinge with a pair of tweezers.

  3. Next, we must remove the rest of the damaged clutch in the LCD display. So remove the six (or four for the original 12-inch passive screen "Wall Street" version) torx screws holding the black plastic outer bezel around the LCD screen. You will find them underneath the rubber buttons and the two small wafer-thin circular plastic covers.

  4. Turn over the LCD display with the screen facing down on the table (make sure there isn't anything sitting on the table to scratch the LCD screen and the display cables are kept clear of the screen!).
  5. Carefully remove the cover from the bottom half of the screen by prying it apart with a flathead screwdriver. You may need two flathead screwdrivers to do the job properly. Use one screwdriver to keep the plastic cover partially separated from the bottom half of the screen, and use the other screwdriver to move along the gap to create more of a gap.

  6. You will see the damaged clutch being held by two Torx screws as well as the ribbon cable (which is wrapped around the shaft of the clutch). Remove these screws.

  7. In the 14.1-inch TFT screen model, there is another two more Torx screws to remove along the silver part of the clutch arm running along the edge of the TFT screen.

  8. Carefully lift up and out the damaged clutch from its position and rotate the clutch in a direction which will allow you to free it from the ribbon cable.

  9. Grab your new clutch, wrap it around the ribbon cable and reattach the clutch to the frame making sure the tiny metal pins of the clutch are aligned with the pin holes of the frame.

    The clutch hinge you see here has been reinforced with supa-glue and the araldite "epoxy-resin" glue to help dramatically reduce the problem of the metal bending and suffering metal fatigue through normal use (see below for further details).

  10. Reinsert the torx screws for holding the clutch hinge into position along the side of the LCD display.
  11. Carefully reassemble the LCD display and put back into the computer. Start from the top of the display and work downwards as you snap together the plastic housing.

  12. Complete the job by reassembling your computer. Just remember to regularly touch the metal chassis (e.g. the hard disk outer metal casing) to ensure no static charges have built-up on your body.

  13. Press the Power button. If everything is okay, the PowerBook should start up.

WHAT TO DO WHILE WAITING FOR A NEW CLUTCH HINGE

If you are waiting for the new clutch hinge to arrive from Apple Inc. (formerly Apple Computer, Inc.), there is something you can do to protect the LCD display ribbon cable. Use sticky tape to wrap around the damaged clutch. This will provide some protection to the cable from breaking as it rubs against the clutch hinge when moving the LCD display.

HOW TO STRENGTHEN A CLUTCH HINGE

To strengthen a new clutch hinge to the point where the problem is permanently solved:

  1. Grab your new clutch hinge and clean the end of grease and dirt. A clean surface is absolutely vital to create a strong bond between the glue and the metal itself. This can make the difference in having a permanent solution or one which may last you only 2 or 3 years (instead of the usual 8 months or so if you don't do anything with the clutch hinge).

    Top picture shows a dirty clutch hinge. Bottom picture shows a clean clutch hinge. We have already placed some supa glue just below the central rotating metal rod to provide some initial holding power. This will eventually be covered with a thick layer of epoxy-resin glue for maximum strength.

  2. Buy some araldite "epoxy resin" glue from a local hardware store such as the one shown below.

  3. Pour a small amount of the chemicals for making the epoxy-resin glue onto a scrap of newspaper.

  4. Mix the chemicals together to form a roughly creamy semi-opaque substance. The epoxy-resin glue is ready to be used.

  5. Lie the clutch hinge parallel to the table.

  6. Apply the glue to one end of the clutch hinge and let it set after 3 or 4 hours. Because the glue is a bit of a liquid at the start, you may need to check every 5 minutes for the first 20 minutes to ensure the glue has not dropped off the clutch hinge and onto the newspaper (no dramas if you do as the glue can be filed back into shape).

  7. Do the same on the opposite side of the clutch hinge. Just turn it over and apply liberally another small batch of epoxy-resin. Repeat the process on either side to increase the thickness of the glue.
  8. When the glue has set rock hard, place the clutch hinge in a vertical position and place some more glue on top. The aim in doing this is to create a thick protective and tough coating of the glue all around the weaker metal skin covering the rotating hinge section. This covering of glue should be at least four times the thickness of the metal skin (more is better). Give it a good solid day for the glue to set rock hard.

  9. Put a tiny drop of supa glue (not the epoxy-resin) across the botton end of the clutch hinge just below the rotating metal rod. Let it dry completely. Rotate the clutch hinge mechanism to make sure it is not stuck together by the glue.

  10. Position the clutch hinge in a vertical position with the end facing up. Cut a piece of thin cardboard to cover the end of the hinge. The purpose of this cardboard is to stop the epoxy-resin glue from sticking to the rotating metal rod at the centre which would prevent it from rotating.

  11. Use a toothpick or a fine jewellers' metal screwdriver to push down on the cardboard. This should prevent it from moving.

  12. Now apply another batch of epoxy-resin glue to the end. It should cover the entire cardboard and at the edges. This means we are essentially going to seal the entire hinge with a thick coating of the glue. Remove the toothpick or metal screwdriver carefully and let the glue set rock hard.

  13. If you have done it right, you should have a solid clutch hinge able to be rotated in the usual way. In which case, get a filing tool and smooth the hardened glue all around it until you are confident the LCD display cable will not get damaged as it moves over it when you move the screen up and down.

  14. Clean underneath the shoulders of the clutch hinge to remove excess glue that would normally prevent it from fitting into the computer properly.

  15. You are now ready to install the clutch hinge inside your PowerBook. No more spending A$110 plus (as of April 2004, or A$87 in September 2003) nowadays for a replacement whose design has never been improved on by Apple ever since the PowerBook was first introduced to the public in 1998.

Assuming the hinge has not been bent beyond repair, you can also permanently fix and reuse a damaged clutch hinge. All you'll need is a bit of supa-glue to hold the hinge in position with the rest of the clutch and the "epoxy-resin" glue to completely seal the entire hinge. The only thing you have to remember is not to get the glues to touch the central metal rotating rod. This is absolutely critical. To strengthen a damaged clutch hinge to the point where the problem is permanently solved:

  1. Clean the broken clutch hinge parts in strong detergent and water. Use an old toothbrush to remove the grease on the exposed broken region of the clutch hinge.
  2. Cut a thin rectangular piece of cardboard and place it over the top of the hinge where the exposed central metal rod is visible. If the clutch hinge is in one piece, tuck the cardboard underneath the clutch metal arm and let the cardboard sit over the exposed metal rod.
  3. Get a thin rubber band and wrap it around the central rotating rod closest to the clutch arm.
  4. Now get some supaglue and begin attaching and joining the clutch hinge parts. Let it dry completely to give it some holding power.
  5. Get some "epoxy-resin" glue and spread liberally around the broken hinge where the thin metal skin used to be (and over the top of the cardboard piece). Let it dry completely.
  6. Check to make sure you can still rotate the clutch hinge. If everything is okay, add some more aradite "epoxy-resin" glue and let it dry until you achieve sufficient thickness and strength. Leave it for three days until the araldite is set rock hard.
  7. Cut some more cardboard to cover the end of the hinge and seal the end with more "epoxy-resin" glue. Let it set rock hard.
  8. Use a filing tool to smooth out rough edges and sharp points until you are confident the LCD display cable will not get damaged as it rubs over the clutch hinge.
  9. Now you have a solid reuseable clutch hinge which should permanently solve the problem.

NOTE: For Australian users still putting up with this problem on their "Wall Street" computers, details of the clutch hinges from Apple are as follows:


Part No. 922-3465

Official Description: CLUTCH/BRACE, DSPL, 14.1", LT, CPRC/INTERNATIONAL ONLY

Description: Left-side clutch for PowerBook G3 Series "Wall Street" (14.1 inch TFT screen)

Unit Price: A$83.00 inc tax (as of July 2003)
 

Left-side clutch is in terms of looking from the front of the TFT screen. Otherwise it would be on the right-side when looking directly at the back of the TFT screen.


Part No. 922-3409

Official Description: CLUTCH/BRACE, DSPL, 14.1", MAGNET SIDE, RT, CPRC/INTERNATIONAL ONLY

Description: Right-side clutch for PowerBook G3 Series "Wall Street" (14.1 inch TFT screen)

Unit Price: A$88.00 inc tax (as of July 2003)
 

There is a funny part from Samsung for which this 14.1 inch TFT screen was manufactured. This one is probably for the passive and smaller LCD display version of the "Wall Street":


Part No. 922-3466

Official Description: SVC, BRKT, LCD, 14.1", RT, SAMSUNG

Unit Price: A$34.07 inc tax (as of July 2003)
 

Certainly the correct Apple part number for the clutch hinges on the passive LCD display 12.1 and 13.3 inch screens on the PowerBook G3 Series 1.0 SVC is as follows:


Part No. 922-3368

Unit Price: A$31.00 inc tax (as of April 2000).
 

Should this LCD display clutch (hinge) problem be paid for by the customer or by Apple Inc. (formerly Apple Computer, Inc.)? It is our firm opinion that Apple should either:

  1. make new hinges available for free to all legitimate PowerBook owners affected by this problem; or
  2. completely redesign the hinges (or strengthen it (1) in some way to ensure trouble-free use for the lifetime of the computer, which should be no less than 5 years and in fact for as long as the customer intends to use the computer).

So what is Apple Inc. (formerly Apple Computer, Inc.) doing at the moment? Nothing. Unless they are waiting for customers of the affected PowerBook model to buy a new Apple computer (only to learn that there is a different set of problems to contend with at least for the PowerBook models such as the G3 iBook and the aluminium PowerBook G4), then it would appear as if Apple is not standing on its two feet and showing real leadership in the customer service department by taking responsibility for its products. According to MacFixIt.com, it published the following report:

"PowerBook hinge failure reports

We have two reports (from Zed Kato and Douglas Broussard) of problems with the hinge breaking on G3 PowerBook models (especially WallStreet models). Douglas writes:

""The clutches or hinges of the display seem to deteriorate prematurely, causing them to rotate freely then snap, possibly destroying the video or display power cable. Apple is now backordered on these parts. This happened on my PowerBook back in February. Now, many more reports of this phenomenon are surfacing through sites like Go2Mac.com. The vast majority of these failures have occurred within the first two years of ownership."

Apple's policy on replacing these hinges has been inconsistent. In some cases, they agreed to do so at no charge; in other cases, they refused."

UPDATE
August 2003

PowerBook G3 Series "Wall Street" owners continue to complain long and hard about this clutch hinge problem to Apple Inc. (formerly Apple Computer, Inc.) since 1999. The company is fully aware of the problem for several years now. But it would appear the alleged high costs in redesigning and replacing the clutch hinges for all "Wall Street" owners has seen the company keep quiet and have decided to leave it up to the Apple resellers to repair the hinges and ask the customers to pay for it unless the customers can show clear evidence of how common the problem is (in which case Apple customers have got the repairs done for free irrespective of whether or not extended AppleCare warranty has been taken out by the customers). Even if you do have the evidence, don't be surprised if Apple resellers may try to find an excuse not to repair it for free. For example, one US customer has noticed how mentioning a small spill of coffee on the keyboard was enough for the Apple reseller to argue the customer had not been taking care of the computer and hence must pay for the repairs to the broken hinges. At any rate, customers who have complained about the hinge problem at the Apple web site by starting a post have had their post mysteriously removed (presumably to make sure other customers will not notice how common the problem is). No apologies from Apple has emerged for this situation. Because of all these issues, only a class action against Apple Inc. (formerly Apple Computer, Inc.) can force the company to do the right thing (if there is enough people left to make it worthwhile).

Faulty hard disk motherboard connector

This is another common problem. Sometimes you may find the PowerBook G3 Series computer may not detect the existence of the internal hard disk and therefore cannot use the system software stored on it to startup properly. It is like one day you notice your computer looks alright, or while you are working away the internal hard disk may suddenly hang up for no apparent reason while it is searching for something or saving a file, then the next day you suddenly see a disk icon with a question mark in the middle of it. At other times, you may lose information you were trying to save in a file, or you discover an unexpected directory structure corruption.

This problem occurs either because (i) there is dust on the internal hard disk connector; and/or (ii) the metal pins in the hard disk connector move because it is of the rigid and flimsy variety and is more susceptible to wear n' tear from the heating generated by the electronic components around it. To clean and fix up this hard disk connector (not a permanent solution, but will make a difference until you can afford to buy a new computer):

  1. Perform steps 1, 2, 4, 8 and 11 in the first PowerBook G3 series problem solving tip.
  2. Once the hard disk is free and you have spent enough time admiring how small it is for the amount of information it can hold, get to the task of cleaning the connector. Give it a quick, dry blow to remove hair follicles and loose dust.
  3. Get a good quality non-static cloth and dip one end of the cloth in some quick-drying alcohol (the stuff you use to clean your quality spectacles). Use it to clean the circuit board connector on both sides.
  4. Inspect the connector again to make sure you have not left behind some fluff from your cloth on the connector.
  5. To deal with the loose pins in the connector, you will need a pair of tweezers with a very fine tip. Then you will need to run along each pin on the connector and carefully tease the metal pins of the connector slightly out and away from the plastic housing with the least amount of effort possible. This is a very fine job and requires a confident and relaxed hand to do it properly. If you are not sure whether you can do it, we recommend you visit your local Apple dealer. Otherwise, if you are willing to take responsibility for your computer, then start moving the pins. It is wise to use a magnifying glass to see exactly what you are doing because it is easy to miss one or two pins or to push them too far from their original position. If you push any of the connectors too far, then you must push them back or you will damage them as soon as you place the hard disk circuit board connector back into position.
  6. When you are happy with how everything looks, put the hard disk back into position inside your computer, being careful to align the circuit board connector with the other connector on the motherboard. You may gently push down on the connector until it goes no further.
  7. Now tighten up the screw that holds the hard disk in place, but don't overtighten it. Put back the metal plate, screws and keyboard into position to hold everything together (yes, it does look a bit flimsy, and this is what you get for a laptop worth a few thousand dollars!).
  8. Put the CD/DVD player and battery back into their media bays. The problem should now be solved!

Alleged maximum hard disk capacity

For owners of the original 233MHz PowerBook G3 Series "Wall Street" computers (with Revision 1 processor board etc), it is claimed you should not upgrade the internal Toshiba ITE/ATA 2.5-inch hard disk to a new hard disk greater than 10GB - it will probably not work. If you try to do this, you will get directory, volume header and file resource fork corruption irrespective of whether or not you use volume partitions to reduce the capacity to less than 10GB. This is an issue relating to the "Wall Street" model only. All other higher PowerBook G3 Series (e.g. "Bronze Keyboard", "Firewire" etc), iBooks and Titanium PowerBooks models are not affected by this problem.

Please check with your local Apple technician to find out whether he has found an appropriate hard disk with a capacity greater than 10GB to work on your "Wall Street" computer. You may also need MacOS9.1 or higher and the latest Drive Setup software for this to work properly.

UPDATE
30 November 2002

There is a good chance the above information may be incorrect. Apple Inc. (formerly Apple Computer, Inc.) apparently refuses to give an official recommendation on the correct hard disks to use on the original "Wall Street" computer having the Toshiba hard disk as standard issue by Apple even when a customer sent a letter by registered post to the Australian Head Office. Even though Apple Inc. (formerly Apple Computer, Inc.) indirectly claims there is a suitable Apple part number for the hard disk for all "Wall Street" machines, this is simply not true for all "Wall Street" models. In fact, there is good evidence to believe hard disks with a capacity greater than 10GB will work inside the original "Wall Street". However, because Apple Inc. (formerly Apple Computer, Inc.) deliberately installed the 700mA Toshiba hard disk in the original PowerBook G3 Series "Wall Street" computer, any 500mA standard issue hard disk (e.g. IBM, Fujitsu etc) will not work because of an overheating issue (i.e. a manufacturing fault by Apple Inc. (formerly Apple Computer, Inc.) caused by excessive current going into the 500mA hard disk variety. This overheating issue is what will give you directory, volume header and file resource fork corruption problems if you used any 500mA hard disk in a "Wall Street" containing the original Toshiba hard disk.

So if you have this original "Wall Street" computer with a Toshiba hard disk, you have three choices:

(i) Fight Apple Inc. (formerly Apple Computer, Inc.) in the law courts to get a full refund on the dud machine deliberately sold by Apple through selected authorised Apple resellers;

(ii) Purchase another Toshiba hard disk if you can find one (it is not sold brand new to the public and as an individual part unless you happen to have purchased a brand new Toshiba laptop);

UPDATE
19 April 2004

Apple will give a recommended Toshiba hard disk part number if you push them hard enough (i.e. a court order). But they will say it indirectly through a reseller who will provide an email of their own to mention it. Apple does not want to officially declare the part number for the Toshiba hard disk through the official Apple parts list, over the telephone, or with an official letterhead.

(iii) Pay extra for an Apple reseller to repair the manufacturing fault (be prepared to supply the Toshiba hard disk if they admit the manufacturing fault exists even though they are not legally required to have it, there is nothing wrong with the Toshiba hard disk and will work on any other Apple computer, and should not need it to do the repairs).

HOW TO PURCHASE, TEST AND INITIALISE A HARD DISK

  1. Purchase a good quality new hard disk (vacuum sealed in its own plastic "static protection" bag) suitable for your computer.
  2. It is best to choose a hard disk as recommended by the hardware manufacturer of your computer. In that way, you will be assured of reasonable quality and be covered by warranty should your new hard disk be found to be faulty or has caused damage to your computer.
  3. You can often purchase a new hard disk from a PC shop for your Macintosh computer (because of its naturally lower cost compared to standard Apple prices for the same products) and will usually work quite well on your Macintosh with the help of your disk initialisation program called Drive Setup. However, you will need to ask yourself the following questions: (i) Is it the same type of disk drive as my original (e.g. for PowerBooks, it is usually an ATA/IDE 50-pin disk drive); (ii) What size is the hard disk (e.g. for most PowerBooks, it should fit within 2.5 inches); (iii) What is the voltage and current rating of the hard disk (for 2.5inch ATA/IDE internal hard disks for PowerBooks, it should be 5 volts and either 500mA for the latest hard disk and PowerBooks, or 700mA for the older PowerBooks); and (iv) Am I willing to sacrifice warranty issues should anything go wrong with my hard disk or computer?
  4. If you have a PowerBook and your original hard disk is a 5V 700mA 2.5-inch ATA/IDE internal Toshiba hard disk, you may be offered by your reseller a similar new hard disk of higher storage capacity but with a rating of only 500mA. In most newer PowerBooks, this should work fine. However, in the older PowerBook "Wall Street" models, you should be aware that a 500mA rating on a new hard disk will lead to "overheating" problems. While most hard disks are relatively robust and can withstand a certain amount of heat, you should be prepared for possible loss in information that gets written to the hard disk (i.e. an error message will usually show up telling you to check your hard disk for problems using a disk editor). It is best to choose a quality hard disk which is not only of the highest storage capacity your computer can handle, but also the power ratings should be identical. Be prepared to pay extra to ensure you do have the right hard disk. Or don't pay at all and get a refund for the dud machine;
  5. If purchasing a new hard disk from a PC reseller, you must low-level format the hard disk on a Macintosh computer when initialising it to help remove the PC hard disk driver and then put on your own Macintosh hard disk driver as supplied by your disk initialisation program (e.g. Drive Setup). But remember, if anything goes wrong with the hard disk, you may not be covered by warranty.
  6. With your new hard disk already installed, place your Apple CD System Software disk inside the CD-ROM drive and restart your computer. Press the letter "C" on the keyboard to tell your Macintosh to start from the CD.
  7. You will notice a message asking you whether you want to do a quick initialisation of your new hard disk. You can click the "Yes" button and start using your new hard disk as soon as it appears on the desktop. But it is much better to test the hard disk first before doing anything else. Who knows? Perhaps you already have a faulty hard disk that needs replacing! And if you store information on a faulty hard disk, you will get lots of disk error problems later such as directory, volume headers and file structure corruptions which may not be repairable using a powerful disk editor.
  8. Look inside the Utilities folder and launch the Drive Setup application.
  9. Select the new hard disk (it should be called "untitled") from the Drive Setup window.
  10. If your new hard disk is one of those models recommended by your computer manufacturer, you can test your hard disk merely by choosing the "Test Disk..." from the Functions menu command. If the disk if okay, click the Initialise button and then the OK button to bring your hard disk immediately to the desktop.
  11. If your hard disk is from a PC reseller, you must click the Initialise button. Click the Options button. Place a tick next to the "Low-level format" and "Zero all blocks" options to remove the PC hard disk driver as stored by the PC hardware manufacturer on the hard disk. Click OK. Then start initialising the disk. For hard disks with a capacity greater than 10GB, this could take a few hours.
  12. The low-level format of initialising a disk is essentially the same as "Test disk..." except that it physically writes its own information into a block on the disk (and so destroying any original information that might be there) and then reads it back into memory to compare it with its own information and so test if the block is alright. If so, and all the other blocks on the hard disk are behaving properly, then the disk has been properly tested and ready for initialisation. The "Test disk..." does nothing more than read a block of information from the disk, then write to the block with this same information, and then reads it in again to see if the information is still the same. There is no loss in information on the disk using "Test disk..." unless you have a bad block (in which case you must backup your remaining data and try to low-level format the disk).
  13. If, at any stage, you should get an error message saying "disk initialisation failed", it is likely your new hard disk is faulty and needs replacing. On the other hand, if the disk is able to be initialised without a problem, but you discover within a day or so (usually after transferring your applications and files to the hard disk) there is directory, volume header and/or file structure corruption creeping into the information, make sure: (i) you have the right hard disk capacity for your computer; (ii) you have the latest hard disk drivers; (iii) you have clean and direct physical connections between the hard disk and the motherboard of your computer; (iv) your new hard disk has the correct power rating; and (v) you do not have corrupted applications and system files installed on your new hard disk. Use a quality disk editor like Norton Utilities to check for this and repair the problems. If the problem persists, get an immediate replacement for your hard disk.

The hard disk connector

We believe this is another classic design fault from Apple Computer. This problem affects mainly the Apple PowerBook G3 Series "Wall Street" computer. The internal hard disk "female" connector attached to the motherboard is so small that the metal contacts of the connector do not spring back into position after the hard disk (with its "Male" circuit board connector) has been removed and attached to it a few times.

This should have been designed as large as is physically possible using a standard and proven quality connector in order to get the mechanical strength and springiness needed for each of the metal contacts in the "female" connector to make consistently good and reliable contact with the internal hard disk circuit board "male" connector (2).

Or alternatively, Apple should provide to all "Wall Street" owners a flexible ribbon cable instead of the rigid circuit board connector for attaching the hard disk to the motherboard.

What happens when the hard disk is not properly making contact with the motherboard connector? If the hard disk is not properly connected to the motherboard, the computer can hang up unexpectedly when searching for something or launching an application, or will not load up the system software at startup, or there could be a loss in information when saving files, or in the worse case scenario cause directory and volume file corruption leading eventually for the need to reinitialise the hard disk if the corruption is serious.

The hard disk "circuit board" connector

This is another previous untold "design fault" story that is bound to get some readers into a fit of uncontrollable laughter.

Inside the Apple PowerBook G3 Series "Wall Street" computer and attached to the internal hard disk is a piece of circuit board with a standard 50-pin IDE/ATA connector rigidly (and pretty much permanently) attached to it. Now this connector is fine when plugging it directly into the 50-pins (actually, 47 pins!) of your IDE/ATA internal 2.5-inch hard disk. It is on the other end of the circuit board where the hilarious part begins.

The circuit board at the other end has an extremely narrow area for holding the 50 copper contacts on the board itself, as required to connect it to the motherboard "female" connector. Now apart from making these copper contacts ridiculously small to the point where the motherboard "female" connector cannot make a consistent and reliable contact with the circuit board (actually the connector size is non-standard and proprietary to Apple Inc. (formerly Apple Computer, Inc.), meaning that you have to buy the motherboard "female" connector and the circuit board from Apple only), the circuit board has to be rigidly held in place by the motherboard "female" connector.

While to the average person on the street, this may sound okay, in truth, this is a disaster waiting to happen.

If you look carefully at what's holding the hard disk in place inside the PowerBook, there is only one screw keeping it there. Now imagine the PowerBook being moved around a lot or is jolted slightly as it hits something solid. The hard disk is heavy enough to rotate on the single screw just enough for the rigid circuit board connector to break the top part of the motherboard "female" connector. Now this is a relatively common problem that is likely to develop at any time during normal use.

And if it doesn't break the connector, the circuit board will, after 2 to 3 years of normal use, push against the metal pins of the motherboard "female" connector on a regular basis ever so slightly until it reduces the chances of the metal pins from making proper contact with the circuit board connector.

When the motherboard "female" connector breaks or when the metal pins don't make proper contact with the circuit board connector, you will certainly get disk/directory/file corruption problems as soon as you try to save information onto the hard disk; and/or read incorrect information leading to regular System, Finder and application crashes; and/or the hard disk is not noticed at all by the computer.

This is a serious problem! Apple Inc. (formerly Apple Computer, Inc.) is fully aware of the issue and have quickly updated the PowerBook to newer versions (i.e. the "Bronze Keyboard" and "FireWire" models) containing a flexible ribbon cable for connecting the hard disk to the motherboard. Now this new cable no longer places constant and unrelenting pressure on the motherboard "female" connector during normal use when the computer is transported from place-to-place.

In the meantime, Apple Inc. (formerly Apple Computer, Inc.) has not seen the need to recall or implement a repair program for all legitimate Apple PowerBook G3 Series "Wall Street" owners with regard to this hard disk connection problem. (3)

The built-in RAM card connector

This has got to be another one of those comedy of errors on the part of Apple Inc. (formerly Apple Computer, Inc.) but a number of "Wall Street" owners have noticed the following disconcerting message on start-up:

"The built-in memory check has detected a problem with your RAM card. Please have it checked by a Service Technician"

When this problem is checked by a technician, there is no fault found with the RAM card.

What seems to be common in all the reports are people who had, for legitimate reasons, to unplug and insert a new RAM card into the top slot on the processor board of the Apple PowerBook G3 Series "Wall Street" computer. Apparently it takes only about 3 or 4 times of plugging and unplugging to wear down the RAM card connector pins. Apparently the RAM card connector has metal pins that are so incredibly small that they quickly lose their springiness considered essential for making good contact with the RAM card.

Also reported by "Wall Street" users include an unexplained and sometimes random hang-up of the computer when saving a file (even one of less than 32K in size). This may be temporary lasting for about 30 seconds or the owners may have to tap on the clutch area to speed up the saving process.

Again the solution here is to find a very fine hook-like instrument (or superfine-tip tweezers) to delicately pull out the pins just enough to ensure good contact with the RAM card. But unfortunately for most people, this is an absolute nightmare to fix up given how small the metal pins of the RAM card connector are.

At any rate, Apple Inc. (formerly Apple Computer, Inc.) has once again not seen the need to recall or implement a repair program with regard to this RAM card connection problem. Perhaps Apple believes "Wall Street" owners won't notice the problems. And if they do, hopefully they will have upgraded their PowerBook for a newer model or pay the usual price for a new processor board.

Well, like they say, "If you can afford one Macintosh computer, why not another in 12 months or 3 years time, and another later on! Surely Macintosh users are rich enough and can accept these problems without complaint!"

Or is Apple trying to tell us that Macintosh computers are not meant to outlast a PC computer? Perhaps 3 years is really suppose to be the upper limit for using a Macintosh computer these days. After that, it is time to buy a new computer!

Not able to run OS X

Just in case you didn't know, the PowerBook G3 Series "Wall Street" is not able to run MacOS X of any version without you experiencing a lot of glitches and regular system errors.

When you first bought your "Wall Street", you were probably told by Apple through the Apple resellers how your computer should be compatible with OSX. Well, the truth is, it isn't! Apple has decided to quietly remove crucial G3-microprocessor-related support for this model (among other similarly affected G3 computers) under OS X. This is presumably so that enough customers will be made to think there is a problem with the machine due to old age and needs upgrading to the latest Apple computer.

Although it is possible to run OS X under this machine, expect a gamut of system errors to appear for no apparent reason other than this is the way for Apple to force users to upgrade.

For further details, please check this out.