Mac Hack – How to Clean CPU Fan and Replace Hard Disk on a PowerBook G4!


Recently, one of my friends who is a plumber in San Francisco, gave me an old PowerBook G4.  Well, since I am not an Apple fan boy (sorry Apple fan boys), I’ve figured I can install Windows XP.

I ran into the big problem that Windows XP is not supported on a PowerPC CPU, which is what the PowerBook G4 has.  Since I do also run a bunch of linux machines at my home, I figured I could run some linux on the PowerBook.  It turns out there’s a bunch of PowerPC-supported linux systems including Ubuntu, which I ended up installing. (I should have a HOWTO guide on that coming up pretty soon so watch for that!)

Of course, this Powerbook G4 has more problems as the hard disk was dead so I had to replace the hard disk.  I also figured I could take some shots on how to replace the hard disk while I was doing it.

Most laptops are pretty easy to disassemble once you get the hang of it.  You simply remove all the screws and most of the time, the laptop comes apart pretty easily.

So here it goes, step-by-step instructions on how to take an old Powerbook G4 apart. (other Powerbooks should be similar)

Note this is the very first time I have worked with Mac laptops in my whole life but I did it my first time so it must be easy. (and you should be able to do it too)

Tools required:

couple small screw drivers.  (You can get a set of these at your dollar store by the way)

1 1.5mm hex screw driver.

Step By Step Instructions

1) You will need to get the battery out, simply use a coin and turn the big metal thing until the battery pops out like below:


2) Now, unscrew the 4 screws that hold the memory compartment in the middle of the laptop.


3) Pull the metal tabs on the left and right side of the memory.  The memory should pop out easily.


4) Take all the memory out, usually no more than two since there’s two memory slots.


5) Take the four long screws at the top(where the LCD screen is connected to).


6) Also take the 2 screws off near where the memory slots are.  (Oops, I lost one of the screws while trying to take a pictures.  Don’t worry too much about lost screws when you open up a laptop, I find that you don’t have to be so perfect, your laptop will still function fine with couple lost screws.)


7) Next take the two screws off one of the sides of the Powerbook G4.


8) Take the three screws on the other side of the Powerbook G4.  Don’t you just love Macs?  They are so easy to disassemble.


9) Take the four screws on the top of the Powerbook G4.


10) Now using the hex screwdriver thingee and open the two hexa-nuts at the front of the laptop where your keyboard is.


11) The top of the Mac Powerbook G4 should pop right out easily like this.


12)Now jiggle the keyboard a little (being careful not to pull the too attached lines) and the whole thing should be fully detachable from the main board.


13) Set the keyboard laying against the LCD, and gently pull the orangish looking line, it should pop right off.  (This is the touchpad connection to your Powerbook’s motherboard btw.)


14) Now, pull the side tabs off the keyboard connectors.  The white-striped keyboard connector should slide out easily.


15) Now you have the keyboard/touchpad module completely detached!  Yey, you can now pretty much access most of your PowerBook G4’s internals including the CPU fan (Left arrow), graphic card fan (Right arrow), hard disk (blue arrow), and more.


16) Since the hard disk was broken, I figured this Powerbook must be super old and checked out both the CPU and graphic card fans.  (I found out that there were already super clean but this should be a handy guide for you if you have an old Powerbook that makes a lot of CPU fan noise and need to clean them.)

You can skip to Step 27 here if you simply need to swap out your hard drive on the Powerbook G4 but if you want to clean/check your CPU fans, keep going.

How to Clean the Graphic Card CPU fan

First, I decided to check out the graphic card fan (the one on the right), simply pop off the LCD connector horizontally.  It should pop right off pretty easily.


17) Pull the LCD connector and stickers away from you.  (Yes, VOID the warranty, you probably don’t have it on this old Mac anyways!)


18) Pull the fan connector out.


19) Unscrew the two screws and the fan assembly should be “bent” out.    Check the metal fins to see if there’s any dust piled up and if it is, CLEAN!  After cleaning, re-assemble the graphic fan card reversing the steps from this step to Step 16. (then continue)


20) Next, we can take a look at the CPU fan to see if dust has piled up.  CPU fans are #1 cause of laptop failures these days so…

How to Clean the Main CPU fan!

Pull the metal connector thingee (the copper lookin thingee) up, it should pop right out.  I am not sure what this is for but oh well…


21) Next, pull the CPU fan connector out.


22) Take the connector next to it out so you can access the CPU fan case.


23) Unscrew the four screws holding the CPU fan.


24) Clean the metal fans if it’s dirty.  Like I said, mine was super clean.  I think someone just dropped the Powerbook G4 on the ground and broke the hard disk.


25) Clean the fans, metal fins and put it back together by reversing steps from this step to Step 20.

How to Replace the Hard Disk!

Next, we will replace the broken 60GB hard disk with a new 80GB hard disk.

Simply pull the harddisk connector on the top of the harddisk.


26) Unscrew the 2 big screws on the left of the hard drive of the Powerbook G4.


27) Pull that thing out of the way…


28) There’s two screws on the right side of the hard disk you need to unscrew (red circles) and pull the metal tab thingee out.

There’s also two screws on the left side of the hard disk you need to unscrew a little (blue circles), you don’t need to take them out completely, just unscrew them so they are loose and you can pull the hard disk out. Also note to take the connector out (red arrow) if you have hard time accessing the screws.


29) Jiggle the hard disk out, it should come out.  If you get to this step, swapping the new hard drive you be a piece of cake.  Simply swap the harddisk connector and the plastic isolation thingee to the new drive and reverse steps from this step to Step 25.


30) Now you have done it!  Give yourself a thumbs up for replacing the hard drive!  Mac Powerbook is a really, really old laptop from the stone ages but the new Macbooks should actually be a lot easier than this. (or any other laptops for that matter)

Most of the new laptops also allow easier access to the harddisk and the CPU fans without disassembling most of your laptop.   You might void warranty but if you learn to disassemble laptops, you should be able to open up most laptops today with a screwdriver.  I find disassembling laptops addicting now, I didn’t know it was this easy.


31) Assemble everything back by reversing steps from Step 16 through Step 1.

32) Boot your laptop to make sure everything is working and you didn’t forget to connect any connectors.  If you did, you will have to repeat and go into vicious cycle until you get it right.  Just take a deep breath and take everthing SLOWLY.  Don’t need to be in a hurry ever.

33) If you are like me, just install Ubuntu PowerPC version of Jaunty 9.04, which works well right out of the box including Touchpad, keyboard, LCD, Wifi, and sound.

This is the very first Mac laptop I own and disassembled, and of course, it doesn’t run Mac OSX.  (will have to wait another 20 years before I consider doing that.  But there’s Hackintosh for those of you who want to run Mac OSX on PCs…  and why would I want to do that???)


(Breathing new, fresh open-source life into the old Mac Powerbook G4 with Ubuntu Jaunty…yey go Linus!  Now I have 2 mobile linux devices, a Palm Pre and a Powerbook.)


One Response to Mac Hack – How to Clean CPU Fan and Replace Hard Disk on a PowerBook G4!

  1. dds says:

    Very detail howto’s, thanks for sharing.

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