Dead Powerbook

On the first day of classes last week, my Powerbook died.

After some random freezes, the computer refused to boot up, illuminate the screen or load a CD. This inspired a general level of panic. It's been so long since I've had any problems with my computer that I didn't know quite where to begin.

My old Powercenter 150 (still running perfectly) was back in Missouri under the care of my youngest brother and buying a new Powerbook was out of the question. Long out of warranty, I realized that I've become quite attached to this computer.

So, for the past five days, I've been methodically troubleshooting whenever I have a free moment. I hooked my Powerbook up to my CMU G4 as an external firewire drive and was able to at least back up my files. That eased my mind a bit.

With my Powerbook hooked to a working lifeline, I was able to run Norton DiskDoctor and patch up the software on my computer. Still no good. I swapped out the hard drive for the original 10GB drive. Still nothing. I removed my 3rd party RAM. Nada.

After reading some of the forums on Apple's website and encountering dozens of stories with similar symptoms, I resigned myself to the possibility that my Logic Board was fried. Since I couldn't find a replacement on eBay immediately, I tooled around with some other Apple voodoo--resetting the PRAM and the PMU. This time, I was greeted by three unfamiliar beeps at startup. My computer didn't turn on, but the little sleep LED patiently blinked at me in a series of three short pulses, trying to communicate ala Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Turns out that these diagnostic beeps can range from one to five in number. Three means that no RAM banks passed memory testing. Of course, with my computer in this condition, I wasn't sure whether it knew what it was talking about or not. As a last resort, I carefully removed the 256MB Apple chip that came with my Powerbook and replaced it with the 512MB chip that I had taken out during troubleshooting. I held my breath and pressed the power button.

Success. Last night I put everything back together (except for the bad RAM) and closed the case up. I reinstalled my files and after some initial testing, everything looks fine. My torx screwdrivers and static strip now go back into the closet, hopefully for good.

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