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Apple iBook G3 – Keyboard Refurbishment

This thing was found at a flea market in very poor condition. The CD tray was hanging out and wouldn't latch back in, every open orifice was caked with dirt and there were zero accessories. Fortunately, the iBook G4 I'd previously revived had the same power supply, so I knew how to build one.


After a very superficial clean, I soldered the required 2.5mm jack onto spare wire and applied power. It chimed and presented a dude-where's-my-hard-disk screen... not surprised at all as there was absolutely no sound made from the HDD corner. Fortunately, these are standard-issue replaceable parts, right? Just a few screws?

A Full Tear-Down

I started pulling the unit apart and felt like I'd fallen down a rabbit hole! Keyboard out, top shell off, bottom shell off ... but still no HDD... it was under metal shielding... what is this? An Amiga 1200?

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I thought I'd check iFixit to see if there were any tutorials and found that I've made it up to around step 33 and that there were 11 more steps to go! WTF... why so hard? The HDD showed no signs of life when the machine powered up, so I needed to continue. I'm sure I could work out where all those screws went later.


Finally, the HDD was out. It's a stock-standard 2.5" Laptop IDE HDD and I had a junk box full to replace in. Unfortunately, the first 10! that I tried also showed no signs of life. I then tried a Seagate (these scare me the most with regards to reliability) and it booted... it was also 20gb larger than the 40gb prior HDD, so... let's do it.

Which OS?

Finding an OS that would boot/install was the next challenge. These units supposedly came with both OS 9.2.2 and OSX 10.2.1 installed? I'll stick with just OS9, but there seems to be a large selection of installation media available. There's an iBook G3 restore CD there, but I just kept getting the following crash... and it didn't seem to have the correct display drivers.


So, I opted for the OS 9.2.2 Universal ISO over here. You'll need to sign up, but it's worth it for access to their amazing library of old OS installation media!


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Very nice, we're up in full-colour and functionality! Note the open-cdrom-surgery... it works perfectly fine when taped down to the table to keep the tray shut! Nice to see it spin/seek when loading.

Pink Screen Artefacts

Screen still had hints of pink... some said backlight, but has to be black channel missing on ribbon cable?


Popping the screen open isn't so hard... four screws and then a little encouragement around the edges. Looks clean enough inside.


Let's just tinker with that LCD ribbon cable anyway...


Haha... a little force, pushing the plug back into the socket, totally fixed the display issues!

Cleaning the Keyboard

This is a serious undertaking. The membrane has LEDs like the one I ripped off the PowerBook DUO 230, but instead of just popping keys off, you need to unhook them with a lot more care!



Underneath each key is a scissor-lift style mechanism that's clipped at both ends under the key face. One end is easier to un-clip and just needs a bit of force between the back of the key and the arm of the mechanism to pop it out. Once done, the other end un-hooks.

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With all keys off, the devastation was real. This poor keyboard needed a lot of love.


The top keyboard membrane is non-electronic and just holds the rubber buttons in place.


The second is multi-layer and does the actual key contact. It also has the ribbon cable that runs down to the motherboard.


Finally, there's a metal plate underneath which is actually two metal plates combined.



Don't bother trying to peel off the rear instructional sticker as it wont help you remove the metal shielding.


If there's dirt then just grab a brush and some detergent and give it a good once-over. I had initially thought that the sticker underneath had provided a sticky surface for gunk to adhere to, but it turns out that something must have been spilled on the board. The gunk was just sitting on the metal shield that was exposed through the holes in the main metal plate.


A lot of isopropyl alcohol and que-tips (ear buds!) were used to clean up the membrane layers. I didn't want the chance of any moisture getting into the plastic. Also, as per the previous PowerBook, watch out for the LEDs! You'll rip them off if you apply too much pressure.

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In the end, make sure that everything has a good chance to dry. Use a USB Keyboard if you need to type in passwords or play Sim City 2000.

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Putting it back together was a pretty straight forward process. In total, cleaning that keyboard took a good 4 hours all-up and ... budget for it. Don't rush as those key mechanisms won't suffer too much torture.


I was really surprised that I didn't make a mistake that would've trashed the whole keyboard! Meanwhile, the lighting is terrible in ALL of these shots, now that I look back over them. The keyboard really did end up cleaner!

Internal Optical Drive

So, this laptop was picked off the ground at the flea market and the optical drive was just hanging out the side. I straight away tried to push it back in, but there was no latch and it sprung out again. Being an apple, there's no eject button and, as per all laptop CD drives, it's spring-loaded so that it pops out enough, but not too far, to allow disc extraction/insertion.

Whilst the keyboard was drying above, I pulled apart the CD drive to see what was going on.


Immediately obvious was the jagged edge on the plastic strip where the locking mechanism is meant to be caught. The actual actuator that locks/unlocks the drive is the in the tray itself and it is meant to latch onto a notch on the side rail inside the drive housing. With no notch available, the drive wont latch shut and therefore wont spin up. I successfully used tape to keep it shut and install software, but that was never going to last long.


For fun, I grabbed my oldest external USB CD drive and popped it all-the-way open to see what the notch might look like. I had no idea if this drive would have matching internals, but I tried anyway. Little would I realise that the drive was a 99% match with the actual unit in the Mac! The data plug fit, the screws even lined up!


The only thing that didn't match was the external bezel... and no amount of mushing would get the Apple bezel to fit. Instead, I trimmed off an edge on the PC drive and installed it in the iBook. Worked like a charm! From here, I'll try and measure-up a plastic piece to print and install into the original optical drive.

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