Powerbook Project

Posted by: Gabriel

Powerbook Project - 01/29/08 09:29 PM


I'm new here and I have a wierd idea for a project that I always wanted to try.
They just introduced the Macbook Air, which is all sexy and everything, but the
price and features left out put it out of my range. I miss the old 12" powerbook,
which was in my opinion the best notebook apple ever made. So what I thought
of doing was to take the logic board from a macbook or maybe a PC laptop, and
try to stuff it into the housing of the 12" powerbook. I know this sounds radical
but if I sacrificed the optical drive which I rarely use anyway, I think I could do
it. I could get a PC motherboard (maybe even with decent graphics) and run
OSx86 on it. What do you think, is this even feasible?

Cheers :-)
Posted by: oojacoboo

Re: Powerbook Project - 01/29/08 10:36 PM

MAN, that 12" Powerbook rocked, didn't it! I had one, absolutely loved it! MacMod was actually re-born on that laptop wink

As for stuffing a macbook into it, I don't know if it would fit or not. I would bet the logic board is almost the length of the macbook, which would be too long for the 12", IIRC. I am sure there are some PC boards out there, but you are going to have a time and a half trying to line up the ports with those things.

Maybe some other folks will have a better idea on the size issues you have for this mod.

But, either way, I say "Just Do It".
Posted by: Gabriel

Re: Powerbook Project - 01/29/08 11:13 PM

My idea was to remove the ports from an original powerbook logic board (a fried one) and
solder some kind of tiny "extension cords" to the ports on the replacement board. I've looked
long and hard at photos of the powerbooks interior parts and from what I see the optical
drive uses a huge amount of space ;D If I get rid of it, there should be almost double the room
for a motherboard and maybe even a bigger battery and better cooling system. I could also
switch to a 1.8" HD like in the Macbook Air (thats just a thought, I haven't checked how
much those little bastards cost yet :P)
Posted by: oojacoboo

Re: Powerbook Project - 01/29/08 11:18 PM

yea, I just don't know if the mobo is just notched out for the optical, or the entire board is square. Know what I mean.... like a square/rectangle or more like an "L"
Posted by: oojacoboo

Re: Powerbook Project - 01/29/08 11:19 PM

notice how the optical spot is notched out. Thats a macbook mobo

*edit: might have to right-click, view image to see the right side...
Posted by: Gabriel

Re: Powerbook Project - 01/29/08 11:40 PM

Here is a shot of the powerbooks inside:

It looks like most of todays laptop logic boards will fit without
too many problems, the worst thing would be getting the existing
components like the hard drive and the battery to fit in snugly and
still keep it flat enough to put the housing back together 8-) I also
don't know about the cooling, it looks really precisely engineered
so that might be a problem.
Posted by: Waragainstsleep

Re: Powerbook Project - 01/30/08 01:28 AM

Actually I think the battery could be the toughest part to sort out. You might well get a MacBook board in it, but the 12" battery may not fit afterwards, and the MacBook one certainly won't.
Posted by: soundmann18

Re: Powerbook Project - 01/30/08 06:41 AM

i agree with war, battery will be the hardest thing to get in there. Maybe you could disassemble the battery so that it is not removable and move the cells around in such a way to make it fit, like have some of the cells in the area where the optical was, etc. If you're feeling adventurous, I say go for it, but it won't be easy. I'm still on my 12" PB, and I love it.
Posted by: oojacoboo

Re: Powerbook Project - 01/30/08 08:37 AM

Im not sure I would go moving cells around with a battery. I guess I have too little faith in cell stability. Maybe you can use the stock 12" battery and modify the connector to the mobo if needed... Not sure if the voltage is the same or not...
Posted by: BigO

Re: Powerbook Project - 01/30/08 09:18 AM

What about the board from a Mac mini? I haven't compared them, but it's worth looking into.
Posted by: Waragainstsleep

Re: Powerbook Project - 01/30/08 01:34 PM

An Intel Mini might work. But the RAM modules are laid one above the other on the board. It might be too high for the case. The G4 certainly would be.

MacBook is a much better bet. Those boards really are tiny. I don't see a massive problem with the idea of moving the cells about. Perhaps you could rebuild the battery in a more desirable shape with its own custom enclosure that would fit around the MB board inside the 12" case.

Looking at pictures (I have a nice one from the service manual of the bottom case), I think the MB board will fit nicely into the PB case, oriented as it is in its own case. This would leave space for the largely unmodified MacBook battery once you have hacked the case up a bit. HD would go on the right where the optical used to be. Standard cable would be fine for it too.

You have two potential stumbling blocks that I see:
First is the keyboard. The 12" keyboard uses a connector similar to those on the iBooks on the end of a very-tricky-to-mod ribbon cable. The connector has maybe 30 pins or more. The trackpad has a separate 4 pin connector which is probably USB, so you could use that, but it will cost you a USB port unless you can find an unused one to tap on the board. I really think you would have to cut out the keyboard and trackpad from a MacBook top case and hack up the PowerBook top case to install it in there. That would work fine. But its a bit of a job.

Second problem is the display. Unless you get really lucky and it turns out the 12" has identical pinouts to the 13", you're in for some trouble. This is unlikely given the GPUs are quite radically different on both Macs.
Posted by: scotttherobot

Re: Powerbook Project - 02/01/08 10:08 AM

Yea, the only problem that I can see (judging by never seeing the internals of either of these machines) is the display and keyboard, the trackpad connector is pretty standard i believe (please, correct me if i'm wrong here).

The only way i could see the LCD working is if the MacBook display ribbon cable A) fits into the PBG4 case and B) has an LVDS connector or the same connector on the LCD side (i highly doubt that the macbook mobo and the pbg4 mobo have the same connector, but the LCD is possible, my PBG3(s) has the same LCD-side LVDS connector as my old ThinkPad 400, but highly different mobo connectors)...

I would be interested to see how this project turns out. I am in the market for a new intel-based mac but i just cannot justify the $1800 for the MacBook Air because of it's underpowered proc. I would be completely fine with no optical and a 1.8" HDD.

good luck!
Posted by: flippy10

Re: Powerbook Project - 02/12/08 07:52 PM

This is going to be some job, but I think it's doable.
What would make modding the keyboard easier, is to grab a dead logic board unsolder the end off. It would save the trouble of cutting traces on the keyboard ribbon.
Since the wonderful PBG4 is all aluminum, you could just as easily fashion a new home for a MacBook keyboard. The only thing I'd be worried about is keyboard size comparisons.
I've got a PBG4 12 and it's my favorite to use aside from my iBook. So I'm all with you on this mod.