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Ask Max: How can I fix a broken iBook bought off eBay?

Asked on 05/07/2007:

I bought an iBook G4 from a gentleman off eBay. When I got it there were several issues. It wouldn't boot for the longest time, only in safe mode. But would take up to 5 minutes to load. How much do you guys charge for us to send in an item and have you guys diagnose and repair the problem? UPS damaged the package out, refunded our money and now we get to keep the computer and thing is, it semi-works. I believe it is the HD, because most of the time it won't mount.


PowerMax charges $90 an hour for service and it would probably take 30 minutes to determine what is wrong with your iBook. To check if the hard drive is the culprit you can try a few things. If you have another Mac you can try to boot your iBook off its hard drive. By holding down the "T" key when restarting, a Mac will boot into Target Disk mode. Then you can put a FireWire cable in between the iBook and the Target Disk Mac. The last step is to restart the iBook with the "Option" key held down. At that point you will be able to select the Target Disk Mac's hard drive to boot off it. If it boots without problems off the other Mac's hard drive, then you have found the source of the problem. It could be the OS install or the drive itself.

The other option is to boot off a software install DVD and try to format the hard drive and reinstall the operation system. If you do not own a copy, you can buy a used copy or a new version of OS X. When you boot off the install DVD, there will be a Utilities menu were you can find "Disk Utility." Select Disk Utility and format the iBook's hard drive, then install the OS. If the problem does not clear up, that means you have a hardware problem and need to send it in for service.

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