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06/01/2006: "time for DIY computer repair"

Just over a year ago a new Apple-authorized store opened up in town. (The former one closed up shop suddenly.) I decided to e-mail their service department about what I was thinking in terms of fixing my Pismo, just to see what their thoughts were. What they came back with certainly wasn't what I expected.

I had been planning on going to them for a hard drive upgrade for a while. I wanted to see what they might charge for replacing the top case while they were at it. I e-mailed them, got a response asking for my serial number (to check if they could still get the part), and got a follow-up response today. The result? They are asking $200 for the new top case, plus labour at a shop rate of $85/hr. Ouch!! The hard drive is considerably more reasonable, at only $65 plus the cost of the drive.

They also recommended that I simply don't bother with the upgrades - any of them. For the $500 that I would likely be spending for those two upgrades, that's pretty close to halfway to a brand-new MacBook, which will have much better battery life, screen brightness and resolution, an internal wi-fi card, a built-in iSight.... need I go on?

For the time being, that means I'm simply going to do nothing. I still think I need to upgrade the hard drive, but at this point I'm thinking of going the DIY route for all my upgrades and repairs. There is an excellent site called (formerly that not only sells parts for upgrades for all sorts of current and legacy Apple systems, but gives you detailed step-by-step instructions on how to do it yourself. They even have documents detailing all the screws you'll encounter, and sell you the tools you'll need that you otherwise won't have (T8 Torx screwdriver and spudger, anyone?).

On one hand, $65 plus hard drive cost seems reasonable to me. However, if I'm going to do the top case, I have to remove the hard drive anyway, so why not do that myself too? Sigh. What I really need is someone who's done it before to step me through... either that, or a burned-out shell of a Pismo to practice on to get comfortable gutting it like a plastic and metal fish. At the same time, if I screw up a DIY installation, I can always take it in for service. "Here's my bag of parts. It worked before I turned it into parts, can you make it go again?"

Ah, technology. Gotta love it.

Replies: 2 Comments

on Friday, June 2nd, roberthahn said

what about purchasing an external drive & plugging it in via firewire? This is a nice option because you can think of it as a backup drive.

You could further craft a minimal OS X install with a bare minimum of software on the pismo proper, then go all out on the external drive, then use the startup control panel to boot from the partition you want.

on Saturday, June 3rd, mr.ska said

My brother made the exact same suggestion (external drive). My argument against it is that for school I'll need to move it back and forth to and from daily for 10 months. I'm already dependent on the A/C adapter (as my battery is original) and my wifi card is an external one as well. Adding anything more external to my laptop and I may as well just buy an iMac and lug that around.

Besides, having a new HD internally may boost performance somewhat, at least by being able to have more swap space.

Do tell me more about a minimal OS install... I wasn't aware such a thing was an option...

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