Supersize your Powerbook 3400

Or, Budget Bookin'

(Go to Links here.)

Disclaimer:  I am NOT an Apple repairman, nor an employee of Apple in any way, shape, or form.  I am a powerbook user that likes to get the most bang for my buck.  What advice you take from this page you take at your own risk, because not only do I not have much money for my machine, I also don't have ANY money for yours.


     You're at home, busily typing away while all your friends are hanging out at the local coffeeshop.  You wish you could be with them, but you gotta finish that paper for class tomorrow...  and 8600's don't pack well.  What do you do?  For a little money you can take it with you.  This is what I have done to take a moderately priced machine, the pb 3400, and turn it into a portable multimedia superpower.

What I've Made:

     Here are the current specs on my little buddy; these are updated as upgrades continue.  3400c/200, OS 8.6, 144 megs RAM, 20 gig HD, floppy expansion, 6x cd expansion, 20x cd expansion, scsi, adb, stereo sound in and out (out to 2 powered flat speakers and a subwoofer), serial, svga out, infared, 2 batteries and zoomed video in via iRez Capsure card or Kritter.  Additionally, I have mechanically disabled the sleep when shut (so the book can be used as a portable cd player while stashed in its bag), made my own BicLite (see your keyboard in the dark for $2.49) and have an adapter to connect my guitar (the Martin Backpacker, of course) to my book for recording.  Current projects are:

The Basics:

     First of all, you will need to find a 3400.  Although I bought a 3400/200, other models are available (3400/180, 3400/240).  Obviously I would recommend the 240 MHz machine if you can find one at a reasonable price.  Reasonable in this case is around $500; with the new G4 powerbook release, the prices on its predecessors should drop to a new low.  Here are some links to some sites where you may find a good deal:

     When purchasing your p'book, ensure that you are getting the whole deal; you should get a power adapter and a Lithium battery, a floppy drive and a cd rom for the expansion bay, the internal modem/ethernet card, and some kind of memory and hard drive.  As you will see later, the size on these isn't really all that important.  If you can get it right off the bat with 144 megs you can add about $100 to the "reasonable price".  Add $30 per spare battery, too.

Prepararing Your Tools and Parts for Surgery:

     It's time to get ready to take your book apart.  I know this sounds like a huge deal, but let's face it, it's 2001 and your warrantee expired a long time ago.  Take a walk on the wild side just once and remember that there is a goal in mind.  If you are just not good at taking stuff apart, maybe you can trade your friend from work a 12 pack to do it for you...  Give it to him/her AFTER the book is back together, though.  You will need to shop around and find a Torx T-8 wrench; it looks like a screwdriver with a funny star-shaped end.  This was somewhat difficult to find, as Radio Shack seems bent on selling just cell phones and robot dogs these days, but the wrenches are available from a number of electronics parts wholesalers.  I got mine in Santa Maria, CA while visiting my parents, and if you can find one there you can find one anywhere.  (OK, maybe not.  Alaskan readers please e-mail me and I will try to get one up to you.)  If you have carpeting or live in a particularly dry area (like Santa Maria) get an antistatic wrist strap as well.  There's a big difference between risky and foolhardy.
     Now it's time to get your powerbook's new organs... go to and you will find a link to laptop hard drives.  You want an IBM Travelstar; 10 gig, 20 gig, 30 gig, whatever you can afford.  Mine is a 20 gig; I picked it up for $205 from Team Excess here in San Diego.  The Travelstars feature excellent shock resistance and are a great value.  Mine also seems a lot faster than the 2 gig I pulled out.  This is only a recommendation; you should be able to use any 2.5 inch ATA compatible drive at or below 17 mm in height.
     A reader mentioned one point that I had accidently left out.  If you up your drive to greater than 3 gigs, NEVER EVER use it in SCSI dock mode.  This apparently fries the hard drive.  Apple knows about this and never planned for such big drives to be put in the 3400's, so there will be no fix.
     eBay seems to be the only place to get the 128 megs for under $250.  Check with Ramseeker if you would rather buy from a retailer.  My RAM cost me $130, but the first one I received didn't work.  Luckily, the seller had another one that did, and we swapped.  (Wipe the beads of sweat off my forehead!)  You are looking for 128 Megs of RAM for either the 3400 or the original G3 powerbook (kanga).  The connection on this memory is proprietary; you can't just pick up some cheapo RAM at Fry's, 'cuz it won't fit.
     You are going to need an OS CD for the recovery phase of this operation...  I went with OS 8.6, and if that's what you want I wish you luck.  Noone has it in stock and it's selling on eBay for twice the price of OS 9.  I hear claims that 9, with all of its bells and whistles, is almost as fast as 8.6, but I wouldn't have it.  I'm after stability, compatibility and speed.  OS 8.6 had all of these things.  The payback for the $80 I shelled out for that one is the higher quality video capturing and Quicktime playback.  If 9 is all you can get, I suppose that's OK.

Preparing Your Book:

     If you just got your book, you can probably skip this section.
     OK, please tell me you have an internet connection.  If you are borrowing a friend's computer right now or just surfing at work and don't, now is the time to get one.  I am at this point going to recommend Earthlink and ask you to tell them that I referred you (  This will get me free months.  But on the plus side FOR YOU, I have never gotten a busy signal and I have local dialup numbers no matter where I take my book.  Plus, it doesn't throw all of that annoying "you don't really know what you're doing so we'll do it for you" software onto your system.  Take the time to learn a little about ftp, how e-mail really works, what browser plug-ins are, etc. so you can use an ISP (Internet Service Provider) that just connects you and gives you an IP.  You should be able to take it from there.  A few friends of mine are using free ISP's, but I can't recommend them because they are constantly having connection difficulties.  Oh yeah, and they gotta watch endless mind-numbing ads...
     Use your internet connection now to email to yourself all that you want to save off of your hard drive.  This is things like registration codes, browser bookmarks, address books, etc.  Anything that you are not comfortable sending via e-mail is going to have to go to floppy (unless you're lucky enough to have a Zip or a CDRW), which is incredibly slow.  I opted to use the net for saving stuff.  If your ISP won't let you send mail to yourself use yahoo or hotmail (<- more on Microsoft later...) to get a free account and send it to your new account.
     Find your installation software for everything.  It's all going to have to be reinstalled on your new hard drive.  Trust me, this is a very painful process for a few hours (or days) but the end result is a stable, hard-working machine.

The Operation Begins:

     Scalpel... errr, T-8, please.  Turn your book off (full shutdown from on, not just sleep).  Disconnect the power adapter and remove the battery and the expansion bay device.  Close the lid and flip the book over.  On the bottom of your book you will find 3 screws that fit the T-8 wrench.  Unscrew these and be sure not to drop them and lose them.  They sometimes unscrew all the way without coming out; flipping the book lid-side up and jostling it a bit will help the screws to change their minds about staying put.  Lid side up now, open the lid.  The keyboard is now loose.  If you push in on the space bar you can get under one of the adjacent keys and then gently pull the keyboard gently up (gently) from the side nearest the trackpad.  Once you have cleared the palmrest (the front part with the trackpad on it) you can (gently, gently) pull the keyboard toward you enough to slip the retaining plastic out at the screen-side of the keyboard.  You will notice that all that holds the keyboard to the book now are two orange-colored plastic wires; you can disconnect these (see Disconnecting the Keyboard/Trackpad) or alternately just rest the keyboard against the screen with no strain on these wires.  The keyboard is pretty much out of the way for all the remaining surgery.
     Touch big metal pieces!  This will ground you.  If you bought an antistatic wrist strap, use it now!  The big metal pieces that you see are grounded.  The optimal place to ground yourself is on the mid-right side of where the keyboard used to be (under [h],[j],[k], etc).  Touching your powerbook here will make it very happy.
     ***Important side note:  Now is a good time to check for a fix that Apple implemented for 3400's with memory expansions.  Under the [ctrl], [option] and [apple] keys should be a little piece of single sided sticky foam tape.  The single sided sticky foam tape is sticky sided to the underside of the keyboard.  The function of the single sided sticky foam tape is to keep the expansion RAM in place even when you play catch with your 3400 (although this is not recommended).  If there is not a piece of single sided sticky foam tape taped to the underside of these keys, put one there, even if you don't plan on playing catch with your little book buddy.
     There is another solution to the RAM unseating problem, discovered by Wozinak himself.  If you can't get any single sided sticky foam tape (Home Depot, Ace Hardware, True Value, probably Walmart...), check this site.
     You can now access the RAM expansion area, but the hard drive is still out of reach.  To get to the hard drive, you have to remove the palmrest.  It's not really going to want to come off, but that's actually a good thing.  You don't want your palmrest falling off in the middle of a level of Diablo.  And imagine how embarrasing that would be in the middle of a business conference.  I can see it now, all those suit people mumbling under their breaths, "he/she should have bought a Viao".  Bad thing.
     If you look at the upper edge of the palmrest, there is a stylish horizontal line heading both directions from the trackpad clicker.  The trick to getting this apart is to push the bottom right part in (under the line, where the battery used to be...  you did take the battery out, right?  Take the battery out!) while pulling toward yourself from behind the palmrest above the line.  Behind the palmrest in this case is inside the book, where the battery was.  As you pull the book apart, bring the top part up.  You will hear a satisfying click, kinda like the sound your remote control makes after a successful battery change.  This noise is genetically attributed to happy plastic and is distinctly different from the plastic "pop", which means you pulled the top up too hard without bringing it toward you and just broke a retaining plastic piece or two.  This clicking (and be sure you click and don't pop) can be continued around the front to the trackpad.  Then start at the other end.  The end-points of this piece are at the screen-end of the battery area and just short of the pcmcia slots where you see a plastic line "cross" (ie. +  ).  If you lift the plastic above the pcmcia slots, the palmrest section can pop... I mean click, out around to the trackpad from the other direction.  Eventually, the palmrest is loose.  Again, you have options at this point.  You can disconnect the trackpad (see Disconnecting the Keyboard/Trackpad) or just kinda lay the palmrest over where the keyboard is supposed to be.  Now would also be a good time to disable the lid's sleep when shut function, if you are so inclined.
     OK, now we see the hard drive!  It's where your left palm rests when you type.  It needs to be unscrewed to remove it, so do that now. WAIT, first lemme remind you that there are a lot of loose parts right now so you want to be extra careful not to drop those screws into the motherboard area when removing them.  OK, now do that. WAIT!  I should also probably tell you that you want to loosen the 3 silver screws along the closest edge, NOT the 4 black screws that hold the hard drive to its bracket.  OK, go ahead.
     Now the aluminum bracket is loose; it can be (have I used the word gently too many times?) lifted straight up.  Now unscrew the 4 black screws that hold in the hard drive.  Don't let the bracket or the drive fall on the motherboard.  There are a few mounting configurations for the hard drive; your new Travelstar may or may not match the original hard drive's.  Mine didn't, but all I had to do was cut the plastic sheet that sits between the drive and the bracket to allow the 4 screws to hold the new drive.  I'm pretty sure this piece of plastic is kinda important, because the hard drive has an impressive number of little circuit lines running all over the place, so in order for the drive to work you probably don't want the drive mount to short anything out.  I guess.  Unplug the old drive, match plugs and plug in the new drive.  Don't force it; it will only go in one way, so if it doesn't, look at what you are doing and think back to that preschool toy with the round holes and the square pegs...  OK.  Now put the plastic (altered or not, whatever you gotta do) back between the drive and the bracket, screw the drive to the bracket (the 4 black screws), and screw the bracket back to the casing (3 silver screws).
     Whew!  Almost done.  The hard part is over.  You can now replace the palmrest, and know that you won't have to take it off again for a long time.  You're packing 30 gigs now, right?  OK, 20?  10?  That's still a lot.  Oh, I guess maybe you will take it off again to disable the "sleep when lid closes" switch, or to replace the bus frequency crystal to overspeed your processor (a $5 upgrade for a 5% speed gain) or just as a party trick.  For now, though, let's finish the operation.
     Insert the new RAM card.  That'll give you 144 megs.  I regularly run Netscape Communicator, Appleworks 6, Adobe Photoshop 5 and whatever other programs I forgot to close simultaneously without a problem.  You're going to like 144 Megs, and your book will love you for it.
     Remember how you got the keyboard out?  It goes in the reverse way.  Slip in the plastic retainers under the screen side of the case, then (gently) lay down the space bar end.  Your keyboard is loose still, so if you flip the book over to screw in the 3 screws the keyboard will fall out.  (Voice of experience)  Just leave the book right side up, with the lid open, tilt it back towards the lid side until you can fit a screw into its hole and the wrench to turn it.  Pressing the keyboard toward the screw that you are putting in first is very helpful, the other two are generally not a problem.  Your book is together!
     Put the battery back in, plug in the power adapter, get your OS CD out; here comes the hardest part- System Reinstallation.

The Recovery Room:

     OK, put your cd rom into the expansion bay.  Press the power button.  (Most likely nothing will happen unless you use [apple][ctrl][ power ])  Your book will make a few noises, like it's trying to figure out what the heck just happened.  Let it take it all in, and remember that its internal organs have been violated.  That takes getting used to.  Eventually you will boot off the cd, because the hard drive has no OS to boot.  Your mac will probably tell you that the new disk is unreadable.  Whether it does or not, reformat the drive and install apple drivers.  Once formatting is complete and before you start shovelling applications and OS's on the drive, PARTITION IT!  You've got a lot of gigs in there now; I recommend at least splitting it in half.  There are a lot of reasons for this, which I am not going to get into here.  What you want to do with your mac will determine your number and size of partitions.  I chose 4; a main drive w/the OS and most common app's, an internet drive for downloads/internet apps, a photo drive and a really big video editing drive.  If you don't partition now you will kick yourself later when you have to start all over again with application installations because the whole drive is bad.  Better to just lose a portion; at least then you can still boot.  More info on partitioning can be found here.
     The rest is a software game.  Install your OS, then your applications, then get back online and download your mail to yourself.  Restore all your address books and bookmarks, customize your apple menu, make a new fonts folder called "spare fonts" and download 2,000 fonts.  (Just don't put all 2,000 in your system fonts folder!!!)  Be decadent.  You've got more room now than most of your G3 cousins.  Your book is going to act funny for a few days while things straighten out, but after 5 days all the glitches, bugs, bombs and freezes ended for me.

     Speaking of which:  When you install your operating system the easy install will install Internet Explorer.  I've got nothing personal against Microsoft, I'm sure a lot of them are very nice people, but when I have IE or Works or Word or anything Microsoft related on my Mac, it crashes or freezes.  When I keep it all off, it doesn't.  I like to custom install and not install IE.  I think that's all I want to say about that.

     The reason I say that software reinstallation is the hardest part is that the hardware stuff is straightforward.  You plug it in and screw it together.  Not much else to do.  But software likes to play this little game with you; you know you didn't break anything, that the computer is rebuilt well.  But software makes you doubt yourself.  For a few days your mac will just hang up.  Why?  Only Steve knows...  or maybe he doesn't.  Whatever.  If you followed these instructions your mac is together the way it should be, and don't let the software trick you into breaking the thing apart again, because that just starts it all over again.  If you do the math that means the game will never end.  So unless your keyboard won't let you type, didn't let you type at all after you were done putting the book back together and you REALLY can't remember if the keyboard came unplugged, just leave it alone and deal with the crashes.  Use [ctrl] [apple] [power]; eventually your mac will get past this little problem and you will be crash and hang-up free.  Enjoy!

Disabling the Lid's "Sleep when Shut" Function:

     I like to listen to music.  I think a lot of other people do, too.  So when I am on the go, I want to listen to CD's.  Not a problem, right?  I have my 3400 with me, and it will play my CD's for me.  All I have to do is put a CD in and it will start playing.  Plug in a set of headphones and I won't bother anyone else.  Shut the lid, put my book in its bag and be on my way.  Wait a minute!  The CD stopped playing!  What's going on?  I open the lid, and the computer is asleep?!?  I have spent numerous hours on the web looking for a soft fix for this, and I can't find one anywhere.  So here's my solution.  When you have the palmrest loose, it might be a good time to do this.  However, remember that this will really screw people that don't remember that their book is on...  Your battery will eventually die, and unless you have a spare (I do) your book is just a bulky paperweight.  Unscrew the T-8 screw (apparently Apple got a volume discount; makes the tooling really simple, though!) holding the sleep switch in place.  It is located at the end of the palmrest, just to the side of the trackpad.  Once unscrewed, use your Sleep-when-shut disabling tool (see pic's) to snip the end of the switch off.  This is not a reversable change, so be sure you really want to do this before you squeeze the tool.  Screw the defunct switch back into place, reassemble the book and now you've got a CD player in your bag!
     *****Warning:  this switch not only puts your book to sleep, it also keeps it asleep.  I have had my 3400 wake up on me a number of times just sitting in my bag.  The keys hit the lid, it wakes up, etc.  I'm OK with this, as I LOVE having a computer/CD player/tv/camera/etc...  if you are not, I would recommend against this reconfiguration to your book, as it is VERY VERY difficult to reverse.

Disconnecting the Keyboard/Trackpad:

     The keyboard and trackpad both have these little orange wire looking things that connect them to the motherboard.  It looks like they just plug in and pull out and that's half right.  Under strain, the cable will pull out, but that's not really the right way to do things.  If you look closely where the wires interface with the motherboard, there's a plug-in with a little wire lock on it.  The lock is disengaged by lifting up on both sides.  Then the wire goes in, out, in, out, easy as pie.  Hmmm.  Now put the wire in the way it came out (or look at the picture) and push that little lock down.  Not going anywhere, is it?  Well, yeah, you're right.  If you pull that hard it will come out, but just try and get that little mother in there with the lock engaged.  This will not happen, no matter how many cups of coffee you drink.  Quick fix:  disengage the lock as described above.  Now it goes in again!  Isn't microprocessor-based technology fun?

I hope that you have found this information helpful, and I wish all you fellow powerbook 3400 users good luck with your Supersizing...

I want a job!  Obviously I have way too much free time on my hands if I have done all of these modifications to my P-book... My resume is located at my homepage.

Go back to my homepage here...

Quick links:

Disable the lid's sleep when shut function.

Connecting/disconnecting the keyboard to the motherboard.

Make your own BicLite, an ADB-powered keyboard light so you can type in the dark.


This page created on a Macintosh Powerbook 3400 using Netscape Composer