Even though their are loads of more powerful laptops out there, the tried and true PowerBook can still be a nerds best friend. I’m running the slowest of the slow 867Mhz 12″ PowerBook. This is the bottom rung of supported hardware for Apple’s latest operating system, Leopard. But I keep chugging away on it. In fact I write most of my blog posts on this machine while out in the living-room after work. Below are a few things you can do to get the most out of your second hand machine.
Max out the RAM
RAM prices are always in a constant free fall until you reach the point where the particular type your machine takes is officially classified as an antique. But for the most part upgrading your RAM is the best bang for the buck. Check out Crucial.com which can help you figure out what type of RAM you need as well as how much it will take to max out your system.
Upgrade Firefox to 3.0
Most of my computer use happens within a browser. Firefox 2 has been a particularly frustrating release filled with memory leaks and sporadic crashes. I found it particularly unstable on Macs, both Intel and PowerPC systems. Firefox 3 is a completely different story with much quicker startups and a more responsive interface. Surfing sites on my pokey PowerBook is a joy once again and not a chore like it used to be. Note: As of this posting Firefox 3 is in beta (See the changes). You have nothing to lose by trying it out and I have been running it for a couple of weeks without a hitch.
Those newer MacBooks and the Air have such a snazzy trackpad that lets you use all sorts of finger gestures to manipulate your windows. PowerBook users can use SideTrack to get at least some of that functionality. The biggest improvement is the ability to use the edges of the trackpad to scroll horizontally and vertically as well as assigning actions to corner taps. The software is fully functional and free with an occasional nag screen or you can purchase the full version for just $15.
If you really want to squeeze out every little drop of available performance then you will need to tweak some settings. First set your desktop background to a solid color instead of a picture. Head into your dock settings and uncheck the ‘Animate opening applications’ option and turn off magnification. If you don’t use Spotlight then consider unchecking all of the categories in the system preferences pane to stop the search program from scanning your hard drive for changes. If you really want to get into the nitty gritty details check out TinkerTool which uncovers hidden menus and options that let you do all sorts of things.
Now with a little sacrificing and tweaking you can get some good use out of your old, trusty Mac. If you found these suggestions helpful or if you know a tip to further spruce up your PowerBook let me know in the comments.