Charles Moore's Mailbag

What Is a 'Reconditioned' Laptop?, Finding Tiger for an iBook, Pismo Burning Through CPUs, and More

Charles Moore - 2008.02.18 - Tip Jar

What Does Apple Do When It 'Reconditions' a Laptop?

From James:


Has LEM ever featured an article on what, exactly, goes on when Apple "reconditions" a laptop?

I ask this because I'm wondering if LCD replacement is done automatically as part of the "reconditioning" process.

Much to my embarrassment, I recently misread an email I received concerning a "reconditioned" laptop. In my usual crushing stupidity, I mistook "reconditioned" as "refurbished." And I'm afraid I've always been of the understanding that "refurbishment" for consumer electronics is little more than the unit in question receiving a shpritzing with Formula 409.

(Well, not quite that minimal, but nothing all that extensive either.)

Any roads, I would appreciate any light you and the LEM staff could shed on this mysterious (to me) process.


Hi James,

Not to my knowledge, but I don't have encyclopedic recall of the LEM archives.

There is no rigid universal definition of what "refurbished" or "reconditioned" means, and it would vary widely anyway in individual instances depending on the condition of the machine when it entered the process.

However, LCD replacement would not be done unless there was an obvious defect.

For example, this PowerBook G4 I'm typing on was an Apple Certified Refurbished unit and showed no detectable evidence of ever having been used at all. I expect that everything from machines returned with defects, to open box demos and perhaps even some unused remaindered older models enter the Apple Refurbished channel.

Apple says:

Apple Certified Refurbished Products are pre-owned Apple products that undergo Apple's stringent refurbishment process prior to being offered for sale. These products have been returned under Apple's Return and Refund Policies. While only some units are returned due to technical issues, all units undergo Apple's stringent quality refurbishment process.

Each Apple Certified Refurbished Product: is fully tested (including full burn-in testing). is refurbished with replacement parts for any defective modules identified in testing. is put through a thorough cleaning process and inspection. is repackaged (including appropriate manuals, cables, new boxes, etc.). includes the operating software originally shipped with the unit and the custom software offered with that system. See each products "Learn More" for more details. is given a new refurbished part number and serial number. is placed into a Final QA inspection prior to being added to sellable refurbished stock.

Refurbishment procedures follow the same basic technical guidelines as Apple's Finished Goods testing procedures.

However, "reseller refurbished" or "reconditioned" units sold through other channels may have entirely different criteria of what constitutes refurbishment or reconditioning.

Hope this helps,

Where Can I Find Tiger for My iBook?

From Jeff:

Hi Charles,

I ran across your site and am glad someone's doing this.

I have a white, G3, 600 MHz, dual-USB iBook that's, well, old. But I like it! No motherboard problems, ever. The hard drive tanked once, but I survived, and now it's better than ever. 12 compact inches of portable goodness.

But now I need to run applications that use Tiger, and I understand that I can run Tiger on my iBook (after I max out my RAM; currently 384 MB, and 10.2.8). Since I can't buy 10.4 anymore from a Licensed Apple Retailer/Distributor (LARD), I have to get it from someone else (non-LARD).

Am I correct in thinking that the Install disks for an eMac won't work for my iBook? The Install disks aren't created equal, are they? So, what should I be looking for if I go to eBay or elsewhere? Do you know of a source for what I'm looking for?


Hi Jeff,

My wife's 700 MHz G3 iBook is running Mac OS X 10.4.11 beautifully, so I expect you will get very satisfactory performance on your 600 MHz machine.

I do recommend upgrading your RAM to the maximum 640 MB supported. RAM is pretty cheap these days.

Regarding Mac OS X 10.4 install disks, the eMac install disks almost certainly won't work with the iBook (Apple puts a software block in software restore disks), but you should be able to find remaindered generic Tiger install disks on the Web fairly easily - eBay perhaps. However, I'm assuming that your iBook, like ours, has only a plain-vanilla CD-ROM drive, and therein lies a problem. The Tiger install disk is a DVD. (Of course, if your iBook does have a combo drive, you're laughing.)

The workaround for CD-ROM equipped iBooks is to mount another Mac that does have a DVD drive via FireWire Target Disk Mode and use the drive in the other Mac to mount the Tiger install DVD. Just choose your iBook's hard drive as the destination disk for the installer and proceed as normal.

I actually did this "backwards", mounting the iBook from my Pismo PowerBook and installing Tiger that way. It worked out fine, but I now recommend the more orthodox method.


Editor's note: Low End Mac publishes biweekly price trackers for the Classic Mac OS, OS X 10.0-10.3, Tiger, and Leopard. dk

Pismo Processors Burning Out

From Michel:


Here's a bit of advice to those that have a Pismo and want to upgrade their batteries: don't buy them cheap on eBay.

I have just replaced my burnt processor, and a couple of days later, it died again!  I have read somewhere that those cheap batteries would be refurbished (which is okay with me), but instead of changing the chip on it, they use the old one. I don't remember why, but because of that, they would damage the computer.

I have used this battery for a few months before it killed my processor.

I just thought the others should know.


Hi Mike,

Thanks for the cautionary advice.

I had not heard of an issue like this before.

Are you certain that it was the battery that killed your processor (again)?


Certain? No. But that is the only explanation I can come up with.  I have just bought two 400 MHz processors on eBay. I'll test them without my new battery....

Do you know any processor killers? Dead PRAM battery maybe, bad RAM, etc.?


Hi Mike,

Dead PRAM would not kill the processor. Bad RAM would only if it shorted out.

My guess is that there must be some sort of electrical short in your computer that is destroying the processors. Pismo processors are normally very reliable.


From Mike,

Hi Charles,

How about lack of thermal paste on the processor. I'm working on this theory right now. I have played with those processors many time over the years, and I have never paid attention to the thermal paste....

By the way, would you know any cheap G4 upgrade for Pismos? I would not pay $300 to upgrade a PB that is that old. Like many Pismo users, I love mine too.


Hi Mike,

While using a sparing amount of thermal paste is advisable, overheating to a degree that would destroy the processor should be noticeable.

To the best of my knowledge, the least expensive Pismo G4 upgrade is the one offered by Wegener Media, which starts at $199 I have one of these in one of my Pismos and it works great.


Political Discussion on Low End Mac

From James:


I am writing in regards to the thread running thru LEM in the vein of "Lib's are this, Rep's are that..." You had said that only one person had objected to the politics on the site. So I thought I would throw my hat in. I do not believe that being in one camp or the other makes you more inclined to buy a certain computer, drive a certain car, or drink a certain overpriced coffee than the other.

If there is one thing that should unite us in the face of everything else we believe to be our morals and ideals is that we love Macs. Simple. Why find more differences in other people on something that should bring us together. It's bad enough when I hear the stereotypes people give Mac owners if they are not into them. "Oh, they are so high priced, only rich art majors use them."

Baloney, I'm a lower middle class black guy who scrapes his pennies to get my hands on a used Mac every couple years. Not because I think it sets me in a better class of people. It's because I love the interface and stability of the platform. Because I love the sense of community I get when I find other enthusiast in my day to day workings. And to see others trying to segregate and declare that more of one type of people use the platform than another... To tell the truth, it makes me a bit sad. There is no way we can foster open discussion and exchange tips and info if we alienate people before they even get a chance to put their toes in the water so to speak.

Sorry I ran on so long, but I have read your page and this site for a long time. Most of the hardware I have bought have been on recommendations I have seen on this site. But I can't see how these kind of discussions contribute to the site.


Hi James,

I agree with you that political persuasions are not determinant of one's choice of computer platform, and that was essentially my argument in the column that initiated this discussion.

It's undeniable that demographic categories that tend to be liberal are strongly represented on the Mac, but so are an awful lot of conservatives Mac-users, and a lot of liberals use Windows PCs.

I use the Mac because it's a great tool that does what I need it to do more elegantly than I think Windows or Linux would, not as a political statement.

However, the "Macs are liberals' computers" trope has been out there for a long time and seems to show no signs of going away any time soon. And, of course, Steve Jobs is self-described as a liberal Democrat, and Al Gore is on the Apple board. Those matters, as well as the market research study I was addressing in my column, are topical in the Mac community, and I think fair ball for discussion on LEM.

Even within a single party context, the Mac vs. PC dialectic has a way of showing up. Check out this New York Times piece: Is Obama a Mac and Clinton a PC?


From James

I agree with you on all points. My contention is that we know these things are going to happen more frequently, since we are in a political season in this country, and we will be bombarded everywhere we go for the near future with things like the link above shows. I was just saying I would hope it would not take up too big a space in the mailbag in this site. Course I'm not helping by replying, but it would be rude of me not to.

Hi James,

I appreciate your courtesy and I agree with you that neither LEM nor the Mailbag should become routine political debate forums. (Horrors!)

However, what does one do with Mac-relevant and topical stories like Rush Limbaugh's public appeal to Steve Jobs last week? ;-)


Regarding Politics on Low End Mac

From Brian:

I respectfully disagree with Adam's email about politics on Low End Mac. Although politics and political discussions usually make my eyes glaze over and have me ready to hit the back button on Safari, I applaud you for your efforts to introduce more than just the "normal" commentary regarding Macs and Mac users.

There's always a place on Low End Mac for these and other kinds of unique discussions, as they will always center on us, the Mac user. My hat's off to you, even when I cringe when I see the labels "liberal" and "conservative" :)

Keep up the great work!


Thanks for the vote of confidence, Brian!


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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at and a columnist at If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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