buying used ibook need help


I want to buy a used ibook to use as a dedicated writing platform that I can lug around with me. I’ve looked at ebay until my eyes are about to cross, and I realize that I don’t know what I’m doing. Can you advise me?

Here are my questions:

  1. Is a g3 enough computer for a Curio, Scrivener, Mellel, Bookends, Word combo? (I would prefer to use Word '08, but I have '04 if that’s what works.)

  2. How much ram is enough to run this without making me crazy?

  3. Is that airport thing necessary to get/send emails?

  4. Aren’t those 10g hard drives too small for this?

  5. If the computer comes with panther, can I use the disks that I got with my imac to upgrade it to tiger?

  6. Do you have any advice for buying on ebay?

Thanks–as always–for your help.


Hazard! Hazard!

Don’t do anything until Keith or Amber answer this query.

G3 means OSX 10.2 if you know how to install it and it’s tricky. You really need OSX 10.4 (Tiger) or OSX 10.5 (Leopard) for Scrivener.

So just hold off for a bit.

10G is WAY too small.


Hi, and welcome to Mac Land. As LL has warned, get a more recent PB and at least the Tiger OS (10.4) to run a recent version of Scrivener and the other software you mentioned.

On Airport, that’s a wireless router, meaning it conveys a cable modem signal to multiple computers at a site, if they are capable of receiving the signal. Most recent Mac laptops have built-in Airport support. A Mac will also receive wireless signals from other types of routers, which are often cheaper. If you are using a dial-up connection, there’s no need to buy an Airport router. See the Apple Support site for more information on Airport.

I have Tiger on my iBook and it works fine. The trick is that you MUST have all the RAM you can put on the machine. In the case of my 500 Mhz, that’s 640MB. Also, I installed it using Target mode from my Powerbook since the iBook doesn’t have a DVD reader on it. You’ll need to do that, too, if the notebook you buy: 1) doesn’t have at least Tiger on it and you want to install it, and 2) doesn’t have a DVD reader (doesn’t need a DVD writer). You’ll also need a firewire cable (USB won’t work in this instance).

That said, you will have an easier time of it with a newer model, as LL said, so imo, get the most recent model you can afford.

Some other things that might help:

  • make sure the battery works (if it doesn’t, you can get a replacement, but it will add to the total cost)

  • make sure it has an airport card inside. Sometimes an iBook is listed as “airport card ready” which means it doesn’t have one. You can buy a used one to put in, but they are both scarce and pricey.

  • again, max out the RAM if at all possible. This is especially true of older models.

An airport card inside the iBook is necessary to receive wireless. In the iBook series, this is a physical card that needs to be plugged in inside the machine (if it isn’t already there). I believe (but don’t know for sure) that other models of Powerbooks and more recent laptops all have it built in without it being a physical card.

I’ve swapped out airport cards in the past and its quite doable, but only if you are comfortable messing around inside a laptop. (Sounds like you’re not, so just make sure it’s in the machine and working before buying.)

A 10GB hard drive is small, but if you keep it lean you should be fine. I have a 14GB and have over 7GB free, and that’s with a few applilcations on it that I really don’t need. (Tried them out and didn’t remove them.)

Tiger installs Safari (for web browsing) and all the other things you might need. The other apps I have that I use is Scrivener and Writeroom. I keep my iBook uncluttered with personal stuff - no iPhoto or much music - but that’s because this is a go-out-and-write machine.

As to ebay, well, I’m not an ebay maven by any means, but I would recommend only buying from someone with lots of very positive reviews. I know - DUH! - but be sure and skim through them - don’t just look at the number - and make sure that the reviews are not all alike (in the sense that one person is faking them).

I hope this helps. Good luck!


These replies have been an enormous help. Thanks to all of you for your generous help!



I own an iBook G3 with 800 MHz speed and 640 KByte RAM. Scrivener runs fine (on Tiger), NeoOffice is too slow for serious work - don’t know about Word, Curio, etc.

There is one caveat, though: I lost one iBook because of a logic board failure. And this seems to be very common. Repairing the iBook would have cost me almost double the price I paid for the used iBook. So, do only buy a used iBook if the original logic board had been replaced.

Although I love my iBook because it is so small and (relatively) light-weight, the screen is a bit small. I use the iBook mainly for writing; for organisational work and for editing, I prefer Scrivener on my Mac Mini and its 20" screen.


I’m sure someone hereabouts will correct me if this is wrong, but I think I read that the widespread logic board failures were generally confined to the G3 iBooks. I had both the G3 and G4 iBooks and never experienced problems with either, but I’d probably go with a G4 if you can find one. I agree that the small, non widescreen ratio would make using Scrivener and other two- or three-panel apps more difficult, which is a big reason why I switched from a 12" to a 15" PowerBook. But Keith has often noted that he developed Scrivener on an iBook.

Scrivener is my primary concern. When I posted this originally, I put down every software I have that pertains to writing. I mainly use Curio for brainstorming, and not just for my writing. I can see myself wanting to think something through when I’m out and about, as well as when I’m at home.

However, if the machine will run Scrivener, Mellel and Bookends, it will handle just about everything I can see myself doing in the next few months. I will also need to have Word and Entourage up and usable, but I would guess that will be fine, whatever I buy.

Writing this book is a gift I give myself. I’m not like the rest of you. I make my living in an another kind of work entirely.

I want to thank you again for all the help you’ve given me, on this and other topics. I love these forums. I come here just to read your comments about different things and learn from them all the time.


There are more folks that are “pleasure” writers on the forums than you might imagine (I am a computer geek by profession). Some of us may make money while writing (not me) but even those who are professional writers enjoy writing. Well most of them do anyway. :wink:

Anyone know why vic-k hangs out here? :stuck_out_tongue:

I use Scr. just fine on a 12" screen. Like Keith, I love this little computer. I plan to upgrade soon to a MBP, but not for any reason pertaining to Scr. use (need more power, lots more power, to work with large video and audio files). I love my G4 iBook and would recommend it to anyone. I would hesitate to purchase a G3. I remember years ago buying a cheap used laptop to use on the road and it was virtually obsolete the day I bought it. I could hardly use it. I think a G4 is a much safer bet longer term.


Monsieur Jaysen,

Even the fool whos brain I share, doesnt know the answer to that question.
However, my kinky electro-convulsive therapist amoureux( :smiling_imp:),does have a theory. She believes he is compiling a database of characters, along with their personality traits and defects, gleaned from the posts of the Scivernerati :open_mouth:

Le Directeur

I see. We are becoming the data set for a psychological thrill… What am I thinking? If we are part of a thriller then we will be loosing a few members. I don’t think Keith would approve.

Anywhoo I wonder exactly what the ratio of folks who write exclusively for a living to the rest of us is?

I need to be careful or KB will move this to another thread

Yes, I would definitely agree about choosing a G4 over a G3 if you can afford it.

Also, I’d highly recommend going to the web sites of the software you want to run and seeing what their requirements are. Some newer apps require more RAM than my little G3 can handle.

Somehow, my message did not come through! Problems with the website? I’ll try again.

All these programmes run well on my iBook G4 1.2 Ghz with 1.25 Gb RAM. Well, I don’t use Scrivener to be honest - did test it, to be sure, but I’m here because I was looking for a keyboard and came to this forum as a result; I’m using Ulysses instead and apologise for any offence if taken. Nor do I own Curio, but I did try it out. I do own Mellel, and prefer BibDesk instead of Bookends because I’m a LaTeX user (and BibDesk is free). I’m using some rather memory-intensive apps (DevonThink Pro Office, the most demanding in terms of memory); Tinderbox, Daylite, Skim, Bibdesk, Vienna and several others, I rarely have less then 10 apps running at one and the same time. But that is on the wonderfully silent iBook G4 with the RAM i could afford—the last thing on which you should be saving money.

I will sell my iBook quite soon—because I am running out of space (60Gb is not nearly enough for me), and because my work will fund a new purchase. I previously owned the Wallstreet G3—a great computer in terms of design, unrivalled by its G4 and Intel successors, but in my opinion not enough to run today’s apps. I tried—it was too dear to me not to. If you have to use a G3, invest in lots of memory—but many apps may require OSX 10.4 at the very least, which a G3 will not run without patches, and always without any guarantees. I’d bet on the G4 at the very least.