Replacing the keyboard on a G4 iBook

2008-09-07

in Daily updates, Economics, Geek stuff

Back in April, I managed to spill coffee on the keyboard of my 14″ iBook, disabling a number of keys. Now, I have managed to return it to functionality for less cost than anticipated.

The authorized Apple repair places in Ottawa wanted $45 just to diagnose the problem – specifically, to determine if the failure lay in the keyboard itself or the logic board it connects to. Replacing the keyboard would then cost extra for parts and labour. Replacing the logic board would be quite a significant expense, largely because the machine would have to be seriously taken apart.

Instead of taking it into a shop, I bought a replacement keyboard on eBay for about $30. Had it been a logic board issue, I would have diagnosed it myself for a lesser cost, which could have been further reduced by re-selling the replacement keyboard. As it happens, the new keyboard works fine. The process of installing it is pretty straightforward:

  1. Shut down computer. Remove power cord and battery.
  2. Lift plastic tabs at the top of the keyboard so it can swing upward towards you. Lay the partially removed keyboard flat across the area with the touchpad.
  3. Ground yourself by touching something metal, to prevent static shock to the components.
  4. If present, remove the AirPort card by gently pulling it towards the screen. Gently remove the plug connecting it to the motherboard.
  5. Use a tiny screwdriver to remove the four tiny screws holding down the aluminum plate under the space where an AirPort card goes.
  6. Lift off that plate.
  7. Pull the keyboard connector out of the motherboard. In my experience, it takes a moderate amount of force to make it disconnect.
  8. Position the new keyboard where the old one was, lying keys-down on the trackpad area.
  9. Plug the new keyboard into the logic board, as before.
  10. Replace the aluminum plate. Replace the four screws.
  11. If present, replace the AirPort card by plugging the connector into it, then clicking it back where it was previously.
  12. Place the keyboard back in its normal position, allowing the tabs to click it into place.

I am always suspicious that stuff I buy on eBay is counterfeit. This keyboard certainly looks identical to the old one. I am less sure about the sounds and feeling of the keys, but that may just be because I had grown used to how an old keyboard feels, followed by the feeling of Apple’s nice new aluminum external keyboards.

The replacement keyboard is definitely squeakier than would be ideal (particularly in terms of the spacebar). Hopefully, it will mellow with use.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Verena September 7, 2008 at 1:59 pm

Hi Milan,
do you know, if it is the same procedure with a Mac Book? Have to do it too and they charge over 140 Dollars in the Apple store just for labour hours. Thanks, Verena

Milan September 7, 2008 at 2:39 pm

Verena,

The iBook keyboards are easy to replace because they come off in one piece. You just pull back two plastic tabs and they lift right off. This PDF shows that I mean:

iBook G4 Mid 2005 Keyboard Replacement Instructions Do It Yourself

I don’t know what is involved in disassembling a MacBook. This YouTube video may be helpful:

How to replace the Keyboard and Trackpad on an Apple MacBook

Milan September 7, 2008 at 2:39 pm

Does your laptop have Bluetooth support? If so, it will work with Apple’s excellent wireless keyboard.

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