Powerbook Screen distortion...please help me identify the cause

techngro

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Oct 27, 2011
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I apologize if this is in the wrong section, but I didn't see a Powerbook forum.

I haven't owned a Mac since 2009, but I come to this board often to troubleshoot when I am helping my friends/family with their Macs. I now have a Mac myself that was given to me by a family member, and which has a very specific problem that I hope someone will be able to help me identify and fix.

It's a 2004 Powerbook G4 (A1046). It turns on, and I hear the startup chime, but the whole screen is distorted. It's weird because the screen flickers to a normal light blue screen (without any distortion) for just a second when it changes from the boot screen (with the spinning wheel) to the login screen, but then it remains distorted and I can barely make out anything on the screen. The computer works fine otherwise.

Here's a link to my Youtube video showing exactly what is happening. http://youtu.be/Ce7bTYFKrdE (around 0:56 is where you can really see the distortion most clearly).

I tried to see if it was a problem with the OS, but since I don't have an OS X install disc, I tried running a live CD of Linux (PowerPC version). I was able to run the live CD, but the distortion remained throughout. I also tried connecting it to my external monitor, but the same distortion appeared across both screens.

Any possible causes for this you guys can think of, or possible solutions, would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.
 

MrCommunistGen

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Jun 7, 2005
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Tracking the provided "A1046" I found that this is Powerbook5,2 which was initially released in Sept 2003. Due to the age of the hardware it cannot run any MacOS newer than 10.5.8. Very few apps will run on this OS, especially given that the computer is PowerPC based rather than Intel based. For example, the Chrome web browser stopped receiving updates for MacOS 10.5.x at version 21. The latest (beta) version of Chrome available on any Intel based Mac running 10.6.x or higher is version 40.

Based on your description and the video I believe the video card is dying or otherwise malfunctioning. This is why you get distorted output regardless of which OS or display you are using. The flicker where the display looks "normal" could be the card resetting or switching modes. During this period the card could conceivably display picture correctly before going back to malfunctioning.

If it is the video card (or any other hardware problem) there is no cost effective way of repairing it. Spending any money on repairing an 12 year old computer is a complete waste unless you have a specific reason you *MUST* use *THIS* computer. Parts were never readily available for these systems, and at this point anything available will likely be overpriced, and not in much better shape than the laptop you have right now.

Even if you got replacement parts and labor for free, there is likely very little you can do with the laptop due to the limited software it can run and the slowness of the CPU. As an example, many newer websites may not work correctly because the web browser is out of date. You may not be able to use peripherals (like printers) because unless they are of similar age as the computer there will likely be no drivers. Even sycning an iPhone with iTunes won't work on the older MacOS because the latest versions of iTunes require OS 10.6.x

If you really want to use a Mac and are on a tight budget I'd recommend trying to pick up a working used model. An Intel CPU would be a MUST (nothing older than ~2006) but I would strongly suggest not getting anything older than 2010. As of this writing, anything 2010 and newer will still run the latest OS and all of the currently available Mac software.

Sorry for the poor prognosis. Best of luck!
 

MrCommunistGen

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Jun 7, 2005
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18,520
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Tracking the provided "A1046" I found that this is Powerbook5,2 which was initially released in Sept 2003. Due to the age of the hardware it cannot run any MacOS newer than 10.5.8. Very few apps will run on this OS, especially given that the computer is PowerPC based rather than Intel based. For example, the Chrome web browser stopped receiving updates for MacOS 10.5.x at version 21. The latest (beta) version of Chrome available on any Intel based Mac running 10.6.x or higher is version 40.

Based on your description and the video I believe the video card is dying or otherwise malfunctioning. This is why you get distorted output regardless of which OS or display you are using. The flicker where the display looks "normal" could be the card resetting or switching modes. During this period the card could conceivably display picture correctly before going back to malfunctioning.

If it is the video card (or any other hardware problem) there is no cost effective way of repairing it. Spending any money on repairing an 12 year old computer is a complete waste unless you have a specific reason you *MUST* use *THIS* computer. Parts were never readily available for these systems, and at this point anything available will likely be overpriced, and not in much better shape than the laptop you have right now.

Even if you got replacement parts and labor for free, there is likely very little you can do with the laptop due to the limited software it can run and the slowness of the CPU. As an example, many newer websites may not work correctly because the web browser is out of date. You may not be able to use peripherals (like printers) because unless they are of similar age as the computer there will likely be no drivers. Even sycning an iPhone with iTunes won't work on the older MacOS because the latest versions of iTunes require OS 10.6.x

If you really want to use a Mac and are on a tight budget I'd recommend trying to pick up a working used model. An Intel CPU would be a MUST (nothing older than ~2006) but I would strongly suggest not getting anything older than 2010. As of this writing, anything 2010 and newer will still run the latest OS and all of the currently available Mac software.

Sorry for the poor prognosis. Best of luck!
 

techngro

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Oct 27, 2011
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Thank you for the reply. Other persons on another forum I posted this question on also suggested that it is the GPU and that it's not cost effective to try and get replacement parts.

Oh well, I guess I will move on from this Mac. Maybe I'll throw it on Ebay and see if anyone wants it.

Thanks again.
 
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