Getting The Most Out Of A PowerBook 1400

1400.jpgI’ve always been a PC kind of guy…

It’s not that I’m one of those “Apple sux, PC’s rule” people, but I’ve always enjoyed being able to get my hands dirty with my OS and up until the advent of OS X, anything from Apple just didn’t allow the end user a “hands-in” experience. Despite this, I recently purchased a gently used PowerBook 1400c on eBay and I now know much more about the Mac OS than I ever thought I would or could. This isn’t really a “how to” in the classic sense; it’s more of a “how NOT to lose your sanity” than anything else.

First, here are the reasons why I bought a seven year old laptop that has all the speed of an original Pentium:

1. It’s upgradeable (you can put a G3 in it for $200).
2. They’re cheap (mine ended up costing $80).
3. They’re still useful (you can surf, email, and word process… not bad for the price).
4. They come recommended.

Secondly, here are things you should know if you’re considering a PB1400:

1. If it’s a 1400C it has an active matrix screen. The 1400CS has a dual-scan passive matrix screen.
2. The machine came in three speeds: 117Mhz, 133Mhz, & 166Mhz. I have the 117Mhz and it’s painfully slow.
3. If you don’t have an original PB1400 install CD, you can not install OS 7.5.3! (This has been the biggest headache for me and my PB1400… Apple offers the full OS 7.5.3 install for free on their web site, but does not offer the PB1400 Enabler file.)
4. eBay might be the easiest way to get a RAM upgrade, but it is not the cheapest.
5. OS 8.6, the OS many PB1400 enthusiasts consider to be the “sweet spot”, requires 24 Megs of RAM.
6. Unlike all other PowerBooks where you only hold down the C key, to boot from CD you need to hold down the command, option, shift and delete keys.

Third, here are some vital PB1400 links:

1. PowerBook 1400 FAQ #1
2. PowerBook 1400 FAQ #2
3. How to use an inexpensive 3Com PC ethernet PCMCIA card in your PB1400
4. – The PowerBook 1400
5. OS 7.5.3
download for free (sans the PB1400 enabler)
6. Updates for all the Classic OS’s
updates are crucial

11 Replies to “Getting The Most Out Of A PowerBook 1400”

  1. i remember my PB1400. I’ve been an apple man since day one. apple’s are great. compare the PB1400 to a Toshiba satelite pro from the same year, they dont match up. definitely run OS8.6, you can also make it dual bootable with Yellow Dog linux 2.2 if you want to. You should be able to hold down the Option key on start up to choose to boot from the CD, or hold down Cmd+C. If you put the G3 in it, upgrade to OS 9.2.1 and you should be set. OS X.1.5 will run on it, but it would be painfully slow because OSX needs at least 64mb of ram minimum.

  2. I had my Powerbook 1400 as a replacement for my Powerbook 145B that was stolen.
    Cannot say I am much impressed with the machine: although the processor is much faster than my 7200, it feels cosiderately slower: the video is really slow as molasses.
    There is also the extremely annoying fact that it cannot record audio. It cannot keep up with a normal 44.1 stereo steam, which ens up full of glitches and clicks… That’s *really* sub standard performance!
    There’s also a bug that makes it enter energy conservation mode after 10 minutes on batteries, and dims the already abysmally dim screen futhermore…


  3. I had a PB 1400 CS 117. It was one of the most reliable laptops I’ve ever had. Eventually upgraded to G3 with a Sonnet card – but that reduced battery life to around 30 minutes.

    Gave it away to a colleague when I upgraded to a coloured iBook.

    Great machine – thoroughly recommended.

  4. I got a PB1400CS/133 which runs OS 8.6 and it is really fast !
    I have 48MB RAM and a 2GB drive.

    The only problem is the passive matrix panel…

    I will install mklinux shortly.

  5. what can be done in regards to using it for something audio related. I no longer have use of my Ethernet card so getting anythin off the machine is impossible. Maybe someone knows about a good stand alone plugin or something . PLEASE HELP

  6. How can I make working my PB 1400c 117 with an Agere wifi pc card? do I need pc card manager? Please help me

  7. I just got myself a powerbook 1400 to try out mac OS and come across your site.. I have some questions.. How do you check the OS version and other specifications of the laptop like RAM and processor speed? I also have some questions about the battery reconditioning program.. I tried running it and some buzzing sound appeared while the screen turned fuzzy..Is it supposed to be like that?


  8. prologik- to check out the os version just click on the apple menu in the upper left hand corner and select “about this computer”, but I think to find out the processor speed you have to select “apple system profiler” in the apple menu. As for the battery reconditioning program, I had the same type of thing happen the first time I ran it, but I tried a different battery and it worked fine (a dialogue box came up and said that reconditioning was successful) . I haven’t tried the first battery again. I don’t believe that the buzzing is normal. Hope this helps.

  9. Yes, I was wondering if someone could tell me what the problem might be with regard to the battery in my PB1400cs. I used the reconditioning program and got a rather unnerving buzzing sound. The dialogue read “recondition successful”,but every since then the battery meter display doesn’t show that the battery is receiving any charge. Does anyone have a clue to what might be the problem?

  10. Hello webmaster…I Googled for stuart davis, but found your page about Getting The Most Out Of A PowerBook 1400…and have to say thanks. nice read.

  11. Hey Billy..

    thanks for your help to save sleepy 1400cs in our dusty closets.
    Do you think I could download Mac OS 8.5 -8.6 from my Wintel toshiba, and burn
    a CD that would be PB1400cs compatible ? bootable?

    Have a nice day, thanks again

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