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Fix Your Own Mac: Upgrading & Troubleshooting (Review)

Cover Picture"Fix Your Own Mac: Upgrading & Troubleshooting"

Jan L Harrington

MIS:Press, 1993

Cover price: $27.95 (US)

Don't take the title of this book too literally. It doesn't cover the Larry Pina territory of board level repairs but it does serve as a good background read on posssible upgrades for 68K Macs. The descriptive material on "how a Mac works" or "what is GRR encoding?" is well written; most readers will skip past this stuff but it is useful to have on the shelf for reference. I've provided a couple of links to scans of the most interesting material in the book.

The book was published just before the first PowerPC Macs were produced so it covers all of the original 68K Macs from the 128K through the Mac II family and LC series to the Quadra 840av. Powerbooks are also covered but not to the same depth as desktop systems. Hardware descriptions are included but all of this information is readily available elsewhere (eg the GURU utility).

Although the book is described as "Intermediate/Advanced", it would be suitable for anyone with practical skills buying their first "vintage Mac". For example, Apple and third party upgrades are described in detail so the reader can determine the pros and cons of any particular change. As always in books of this era, there is a useful listing of third party accelerators.

The troubleshooting chapter will be useful to anyone coming to vintage Macs after working with other computer systems. It covers a number of INIT managers such as Conflict Catcher and hardware dianostics tools (MacEKG, Snooper and Peace of Mind). The hardware tools are now obsolete, of course, and they never served much purpose ten years ago. The one tool I'd like to try is Apple's TechStep, a hand held diagnostic system for analysing 68K Mac hardware.

The chapter "Adding Memory" should be read with caution. Judging by the hand written annotations from the previous owner of my copy, there are many errors and inconsistencies between the text and summary tables.

The section on power supplies contains a useful summary of requirements for various peripherals, including third party video cards. Given the accuracy of the "Adding Memory" chapter, I would again treat this with caution but it's a nice list to have around.

If you've been fixing and upgrading Macs for any length of time, you won't find anything new in this book. If you know your way around computers and have just bought your first 68 Macs, you'll find the explanatory material in this book useful -- everything is available on the web somewhere but this book will save you a little searching.

Useful Scans

Apple TechStep Analyser

TechStep Functionality Table

PSU Outputs and Device Power Requirements

Contents Listing

Chapter 1: A First Look at Computer Hardware

Chapter 2: The Macintosh Product Line

Chapter 3: A First Look at Upgrading

Chapter 4: Troubleshooting Techniques

Chapter 5: Adding Memory

Chapter 6: CPU Accelerators

Chapter 7: Caches, PMMUs and Math Coprocessors (FPUs)

Chapter 8: Logic Boards

Chapter 9: Power Supplies and Power Protection

Chapter 10: Disk Storage

Chapter 11: Video

Appendix A: Upgrading Older Macs

Appendix B; Product/Vendor list

Copyright information: If you wish to use any images on these pages, please contact the author, Phil Beesley on