Sunday project: AirPort on a G3 iBook clamshell

The subject.

[NOTE: I forgot to add this, but I'm running OS X 10.2.8 - just in case the network stuff doesn't look familiar.]

I love my G3 iBook. I bought it right before my Route 66 trip because (a) I was nervous about taking my then-new G4 and (b) the thing is built for road-warriors and students. It’s the toughest laptop I’ve ever seen, and I knew if I took it all the way across the country, it would survive in a pinch.

And it did, both on the Route trip and the Seattle trip. But one drawback was its lack of wireless connectivity. I underestimated the number of hotels – even run-down ones – that have wireless internet these days. One night, in Needles, California, I drove to three different hotels looking for an ethernet connection, never finding one (which is one reason why the Route updates didn’t come as often as I wanted).

Now that’s all over with. I grabbed an AirPort card off eBay for a reasonable price, and took today to actually install the thing.

Thetools were simple: a flathead and Phillips screwdriver head, the smaller the better. Also, I grabbed instructions of the Apple.com support site.

The first step was to remove the battery. No sense in getting shocked. On modern Apple laptops, the battery is super easy to remove. Turn the thing over…

The two giant silver screws take one-half twist to remove. Take the cover off, and grab the plastic handle attached to the battery:

The battery slides right out. Mine looks like it was a replacement model from 2004, but already it looses charge faster than it should. Looks like I’ll have to shop for a new one.

Now that the risk of electric shock is gone, time to get some real work done.

Toget to the iBook’s guts, you have to take the keyboard off. Simple enough: slide the latches toward you, and the keyboard slides right out:

It’sa good thing I only want to install the AirPort card, because replacing anything else (like the hard drive, for instance) would be a nightmare. There are screws everywhere. Luckily, the AirPort holster was held in place by only one screw, which means someone had already installed one and taken it out (the previous owner, probably). Anyway, unscrew however many screws there are:

And slide the holster right out:

The wireless antenna was easy to find – it was the only cord not attached to something. It plugs right into the top of the AirPort card:

Getting the card into the holster was tricky, because it doesn’t really hold the AirPort card in place. Instead, the card slides into the top of the palm rest, right above the trackpad:

Then the antenna requires that you loop it around the top of the card, so everything lays flat:

Booya – an installed wireless card. One screw to lock the holster in place, put the keyboard back on, lock the keyboard latches, and turn the puppy on.

Apple makes it super easy to set up the software side of things. Under “System Preferences” and “Network,” OS X automatically detects the new card. Just tell it what your wireless station is called (mine is called, simple, “AirPort” because I have an Extreme Base Station).

Recognizing my base station was no problem, but when I put in the password, it wouldn’t connect. After doing some research, I found I had to scale back the security because this AirPort was an older version – 802.11b.

After that, bam – everything ran smoothly. The AirPort card recognized my wireless station (as well as all my neighbors) and connected at full power.

And look at that. No wires. Full-speed internet. It zipped right along, and the only thing holding back loading time was the speed of the computer (it’s 300 Mhz – pretty slow by today’s standards).

But it works, and it took me about 15 minutes to set up. Now when I take my road-worthy iBook to New England, I can connect any way I want.

Now if I was only brave enough to update the RAM in this screw-heavy beast…

35 comments.

  1. Hi. I am getting an airport card for my clamshell G3 ibook. What do you mean by scaling back the security? Thanks.

  2. Good question – and I knew I should’ve been more specific. You have to set the Airport Express to WEP security, not WPA2. The link I provided explains why – it has to do with the original Airport card’s 802.11b classification. When you set up your Airport station, you can pick which level of security it gets. It’s a pain, because your new password has to be exactly 13 characters. Hope that helps – and enjoy the clamshell (my fav)!

  3. I must be doing something wrong because it recognizes the card, but it doesn’t recognize any network, and it isn’t recognizing any base station. What am I doing wrong?

  4. Kell, drop me an e-mail (newtonpoetry @ gmail dot com – we could also do AIM or iChat if you want) and I can try to help you out. First, though, go through your base station setup and set up the security as WEP. Then restart the base station, and see if your Airport card recognizes it then. Also, the Airport card asked me to “rescan” to see if there were any local networks. See if it asks you to “rescan” too. Let me know!

  5. I bought an AirPort card off eBay for my G3 clamshell but when i put it into my computer and turn it back on, it says that the hardware can’t be found. Do i need special software for it? And if so, where am i going to get it????!!!!

  6. The original Airport card did come with a software CD, but it should be available off Apple.com’s support site (I did a quick search – try here). Try doing a software update, too. What OS version do you have?

  7. Hi, I purchased a clamshell off ebay with an airport card installed already. It keeps saying Safari can’t load the page. How do I connect to the internet? I don’t have a base station!

  8. Hi Ms. L: First, you need to have a WiFi connection set up. If you don’t have a base station, or some sort of wireless router, then the Airport card is useless. I’d go with one of Apple’s base stations, because they’re so easy to set up (and so pretty!), but it’s up to you to get yourself hooked up to broadband. E-mail me if you have any further questions. Good luck!

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  10. Hi,I had just got an airport card of ebay.I installed it and it recognizes it but it just won’t let me go to the internet.If there is anything you can do to help,please let me know.Thanks!

  11. Hi Tiffany. I’m going to have to know a bit more than that. Do you have wifi set up at home? Is the Airport card recognizing your wifi router?

  12. Sorry.I should of been more specific.What Kind Of WiFi do you mean?

  13. The Airport card connects you to a wifi signal, like an antenna. You have to have a wifi router (the thing that connects to your internet connection) that receives and sends signals to the Airport card.

    In other words: where are you getting your wireless internet connection from?

    Thanks!

  14. Well,You see I’m just thirteen years old and my mother got me a laptop for my birthday and neither one of us knows how to work the internet on it. So,If I don’t have a router or what ever you call it does it mean the airport card is useless?If it does how do you get one and about how much will it cost.Thanks! )i(

  15. [...] Taking a clamshell iBook to China Hi,I was just reading your Sunday project to install a wireless card in your iBook. It seems relatively easy to do and was exactly what I wanted to know about.I just [...]

  16. What’s your email address? I purchased an at&t wireless router. My home computer works just fine connected via Ethernet cable but my ibook can’t connect. I took out the Ethernet cord and plugged it into the ibook and it went online with no problems. The airport status say connected!! I have WEP enabled. When I go to Airport Admin Utility on the ibook nothnig shows up for a base station. I keep rescanning and NOTHING! Help r53223 at sbcglobal dot net

  17. I don’t have an airport extreme card. I guess it’s the older model?

  18. Thanks so much for your directions! I seemed to install everything just fine, but the airport does not appear when I look at the network preferences. Any thoughts/suggestions? Thanks!

  19. The ram is right under the airport card holster. You just pull the holster off with those 2 screws that you removed, and pop the old stick of ram out, and put a new one in. I just upgraded mine to 512mb + the internal 32. It runs a little better.

  20. Thanks for the tip, Erik. I have to update my RAM – the iBook was running way too slow on my last trip.

  21. I just received a clamsheell iBook from a friend and am looking to get wireless hooked up on it. I bought an Airport card off ebay (did lots of research about that so i’m 99.9% positive its the correct one). The iBook runs Mac OS 9.2 right now and I installed the airport card but it is saying that ‘no airport card is installed – status not available’. I have wireless at my house right now that my PC is hooked up to, but apple computers are new to me in general so I have no idea what to do next or what to mess with to figure out what is wrong.. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks

  22. A few things: make sure the Airport card looks like mine in the pictures. You should also check the Apple.com support site for downloading the Airport drivers. I don’t have any experience with OS 9 and Airport, so you’re going to have to do some searching – although it sounds like a fun project I might undertake. Also, make sure your wireless is set to WEP instead of WPA; the old Airport needs the WEP settings. Let me know if you have any luck!

  23. [...] most searched for post on Newton Poetry has been my tutorial on how to install a classic Airport card in a clamshell iBook. The comment section of that article gets a new post [...]

  24. Hi,
    Great site by the way. I followed your instructions to put Airport card in my Keylime G3 iBook running OSX 10.4 but the card doesn’t appear to have been recognised. I’ve checked the connection several times and it’s snapped in snugly. On restart (and having taken out the battery the computer defaults date and time to 01.01.1971) I go to network but there’s no airport card on any menu.
    Can you help?

  25. Hi Bob. Weird – it could be anything, I guess. Did you buy a new or used Airport card? Did you install the Airport software? Was it a full moon?

  26. What is the latest software that can run on an ibook clamshell?

  27. @strawbarigurl: depends on your iBook. If you have the older ones, like mine, either Jaguar or Panther will be fine. But Tiger requires USB 2.0 ports, I believe. I’m not sure what the newer rev (lime, graphite, etc.) iBooks will run. Check Low End Mac’s profile section – that should help you out.

  28. I have a IBook 3G,manfactured in 1999 300htz-2.2 hdd-32 ob pc66
    RAM. I changed the hdd to upgrd 20gigs, and the RAM to128mb.I had a friend-relative to do the work (I’m not familiar with the MAC OS).
    I cannot get any OSX to install without it freezing up me-
    The cursor will not work, not any other keys-
    First explaine the specifics step-by-step on “How to install OSx into IBook G3-OSx 10.2.3 UPTO osx 10.4.5″
    I want to play with it a colleges friends brother DJ’s an would like to experiment with this Laptop (Lowbudget)

  29. [...] gives me an outlet to write about those projects. What I found was that people who, say, want to install an Airport card in their iBook, like to have help as they do it. As a result, that post is one of my most [...]

  30. Hi-
    I recently purchased an ibook G3 500 mHz from ebay. It has a airport wireless card installed, however I am having trouble getting on the internet. The wireless network I am trying to connect to in the one offered at the university’s library. I have configured the card and it still will not go online. It keeps saying something about a “installing a blue card”. Please help because I am at my wit’s end trying to solve this problem. Thanks

  31. Not sure about the “blue card” message, but I’d imagine your school’s network may be a WPA instead of WEP, in which case you’re out of luck. I would check with your school’s IT department to see if they can help.

  32. [...] I can tear apart an old iBook or figure out a way to install some Newton software and read, write, spend time with my girlfriend, [...]

  33. do you have to have an apple basestation or can you use any ordanary qwest wifi hub?

  34. Any wifi hub will work. Just be sure to set your security as WEP, not WPA. And that’s the point of an AirPort card, right? To use wifi anywhere.

  35. Sorry, I know this is long dead, but I am interested in buying an iBook clamshell, and am worried about the airport situation. So I understand that the original airport card doesn’t support wpa2 incription, only wep, but I think my router is wpa2. There is a wifi network near me house with no password though. Does that mean I can connect to it without fail? I’m not too sure about what type it is though. Like b, n, or g.

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