Mac Daniel's Advice

What to Do with a PowerBook Duo

Evan Kleiman - 2001.08.22

Q. What can I do with my aging PowerBook Duo?

A. Of all of the PowerBooks out on the market or eBay, the Duo series is my favorite for many reasons, such as their lightweight cases, cheap prices, and, of course, their expandability through the use of the Duo Dock and Duo Dock II. But the Duo series is severely aging; they seem to become more and more useless as the days go on.

What should you do with them?

One: Upgrade

There aren't a whole lot of possible upgrades for the Duo series, but there are still the common things you can do to it to make it more of a usable computer for everyday use. The first thing you can do, of course, is add more ram. According to ramseeker, 20 MB for your Duo will run you about $100, but, as always, you can probably also find it a lot cheaper used on sites like eBay.

Another thing you can add is a larger hard drive. The Duos use SCSI hard drives, which you shouldn't have too much trouble finding at around $75-80 per gigabyte on eBay or from some Macintosh vendor.

Two: Dock It

One of the most popular add-ons for the PowerBook Duo series is the Duo Dock. There are three flavors of the Duo Dock. One is the regular Duo Dock (Duo Dock I), The Duo Dock II, and the Duo-Dock Plus. All of these can be had within a price range of 25-125 dollars, but there is many major differences between the docks.

The first dock is the regular Duo Dock (Duo Dock I, if you will). It is compatible with the Grayscale Duo's, the 210, 230, 250, 270, and 280, but if you get a lid replacement, it will also be compatible with the rest of the Duo series. The original Duo Dock adds an (optional) FPU, which enables more processing power for your applications, 512 KB more of VRAM for your video, a floppy drive, and two empty half-height drive bays, so you can add the SCSI hard drive or CD-ROM of your choosing, not to mention giving your cool Duo a nice little home.

The Duo Dock II has all of the features of the Duo Dock I, plus ethernet, more SCSI ports, as well as compatibility with the rest of the Duo line - the color screen models. The Duo Dock Plus is basically the regular Duo Dock I, but it adds a standard FPU and more VRAM. However, you are able to upgrade any of these models to have more RAM, VRAM, or a larger hard drive.

Three: Use it as an X-10 Controller

X-10 is an older technology that is becoming more and more familiar and popular by the day. It allows you to remotely control your lights, appliances, TV's, etc. with the use of a controller, R/F remote, or even your Macintosh! All you need is the right software and appliances for your computer, and you're all set (and this all is available at x-10.com, as well as my favorite website, eBay.

Four: Customize It

If all else fails, you can turn your Duo into a functional creative masterpiece of artwork. There is no website out there that describes exactly how to customize the your laptop, but there are some very good examples out there for you to follow suit.

My favorite example of a customized Duo is the FireBook Duo Mana. Another good site out there that is full of examples of very nicely customized PowerBook Duo's as well as other Macs is Apple-Fritter.

Remember that you are always customizing at your own risk, and this will void your warranty (except that your PowerBook is obviously too old now to have one).

In the end, there really are lot of things that you can do with that aging computer. So get out there and have some fun reviving your old Macs!

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Not sure if you should upgrade your old Mac or replace it? Check the Mac Daniel index to see if we've already addressed your problem.

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