PowerBooks are quite easy to obtain from refurbishers in USA, meaning they're being sold tested and usually in a very good condition. For people from outside the USA though the only option might be to obtain a machine from an auction service. Here's a few tips that should help you get a nice and working machine.
The guide is a result of my experiences with buying 2nd hand PowerBooks - probably over 10 by now.
Note: the last 1.5GHz model was also tested by us since this is a rev-d machine but I'd advise against buying it: unless you do get the serial number it is very hard to ensure you are not in fact buying a nonsupported rev-c machine.
Make sure the ports are not mechanically damaged. In case of the ones on the left it could mean that the dc-in board that contains them could also be damaged. In case of the ones on the right it means damage to the board itself (apart from the USB which is also on a separate board).
You should also try to inspect the screen, although most photos will not show its state. More on this below.
Here's the checklist:
- optical drive - that thing is usually broken, Apple never learns and even new Intel Macs come with shitty drives. Many people don't even use it so they do not know in what state it really is. Fear not, that one is easy to get and easy to replace in all models
- the lcd - make 5 images at native resolution and put them on a usb stick. Black, white, green, red and blue. You could use two pieces of paper to cover the sceen so that you're looking at a thin strip at a time. Inspect the lcd for dead pixels. Now it is not common for those screens to have dead pixels, but it is common for them to have brighter areas which are often the result of someone pressing on the display or putting too many weight on the laptop. You may also see keyboard marks on the screen or scratches. It's generally good to inspect the screen on a powered off machine as well.
Please note that while it's not impossible to find one, the hi-res lcds are very rare in Europe and replacing the screen will cost you a lot. Official Apple service points charge over 700 euro for a new screen... 3rd party replacements may also be of poorer quality.
- lcd ribbon - that one is tricky to check. Problems with the ribbon may not always be visible, sometimes they vanish when the machine warms up. Open and close the lid a couple of times (without fully closing to avoid sleep) and see if there aren't any problems while you're moving the lid.
In case the ribbon breaks it is quite easy to secure a replacement. Most laptop repair points (not necessarily apple-centric) will be able to replace it for you or you could ifixit.com yourself.
- fans - the PowerBooks all have a long copper cooling strip with fans on the sides. The fans are generally not replaceable - you have to swap the whole strip should a fan break. This is also how they're sold. You should check that both fans work and that they do not make unbearable noise when running at higher speeds. The left fan cools the GPU and northbridge, the right fan cools the northbridge and the G4.
We will provide some MorphOS utility to check them at higher speeds.
- battery - is usually old. I advise against buying a 3rd party replacement. Either try to get an original Apple battery or go to a laptop battery service point and get the battery cells replaced in your original battery.
- memory slot - the older PowerBooks share a common issue with one memory slot not working. This means your PowerBook might max out at 1GB RAM. Not a problem on MorphOS, but if you plan to run Leopard on it too, you might want to look for a model with both slots working. As far as I can tell this only happens with older PowerBooks and not with the last (hi-res) revision.
- psu - make sure you got the right one. The iBook psu looks the same but is 45W, while you need the 65W one. This is easy to miss since the infos on the psu are pretty hard to read :) A PowerBook will work with a 45W psu but will not power on without a charged battery