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Shawn, Computer Engineer
Category: Mac
Satisfied Customers: 275
Experience:  15 years of Mac software and hardware troubleshooting experience, 10 years of programming experience
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Using Mac PowerBook G4 17 OSX 10.4.11 - Keyboard is not responding.

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Using Mac PowerBook G4 17" OSX 10.4.11 - Keyboard is not responding. Trackpad working fine. Help, please...

I'm going to try and help diagnose the problem. Try restarting the machine while holding down the shift key until the desktop appears. During the boot process, does it say "Safe Boot" on the screen?

Thanks! Kind regards,
Customer: replied 8 years ago.
I tried to reboot holding shift key, screen lights up, shows apple, but never boots, the little circle icon just keeps spinning

It sounds as if the problem you're running into is a software problem. Rebooting with the shift key down runs a repair program on the hard drive, and it could take awhile. At a time when it's convenient for you, may I suggest trying again and using something to hold the shift key down for you, and leaving it for awhile (it shouldn't take more than an hour) to repair? This may fix the problem.

Thanks! Let me know if it boots after letting it repair. Kind regards,

Customer: replied 8 years ago.
I will give this a try. Thank you. Will get back to you in a few hours.

Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Hey, Shawn!
Okay, I used something to hold down shift key & it finally brought up the Mac OS X box and says "Safe Boot" in red. But, it is asking for my password XXXXX keyboard still will not work, so I am unable to enter it.

It sounds like part of the keyboard may have gone bad, but not the entire keyboard. This is most likely a hardware problem, caused either by age, vibration, or something falling in the keyboard. You have a few options:

1) You can try booting from the restore disk that came with the computer. In the installer, find a place where you can use the keyboard to interact (e.g., pressing the tab key or typing in a field). If you can't type anything, then it's definitely a hardware problem.

2) If it's a hardware problem, there are a few possibilities. A simple solution (if it fits your workflow needs) is to simply buy and connect an external USB keyboard to the laptop.

3) The more involved solutions to the keyboard problem involve taking the machine apart, which is very challenging. The keyboard connector could have come partially unseated from the motherboard, or the keyboard itself could be bad.

If you're not comfortable with these options, Apple has an excellent out-of-warranty flat rate repair program for PowerBooks. Last time I checked it was under $400. I used it once and they repaired the problem I had and replaced most of the other parts in the laptop, basically leaving me with a new computer. You can find out more at an Apple store or on Apple's website.

I hope this is helpful! Please let me know if you have any more questions. Kind regards,


Customer: replied 8 years ago.
I tried to use an external keyboard. It is a Kennsington PilotBoard Wireless Desktop for Mac (comes with a little basestation that plugs into USB port and a wireless mouse. The mouse worked fine. Some of the keys (ones that are not also on powerbook), such as the "moon" button DO work. I pushed that button & it asked if I was sure I wanted to restart, so it is obviously "communicating" with my mac.

I do not have disks that came with my computer to do any sort of software install. Do I need to buy new ones or is there a way I can download it on to an external drive and boot it that way? I live in Amarillo, TX - so am 500+ miles away from an apple store. Any suggestions would be great.
Hello Margo,

When you use the external keyboard, do the other keys work (such as the letters and numbers)?

Thanks! Kind regards,

Customer: replied 8 years ago.
No, only the "wacky" little buttons that come on the Kennsington and some of the F keys. In fact since you asked that, I went into Mail and opened a New email message. Used my pointer (via trackpad & ext mouse - both work), went into message and tried every key on the G4's keyboard. ALL of the F keys and the page arrows worked. NONE of the other keys worked. Did same for the Kennsington keyboard with exact same results. Did I somehow delete something in my system folder that makes the keyboard work???!!!

I had been backing up my files onto an external hard drive right before this happened (if that helps at all), I did not think that I had erased anything of importance, but had been trying to clear out some of my excess stuff after copying it to ext hd b/c I was running low on space (due to enormous volume of photos I take and edit). You are being soooooo patient, I really appreciate your help and promise I will pay you a bonus when we get this resolved!


Hmm, what a bizarre problem! It's possible but unlikely that something got deleted that makes the keyboard work, but some preferences might have been changed accidentally. Where were the files that you were copying off located? Were any of them in a "System" or "Library" folder?

Before going the route of system disks, let's try some more possible software solutions from Apple:

1) Make sure that num lock is OFF (not lighted)
2) Go to Apple Menu->System Preferences... and click Universal Access
> In Universal Access, make sure "Enable access for assistive devices" is not checked
> Click the "Keyboard" tab
> Make sure that Sticky keys and Slow Keys are both off
> Click the "Mouse & Trackpad" tab
> Make sure Mouse Keys is off

Reboot after trying those things, and see if it fixes the problem. Let me know what (if anything) changes in how the keyboard behaves.

I'll try my best to help you get this figured out. Hopefully one of these easier solutions will solve the problem soon! Thanks for your patience.

Kind regards,

Customer: replied 8 years ago.
shawn, I can't tell if my last reply was sent or not, did you get it? About trying those things?

I see you are offline & I'm about to sign off for the night as well. Maybe it only shows my posted replies when you are online. We'll pick this back up tomorrow. Thanks again for your patience and help.

Hi Margo,

If you replied to the message I sent suggesting that you check Num Lock and some other things, no, I did not receive it. Could you possibly send the information again?

Thanks! Kind regards,

Customer: replied 8 years ago.
I tried all your suggestions re: Univ. Access - reboot - no change. Went back into Univ. Access tried turning everything ON then back OFF then reboot - still not change. Went back into Univ Access & went into the Mouse & trackpad tab, then clicked Open Keyboard Pref.   I immediately got a ! icon with message "The app Sys Pref quit unexpectedly (does say Mac OS X & other apps not affected). Hit Reopen - It took me back to Sys Pref so this time I clicked on Keyboard & Mouse - got same message. So...I am wondering if I somehow deleted some piece of the Sys software that controls the keyboard??? I used a flash drive & on my kids iMac, copied the Keyboard folder onto it, then tried to copy that folder onto my mac, but it gave me an error msg saying I can't put stuff into that folder.

Any ideas???

I did run by Best Buy & bought latest OS X (10.5.4) so worst case, guess we could install that....BUT the "geek" (I am not name calling - that's what they call themselves...Geek Squad" - although he was quite goofy) told me that installing this would wipe out EVERYTHING on my entire computer. So, I guess my next question would be if we HAVE to do there a way I can save some of my files? I have copied all my important docs & pics, but have alot of upgrades, plugins & actions in my Photoshop program that I bought via internet, so do not have "hard copies" and would really be lost without them. I also have several websites I am working on and those are on there as well. Is there a way to back all this info up and just restore it back once I upgrade? I do have a .mac account & might be able to back up to that - assuming I do not need a keyboard. Please tell me I am not TOTALLY SCREWED!!!

Thank you again for your help! I am really starting to "stress"...

Thank you so much for the update on what you've tried so far! You're doing a great job in helping find a solution to your keyboard problem. Don't worry, your files will be safe, and you won't lose everything. If we try to install a new OS, then you can back up your files to an external drive without a keyboard.

Before going down the route of installing the latest OS X, let's try one more thing (from Apple's website):

1) Go back into System Preferences and click on "International"
2) Click on the "Input Menu" tab
3) Check the box next to "Show input menu in menu bar"
4) Go to the flag menu in the menubar and choose "Show Keyboard Viewer" (if this doesn't show up, you may need to enable it in the Input Menu tab)
5) Open an e-mail like you did before and start typing. Let me know whether or not the nonworking keys are highlighting as you type.

This will help show us where the problem with the keyboard is.

Let me know what you find! We'll get this figured out. Kind regards,

Customer: replied 8 years ago.

I did all those things. As I click on the "Show input in menu bar, All of the icons in my menu bar move over what looks like 1 place to the left (from the Battery icon left), but NO icon is there, just an empty spot. FYI what does show up in my menu bar is (little icons - from left to rt): Intego/BusySync/Fax/Network/iChat bubble/OS9/Bluetooth/Airport/Sound/Battery/Day-time/Spotlight

Then, when I click the Keyboard Viewer ON, all icons up in menu bar dissappear except for intego, BusySync & Spotlight and they all move over to the far right. Stays that way for 2-3 sec - then all the icons reappear in menu bar and the "Show input menu in menu bar" box UNCHECKS itself!

Good GRIEF!!! Is my computer "possessed" or is "someone" watching & getting a kick out of my frustration!!??

Don't know if any or ALL these crazy details help...just trying to figue it all out and try to give you somewhat of a picture of what is happenening......... so, what now Obi Wan?

Anytime you want to "break" for the night" let me know - but I'm a "nightowl" and will stay up as long as this takes!!! Or until Ashton Kutcher shows up to announce that I have been "PUNKED".

Hi Margo,

You're doing a great job! Thanks for hanging in with me to give a fuller picture of what the problem is. So what we just learned is that at least part of the problem is software-related. However, I strongly believe that the problem is hardware, in which case you'll need to send your computer off for repairs. You can call Apple tech support and they'll be able to do the repair entirely by mail (so you won't have to go to an Apple store), or you can try an independent repair shop like PowerbookMedic ( ). It will cost about $200 at PowerbookMedic, and probably slightly more at Apple (though you might call to check).

If you want to try a last-chance software repair on your computer, you can try to install 10.5 using the "Archive and Install" option, which preserves your files. However, the tradeoffs on this option are that your machine will run a bit slower and 10.5 also takes a bit more hard drive space, so if you were running out before, this fix will not change that fact. If you choose to do this, make sure to back up the important files first. Here is more information:


Let me know what you decide, and if there's any other way I can help. Kind regards,


Customer: replied 8 years ago.

(Sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you...on top of everything else, I have 3 kids..and at times - they MUST take precedence over my mac - go figure!!)

Anyway, okay, here is where my thought process has led me. I think it is time that I "bite the bullet" and get a new Mac (however, I do still want at least my kids to be able to use my G4 - so I do want it fixed). So which Mac laptop should I get? I have become VERY accustomed to and LOVE my 17" screen. I also have a 30" display that I use quite a bit. The MAIN things I use a computer for is editing pictures, web design (nothing too fancy - just iWeb stuff), and graphic design. I also do ALOT of slideshow/iDVD & iMovie stuff creating making and burning DVD's for people to show at team events etc... I MUST have a laptop, because I like the portability. So I guess my main goal is I want something with lots of memory and speed. So, which Mac would you suggest? I'm not really concerned with the price, bc I use it enough to justify (in my own mind at least), a few extra $$$. While I think the MacAir is kinda cool, I am fairly sure it will not meet the bulk of my needs, but do not know that for sure & do not think the "Geek Squad" can give me the best advice, so really value your input.

Back to the other prob. How can I get everything backed up (programs, actions etc... so that when I do get new computer, I can easily get the stuff onto the new one? Once I am satisfied that I have done this, I do not mind trying the 10.5 install - and if it works...GREAT, if not, I'll send it off. I just can NOT afford to lose all of my PhotoShop stuff.

You are being so great and I can not tell you how very much I appreciate it! I want to make sure you get a bonus when we are finished with this process, so can you tell me...if I add on a tip (?) when we are finished, does it ALL go to you?

Hi Margo!

My apologies for the delayed response - it's been a busy day.

First, regarding a new Mac. Thank you for the very clear description of your needs! I think you'll be extremely happy with a new Mac given the processor-heavy work that you do. Everything will run significantly faster and more smoothly!

Given your needs, I think the MacBook and MacBook Air lines will not meet your needs (MacBook has a small screen, Air has a slightly bigger screen but no built-in DVD drive). This leaves the MacBook Pro line, which is a great combination for you: fast, big screen (15 or 17 inch), DVD burner, etc. Some specifications that you'll want to consider when purchasing from the Apple store:

15" or 17" screen - your preference
At least 2 GB of memory, since you run a lot of memory-intensive applications
The GHz speed is not a critical specification - the difference between a 2.4 and a 2.54 GHz machine is small
The bigger the hard drive, the better. This will give you plenty of storage for your graphics and videos
You'll also want to order an adapter to connect your external monitor
I highly recommend AppleCare for laptops, as I've ended up using it for every laptop that I've owned. Laptops get a lot more abuse than a desktop machine since they're moved around.

So, those are my thoughts on a new MacBook Pro for you! Let me know if you have any more questions, and I'll be glad to try and help.

Regarding backup, you'll want to copy your entire Users folder to an external drive. This will cover your settings, Documents, Movies, etc. folders. If you have stored files anywhere else on the hard drive (outside of the Users folder), back those up too.

Many applications are self-contained and can be copied to a backup with no problem. However, given the complexity of Photoshop, you'll probably need the original install disks for the program. Do you have them?

Once you've copied all of your files off...

Let's do one more test in the 10.5 vein.

1) Put the 10.5 install DVD into the drive
2) Restart while holding down the C key. This will boot the computer off of the CD
3) Once the list of languages comes up, click the arrow button
4) Go to the Utilities menu and choose "Reset Password..."
5) Click your hard drive. There is a text field below ("Enter a new password XXXXX") where you can test your keyboard. Try the same keys you were having problems with.
6) If the keys now work, then it's a software problem and installing 10.5 will fix it. If the keys don't work, then it's a hardware problem and you'll need to send it off.

If it turns out to be a software problem, then here are instructions for the "Archive and Install" feature you want to use. This will preserve your files on the drive (but, you should still back up first, just in case).

You're doing a fabulous job of helping solve these problems! Thanks for hanging in with me through this lengthy process. I very much appreciate the tip - while not all of it goes to me, the majority of it does.

Let me know how things go, and if you have any more questions! Best,

Customer: replied 8 years ago.

Thanks again for all your help. I have my User files backing up right now, showing it will take 4+hrs (apx. 60,000 things to copy). As soon as this is finished, I will try the 10.5 Install and get back to you.

I still would like to know how I can pay you a bonus. I have never used this justanswers service before, and that option may present itself when I "Accept" my answer. If this is NOT the case, please advise how I can do this.

As for the new computer, I really like my 17" laptop, but like the new 1 piece casing of the new PowerBook 15". Do you know if Apple has plans (in VERY near future) to release a 17" with the 1 piece casing?

Thank you again, I will be back in touch in a few hours.
Hope you have a great weekend - mine is already getting better, thanks to you!
Customer: replied 8 years ago.

Guess which computer I am typing you this message from?? Yep, my PowerBook G4!!!! Oh, yea...I'm doing the "Touchdown Dance" all over my house right now!!! Shawn, YOU ARE THE MAN!!!

I did exactly what you told me to do(holding my breath & crossing my fingers)...backed up; reboot w/10.5; then was able to type in my password (YES) only problem was that it never asked me to "archive", & since it was already going & I was afraid to stop it. So, I had resigned myself that I would lose everything, but to my surprise...when computer restarted, EVERYTHING was still there! All my apps, music, photos, docs (and most importantly - bc I could NOT figure out how to copy these correctly) all of my iWeb info!!!

Shawn, I can NOT thank you enough for your help! It has been a very long 3 days, but I am thrilled that we were finally able to come up with a "fix"! I am still going to go ahead and get a new laptop, but may wait a few months to see if Apple releases a 17" in the unibody style.

I went back into my justanswers acct & tried to add $ to my balance, but for some weird reason, it would only allow me to add another $9. I am not going to click "Accept" quite yet, bc I'd like some instructions from you on how I can add more. I am also wondering, if I have questions in the future, is there a way I can request YOU to be my Expert. This is the 1st time I have ever been on this site (actually had never even heard of it), so not real sure how everything works.

So, if you could get back to me with these answers, I will add some more $ then "Accept" and close this question.

Thank you again for all your patience and help! I am THRILLED that we were able to come up with the solution without having to send my computer off to Apple!

As my kids would say...Shawn, YOU ROCK!!!
Thanks again,
Hi Margo!

My apologies for the delayed response! I'm so happy that 10.5 has solved your problem - that is great!!!!!! Hopefully it will continue working for you for awhile now.

Regarding a 17" laptop, Apple is typically mum about products that haven't been released yet, and any news that comes out on the rumor sites isn't usually very accurate. I think they are migrating a lot of their line over to the "unibody" style, so if you wait hopefully they'll come out with one soon!

Regarding how to leave a tip, I believe that you have to accept and then it will give you a chance to leave a tip and/or add more than $9 to your account. As for asking for me in the future, all you have to do is ask! If you indicate in your message or in the header "Shawn" or "this is for Shawn," then it should find its way to me.

Again I'm so happy that things are working for you now, and that we got it all figured out! Please let me know if you have any more problems and I'll be glad to try and answer them. Thanks for hanging in through the lengthy debug, and for using JustAnswer!

Best wishes,


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