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Tuesday, May 16, 2006, 01:00 pm PT (04:00 pm ET)

Apple\'s MacBook sports user-replaceable hard disks

First on AI: Owners of Apple Computer's new MacBook consumer notebooks will find that upgrading or replacing the computer's hard disk is as simple as adding more memory.

The notebooks, which are some of the most redesigned personal computers to emerge from Apple's Cupertino, Calif. design labs in recent years, also pack such novelties as heat-staked feet that are designed not to fall off. In fact, you can't remove them if you try.

The again, only Apple would affix two screws to the left side of the computer purely for cosmetic purposes. That's right — they serve absolutely no function other than to sit there and look pretty.

Where the MacBook really struts its stuff is under the hood. There, innovation takes center stage — primarily in the front-most portion of the computer, beneath the wrist-rests.

Flipping a MacBook upside down and removing its rectangular lithium-polymer battery reveals two RAM slots, placed side-by-side on one wall of the battery cavity. Two metal levers aid in releasing or securing RAM in the slots.

Each RAM slot is capable of accepting up to 1GB of 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM, for a max of 2GB. For the best performance, Apple recommends that RAM modules be installed as pairs, with an equal amount of memory in each slot.

Below the two RAM slots (at the base of the battery cavity) is where you'll find the MacBook's hard disk drive. Without disassembling the notebook, users will be able to quickly removing some protective aluminum shielding and lift the drive out of the computer.

Apple's previous line of consumer notebooks, the iBook, required that an authorized service provider perform all hard drive replacements — a process that would typically take at least 10 minutes for technicians and possibly days in turnaround for the owner.

While the MacBook clearly takes a few steps forward with its industrial design, other aspects of the notebook have already drawn some concerns from insiders.

Like Apple's MacBook Pro professional notebooks, the company says the new MacBook has a tendency to produce a significant amount of heat. Though the notebook's operating temperature falls within national and international safety standards, it runs much hotter than the iBook G4s it replaces. Apple is offering these tips to customers who are concerned over the heat of their new MacBook.



Another potential concern is the notebook's keyboard. Apple redesigned the MacBook's keyboard to sit flush against the bed of the computer for a sleeker, lower profile. Though it offers a firmer touch, the keyboard is built-in as part of the MacBook's enclosure. Users who damage a key or two could find themselves having to replace the notebook's entire bottom casing and trackpad — a potentially hefty expense.

Speaking of costs, customers leaning towards a black-colored MacBook will find themselves feeding Apple's profit margins. For a mere 20GB of additional storage and the matte black finish, the company is charging a whopping $200 extra. Otherwise, the $1499 black MacBook is identical to the $1299 offering in white.

Each MacBook also supports Apple's extended desktop feature, allowing users to widen their horizons with a second display.