Moore’s MailBag/Ask Applelinks - iBook Smells Like B/O

9422 Beth queries the Mailbag:


I am not very knowlegable about computers in general but have both a home Mac as well as my husband having an iBook for work.

His laptop smells awful!

I can smell it all the way across the room.

I looked up "smelly Macs" and came up with several letters to you using the term "outgassed" (?)

My husband's iBook smells like really bad body odor. He doesn't smell this way but his computer sure does. He is a Jr. High teacher and I figured it just absorbed the stinky smells of the kids in his class that have hit puberty and haven't realized the importance of regular showers, clean clothes and deodorant. He's been out of school for over a month and is using is laptop to write his projects for his Master's Degree. The thing smells so bad I need to leave the room. Is there anything we can do about this?

Is this what "outgassed" refers to or is that some sort of chemical odor?



Hello Beth;

Most of the mail I get about "smelly" Macs are rom folks who like myself who suffer from Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS), but in this instance, that's not the issuw (and it's not your husband or the kids in his class either).

"Outgassing" is a general term describing the process whereby plastic compounds release chemical vapors into the surrounding atmosphere. That is what's going on with your husbald's iBook, but this objectionable odor is specifically with the keyboard.

It's a known issue that some G3 dual-USB iBooks were afflicted with an odor from some adhesive used on the keyboard. It's been described frequently as like armpit-odor. I have a four + year old G3 iBook, but happily not one of the stinky ones, and I've never experienced it first-hand, but significant numbers of iBook users have.

My colleague over at Low End Mac Hardy Menagh has posted a couple of columns on the issue, one with a variety of remedial suggestions. You can read it here:

Some of Hardy's suggestied fixes give me the vapors (literally and figuratively) such as using scent strips or dryer strips to "mask" the odor, as for someone with MCS that "cure" would be far worse than the disease, but check it out.

The moset elegant cure would be to replace the offending keyboard, but it's a relatively expensive fix. Several vendors offer replacement iBook keyboards. Below are links to some. Unfortunately, there are two types, one of which has a tab which must insert into a slot in the iBook's upper case. Before purchasing, ensure that the replacement keyboard has the same tab configuration (it's about 2 inches by 1/8 inch) beneath the arrow keys. This tab is noticeably longer than the small tab below the command key. You should also verify that there is a corresponding slot in your computer's upper case to insert the tab into. iFixIt lists both types:

iBook G3 12" Keyboard (Short tab) Replacement keyboard $49.95

iBook G3 12" Keyboard (Long tab) Replacement keyboard $49.95

Other vendors (no tab info):

Keyboard for G3 iBook Dual USB 12-inch - $49.95

DUAL-USB iBook keyboard (Dual USB iBooks 500-800mhz) - 89.99

I would recommend shopping by phone and being very clear about both the tab issue and that you absolutely want a 'board that does not have the "armpit smell" issue.

The keyboard itself is pretty easy to change. For detailed and illustrated instructions, visit:

Hope this helps.

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Charles W. Moore

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