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How to possibly fix an 'ALLOC-MEM too big!' error Laptop Macs
Over the weekend, my 12" PowerBook G4 was involved in an incident that, I thought, spelled certain doom for my all-time-favorite Apple laptop. I was using the machine with it perched on my knees, and happened to be applying the Safari software update when disaster struck. The update was at that point where the OS has shut down and the progress bar is marching across the screen. Just then, our youngest child came sneaking up on me and applied a running hug-tackle (I was on the sofa at the time, but hug-tackles can happen anywhere). At impact, the PowerBook flew off my knee and landed on the back right corner on the (thankfully) carpeted floor. When the machine hit the floor, it instantly kernel panicked, and I thought "well, that couldn't have happened at a worse time."

When I tried to boot it, I got a chime, but nothing else. Every trick I tried, including booting from a CD and setting it up in FireWire target disk mode, failed. Then I tried resetting PRAM, which also didn't work...but it did boot the machine into Open Firmware, so I knew the machine was functional at the lowest level. Typing mac-boot at that point, however, resulted in a scary-sounding error: ALLOC-MEM request too big!. From the sound of it, I thought maybe it was something with the RAM, but I wasn't sure. A quick trip to Google on another Mac found the answer to my problem in this blog post.

It turns out that (at least on this PowerBook, and probably others) the ALLOC-MEM too big! error is caused by a loose AirPort card. You can find instructions on reseating AirPort cards for various PowerBooks in this article on Apple's support site, and the linked blog post contains photos of the process.

After pulling and reseating the AirPort card, my PowerBook G4 started right up just as if nothing had happened -- hooray!
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How to possibly fix an 'ALLOC-MEM too big!' error | 6 comments | Create New Account
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How to possibly fix an 'ALLOC-MEM too big!' error
Authored by: Anonymous on Nov 17, '08 09:19:43AM

I loved those powerbook 12s but hey the new alu macbooks are a worthy replacement for them now....nothing came close.

I also (not so long ago) had the same problem with a powerbook G4 (1.5 ghz - version with airport card in a slot in battery compartment) that was also resilient to all methods of fixing !

so...i took memory out and the airport card....reseated them both...reset PRAM and it booted i presume not just the 12inch version !

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How to possibly fix an 'ALLOC-MEM too big!' error
Authored by: ds0 on Nov 17, '08 11:33:06AM

From some extensive experience, the seating of the AirPort card is always the first thing to look at on a 12" PowerBook. I had at least a dozen come through the bar, and the solution was always a reseat. Great solution too, since the 12s aren't exactly a blast to take apart!

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Dropped PowerBook 12"
Authored by: drmacnut on Nov 17, '08 12:49:44PM

Glad to hear your baby (Mac) is working again after that running bear hug!

Nevertheless, the point of this little note is to kindly suggest to you that (1) you make a really good backup of your hard drive right now, and (2) that you get in there and replace the drive with something that hasn't hit the floor running at 100 miles per hour (figuratively speaking).

It might seem like an amazingly difficult job to replace the drive, and although it is by no means easy on a 12", if done carefully and with attention to detail, it can be most satisfying indeed! Those 12" PowerBooks are gems. Go to iFix it, buy a new 5400 RPM drive from them (to support their free guides!) and use the guide to help you do the job. Get one of those inexpensive Wal-Mart plastic boxes with all the little partitions in it and number each section with a Sharpie, so you can put the screws from each step in place. Also, beware of static discharge. Good luck. Give it a go!

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Dropped PowerBook 12"
Authored by: robg on Nov 17, '08 04:22:04PM
Actually, I've already done it once :). Given the machine is now mainly my downstairs websurfer and travel machine (when I don't need the power of the MBP), there's not a lot on the hard drive. It is, however, backed up via Time Machine, in case something does go wrong.


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Dropped PowerBook 12"
Authored by: drmacnut on Nov 18, '08 09:08:43AM

Haha what an observant reader I am (not!): I didn't even notice it was you, robg, posting about the ALLOC-MEM hint and your PowerBook 12"! Of course you would have already done an HD switch. My apologies. It's like telling Einstein how to do mathematics!

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Dropped PowerBook 12"
Authored by: Volt on Nov 17, '08 06:08:39PM

This is a good suggestion, but I must say—about 2 years ago I dropped my 12" PowerBook about 4 ft. onto ceramic tile. I was seriously worried, but the only damage it sustained was a small dent above the DVD slot. I don't recommend just crossing your fingers and hoping everything still works perfectly (like I did), but I think these things are pretty resilient.

I guess the sudden motion sensor prevented a head crash. It was actually perfectly horizontal to the floor right when it hit.

I do back up my data nightly though.

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