Powerbook 540c Apple Laptop

Apple Powerbook 540The faster of the Powerbook 500 series laptops, incorporating a 33mHz rather than 25 mHz 68LC040 as used in the Powerbook 520c, the powerbook 540c offered a robust and popular laptop. It’s pricetag of just over $3000 reflected it’s position as Apples flagship portable.


The Apple Macintosh PowerBook 540c featured a 33 MHz 68LC040 processor, some 25 percent faster than the Powerbook 520 it was released alongside. However, as with the Powerbook 520, it lacked a floating point unit, preventing accelerated Mathematical calculations. Users quickly discovered that the processor was mounted on a socket and could be replaced with a 68040 CPU with the Maths Co Processor built in.


The Powerbook 540c included either 4 MB or 12 MB of RAM, and took a single 70 ns DRAM card. It could be upgraded with a 32MB memory module. The model supplied with 12MB ram required removal of the 8MB module to accomodate the upgrade. In both models, 4 MB ram was soldered direct to the motherboard.


The Powerbook 540c was available with a 320MB or 500MB hard Drive, somewhat larger than the 240 MB drive available in the  Powerbook 540. However, the SCSI interfaced drive could be upgraded, although sourcing a replacement proved to be not such an easy task. The laptop included a 1.44MB floppy disk drive.

Video & Graphics:

The Powerbook 540c incorporated a 9.5″ color active-matrix (8-bit, 256 colors) LCD display. Video was provided by 512K or VRAM, which could not be upgraded although it did offer support for an external monitor with a resolution of 640 x 480 and a colour depth of 256 colors (8 bit).

Ports & Connectivity:

The Powerbook 540c incorporated an ADB port, HDI-30 scsi port, a single Modem/ Printer serial port, an AAUI-15 ethernet port, a line-in mono microphone port and 16 bit stereo port. A single Mini 15 port to the rear offered support for an external display.

powerbook 520c ports


The Powerbook 500 series incorporated some very innovative design features not previously seen in a laptop:

  • The powerbook 500 had a “trackpad” where the cursor followed the movement of your finger. The trackpad was a revolutionary input device, and has been used since in the vast majority of modern laptops. This marked a significant improvement over the powerbook 1xx range or laptops.
  • The NiMH battery contained on-chip monitoring of the battery’s health, previously unheard of.
  • The Powerbook could be placed in standby mode, allowing for the battery (or batteries) to be changed out.
  • Battery life with both battery bays filled was 4 hours.
  • Built in stereo speakers.


Upgrade paths extended beyond the addition of external peripherals (via scsi). The secondary battery bay doubled as an expansion port (Processor Direct Slot), allowing users to add a PCMCIA cage for 2 type II cards or a cage containing an FPU (68882 FPU co-processor). The CPU could be upgraded directly to a 33mHz 68040 (by Sonnet), A PowerPC 603e processor was marketed by Apple for the Powerbook 500 range, running at 99mHz and further 603e upgrades were developed by Nupowr (117mHz, 167mHz and 183mHz).

Known issues:

The Powerbook 500 series as a whole was a robust design. However, it suffered from one niggling flaw in that the screen hinges were fixed vertically with a series of TX 8 screws down onto the chassis of the laptop itself. Over time, these screws were known to work slightly loose, giving the screen a “wobble” when opened and preventing suitable positioning of the screen itself at a comfortable angle. Removing the hings covers however gave direct access to the hinge screws, which meant they were user servicable.

The PRAM battery also caused significant headaches. The non-rechargable battery often caused mis-diagnosis of a failed Powerbook and replacing of the battery when it’s charge had depreciated considerably usually brought a previously dead Powerbook 5xx series laptop back to life.

Introduction Date: May 16, 1994 Discontinued Date: August 26, 1995
Processor Speed: 33 MHz Processor Type: 68LC040
Processor Upgrade: Third-Party FPU: None
System Bus Speed: 33 MHz Cache Bus Speed: N/A
ROM/Firmware Type: Macintosh ROM ROM/Firmware Size: 2 MB
L1 Cache: 8k L2 Cache: N/A
RAM Type: DRAM Card Min. RAM Speed: 70 ns
Standard RAM: 4 MB, 12 MB Maximum RAM: 36 MB
Motherboard RAM: 4 MB RAM Slots: 1
Video Card: Dedicated VRAM Type: Onboard
Standard VRAM: 512k Maximum VRAM: 512k
Built-in Display: 9.5″ Color Native Resolution: 640×480
Standard Hard Drive: 320 MB, 500 MB Int. HD Interface: SCSI
Standard Optical: None Standard Disk: 1.44 MB (Manual)
Standard Modem: 19.6k (Optional) Standard Ethernet: AAUI-15
Expansion Slots: 2 Type II PC Card Expansion Bays: 1**
Case Type: Notebook Form Factor: PowerBook 520
Apple Order No: M2809LL/A Apple Subfamily: PowerBook 540/540c
Apple Model No: M4880 Gestalt ID: 72
Battery Type: NiMH Battery Life: 2.5-4 Hours
Original Mac OS: 7.1.1 Supported Mac OS: 7.1.1-8.1
Dimensions: 2.3 x 11.5 x 9.7 Avg. Weight: 7.3 lbs (3.3 kg)