Where great old Macs live again!

I got a call from my mom last week saying that her computer was running slow. I had given her my old Power Macintosh G4 "Digital Audio" 533mhz (single) w/ 512MB RAM running OS 10.4.11 about 3-4 years ago. I'm actually quite surprised that I have not received this call before, but the G4 has held up really well over the years, plus she is not a demanding user, just email, iTunes, and occasionally Microsoft Word. I went over there to do some of the usual house cleaning stuff, dump the system and user caches, clean-up the hard-drive and give it a good old reboot (something she does about once a year!). Things were better once all that was done but still pretty sluggish as you would expect from a computer made in 2001.

I decided this would be a fun retro project, My goal was to get this thing running OS 10.5 acceptably without spending more than $100. Here is what I did:

I bought 2 additional sticks of 512 PC133, maxing the machine out at 1.5GB. For some reason on the "Digital Audio" G4s they removed one of the RAM slots, leaving you with 3 and a max of 1.5GB as they only accept 512 per slot. (Interestingly System Profiler still shows 4 RAM slots DIMM0-DIMM3 with DIMM3 always showing as empty) The RAM was about $50.

I got lucky and found a Newer Technology MAXPower G4/7447A 1.6GHz Processor Upgrade at one of our local used computer shops in Minneapolis, that they were selling out of a G4 Tower with a bad motherboard for $50.

I also had a ATI RADEON 7500 w/ 32MB VRAM sitting around that I parted out of something else, so that didn't cost anything. I did a little research and heard that the performance is marginally better than the nVidia GeForce2 MX that was already in the machine, and since it isn't costing anything I decided to put it in.

I ran Geekbench before I did anything to the computer and here were my results:

Processor integer performance 394
Processor floating point performance 483
Memory performance 301
Memory bandwidth performance 197

Before upgrade shot, dust included.... (Not sure why I had an additional PCI video card in, I think at one point I needed S-Video for something and had that card around so I popped it in.)

The memory install and video card install were pretty straight forward. As for the Processor Upgrade I ran into one little problem... My Apple Boot ROM was not at the right version, so I booted into OS 9 grabbed the update (4.2.8) from Apple's website and installed it. Once that was done I had to use the newer technology CD to update the firmware which went just fine, BUT I selected the option to enable OS X compatibility (because this will be an OS 10.5 machine once I was finished) but the system was still set to boot into OS 9 so once the processor was installed and I started it up i just got a gray screen since I had not enabled OS 9 boot compatibility from the newer technology firmware CD. I ended up having to boot back into the newer technology cd enable OS 9 boot compatabililty, then boot into OS 9 and select OS X from the startup disk control panel. After that everything went just fine, booted back into OS X 10.4 and the new processor, memory and video card all showed up fine.

Here is the after upgrade shot:

I ran geekbench again after the upgrade and here are the results:

Processor integer performance 1053
Processor floating point performance 1149
Memory performance 495
Memory bandwidth performance 195

Not to bad for for 100$.

According to geekbench's charts this puts me right about here:

Power Mac G5
PowerPC G5 (970) 1.6 GHz (1 core) 936

Power Mac G4 (Digital Audio)

PowerPC G4 (7445/7455) 1.6 GHz (1 core) 889

Power Mac G4 (Mirrored Drive Doors)
PowerPC G4 (7445/7455) 1.0 GHz (2 cores) 886

PowerBook G4 (15-inch 1.67/1.5 GHz)
PowerPC G4 (7447A) 1.67 GHz (1 core) 851

PowerBook G4 (Double-Layer SD, 15-inch)
PowerPC G4 (7447A) 1.67 GHz (1 core) 850

Mac mini (Late 2005)
PowerPC G4 (7447A) 1.5 GHz (1 core) 849

I just finished installing 10.5, I am going to play around with it for a couple of days before bringing it back to my parents house. I'll report back on how it performs.


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Comment by James on May 29, 2010 at 12:58pm
It is amazing how long Macs can last. I still use a Sawtooth for some tasks.
Comment by b wick on May 29, 2010 at 5:57pm
I really hope the Intel Chips prove to have this same level of, useful, longevity, I have 3-4 friends that still use a Powerbook G4 everyday! Having used everything from 68030 on up I have to say the G4 is by far my favorite generation of Macintosh processors, and generation of Apple products.


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