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View Full Version : Can I fix up an old PowerMac G4?




Merica
Aug 19, 2011, 02:04 PM
Hi everyone, how's it going? This is my first post here at Mac Rumours. Been a reader for a quite a while, but never posted until now.

I do a bit of freelance work for a publishing company and, nice folks that they are, they recently gave me an old Power Mac G4 tower that wasn't in use. It's pretty damn old, but I'm wondering whether it's possible to do it up to a nice enough standard. I'm not talking about turning it into a high-performance machine - just a secondary option so I can have a Mac kicking around the house for general use.

This is the current specification:

Power Mac G4 (2.7) (AGP Graphics), 1 CPU, 350mhz, 1mb Cache, 576mb memory, USB speed 100mhz, ROM version 3.1.3f1. System version OSX 10.3.9

I was looking around and I think I can buy some 512mb RAM sticks for about 15 each (these (http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/512MB-RAM-UPGRADE-Power-Mac-G4-Dual-1-42GHz-DDR-/270785554933?pt=UK_Computing_ComputerComponents_MemoryRAM_JN&hash=item3f0c13a9f5)?) so I could bump up the RAM fairly easily, but what else might I need to do to get it up to speed and jump up a few OS versions?

Just wondering, as I'm quite interested in fixing it up.



r.j.s
Aug 19, 2011, 02:06 PM
You could upgrade it a little bit, but there will be quite a few things you won't be able to do on that machine, so it might not be worth it.

alust2013
Aug 19, 2011, 02:09 PM
Eek, that's barely a G4. I'm not sure if it will run fast enough to be worth using. You wouldn't be able to run a newer OS than Tiger, which is 3 generations old now, and it's got the slowest G4 Apple ever used.

MrCheeto
Aug 19, 2011, 02:22 PM
An ole AGP, eh?

I, personally, like OS 9 for these machines, but if Tiger runs smoothly it's worth the upgrade.

There are plenty of capable apps for both Tiger and OS 9 that are still available for download.

One of my favorite hosting sites is Macintoshgarden.org

Have fun. These old Macs make such nice toys.

Lord Blackadder
Aug 19, 2011, 02:39 PM
Think very carefully about what you want to do with it, and then upgrade accordingly. There are lots of options in terms of hardware upgrades, but even with maxumim RAM, a new CPU, new HDDs, GPU and USB/Firewire card the machine will still be slower than any Intel Mac by a big margin, especially if you are trying to run newer software.

Your best bet is to stick with older versions of software that are more contemporary with the machine, and bear in mind that the cost of hardware upgrades and software can easily exceed the cost of a brand new Mac.

I suggest that you max out the RAM first, then buy a modern SATA hard drive and hard drive controller card. These two upgrades are the most cost-effective. Add a USB 2.0/Firewire card if you want after that. This could turn the machine into a decent little file server or web server.

Merica
Aug 19, 2011, 03:04 PM
Ha! A perfectly mixed response.

I think one issue I have to sort out is the purpose. I don't have one outside of "because I want to... cause, you know... free Mac!". How much are we looking at, do you think, to get it to the point where it can nicely run Tiger? It's so tough to let even these decade old machines go. Still stylish as you like, really.

Thanks to all for the responses so far.

Lord Blackadder
Aug 19, 2011, 05:14 PM
If you look in my sig you'll see that I have a "Digital Audio" dual 533Mhz G4 that I heavily upgraded a few years ago. I added a 1.4 Ghz CPU, GeForce 6800GT (flashed), several SATA HDDs, a DVD-RW, USB 2.0, and a few other things. I also eventually installed Tiger.

That was back in 2006 or so, and I ended up spending $1500-$2000 on the machine, over the course of a couple years of piecemeal upgrading.

These days it's not worth spending that much money (though the cost of those parts I bought is lower now, though also harder to find), unless you are just doing it for fun, in which case anything goes.

If you upgrade the memory and HDD it should be able to run Tiger, though a CPU upgrade would be a good idea if you are currently running with a 350Mhz CPU. Memory costs vary, but 2GB (the maximum) should be reasonably affordable. A CPU upgrade will be around $150-$200. You'll need to get a SATA controller (around $50) to use a new (fast, quiet) SATA HDD. USB 2.0 cards are cheap and plentiful.

MrCheeto
Aug 19, 2011, 06:08 PM
I remember putting a 1ghz G4 CPU inside of a G3 Blue & White.

Lawd, she was smooth and fun. Oh those G4's...

ThunderSnake
Aug 19, 2011, 07:04 PM
unless you are just doing it for fun, in which case anything goes.

And that is really the relevant question. The folks who normally post in these PPC forums have a genuine affection for the PPC architecture. The things that we do are not always practical, rational, or cost-effective.

How much money are you willing to spend on this machine? With a few hundred dollars, it can be a fine Leopard machine. A few hundred dollars will also get you a second hand Macbook or Intel Mini.

MrCheeto
Aug 19, 2011, 07:18 PM
The things that we do are not always practical, rational, or cost-effective.

Oh boy. I always feel stupid when I see myself pouring so much into such old things, but in the end I have fun and make great use of them. They're still useful, dammit!

Having bought, upgraded, played with and sold:
PowerMac G4 MDD 1.25ghz
3x PowerBook G4 15" 1-1.67ghz
PowerMac G3 Blue & White 350mhz
Blueberry iMac G3 400mhz
Tangerine iBook G3 300mhz
Graphite iBook G3 366mhz

...and still I remember every one of them... :'(

Lord Blackadder
Aug 19, 2011, 07:27 PM
Having bought, upgraded, played with and sold:

You sell yours? For shame! ;)

I still have every Apple machine I've ever owned....which, off the top of my head, is about 15 computers ranging from an Apple ][+ to a PowerBook G4. :o

...not counting the Mac IIfx and two IIsi's that were accidentally thrown away by an overzealous garage-cleaning family member who shall remain nameless. :(

The irony is that I moved a year and a half ago and had to leave my Macs in storage...my PowerBook's screen failed about the same time, so I bought a cheap Asus netbook and use a Dell at work. But my next machine will be a MacBook Pro. :)

cocacolakid
Aug 19, 2011, 10:50 PM
I have a 400ghz GE Power Mac G4 and it's shockingly very fast in Tiger. It's perfectly fine for surfing the web, checking email, light work, and things like iTunes.

One thing those old Macs won't do is play streaming video very well (unless they have a video card with a decent amount of RAM on them.) My 400ghz doesn't play Youtube videos very well in a browser, but using Mac Tubes it plays them just fine. But I'm limited to videos on Youtube using Mac Tubes, forget about embedded videos from any other source anywhere else on the web.

I got that Mac for free, and I did upgrade the video card to a 64mb version, which does allow the Mac Tubes streaming to work very well, but with the card that was in it, I think it was 16mb, it wasn't very good at video. Your Mac came with a 16mb video card, so unless it's been upgraded, it's not going to play streaming video very well. My video card cost $15.

So, if you're OK with not really using it to steam any video, it can still be a decent, fun Mac, and a good backup in case your other main computer goes down.

You can upgrade the RAM fairly cheaply. It can take up to 4 sticks of 512mb PC100 RAM. 2gb total. You don't have to go all the way to 2gb. 1gb and Tiger will run very nicely. The next question though, is, can you get Tiger cheaply? It's not worth spending $100 on that machine, in my opinion.

In the U.S. you could, for $50-100, get a very nice G4 Powermac with a far faster CPU that is more practical. I do not know what prices are like in the U.K. for comparison, but most people do not realize that these old Power Macs still can be very useful, so they can be found dirt cheap or free all day long, and probably in the U.K. as well if you are patient.

Here is the link to Everymac's page for that Mac:
http://www.everymac.com/systems/apple/powermac_g4/stats/powermac_g4_350_agp.html

And OWC's page for RAM:
http://eshop.macsales.com/MyOWC/Upgrades.cfm?model=89

Try TenFourFox out for the browser, or Camino. Both have specific versions just for your CPU and they run faster than Safari.

You would want the 7400 G4 build of either browser. Here is a direct link to the download for TenFourFox, it's a zip file:
http://code.google.com/p/tenfourfox/downloads/detail?name=TenFourFox7400-6.0r.app.zip&can=2&q=

And the link to all of the TFF downloads, with every version:
http://code.google.com/p/tenfourfox/downloads/list

Good luck, they're fun to play with. I wouldn't put much money into it, though, especially since you can find a nice Quicksilver at 800mhz or so for around $50, or other cool G4 Power Macs that are faster and still in the $50 or less price range. You might luck out and find one that already has Tiger on it and maybe has more RAM than what you have now.

Merica
Aug 21, 2011, 04:12 PM
Considering what you've all said (and having checked out more cost effective, better specced G4's on ebay), I might not invest in suping this machine up. I also want to get myself an iPad you see and, considering the amount I might have to invest, maybe I should just hold off and have fun with an iPad instead.

Seems a shame, as it's such a gorgeous machine even now.

I love how dedicated some of you are to your machines, by the way. It's genuinely quite charming, I think.

ThunderSnake
Aug 21, 2011, 04:58 PM
Seems a shame, as it's such a gorgeous machine even now.

If you like the machine, there is nothing wrong with thinking less practical and more in terms of what makes you happy. Either way, it never hurts to stay on the lookout for a good deal. Something like this (http://www.ebay.com/itm/Dual-1-6GHz-7448-PowerMac-G4-Saw-Giga-Dig-Quick-/290598140635?pt=CPUs&hash=item43a8ffbadb) (already sold) would, IMO, be well worth it. The Sawtooth is a solid machine and there is still plenty that you can do with them.

Lord Blackadder
Aug 22, 2011, 07:20 PM
Considering what you've all said (and having checked out more cost effective, better specced G4's on ebay), I might not invest in suping this machine up. I also want to get myself an iPad you see and, considering the amount I might have to invest, maybe I should just hold off and have fun with an iPad instead.

A very wise move from an economic standpoint. But, there's no reason not to enjoy the machine as it is now, without spending money - it should still be usable for basic surfing and playing around with older software or games. You can probably eventually pick up some memory for it quite cheap and leave it at that. It's a fun little toy.

Imixmuan
Aug 23, 2011, 09:13 PM
[QUOTE=cocacolakid;13212618]

One thing those old Macs won't do is play streaming video very well (unless they have a video card with a decent amount of RAM on them.) My 400ghz doesn't play Youtube videos very well in a browser, but using Mac Tubes it plays them just fine. But I'm limited to videos on Youtube using Mac Tubes, forget about embedded videos from any other source anywhere else on the web.


It certainly is true that ten year old macs (or pc's for that matter) struggle with streaming web video, but you can always download video using download helper add on in tenfourfox, then play most mp4 or flv files in vlc, niceplayer, coreplayer (20 bucks but oh so worth it, and I have NO affilation), quicktime with Perian, yada yada.....PPC luddites (google=friend) blog has excellent though ubergeeky tips for playing HD (yes, I said HD) video on a 500mhz tower, not much more powerful than your new to you rig. Mactubes for youtube is great, Youview is better though, IMHO. FFmpeg seems like better quality than quicktime, but I'm not expert.

Beta 6 of tenfourfox has a cool add-on haxie that allows any h.264 video to be handed over to quicktime and high quality video streams smooth as butter on my 1.2 ghz ibook G4. Its very beta but pretty damn cool. Now if someone could figure out how to hand off video to coreplayer we'd be set.

50voltphantom
Aug 23, 2011, 10:23 PM
I love how dedicated some of you are to your machines, by the way. It's genuinely quite charming, I think.

I'm pining for another 1.42GHz eMac...

Merica
Aug 26, 2011, 06:18 PM
A very wise move from an economic standpoint. But, there's no reason not to enjoy the machine as it is now, without spending money - it should still be usable for basic surfing and playing around with older software or games. You can probably eventually pick up some memory for it quite cheap and leave it at that. It's a fun little toy.

I think one thing it struggled to do was browse, actually. The out of date software didn't like most sites.

I've settled on holding onto the money to save up for an iPad. But plopping in some RAM at some point isn't out of the question, I reckon. Will probably hand the machine over to my younger siblings for now. I'm sure they'll be able to have fun with it.

Thank you very much to everyone for your comments!

cocacolakid
Aug 26, 2011, 07:05 PM
I think one thing it struggled to do was browse, actually. The out of date software didn't like most sites.


Did you try TenFourFox or Camino? They run far better on the older machines than Safari. And in Camino, go into the browser preferences and turn off Flash and turn on Adblock. It makes it much faster.

Everyone recommends using one or both of those browsers on PPC Macs. I prefer TenFourFox myself and use it on all of my old Macs.

Nameci
Aug 26, 2011, 10:19 PM
Plus one on Camino for PPC...