G4 upgrades

gwilliam

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Sep 9, 2014
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Hey guys! I'm a new powermac user here. I just recently bought a powermac g4 and I was wondering what the max RAM, video card, and processors I could put in it and still retain the original architecture. I don't know much about them.
I also have the chance to buy a powermac g5 for cheap and I was wondering if it would be wise to go ahead and snag it to replace the g4. What are the main differences in the two, and is the g5 more upgradeable, etc. Thanks so much in advance!
 

Zotaccian

macrumors 6502a
Apr 25, 2012
637
2
If you can identify which model it is then it would be easier to give answer, but the maximum which G4 PowerMacs ever supported was 2GB while the first model for example supported only up to 1GB. Earlier models used SDRAM and later used DDR SDRAM. The first G5 PowerMac supported up to 4GB so even the low end G5 can take more RAM than high end G4.

G4 machines are better if you intend to upgrade CPU, with G5's there are no CPU upgrade cards sold, as far as I know and you can't just swap faster CPU atleast in most cases altough I do remember reading that someone did manage to upgrade but whether or not it was true, I don't know.
 

bunnspecial

macrumors 604
May 3, 2014
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Kentucky
I have a bunch of G4s along with a G5.

I have a lower end G5 model(first generation single 1.8) and it's faster, more responsive, and just generally more useable than even my best G4.

With that said, I love G4s, and a lot of the reason for that is that they can be upgraded and "played with" a lot more than a typical G5.

The first thing you need to know when talking about G4 upgrades is that there were three different case styles(as well as changes within those same models) and which you have will govern what sort of upgrades you can do.

The case styles are

1. Graphite. This one looks a lot like the B&W G3. The front and side panels are a dark blue-gray color. The speaker on the front is at the bottom, and there is a grill over it. The optical drive door has an eject button in the center.

2. Quicksilver. The front and sides are a silver-gray color. The optical drive door is white, and the zip drive bezel(or blank for it) is is also white. The speaker has no grill over it.

3. Mirrored drive door(MDD). This one is pretty self explanatory. It has two optical drive bays, each of them hidden behind a "mirrored" door.

The Graphite cases actually contained three pretty dramatically different logic boards. The earliest of these(called the "Yikes!" sometimes, from its Apple code name) more properly called the "PCI Graphics" model, and is basically a B&W G3 upgraded to a G4 processor. These have 4 ram slots, and can take a maximum of 4x256mb for 1gb total ram. The next is the AGP graphic model, which was codenamed the "Sawtooth"(this name is still frequently used also). It can take 4x512mb for 2gb. The final revision is called the "Digital Audio." It loses one RAM slot for a max of 1.5gb, but gains a PCI slot. There was also a version between the Sawtooth and the DA, known as the Gigabit Ethernet, which gains(obviously) gigabit ethernet and I think the ability to power an ADC display.

The Quicksilver logic boards are similar to the Digital Audio logic boards in that they have 3 RAM slots(1.5gb max) and 4 PCI slots. The "Quicksilver 2002" model did gain the ability to use drives larger than 128gb.

All of the Graphite and Quicksilver models use 168-pin SD-RAM. I think that the Yikes! specifies PC-100, and all the others PC-133.

The MDD models are quite different internally from the earlier models. They returned to 4 RAM slots, but take(depending on the exact model) either PC-2100 or PC-2700 DDR. MDDs don't recognize modules larger than 512mb, so they still max out at 2gb RAM. The last model of the MDD added Firewire 800.

As far as upgrades go-processor cards can pretty much be freely interchanged between models in the same case(I think with the exception of the Yikes!). Quicksilver processor cards can be put in Sawtooth/DA models with a little bit of extra work. MDD processor cards can only be interchanged within other MDD models.

No G4 has USB 2 built in, so many of us will install a USB 2 PCI card. Look for an NEC Chipset on the card, and it should work with no issues.

Most of the G4 models can only take the original 802.11b "Airport" card, which has its limitations if you require wireless internet and can't connect to many modern routers. The exception to this is the Firewire 800 MDD, which takes an 802.11g "Airport Extreme" card and will work fine with many modern routers. PCI Wireless cards with the "right" chipset will work and be recognized as an Airport Extreme card. I know from personal experience that the Motorola WPCI810G will work, although I know there are others out there.

Many folks install SATA cards to allow them to install modern SATA hard drives. I've not done this, so can't give any advice on what works or what doesn't. I know that not all SATA cards will provide a bootable hard drive, so in those cases you will need to keep at least one IDE hard drive for the OS.

Finally, depending on what generation G4 you have, the stock optical drive may be somewhat limited in capabilities. I generally just go ahead and drop a DVD burner in. Most will just plug in and work without any trouble.

That's the long and short of what I generally do when upgrading a G4.
 

Intell

macrumors P6
Jan 24, 2010
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The Sawtooth and Gigabit Ethernet boards use PC-100 memory. Some MDD models can see and use 1GB low density memory sticks.
 

gwilliam

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Sep 9, 2014
4
0
I have identified it as the 'Yikes!' model. So this means that it is only upgradable to 1 gb of ram. I'm really not looking to upgrade the processor, but if I was to upgrade the hard drive, what is the maximum that it would take? I have gotten mixed responses. Some places make it sound like as long as it's backwards compatible to 1.5 gb/s then I will be fine with the right adapter if it's SATA. I think I will do the USB upgrade bunnspecial, and thank you so much for all of your help! That was a ton of information!
 

Intell

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Jan 24, 2010
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The biggest problem to overcome when upgrading the hard drive is the size limitation. They can only recognize drives up to 128GB in size without third party drivers. Drives bigger than that will only be usable up to 128GB without using third party drivers.
 
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bunnspecial

macrumors 604
May 3, 2014
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I've never had a Yikes! so can't address that model specifically. I do know that with my DA, I have installed and used drives bigger than 128gb. The caveat was that I had to format them in that computer and was only able to "see"(and use) 128gb of space on the drive.

Of course, IDE drives smaller than 128gb are plentiful and a lot less expensive than those bigger than 128gb, so I tend to reserve the "big" drives for computers that can actually take full advantage of them.
 

weckart

macrumors 601
Nov 7, 2004
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The Sawtooth and Gigabit Ethernet boards use PC-100 memory. Some MDD models can see and use 1GB low density memory sticks.
Interesting. I take it that the memory controller will still limit total RAM to 2GB in OSX?
 

gwilliam

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Sep 9, 2014
4
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I've never had a Yikes! so can't address that model specifically. I do know that with my DA, I have installed and used drives bigger than 128gb. The caveat was that I had to format them in that computer and was only able to "see"(and use) 128gb of space on the drive.

Of course, IDE drives smaller than 128gb are plentiful and a lot less expensive than those bigger than 128gb, so I tend to reserve the "big" drives for computers that can actually take full advantage of them.
So would it be worth my money to buy a 120 gb SSD or am I kind of just throwing money into a pit? By the way, the main purpose for this computer is to be a home file server.
 

Intell

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Jan 24, 2010
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A SSD would perk it up, but it would largely be wasted. That model may not make the best file server. It's limited to 100 megabit Ethernet.
 

gwilliam

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Sep 9, 2014
4
0
A SSD would perk it up, but it would largely be wasted. That model may not make the best file server. It's limited to 100 megabit Ethernet.
Do you know the specs of a PowerMac G5? Are the internet abilities worlds faster on that?
 

Intell

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Jan 24, 2010
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Even the most lowly G5 is much better than that model G4. But they use much more power and make poor file servers because of their high idle power use.
 

MatthewLTL

macrumors 68000
Jan 22, 2015
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Rochester, MN
The Sawtooth and Gigabit Ethernet boards use PC-100 memory. Some MDD models can see and use 1GB low density memory sticks.
I tried this in mine and altough it booted with a 1GB stick in there the System only saw it as 512MB. I did read of someone putting 2GB in a MDD by using 1 1GB Stick and 2 512 sticks and claimed it saw 2GB.

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If what you need is a file server, my recommendation would be to buy one of the late Mac Mini G4s. Keep looking and you'll surely find one for $40 or less.
Wouldn't a MDD be the best choicce for a File server? if you remove the ODD you could install and use 6 HDDs either IDE or SATA with SATA controller cards.
 

Intell

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Jan 24, 2010
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As I stated, only some MDD models can use 1GB DIMMs. Your model would appear to not be one or you used a high density stick.
 

weckart

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Nov 7, 2004
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Some Macs are more sensitive to memory density than others. My Wallstreets see only half the memory of the same sodimms I use in my Pismos.
 

bunnspecial

macrumors 604
May 3, 2014
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Some Macs are more sensitive to memory density than others. My Wallstreets see only half the memory of the same sodimms I use in my Pismos.
As you said, a lot of it is machine specific.

With that said, the general rule I've found is that when installing the largest size DIMM that a particular computer will accept, low density is a necessity. High density is often okay if under the max size that a computer will accept.

As a practical example, every AGP-based G4 tower I've used will happily take all the high density 256mb DIMMs I can pack in them and read them at full capacity. A B&W G3, on the other hand(or at least the three I have, in both Rev. A and Rev. B form) will not even see a the same high-density 256mb sticks that work fine in my Sawtooth.

Ironically enough, however, I've found that I can put a 512mb module in a B&W, and it will work fine as a 256mb. I only do this in a pinch, as I'd rather put 512mb memory in computers that can actually make full use of it, but none the less it works. This makes little sense to me, as a low-density 512mb module should have a density equivalent to a high density 256(i.e. they should approximately the same chips), but none the less I've tested it many times and it does work.
 

weckart

macrumors 601
Nov 7, 2004
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With some high density chips, Macs requiring low density modules will initialise the chips on one side of the stick while ignoring the other. I think this is what is happening with those ram sticks where only half the memory is registered. Where the individual memory chips are incompatible nothing will show.