Making a G4 somewhat faster

Discussion in 'PowerPC Macs' started by djole, Oct 28, 2008.

  1. djole macrumors newbie

    Oct 28, 2008

    I need some help in figuring out how to get the most out of the Mac that I have, without buying a new one, or even spending much money on something that's worth $100 as is. This is my wife's machine that she uses mostly for the Internet. But it is dreadfully slow even though it's hardly ever used for anything else. Im comparing it to a slower G4 that I use as a server at work, which with less RAM and slower processor is 3 times faster. And my machine is fairly "clean". There is no crap on it. I even added a faster 7200 PATA drive in hopes to speed it up but it didn't really help. But interestingly enough it runs Photoshop CS3 pretty damn fast for a G4, while on the other hand it is soooo slow with Microsoft Office 2008 and Firefox 3.

    Down below are the specs. And here are a few questions:

    - Will this Crucial RAM speed it up?
    - What about a SATA drive? If so, is there something I should be aware of when choosing the right drive (i.e. compatibility?)
    - Can I add a USB 2 card?
    - What about a sound card 5.1? Will it take it?
    - Any other recommendations in regards to how to speed things up here? Like changing user settings perhaps?

    Thanks a lot!

    Mac OS X - 10.4.11
    Machine Name: Power Mac G4 (AGP graphics)
    Machine Model: PowerMac3,1
    CPU Type: PowerPC G4 (2.9)
    Number Of CPUs: 1
    CPU Speed: 500 MHz
    L2 Cache (per CPU): 1 MB
    Memory: 1 GB
    Bus Speed: 100 MHz
    Boot ROM Version: 4.2.8f1
    Memory 4 x 256 PC100

    USB Bus:

    Host Controller Location: Built In USB
    Host Controller Driver: AppleUSBOHCI
    PCI Device ID: 0x0019
    PCI Revision ID: 0x0000
    PCI Vendor ID: 0x106b
    Bus Number: 0x08

    Hub in Apple USB Keyboard:

    Version: 2.10
    Bus Power (mA): 500
    Speed: Up to 12 Mb/sec
    Manufacturer: Alps Electric

    USB Receiver:

    Version: 38.10
    Bus Power (mA): 100
    Speed: Up to 1.5 Mb/sec
    Manufacturer: Logitech

    Apple USB Keyboard:

    Version: 1.03
    Bus Power (mA): 250
    Speed: Up to 1.5 Mb/sec
    Manufacturer: Alps Electric
  2. TDM21 macrumors 6502a


    Jul 7, 2004
    1. Faster RAM probably won't make a big difference considering you have 1GB already installed.
    2. If you want to install a SATA drive you will need to purchase a SATA controller that plugs into one of the PCI slots. What you need to look out for is if you can boot from an attached drive. Some controllers do not support this.
    3, 4. You can add a USB2 card, but its doubtful to make a difference in Internet and CS3. Same for the audio card.

    What video card is installed in your wife's computer. I've heard that if you get a card that supports Quartz Extreme, the general responsiveness of the system will improve. System Profiler will be able to tell you.

    Also, have you tried using your wife's computer from a fresh install with no other apps installed? Doing that would get a good baseline to see if any application is causing the issue.
  3. djole thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 28, 2008
    Thanks for your response TDM.

    I did use it from a fresh install and it made very little difference, if any. That was when I added a faster PATA drive.

    I checked the requirements and my system doesn't support Quartz Extreme (see below).

    USB2 card: I am aware that the performance won't help if I add it. I just wanted to know if the system supported it. And I need USB2 simply to save some when I'm transferring to/from my USB external drive. I don't have to tell you what speed I get with a USB 1.1 :).

    So I guess there is very little hope for me. I will need to spend some money and get her a new Mac. Luckily she's a humble one and will be more than happy with a mini :). I'm the one complaining about this one, too, not her :).

    Again, thanks a lot!


    Chipset Model: ATY,Rage128Pro
    Type: Display
    Bus: AGP
    Slot: SLOT-A
    VRAM (Total): 16 MB
    Vendor: ATI (0x1002)
    Device ID: 0x5046
    Revision ID: 0x0000
    ROM Revision: 113-63001-110
    Apple Studio Display:
    Display Type: CRT
    Resolution: 1280 x 1024 @ 75 Hz
    Depth: 32-bit Color
    Core Image: Not Supported
    Main Display: Yes
    Mirror: Off
    Online: Yes
    Quartz Extreme: Not Supported
  4. Toronto Mike macrumors regular

    Jan 5, 2008
    Others, more technically versed, should jump in after my suggestions here. They worked for me, but I don't have the technical knowledge to make even better choices.

    Here are more suggestions - depending on your budget.

    My G4 CPU was originally was around 400-500 MHz - but it already came with a 1.2 CPU upgraded processor. I bet that made a huge difference, although that option might be way more than it's worth - given what G5s are going for on the used market now.

    I noticed immediate improved performance when I:
    - maxed out the Ram to 2 GB from 1.25
    - added an SATA card, then used an external scratch disk for Photoshop. Maybe an internal hard drive scratch disk would have worked better.
    - a dramatic improvement when I defragged the hard drive with a defragging program.
    -stayed with CS2 and Tiger (although this might not be an option for you)

    Others feel free to jump in and help this gentleman from further contributing to our landfill problems by throwing out his perfectly good computer - if it can be avoided. I know I'll always keep my G4 as a back-up becasue I feel it is still that good.

  5. WayneStewart macrumors newbie

    Oct 7, 2008
    Vancouver, BC, Canada
    I have a 500mhz AGP G4. and tried some of the things you were wondering about. I'd had a Dual 1ghz G4 MDD that had been upgraded quite a bit before it died.

    Faster RAM won't make any difference. More might but you likely wouldn't notice the difference.

    My 500mhz had a 30gb Seagate. I installed a SATA card and a 160gb Seagate and cloned the comlete drive over to it. I then timed how long it took for the G4 to boot. Unfortunately the 500mhz was significantly slower booting from the SATA drive. With my MDD the SATA drive was significantly faster booting.

    If you connect a camera, flash drive or external USB drive, a USB 2.0 card will make life a lot more pleasant. If not then don't bother.

    If you want to see a really noticeable difference and the budget allowed then I'd go for a faster processor
  6. Toronto Mike macrumors regular

    Jan 5, 2008
    Yeah - I was looking to even upgrade the G4 processor further - but then the max Ram limitation of 2GB was a nagging suspicion if I would be doing the right thing. I went for a used dual 2.0 G5 instead. I couldn't have been happier.

    I only suggest the G5 if the original poster is looking for a really significant increase in performance with all the advantages a desktop offers. Used G5s are going for very good prices now that Intel chips are fully underway. I know this might be way more than the budget allows - but the perfomance jump for me was great - something I plan to stay with for the next 5-7 years - unless the machine dies completely on me.

  7. Semiopaque macrumors regular

    Oct 7, 2008
    Hopefully this will help, it's cheap if you have access to the parts to try it out.

    This is what I did to make my G4 faster. It's noticeable and my girlfriend uses it mainly for Internet (myspace and such some simple photo editing, it has CS3 on it which seems to run OK but I'm far from an expert on that).

    I have the same model as you do (PowerMac3,1) except at 450mMHz.

    I was debating between selling this and getting her a Mac Mini as well.


    Got RAM to 1.5GB. Made the most significant difference.

    EDIT: I updated firmware to the latest version before I dumped OS9 entirely off the system before I did this. Only using Classic for MS Office now. Not sure if that makes a difference wanted to add that as I'm not sure you can update that through anything but OS9.
    Added an ATI Radeo 9000 Pro video card (I got it for free I don't think this is supposed to work on this Mac but it's running with no issues). Running it through a DVI to VGA adapter to a Dell m782 CRT and it supports Quartz Extreme (not sure how great that is but someone else mentioned it as helping...).

    Put in another PATA drive (it's a 7200 rpm and totally different manufacturer and capacity than the 20GB I had in there).

    I put both the HDDs in RAID 0 using Tiger software RAID using the following configuration:

    • 2x5GB partitions 1st partitions on the drives then RAID 0 on those 2 partitions for Scratch drive only associated with Photoshop scratch drive
    • 2x10GB partitions 2nd partitions on the drives then RAID 0 on those 2 partitions fresh install of OS X on this partition and nothing else
    • 2x5GB partitions for Applications, partitions in RAID 0 on these as well, installed CS3, Yahoo Messenger, VLC, MS Office 2001 (running using Classic OS9), and Firefox here

    Balance of additional HDD I set as storage space. Got one 20GB HDD in it and one 40GB so the balance for storage is 20GB.

    I also added a USB 2.0 card but it's not in use yet for anything. I should probably add a USB backup drive and clone the thing, but haven't bothered. I've messed with the system so much it takes me almost no time at all to redo it all and reinstall everything.

    System is snappier and more than adequate for what my girlfriend uses it for. I haven't run any benchmarks on it and I can't say it's FAST but, again, seems to work totally fine for it's primary uses.

    Frankly, it rocks for a system that is...what...10 years old?
  8. Toronto Mike macrumors regular

    Jan 5, 2008
    Great post!

    When I first got into computers two years ago, not knowing a thing except from what the magazines were touting at the time (much like it is today) - I thought anything older was useless. I took up my friend's offer to buy his G4 system for $300, since it was all I could afford, with concern that it would be painfully slow. And this is coming from the PR I came across in my research as to what latest and greatest to buy.

    I was amazed and thrilled of what it was able to do. Seriously - if I didn't start to put those 300mg tiff files through Photoshop - I'd still be using it as my primary system with CS2. It would be great for a casual user who also dabbles with small projects in CS2 (I don't know about how it would have handled CS3). I built my own website in Dreamweaver on it, and manipulated all my artwork, and did some promotional material in Illustrator on the G4. A solid performer for smaller tasks.

    Talk about easy to service and upgrade.
    If your needs are honestly modest - and you know you don't need to run the current bloated software - a small amount of cash to upgrade a G4 is a good value. However, if what you think you might need to spend for the upgrades starts to climb significantly, consider getting a used G5. You'd pay a little more, but then your performance would increase dramatically. I'd say, if CS4 can be loaded, and perform as well as CS2 does on my current G5 - I don't think I'll consider upgrading for the next 7 years because this would be a tool that can do everything I'd ever need it to do. Now that is good value and money saved by stepping off the frantic upgrade cycle.

  9. greenlightracer macrumors member

    Jun 8, 2007

    There are ways to determine if your Ram needs are being met. You might need more, you might need less, but you don't have to guess. Also, just because you have a 7200 Rpm drive now, doesn't mean it's a fast drive. There is also things like density that come into play. This article I wrote details how to determine how much ram you need, and how to choose a hard drive: (Real World) Speed Freak. If you want, just doing a quick search, I found this hard drive might speed things up a bit, without upgrading to SATA (although I think SATA is far superior, not just because of the added bandwidth):
  10. djole thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 28, 2008
    Thanks a lot guys for your help. I'll see what I can do to speed this little ba$tard a bit without spending a lot.

    Interestingly enough as I'm thinking how to upgrade my wife's G4 I'm having issues with my damn PC :mad:. Finally I figured it out. It was a SATA cable. Luckily I didn't take it Best Buy. It would have been a hard drive :). I better start saving for a Mac Pro for myself.

    Again, thanks!
  11. jodelli macrumors 65816


    Jan 6, 2008
    Windsor, ON, Canada
    Along with a gig of ram and 140 gigs of HDD I added a Sonnett 1g G4 CPU to an AGP G4. All is working well.

    The Sonnett came from eBay for a little over $100 US. I believe a certain firmware has to be installed first, but that was quick and easy.

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