PowerBook G4 "upgrades"

Discussion in 'PowerPC Macs' started by SkyBell, Feb 4, 2015.

  1. SkyBell macrumors 604

    SkyBell

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2006
    Location:
    Texas, unfortunately.
    #1
    Well, it seems like half of this sub-forum has acquired 12" 1.5 PowerBooks as of late. :p mine has been working fairly well as a daily driver since I bought it in June last year; however, I've accumulated a couple questions about it I haven't been find satisfactory answers for searching on my own: any help is much appreciated. :)

    First and foremost, since day one the wi-fi reception has varied mostly between "crap" and "non-existent". From what I've read, that's pretty much par for the course with aluminum PB's. To be fair, my router is quite a far distance away from every wireless device in use - however, both my MacBook and eMac connect almost everytime, usually with at least fair if not pretty good signal strength. Heck, even my $20 phone has better range. :confused: I've had good luck in the past with cheap USB wi-fi dongles: They cost about $10 IIRC, and both my iBook G3 and eMac worked with the respective model I bought for each of them years ago, with little to no hassle. I'm very much open to going this route for my PowerBook, but I have no idea if there's still any out there that support Tiger, or PowerPC at all for that matter. Is there anything I need to look for in particular to ensure compatibility, or has anyone had success with a certain model?

    On to the second issue: I've often thought about changing the HDD in my PowerBook for one reason or another, and now it seems I might have a good one to do so. Basically, when I listen to music in iTunes after a few songs the whole system grinds to a halt, beachballing and unresponsive to any input, while the hard drive becomes very loud, clicking and clacking near continuously. Every few seconds the HDD will abruptly end its racket and sound as if it were spinning down after a system shutdown, only to immediately resume the noise. It has also happened once when I was using only TenFourFox, but since then it has only happened if iTunes is involved. To me, it seems like the beginning stages of HDD failure, but to be honest I haven't even done any research on it as of thus far. I gave Oynx a go and it didn't report any issues, but I know diagnostic software is often hit or miss. In any case, even if the issue is unrelated to the hard drive, it's coming up on 10 years old: it is almost certain to cause problems sooner or later, so I might as well start planning on its replacement.

    I know my PowerBook uses the PATA interface, which leaves me with a bit of a conundrum; compatible HDD's haven't been made in quite a while I believe, and the prices on them are through the roof for anything bigger than the 80 GB model I have. The other option I have heard of is getting an SSD and an adapter. What I know is while there is a speed boost from doing this, anecdotal evidence varies wildly from the SSD breathing new life into the machine, to only a measly few seconds quicker to boot and nothing else. Both options are on the pricey side, but initially the SSD seems like the way to go, both for the capacity vs. price, as well as the presumed higher reliability of the newer technology. The only worry is the talk I've seen about all PowerPC versions of OS X lacking TRIM support: I've done a little research on the matter but I still don't really understand it. It doesn't seem to be like a dealbreaker of an issue considering how many have put SSD's in their PowerPC Macs regardless, but how important is it really? Does the lack of TRIM shorten the life of the SSD, or some similar effect? Would my files be more at risk for loss or corruption? Any special procedures or measures required?

    Finally, an oddity(?) that has been bugging me for a while. The biggest shortcoming of the 12" PowerBook for me is that 1.25 GB RAM cap. Typical quirky Apple of that era for whatever reason allowed the 12" iBook to have 1.5, while being lower-spec'd in every other regard if memory serves. Furthermore, my eMac officially only supports 1 GB of memory, but in actuality you can double that to 2 GB without any modification, meaning it actually supports twice the amount Apple specified. I can't complain about that one, but regardless I can't see the reason behind it. In any case, because of these two anomalies, my PowerBook has 750~MB less of memory than my eMac. While the processor is slightly faster in the PowerBook, it's noticeably slower overall than the eMac with both running Tiger. I always knew this would be the case, but just how much more responsive and quicker overall the eMac was at every task was more than I was expecting. Originally, it was going to stay on Tiger while I put Leopard on the PowerBook; these discoveries had them trade places. I kept the PowerBook on Tiger, and upgraded the eMac. As I expected, the eMac did take a noticeable drop in performance, but only just; Even before turning off some of Leopards unnecessary features and eye candy, it was no slouch. The biggest surprise though, was the fact that even with the extra bloat of 10.5, it was still quite a good bit faster than the PowerBook on Tiger.

    Perhaps I'm remembering incorrectly, but I recall Tiger being a fair bit speedier on my iBook G4 and eMac, even when they both only had 512 MB. I once used my 800 MHz iBook G3 with Tiger for three months as my only machine. The experience I had with 10.4 and that machines 256 MB during that time feels comparable to how my PowerBook runs with the same OS, even at 1.25 GB. I suppose I can chalk that last bit up to memories fading and time passing: perhaps my PowerBook is running just as fast if not more so than those iBooks once did. I guess what I'm asking is, could it really just be the differences in amount of RAM between the eMac and PowerBook that is creating this speed gap? I know a 768 MB deficit meant much more 10 years ago than it does now, but could that really be all? I'm just having a hard time accepting that the speed difference between two machines of the same year, relatively close in spec, could feel so far apart. :apple:

    Whoo, sorry for the wall of text there, got a little carried away with the details I suppose. :eek: Thank you so much for your time!
     
  2. weckart macrumors 68040

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2004
    #2
    If page outs are an issue then you should consider an ssd. Access times on those are much faster than mechanical hard drives so they should reduce the effect of beachballing.
     
  3. val1984 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2015
    #3
    Hi,

    Regarding SSD with OSes without TRIM support, some manufacturers recommend that you let the SSD idle so that garbage collection takes place. One way of doing so is by pressing alt on boot and let the computer sit at the startup disk selection screen for a night (Crucial recommends this).

    Regarding the performance difference between your PowerBook and your eMac, the eMac has a better graphics card and a faster 7200 rpm hard drive (especially if your PowerBook has its original drive and it was a slow 4200 rpm one) so it's not really surprising that it performs better if you factor in that the CPU speed delta is not that big (80 MHz).

    Changing the PowerBook hard drive for an mSATA SSD with an adapter would be better in my opinion than changing it for a used 2.5" PATA drive (I doubt you would be able to fit a 2.5" SATA drive and an adapter in your PowerBook). I have a PowerBook G4 15" and its original 60 GB 4200 rpm Toshiba hard drive had died since the last time I used it. And the 100 GB 7200 rpm Hitachi drive I had installed in it before the SSD makes weird noises. The only reliable survivor is a Samsung 160 GB 5400 rpm drive which I use for Time Machine backups in a FW400 enclosure.

    Regarding the RAM limit in your PowerBook, I guess Apple changed its mind after production began and decided to deliver it with 512 MB even though there was only 256 MB on-board. The last iBook G4 also had a better graphics card than the last 12" PowerBook G4 (Radeon 9550 vs FX 5200 Go) but less VRAM. I have 1.5 GB in my 15" PowerBook G4 and I don't feel the need to upgrade to 2 GB but I don't use it everyday since I have more modern machines too so that may explain why :)

    Regarding your changing perceptions, browsers were not as heavy back in the days and websites used less Javascript and so less computing power so that may explain why you feel that your computer is no faster with a 1.5 GHz CPU and 1.25 GB RAM than with a G3 800 MHz and 256 MB RAM.
     
  4. MatthewLTL macrumors 68000

    MatthewLTL

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2015
    Location:
    Rochester, MN
    #4
    If you are looking for a SSD on the cheap side, Get a Single or Dual 2.5" IDE to CompactFlash and get one or two 400x or better CF cards with a minimal of 16GB In size. I was thinking of doing that for my eMac
     
  5. weckart macrumors 68040

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2004
    #5
    Compact Flash is dearer than mSATA, sadly, unless you only want up to 8GB. Dual CF to IDE adapters will not boot in a Mac, so don't waste your money on one.
     
  6. MatthewLTL macrumors 68000

    MatthewLTL

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2015
    Location:
    Rochester, MN
    #6
    What about a single IDE to CF? or is it doable to put a Laptop SATA HDD/SSD into a eMac and use a SATA to IDE adaptor?
     
  7. powermi macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2013
    Location:
    Avila (Spain)
    #7
    If you look for reliability and the long term run.. then stay using PATA.
     
  8. val1984 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2015
    #8
    But where would you buy brand new PATA drives?
     
  9. Altemose macrumors G3

    Altemose

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2013
    Location:
    Elkton, Maryland
    #9
    Some pointers here from my experience. If you want a USB adapter for Wi-Fi it needs to be small to prevent damage to the port over time. I have used the Netgear WNA1000m without issues on Tiger and Leopard and it is extremely small. In regards to SSDs, an mSATA adapter is going to be much faster than any 7200 RPM hard drive or PATA SSD. That being said, I have a KingSpec 32 GB PATA SSD and the performance is better than a 7200 RPM HD and also it is well worth the money.
     
  10. bunnspecial macrumors 603

    bunnspecial

    Joined:
    May 3, 2014
    Location:
    Kentucky
    #10
    I just put a 128gb mSATA SSD in my 15" DLSD Powerbook a few weeks ago, and the performance difference has been noticeable.

    The total cost was around $60, and it quite literally a drop in fit.

    Here's an XBench run just a few minutes ago. Considering that the ATA bus maxes out at 100mb/s, there's very little additional room for improvement.

    I have a 12" PB with a very similar set up, and the benchmark numbers are similar. It is the way to go, IMO.
     

    Attached Files:

  11. weckart macrumors 68040

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2004
    #11
    Single CF to IDE works as it is a straight passthrough. Depending upon what you are putting it in, you might need an adapter with a jumper setting for Master/Slave/CS.

    Laptop SATA to IDE should be doable and, depending upon the headroom inside, a 3.5" SATA to IDE conversion might just fit. Never owned an eMac, so you will need to measure up instead.

    Desktop IDE drives are cheap and plentiful. The real issue is with SCSI and IDE laptop drives - both becoming scarcer and more expensive by the day.
     
  12. bunnspecial macrumors 603

    bunnspecial

    Joined:
    May 3, 2014
    Location:
    Kentucky
    #12
    Hence the reason why I was really excited to find the mSATA enclosures with the same form factor as a 2.5" drive and a 44 pin IDE connection. They are-quite literally-drop in replacements for 2.5" IDE drives and don't require any work-arounds to make them fit.

    I'm still sick over the 7200rpm IDE laptop drive that I killed a couple of weeks ago. I was using one of the Chinese-made external PSUs to power it(a single USB port isn't enough to get it to spin up-I should have just been using one of the split cables). The PSU decided to cook itself, and took the drive logic board out with it. I ordered an exact replacement logic board for the drive off Ebay, but apparently the damage was deeper than just that as it will spin up but isn't otherwise recongized. Unfortunately too, I had all the data backed up off of it except for one file(a Powerpoint presentation) that I really want. I'm considering buying another model of the drive and doing a platter transplant...

    In any case, though, I'd planned to put the 7200rpm drive in my TiBook(to replace its OEM 4400rpm drive). It looks like-as my budget permits-it may get the mSATA treatment also as the 7200rpm drive really is a power hog.
     
  13. weckart macrumors 68040

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2004
    #13
    Rather you than me, even without the hassle of creating a clean room environment. Those glass platters are quite brittle.
     
  14. CubeHacker macrumors 65816

    CubeHacker

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2003
    #14
    I tried something similar last week with my iMac. Installed a SATA 120gb SSD with IDE adapter as it would have been the same price as trying to track down a new 120gb 7200rpm IDE drive.

    Overall the iMac had no trouble seeing the drive or installing OSX on it. The speeds on average were very good, with xbench results very similar to yours (saturating the 100mb/s interface) and in general booting and app loading was about 25% faster over the physical spinning drive.

    The issue I ended up having was a strange one however. Any writes to the SSD pegged the CPU at 100%, even small ones like downloading a 50mb file from the internet. I was baffled why I could load Safari in one bounce, but once Safari was downloading something, it would take 20 bounces to load another app. This never happened with the old IDE drive. Uncompressing a small ZIP archive took several minutes and the system was completely unresponsive during that entire time. The closest comparison I have is back in the days of windows XP when your newly installed hard drive would run in PIO mode instead of UDMA - it would be seen but would be dirt slow and grind the system to a halt during access. So even though the system could load things quicker, overall it felt much slower with more frequent stalls and beachballs.

    In the end I returned the SSD and installed another IDE 7200rpm drive I had laying around.
     
  15. MatthewLTL macrumors 68000

    MatthewLTL

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2015
    Location:
    Rochester, MN
    #15
    newegg
     
  16. bunnspecial macrumors 603

    bunnspecial

    Joined:
    May 3, 2014
    Location:
    Kentucky
    #16
    Do laptop drives have glass platters? I've only ever torn into a desktop drive, but the ones I've seen are metal and quite tough(to the point where they will stop a shot from a 9mm handgun, and pretty badly distort the bullet from a 357 Magnum).

    As for the clean room-I am "certified"(at least for purposes of the university) and the guy who runs the clean room in the next building over owes me a favor...I could probably get some time after hours to do the swap just for the asking.
     
  17. poiihy macrumors 68020

    poiihy

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2014
    #17
    Glass platters?! :eek: Such things exist?! Where?!
     
  18. bunnspecial, Feb 4, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2015

    bunnspecial macrumors 603

    bunnspecial

    Joined:
    May 3, 2014
    Location:
    Kentucky
    #18
    Not to sidetrack things too much with my HDD tales of woe, but I did want to report on some success.

    I got to reading on the internet about PCB swaps, and found out that most newer hard drives have an NVRAM chip that is unique to that particular drive and must be transferred over when doing a PCB swap.

    Some further research lead me to some common failure points on Hitachi PCBs, and in particular a 2A fuse(labeled F1) that can blow. A quick check with my VOM showed that the fuse was open.

    Since my main goal was to recover my one file, I figured I'd have nothing to lose by simply shorting the fuse and seeing if the drive came to life. I pulled out my soldering iron, removed the fuse, and soldered a strand of copper wire in its place.

    I then swapped the original PCB back onto the drive, dropped it into an enclosure, and held my breath as I plugged it into the USB port. The drive spun up, although as I mentioned it draws too much power for one USB port. I then plugged in the second USB connector from the "Y" cable I was using, and the drive mounted to the desktop!

    Since I didn't want to push my luck with no fuse on the PCB, I pulled my one file off then unmounted the drive.

    I'm really thinking that I'm going to order some replacement fuses and possibly even put the drive back into service. It's really too good of a drive to simply discard, especially now that I've found some life in it.

    For the time being, though, I'm just happy to save that one presentation(which I spent probably 4 hours working on, and had already been asked to give again). It's definitely going in multiple places now, however!

    EDIT:

    I miced the copper wire that I used to make the jumper, and it's about 3.8/1000". This corresponds to a fuse current of around 2.5A, so I'm actually probably okay leaving it as-is. I would have never guesses that I could cobble something together from a randomly-selected piece of wire and and have it be so close to what it actually needs to be :)
     
  19. weckart macrumors 68040

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2004
    #19
  20. MatthewLTL macrumors 68000

    MatthewLTL

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2015
    Location:
    Rochester, MN
    #20
    It's kinda scary you know that
     
  21. bunnspecial, Feb 5, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2015

    bunnspecial macrumors 603

    bunnspecial

    Joined:
    May 3, 2014
    Location:
    Kentucky
    #21
    http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1756618&page=2

    And, on another site with more pictures

    http://smith-wessonforum.com/lounge/404941-todays-im-idiot-moment.html

    BTW, I was trying to get caught up on processing some brass for reloading last night, and came across a bullet jacket from this range trip. I'm pretty sure it's off a .357 caliber Hornady XTP hollowpoint, and separated from the core going through a drive platter.

    I recovered a few other bullets(or parts of bullets) on that trip-I'm just not sure where I put them.

    BTW, going back to my "hillbilly" repair from my 7200rpm drive above, I pulled the PCB back off of it and used my pocket knife to put a nice gouge in the the piece of copper wire I used. From my back-of-the-envelope calculation, that should bring the fuse current down to about 1.5A, or below the factory spec fuse for the drive. That should at least keep it going safely until I get around to doing a proper repair :)
     
  22. powermi macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2013
    Location:
    Avila (Spain)
    #22
    Ebay and Amazon are your friends, just look to that one with Deskstar technology.
     

Share This Page