Swapping G4 Tower motherboards?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by grggary, Nov 14, 2007.

  1. grggary macrumors newbie

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    Nov 14, 2007
    #1
    Hi, this is my first post here, so forgive me if I screw up with protocol. But what I was wondering is if anyone has any experience or advice concerning swapping out motherboards in the G4 towers? Since the 10.5 update, I decided it was time to upgrade my Sawtooth machine from the dual 500 processor to a new 1.5gHz OWC Mercury extreme (which is awesome!), but to really enjoy the eye candy, I want to pop in a new video card. From what I've been able to discern, the Sawtooth machines can't take full advantage of the cards I'm looking at, which require a gigabit ethernet machine or better, due to a revised AGP slot. So, here's the dilemma: I can buy one of these machines dirt cheap in their original factory configuration on E-Bay, but the shipping kills a lot of the allure of going that route. Since my case and all the components are perfectly fine, I had the brilliant (?) idea that I may just be able to buy a gigabit or digital audio motherboard and slap it in my tower. I'm completely fearless when it comes to ripping into Macs, so installation difficulties aside, does anyone know of other issues (like different power requirements, etc.) or would I be able to just unplug, plug and play? I'd be interested in hearing from anyone, particularly if you've tried this yourself.
     
  2. FJ218700 macrumors 68000

    FJ218700

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    #2
    so is it a Sawtooth or a GE? Sawtooths never came with a dual processor. Anyway, what video card are you looking at ?, it may draw too much power off the board for your current power supply, especially after the addition of the 1.5 GHz processor.
     
  3. Super Macho Man macrumors 6502a

    Super Macho Man

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    #3
    It's definitely not plug and play. I have an older Sawtooth and I looked into this a while back. From what I remember, the Sawtooth's PSU is pretty weak. You are likely looking at a major gutting, and that's if a newer motherboard will even fit in the chassis. I know the Digital Audio used a different PSU altogether, with a different connector pinout etc. as it had to be able to supply enough current to power an ADC monitor.
     
  4. grggary thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Nov 14, 2007
    #4
    A little more info on the machine

    Hi. The card I'm looking at is described at OWC as an ATI Technologies RADEON 9200 128MB MacEdition PCI Graphics Card with VGA, DVI, S-Video. It gets pretty confusing trying to find a card for this machine, particularly since, like mentioned here, the Sawtooth machine didn't come with the dual 500s. That has me a little confused as well. My best guess is that someone may have put the dual processor in it later on. I was really hoping that my machine wasn't a Sawtooth, but the audio jacks are vertical and below the USB ports, which is supposed to be the earmark of a Sawtooth. Also, when I run the system profiler the hardware overview describes it as a Power Mac G4 (AGP Graphics), Model identifier: PowerMac 3,1. I tried running the serial number through Apple's site and it couldn't identify the machine (don't know why that would be), but when I run it through a site called Chipmunk.nl, it comes back as a Power Mac G4 400MHz/450MHz/500MHz CTO. Says it was built in Elk Grove/Sacramento, and was built in production week 22 (June of 2000). That all pretty much adds up to Sawtooth as far as I can tell. I really don't know how to tell if the processor I pulled from it is an original Apple card or not. A magnifying glass reveals XPC7400, and RX500PK on each chip. Aside from a sticker with a long serial number and "Singapore P15 500", I don't see much else to help determine if this was an original Apple processor that was swapped into this machine, or if it was an early aftermarket upgrade. The heat sink looks identical to the pics I've seen of the Apple dual units that came in the gigabit machines. So, aside from the fact that it had the dual 500 processor, all other fingers point to Sawtooth. So if that's the case (unless I'm missing something) swapping boards isn't going to be a simple process from what I gather. Maybe my best bet would be to pick up a cheap gigabit or digital audio machine off of E-bay, put all of my goodies like the USB2 card, the larger internal drives, the DL DVD burner, processor, extra RAM, etc. into that, then put the dual card back in the Sawtooth and sell it to someone else on E-Bay. Probably the easiest route, I suppose. I really have to get by on the cheap, but I also want to put together the best unit I can manage on an ultra-tight budget. I guess one remaining question is, one of my 512mb dimms is a PC100, unlike the rest which are 133s. Anyone know if the DAs or GBs have a problem with PC100, or would I be looking at losing use of that dimm? Also, I really appreciate you guys offering your opinions and help. You're great!
     
  5. FJ218700 macrumors 68000

    FJ218700

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    #5
    I'd go for a Quicksilver, 300 watts and no problems with drives over 128 GB, more ATA options, etc.
     
  6. Super Macho Man macrumors 6502a

    Super Macho Man

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    #6
    It's a Sawtooth. There were two versions of the Sawtooth board. The first one didn't support dual CPUs, the second one did. But the Sawtooth was never sold with dual CPUs, so yours must have been an upgrade.

    DAs and GBs have a 133MHz bus which, supposedly, requires PC133 memory. Some PC100 modules will work at PC133 speed. The only way to find out is to try it.

    Another option would be to just save your money... you are not missing much by not having a Radeon 9200. It may be an upgrade over what you've got, but it's still slow as hell by even yesterday's standards. A video card here, new system board there, new memory module there, and pretty soon you've spent as much as you could have on a better machine. Sometimes you gotta know when to hold 'em or when to fold 'em. It's your decision of course.
     
  7. grggary thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Nov 14, 2007
    #7
    Video Card baffled

    First, thanks for your replies. I appreciate it very much. So I think I have my hooks in a Digital Audio from Craigs List that has an Airport card, Keyboard and mouse for $150. Given the fact I've seen the Airport cards alone go for $70 or more on E-Bay, this seems like The way I'll go. Although a Quicksilver or MDD Wind Tunnel would be cool, they are still selling too high for my budget. At least I'll be getting the 133 bus as opposed to the 100. Not a perfect solution, but it will have to do for now. Knowing when to hold 'em...I already have a new Pioneer SuperDrive, a USB2 PCI card, a 160 gig internal (I use the HiCap workaround to get past the physical drive size limitations, another 60 gig internal, a 360 gig firewire external, a 20" and a 23" pair of flat panels, a gig and a half of ram, iSight, and on and on...so right now, I think I'm leaning toward "hold-em". I know that the point will come when Apple dumps OS support for any non-Intel machines, and I think that will be the impetus that forces me to buy newer when that finally happens. Until then, however, I have enough invested in this machine that I really don't need to do a lot more to keep me satisfied for a couple more years...probably for only a little over $200/$250.
    OK, so switching focus for a moment. Now I'm looking at a video card for a Digital Audio machine. I am so baffled by these cards, I would LOVE some recommendations, since I am by no means locked into the Radeon 9200. I just want the best bang for the buck and the "what would you do if you were in my shoes" answer. Also, that 512mb dimm I mentioned as a PC100...when I look at it in the System profiler, it says "PC100-322S". What the heck is the 322S designation all about?:confused:
     
  8. FJ218700 macrumors 68000

    FJ218700

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    #8
    so are you still going to put the 1.5 GHz processor in it?, That would make a decent system, on par with my dual 1.3 GHz sawtooth (100 MHz bus), which with 2 Gigs of RAM, is very sporty running Leopard.

    As far as the Video cards, I'd go AGP rather than PCI. the Radeon 9600 seems descent enough and is on my wish list for one of my MDDs
     
  9. spinne1 macrumors 6502a

    spinne1

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    Hermitage, TN USA (near Nashville)
    #9
    Well, I would say go ahead and get a digital audio with several caveats, but $150 seems way too high at this point. I'd get the cheapest 467 or 533 you can find IF you can get everything dirt cheap. Be a little patient. The Airport card is not worth that much, especially since I would recommend you not use it anyway and use an ethernet direct connection (cheaper, more reliable, and the computer is not portable so why go wireless?)

    As to memory, the DA is very picky. The PC100 will not work and will not even allow it to boot based on my experience. Not all PC133 will work either. It has to be low-density with certain specs. You can get cheap memory from places like Data Memory Systems or 1-800-4memory, but your cheapest way is to scour ebay and wait until your exact memory comes up. You can generally use non-Mac PC133 as long as it is low-density. It is a bit of a crap shoot however because the other ram specs could be off causing it not to work. I have been successful with some PC ram however.

    My memory card is the 9800 Pro. I would recommend it if you could get it for under $100, otherwise get something else. I hear good things about the 9700. The 9200 is not much better than just getting the 7000 (and on ebay the 7000 should be very cheap by now).



    All in all, with all you have invested and after thinking about it for a few minutes, I would do the following (assuming you already bought the 1.5Ghz upgrade!):

    Get a 7000 off ebay, keep your present machine, get a pc133 controller card for IDE hard drives OR get a SATA card and new SATA hard drives (very cheap on ebay right now). This will speed up drive access (the biggest slowdown on these old machines) and allow you to bypass the 128GB limit. If you DO get a controller, etc. you MUST first uninstall the ATA Hi-cap software. Been there, done that. It prevented formatting of my new SATA drives.

    Your speed increase in going from the Sawtooth to the Digital Audio will be negligible and therefore not worth the total cost ($300-$500 by the time you get the machine, new memory, new controller card and hard drives, and new video card)

    You would be smart to consider a refurbed Mac Mini at that point. I have one for my office I got refurbed for $479 (dual core 1.83Ghz) about a month ago. They come and go fast off the refurb site and you have to act fast when you see a good price. The negatives to the mini are the graphics card (or lack thereof) and a very noisy drive/fan when it is being pushed. The performance seems snappy on most tasks. It seems similar to my upgraded Digital Audio for most everyday uses.
     
  10. grggary thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #10
    OK. A lot to digest there. I really appreciate your input! With all the variations out there it's easy to make an expensive blunder, so your experience is a BIG help. It's going to take some soul searching to figure out the best way to get the most bang for the minimum bucks! Like you said, the DA is a bit high (and the Airport card won't actually be used in whatever I get since the cable modem and router are in my room, so I get the ethernet access--probably sell it on e-bay to offset the cost of the DA, if I buy it). I guess the whole thing that prompted me to want to upgrade machines is the inability of the Sawtooth's AGP slot to allow anything short of mirrored monitors, regardless of the video card. My goal was to be able to run side-by-side flat panels and take advantage of the extra real estate. Granted, Spaces in 10.5 is awesome, but when I already have the two screens, I sort of want to use them both (it's a guy thing, I know). So, the question is, I guess, how much do I really want to do that? I saw a 466 sell recently for $56 on the Bay, but with shipping, that came to $101. Another sold for $76, but shipping was a whopping $58! I think, with shipping, I doubt I'll be able to score anything under $100. Now there are some other considerations. I could probably put the dual 500 back in the Sawtooth and get at least $60 or $70 or more for that on e-bay, especially since the dual processors are getting a lot more bidding attention. Also, OWC will give me $55 for the dual processor alone if I redeem it within 90 days of the purchase of my upgrade. Then I could just pop a spare 400mhz that I have laying around back in the Sawtooth and sell it for whatever I can get for the machine configured like it originally was--which, admittedly, won't be much. Airports seem to be going for around $50 on average, so if I sold the processor back to OWC for $55, got lucky and maybe score $50 for the Airport, I'd only be looking at around $50 out of pocket for the DA with KB & Mouse (probably a gawdawful hockey puck..."shudder:eek:". Then if I even only scored maybe $35 or $40 on the Sawtooth with the 400 back in it, the real cost of the DA wouldn't be too bad at all. And I'd kind of be back at square one, except now I'd have a machine that can run dual monitors if I get one of the cards you mentioned.
    Now this suggestion sounds great: Get a 7000 off ebay, keep your present machine, get a pc133 controller card for IDE hard drives OR get a SATA card and new SATA hard drives (very cheap on ebay right now). This will speed up drive access (the biggest slowdown on these old machines) and allow you to bypass the 128GB limit. If you DO get a controller, etc. you MUST first uninstall the ATA Hi-cap software. Been there, done that. It prevented formatting of my new SATA drives." But I'm still stuck with a single monitor, even if I buy one of these cards, right? All I can say is there are a ton of variables, so the question is, will it be worth it in the long run? I'll be buying some kind of video card regardless of whether I buy another machine or not...that's a given, so the cost of that doesn't figure in. BUT, I would have to buy new RAM, since the DA only has 3 slots, I'll want to max it out with a 512 in each...so there's an expense. And ultimately I need to get a controller card to boost my HD rpm, but I'd be doing that in the Sawtooth too, so that doesn't count either. And these are things I have to do piecemeal over a period of time...probably every other paycheck or so. My goal is to gradually get a machine worth hanging on to until the day comes that I bite the bullet and get an intel machine. I don't know. Does my "logic" sound so far out there that you're questioning my sanity right now? Math makes my head hurt. :confused:
     
  11. SmurfBoxMasta macrumors 65816

    SmurfBoxMasta

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    #11
    p*a*r*a*g*r*a*p*h*s*.................ever heard of 'em ?:rolleyes:

    they make long posts much easier to read & understand, really they do :D

    Please consider organizing your thoughts into some kind of coherent pattern prior to posting them, because your current method makes you sound like a psycho-babbling yeehaw from parts unkown :eek:
     
  12. grggary thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Nov 14, 2007
    #12
    Sorry. I guess posting here was in error. Maybe I can find a thread specifically geared toward psycho-babbling yeehaws. Hopefully they keep it on the same server as the obnoxious twit forums? That way it would be easy for you to point me in the right direction. :p
     
  13. spinne1 macrumors 6502a

    spinne1

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    #13
    The 7000 has two monitor hook ups and it is a PCI card, not AGP. You could use whatever AGP card you have now for one monitor and the 7000 for the other. (Or you could use the 7000 and run both monitors at 16mb of vram each--not ideal). Either way with such old hardware you will have issues with choppy video playback with bigger file videos and also flash websites.

    Good luck.
     
  14. Lord Blackadder macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

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    #14
    With a Sawtooth, you really need to decide whether you are willing to spend more on the upgrades than it would cost to buy a Mac Mini, which is faster in almost every possible way...

    If you want to run Leopard on the Sawtooth you will not get all the eye candy with a Radeon 7000 or 9200 - you'll need a Radeon 9600/9700/9800 card, or a GeForce 5200 card. Eye candy aside, the 7000 or 9200 should support a couple displays no problem

    I went the route you're going, except I started with a Digital Audio dual 533MHz tower and installed all the crap in my sig. It was worth it then (3 years ago) but these days the G4 towers are scraping the very edge of financial sanity when it comes to upgrading...

    ...If you get yourself an Intel Mini you will have a MUCH faster CPU. Actually, if I were you I would take the moey you'd plan on spending on upgrades and do one of two things:

    1. Buy a used G5 tower - any model, it doesn't really matter. You'll get a much better video card, significantly faster CPU (with a faster FSB than any G4 by a mile), room for another HDD and it will run Leopard perfectly with no fiddling. Even the Rev. A songle 1.6Ghz model will be a big improvement for you and they're

    2. Save that upgrade money towards an Intel Mac.
     

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