Upgrading an old G4

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Traxan, Apr 23, 2009.

  1. Traxan macrumors member

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2008
    #1
    My office is ditching a lot of old gear and I inherited a Power Mac G4 AGP, 500Mhz model. It's currently running OS X 10.2.9. Now I'm not all that Mac-savvy, I grabbed it to learn (and it's free, after all).

    So, what can I do to upgrade this puppy? I see it uses PC100 memory, can I use any memory? Also, will any AGP card work? What about a processor or HD upgrade?

    All help (and patience) is appreciated.
     
  2. ewilson6 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2006
    #2



    You would be spending more money on upgrades than what a new iMac would cost.

    you can put in a faster g4 processor for around $200, 1gb ram $100, New Hard Drive $100, Leopard $129...but in the end, your g4 will still be slower and incompatible with a lot of software that requires intel processors. i.e. almost every new game on the market requires intel processors...g4 processors died 6 years ago. Sorry to let you down, but tomorrow is a different city a whole new town!

    --Eric
     
  3. brendu macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2009
    Location:
    USA
    #3
    hmmmm...

    traxan...

    I did this about a year ago to essentially the same machine... upgraded the processor to a sonnet 1.0ghz, up'ed the ram to 1 gig, 120gig hdd and then added a 128mb graphics card and a super drive... all of it ended up costing me about $400 in the end....

    I did it just for the fun of it and because my sister needed a computer and wanted a cheap mac that could do basic tasks like web browsing, word, and itunes / iphoto...

    If you plan on actually using the machine for more than that or plan on keeping it as a primary computer for any duration of time i would recommend you just dont waste your time or money on it.. just get a Mac Mini. The new Mini is WAY more computer than the powermac g4 could be if you upgraded everything in it to the best possible specs... and would cost less... plus, with the new Mini you can run windows apps through boot camp or parallels should you need to do that. ( the g4 cannot)...

    so although i enjoyed the process and the g4 is SUPER easy to upgrade, i would say just trash it and get a mini if you want a cool mac for kind of cheap...

    also if you dont want to spend $600+ on the mini.. and dont need to play games or deal with too much HD video... i would suggest getting the previous generation on clearnce from clubmac.com or macmall.com where you can find one for just over $400... great deals...

    hope this helps
     
  4. clyde2801 macrumors 601

    clyde2801

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2008
    Location:
    In the land of no hills and red dirt.
    #4
    Eh, max the ram out if you can do it for $100 or less and use it for now.
     
  5. Traxan thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2008
    #5
    I need a little clarity here. There's no way 1GB of memory is $100. You can get 4GB of DDR2 for $40. So PC100 should be dirt cheap, unless the G4 uses special, proprietary RAM.

    I live in the Silicon Valley so I got Frys and Mac stores everywhere. I have a AGP ATI card at home and an old hard drive I can use, which cuts down on costs right there.

    BTW, I think it's a dual processor machine. The heat sink is huge and it says DUAL all over it.

    The internals of this machine are so beautifully done. Wish Apple stayed with it and not that abysmal hermetically sealed design they use now.

    And I'm doing this to learn the Mac, so I do intend to keep it.
     
  6. clyde2801 macrumors 601

    clyde2801

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2008
    Location:
    In the land of no hills and red dirt.
    #6
    There's a bell curve when it comes to memory prices; supply and demand stuff.

    When a new type of memory (ddr3, let's say) comes out, few places make it and if there's a demand for it, it's pretty high.

    More manufacturers require the new ram, demand increases, and more places make the ram hoping to capitalize on the demand. Prices level out or fall.

    DDR4 comes out, and the industry leaders start using it. Meanwhile everyone is still making DDR3, so supply is high, and demand decreases. Prices fall.

    Times passes, and everyone's moving on to ddr5 and ddr6. Some people are holding onto their ddr3 machines and want to install the most ram possible to keep their machines usable. Meanwhile, no one's even making DDR3 anymore. Prices will start to rise on the sticks that are still on the market.

    PC100 may be starting to fall into the last category of 'legacy' ram. It may be more expensive than you think. As I said previously, buy the most ram for it that you can afford now. Good luck.
     
  7. Eric S. macrumors 68040

    Eric S.

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2008
    Location:
    Santa Cruz Mountains, California
    #7
    You'll find lots of good information here:

    http://lowendmac.com/ppc/sawtooth-power-mac-g4-agp.html

    I have a PM G4 Sawtooth. Originally it was 400MHz; I upgraded it to 1.0GHz with a Sonnet CPU. I changed the AGP card to a Radeon 9800 Pro, added a SATA drive and controller, and a USB 2.0 card. I have 1.3GB RAM and run Leopard. It's obviously not a speed demon but it's a solid, reliable system that handles all basic computing tasks.
     
  8. js81 macrumors 65816

    js81

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2008
    Location:
    KY
    #8
    I believe this is a more exact version of the specs. If it IS indeed a dual, the speed of it will be OK for Tiger - no heavy HD video stuff, but basic usage. I used to have the exact same machine and of all my Macs, its the one I miss most. Here's what you ought to do:

    1) Upgrade the RAM to the most you can afford. It takes PC100, yes, and that can at times be expensive. It maxes out at 2GB. Look at eBay for cheap PC100 sticks - I recent bought a 256MB stick for $5 shipped. If you got 4 of those, you'd have 1GB, which would be more than usable.

    2) Put in a 7200 RPM hard drive. Shoot, add a SATA contoller and it'd be even better. Hopefully the drive you said you already have is an IDE 7200 RPM and you won't have ANY cost in the HD.

    3) Put OS X Tiger (10.4) on it. Leopard may be a bit much.

    4) Get a USB 2.0 card - it only has USB 1.1 and that's SLOW. Any PCI USB 2.0 card will work. Again, check eBay - about $5 of so.

    5) THIS MAY COST THE MOST - get a graphics card. Now, guys correct me if I'm wrong, because when I had my G4 it was back in the days of Panther (10.3) - you'll have to get a Mac-specific graphics card. Just search, again, eBay for a Mac AGP card. This is up to you cost-wise - I put a Geforce 3 128MB in mine way back when and that helped TREMENDOUSLY.

    So, its all up to you - and really, the video card could wait a bit until you've gotten familiar with the machine. Let's tally the cost:

    256MB x 4 PC100 - ~ $20 on eBay
    7200 RPM IDE HD - $0 (hopefully), ~$25 of so if you must buy an 80GB or so.
    OS X Tiger - less than $50 on eBay (don't waste your money on Leopard for that machine). Even Panther would be OK.
    USB 2.0 card - less than $10 on eBay
    AGP card - you're call there. :)

    Total: $80 for memory, Tiger, and USB 2.0.

    Well worth it. :D
     
  9. brop52 macrumors 68000

    brop52

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2007
    Location:
    Michigan
    #9
    How much RAM do you have in there now? You can use up to 2GB, you have 4 slots, you don't have to have matching pairs, and 512MB chips are $28.79 at OWC. If you aren't sure how much RAM you have and how many chips, check with the crucial scanner.

    Just upgrade the RAM. Everything else is probably fine. I assume the drive is an IDE (PATA) and 7200 RPM. My G3 iMac runs Tiger just fine with 768MB of RAM so I would hope your PowerMac G4 can handle it. I recommend you don't spend too much on the machine as even a Mac Mini is far faster than it and you can only use HDDs up to 128GB. The Mac Mini is at least 7X faster all around than the G4.
     
  10. CubeHacker macrumors 65816

    CubeHacker

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2003
    #10
    Depending on what you have laying around, you can probably upgrade it for cheap.

    If it indeed a dual G4 500mhz, then i'd just leave it alone. It won't be super fast, but should be decent for web browsing.

    Get 3 sticks of 512mb PC100/PC133 RAM. Should be fairly cheap, around $10 each stick.

    If you have an IDE hard drive lying around, stick it in. Its probably larger and faster than whats in there now. Keep in mind that these old G4's only read up to a max of 128gb, so there is no need to get anything larger. There are software hacks to get around it, but I honestly wouldn't bother.

    If you have some spare PC video cards around, some of them can be flashed to work on a mac. Some popular options are the Radeon 9xxx series (9200, 9600, 9800), and some of the Geforce 6xxx line. My guess is that the G4 currently has an ATI Rage 128 or something similar, which doesn't even support Quartz Extreme.
     
  11. Traxan thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2008
    #11
    From what I can tell, there's a 30GB IDE drive in there. It has 768M of memory, a 512 and a 256, plus 2 more slots. I'd read elsewhere that they can't handle more than 1.5GB, but others are saying 2GB. So which is it?

    I have a Radeon 9800 AGP sitting at home that can go in, replacing the ATI card in it now.

    This could be fun. It's kinda like fixing up a classic car. And I just love the case design. Replacing the power supply, though, would be a nightmare.
     
  12. Eric S. macrumors 68040

    Eric S.

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2008
    Location:
    Santa Cruz Mountains, California
    #12
    OS 9 will not use more than 1.5GB. OS X will use the full 2GB. (So you don't need to worry about it.)
     
  13. michael.lauden macrumors 68020

    michael.lauden

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2008
    #13
    IMO don't bother. you can buy a solo core Mac mini and upgrade it to a 2.33 C2D - and actually have a use for it
     
  14. js81 macrumors 65816

    js81

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2008
    Location:
    KY
    #14
    I've had both (the dual G4 and the Core Solo mini upgraded to C2D) and I'd rather have the G4 by a long shot.
     
  15. brop52 macrumors 68000

    brop52

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2007
    Location:
    Michigan
    #15
    It will run Tiger fine as it is with 768 but by spending $35 for another 512MB you can make it a better machine. Obviously you won't notice much difference unless you add about 768MB or more. (to put it to 1.5GB+ total).

    I will repeat that no matter what you do to the machine it won't compare to any modern machine.
     
  16. Traxan thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2008
    #16
    And I repeat that I'm just experimenting and learning. I'm a PC veteran. The last computer I owned with an Apple logo on it was a IIe.
     
  17. brop52 macrumors 68000

    brop52

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2007
    Location:
    Michigan
    #17
    Then enjoy. Nothing wrong with being a dork. I'm one too. Just don't expect it to be that powerful of a computer.
     
  18. camomac macrumors 6502a

    camomac

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2005
    Location:
    Left Coast
    #18
    Ummm, No. Use a USB 2.0 card with a NEC chipset. NEC is 100% mac compatible.
     
  19. camomac macrumors 6502a

    camomac

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2005
    Location:
    Left Coast
  20. js81 macrumors 65816

    js81

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2008
    Location:
    KY
    #20
    I used two different el-cheapo (read: $5.00) USB cards (one was a firewire combo) and both worked fine. Maybe I was lucky and both had the NEC chipset, but I doubt it. But then again, maybe so. Just writing from experience. :)
     
  21. CubeHacker macrumors 65816

    CubeHacker

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2003
    #21
    The stock 30gb HDD is slow and probably noisy. Anything modern will be a huge upgrade in speed. You can get by with 768mb of RAM, especially with Tiger. More is always good of course, but unless you plan on running 10 apps at once you might not even have to bother.

    The 9800pro should be a good upgrade. I believe it has to be AGP 2x keyed (meaning the AGP connector on the card has 3 distinct sections). You can flash it on any PC and it'll also require the taping/cutting of 2 pins on the card. Search online for mac video card flashing.
     
  22. camomac macrumors 6502a

    camomac

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2005
    Location:
    Left Coast
    #22
    i don't know, but from my experience i've been told to only use NEC,
    and that is what i have and it works 100%. i have a 2002 quicksilver G4.
    maybe earlier models aren't as picky. :D
     
  23. zmttoxics macrumors 65816

    zmttoxics

    Joined:
    May 20, 2008
    #23
    I have a 400mhz AGP G4 that I got for 10 bucks. Running 10.4.11 with 768MB ram, it still felt slow. After reading some stuff, I took an old FX5200 pc card I had (256MB), flashed it and covered the 2 pins to force it to agp 2x mode, and dropped it in. I did this in just under an hour, today.

    Boy oh boy, having a core image supported video card makes the world of difference. I highly recommend you get a graphics card that supports core image (ATI 9600 or FX5200 and up). :)
     

    Attached Files:

  24. camomac macrumors 6502a

    camomac

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2005
    Location:
    Left Coast
    #24
    very nice. can you post a link for the instructions to make this work with the G4? i assume thats okay.
     
  25. zmttoxics macrumors 65816

    zmttoxics

    Joined:
    May 20, 2008
    #25
    The information you need is on this website here: http://themacelite.wikidot.com/wikidownloads2

    You need a PC with a bootable dos disk of some format to run the NVFLASH program, I use DR-DOS (also known as Caldera DOS) and run the utility off the C drive of my windows install.
     

Share This Page