What to do with a Powerbook G3 Pismo?

Discussion in 'PowerPC Macs' started by MikeonTV, Aug 14, 2007.

  1. MikeonTV macrumors regular

    Aug 9, 2007
    Hi. Mac Newbie here. I have this old Powerbook G3 Pismo with hopes to do something with. Ideally I would like to upgrade the processor/RAM/Hard Drive and be able to boot on Linux (preferably Ubuntu). I don't have the OS9 Disk and really would like to use this beautiful piece of machinery. So my question is. What do I need to buy? What do I need to install and where should I start looking? Thanks all. I look forward to learning how to use my very first MAC!

    specs are...

    Mac OS 9.0.4
    Built in memory: 128MB
    Virtual memort: 128MB used on Macintosh HD
    1MB Cache
    64MB Ram (???)
    6GB Hard drive
    8MB Video/DVD
  2. renai-spirit macrumors member


    Aug 14, 2007
    i think there are alot of ppl out there still using the pismo for ordinary tasks such as web browsing, iTunes, Office apps etc.

    i've got a pismo that was previously upgraded to a G4 550 that i still use at home, and it even runs FCP 4.5 quite well! it is a great machine to use, and whilst i'm looking at the next revision of the MBP, i'll hang on to the pismo

    a g3 can run panther well iirc, but you would need to get more ram. i'm not sure about requirements for linux, however.

    upgrades to consider for a pismo, keeping in mind you don't want to spend too much on an old computer:

    ram: look on ebay and try to get up to 768mb-1gb (512+256 or 2x512 sticks)
    HDD: i've got a 60gb/5400 rpm drive in mine, though 80gb/5400 would be better.
    optical drive: i replaced my original flakey LG drive with a pioneer kr-06 which is a fabulous drive, and not too expensive either.

    look at iFixit.com for free how-to's for doing all your own repairs and installs.
  3. Flowbee macrumors 68030


    Dec 27, 2002
    Alameda, CA
    With enough RAM, a G3 Pismo can run OS X 10.4 (Tiger) perfectly well for your basic laptop tasks (web, email, iTunes, IM, MS Office, etc.). I've upgraded mine to 1GB of RAM and a 60GB hard drive. It chokes and stutters when trying to play Flash video (YouTube), but otherwise holds up like a champ.
  4. mrwizardno2 macrumors 6502a


    Jun 19, 2007
    Columbus, OH
    I agree with Flowbee. I gave my old Pismo (400mhz, 1 gig of ram, 80gb hdd) to my grandmother and she loves the thing! She uses it to sell stuff on ebay and harass me via email.

    Definitely up your ram to at least 512, or a gig if you can. If you ask nice, I'd even be willing to send you the old 256 meg chip from mine before it was upgraded.
  5. PDE macrumors 68020

    Nov 16, 2005
    Also, nothing is better than a Pismo when your new machines break down! It has saved me on many occasions when much newer and more advanced machines have needed repair.

    I'd recommend the fastest hard drive you can get and 1 gb of ram. Other than that, I wouldn't invest in a new CPU or anything. If I were to use the thing all the time, I'd probably get a newer, brighter display to put in it since the LCDs tend to lose their brightness after a while.
  6. MikeonTV thread starter macrumors regular

    Aug 9, 2007
    Thanks all. You gave me some great advice. The apple community is so welcoming. So I still have a couple unanswered questions.

    What do I need to be able to boot on another OS? I don't have the original Mac OS9 disk.

    IS there a way to upgrade the (2) USB 1.0 drives to USB 2.0?

    Thanks again

    @mrwizardno2: Thanks for the offer. I think I'm going to go ahead and upgrade to 1GB Ram. I would love to know anything else there is about the G3 Pismo from you. Also I think I have a simpler solution for the spammer on your blog. Let me know.
  7. Doctor X macrumors newbie

    Aug 1, 2007
    Ah! I am t3h relevant!!11!! [!--Ed.]

    I have had and loved my G3 Pismo which began life as a 400 MHz and . . . like ~300 RAM--whatever the number is.

    iFixit: If you have never looked inside, goeth thou to ifixit and download the PowerBook G3 Pismo Logic Board guide. Linkypoo takes you to a nice upgrade guide with suggestions. This will basically show you how to take apart you entire model--and get it back together. Very easy to do, seriously. I am not a tech-head.

    OS 9:

    You can get OS 9 CD cheaply if you look around. Ebay is not a bad idea. Search "OS 9, CD" and you will find a few for under $15. Go retail and . . . well, you know not to buy retail! There is a seller I have dealt with who has lots of parts for Pismos--loves his Pismo--named jgroll. So he may have a disk he is willing to sell you. On Ebay, you can find replacement keyboard that retail for $100 for, like, $12. So it is a good resource provided you make sure you deal with a reputable seller.

    The question is whether or not you need OS 9. OS X has a "Classic 9" that works. I rarely have a program from 9 that the "Classic 9" does not open. Seriously.

    Then go to the www.apple.com site and get the updates. You can get CDs, but why bother? Takes a bit of searching to find them. Save them and burn them to a CD.

    OS X:

    Again, check Ebay. Far cheaper than retail. You can also get good deals from online Mac stores, but you have to search for the good deal.

    Hard Drive:

    You need a bigger HD for OS X and you can get 80 to 100 G HD easily. Pismos love and enjoy the Travelstar HDs from Hitachi which can cost about $100.

    IF you have 9 on your smaller HD, you can set up your new hard drive with two partitions--one for 9 and one for X. I found this useful for transitioning. The 9 does not have to be that large. You can put all of 9 on that--if you have a CD burner . . . some time . . . you basically have OS 9 on a disc! Or you can just get the CD for like $15!

    Place it on a small HD partition, then upgrade it.

    Why should you care? Because when a RAM chip of mine went funk it would cause destruction of the OS X. So I would reboot from the 9 partition, stick critical data from the X partition from the X to the 9 section. OS 9 would not tax the faulty chip as much. This is a paranoid protection thing. If you have an external drive, you will be backing things up, and it is not so important.


    You should max the RAM. Seriously. It can take a Gig now. Do it. I used . . . opens Pismo . . . Data Memory Systems. Others may give you different recommendations, but the people were nice and they give a life-time warranty--so when my chip started to fail causing the crap I blathered about above, they replaced it for free that week. You will see that the 256 MB chips are cheap. This is because most people are buying the 512 MB chips. That sets you back about $140


    Here is an older article on the subject with links to some companies: LowEndMac.

    If you look for upgrades, you will see a number of companies that will want you to send them your computer--through a box--do this or that, and pay about ~$350-400. Changing the processor is easier than changing the memory, which you may know, or you will know if you go to the linkypoo for ifixit. Depending on the type, you just have to be sure the heat sink is in contact with the processor--which is almost impossible for it not to be, seriously. This saves you a lot of money. Comparing, you are looking at about $200-250.

    Going from 400 MHz to 500 MHz for a G3 is not going to do much for you. You have to do a processor upgrade to a G4 550.

    Wegener sells a simple kit--the paste, the torque wrench, and all that which you send back with your old processor board--which he uses to make more methinks. That was the cheapest one I found for about $200. You have to give a deposit for the kit which gets refunded after you send it back. The guy who runs it is a schmuck to deal with sometimes. He tries to make replacing one or sorting out problems far more arcane then it is. He will tell you the processor runs cool. It does not; it will run hot. That little fan that never turned on? It will turn on. However, I have had his processor for a little over a year and have not had a problem.

    I use a cooling plate powered off the USB and have no problems with over-heating--fan never turns on now.

    You really need a G4 to run the OS X, your browser, all of those good things. Otherwise, get use to very slow on a G3 400-500.

    The article has a broken link to Daystar, the functioning one is Daystar. If you send your parts to them, the price is comparable.

    Optical Drive:

    What is this strange learning? I have the old DVD/CD drive which runs FAR better with OS X. Seriously. I defer to others on that.


    • OS 9 Disc ~$15
      Max RAM ~$140
      100 Gig HD ~$100
      G4 Processor ~200
      Not a PC PRICELESS!

    So you are looking at about a $400-500 potential investment. Can you get a better used Mac for that price? That is something you have to consider, obviously.

  8. Doctor X macrumors newbie

    Aug 1, 2007
    Here is an article on how to make a bootable OS 9 CD: Creative Mac.

    This may not work from just OS 9 from your machine.

  9. MikeonTV thread starter macrumors regular

    Aug 9, 2007
    Wow! Thanks for the fabulous run through Doctor X. I have bookedmarked your post.

    Now you have answered alot of questions (some I wouldn't know to ask) but I still have a few.

    What I really want is to yes, put on a 80-100GB HD and partition so I can run an up to date OS. I have used Mac OSX before and like it but really think that because of the limited things I want to use this machine for, I should go with a Linux brand.

    Once I get the new HD hooked up do I need to still use the OS9 disk to partition and then boot on Linux? Would I need to do it before upgrading??

    Also whats the deal with USB 1.0? How do I upgrade? Software or Hardware? Both?

    Do I need to upgrade processor to upgrade RAM? I'm not gaming on this machine.

    Again thanks for the replies everyone. The Apple community is so inviting.
  10. Doctor X macrumors newbie

    Aug 1, 2007
    Thanks! I went through this step-by-step over the years, and it would have been nice to know. A wise man learns from other people's mistakes. For example, RAM remains the way to speed up your computer. So way back, I am wondering about getting a faster processor not realizing I am sitting on ~300 MB RAM! Basic, but I forgot. Also, I realized I could replace anything myself. Save $40 on "installation charges" right there--not to mention the "down-time."

    Seek Thou the Advice of a Linux User

    I am not a programmer, so the rest may be useless to you. For example are you "just" running Linux and OS 9 maybe you do not need a new processor. Maybe G3 400 MHz is fine. Maybe G4 550 MHz is not good enough for what you want to do.

    That caveat given. . . .

    What is this strange learning? "Linux?" Is that a Peanuts character?


    Seriously, as above, I am the LAST person to ask about that since I use my laptop for the normal reasons--Al Gore's interweb, writing papers, slide presentations, porn, et cetera. So I would ask a programmer who uses Linux as to whether or not it will work well on your Pismo. For example, if that is your main reason, you may not need a processor upgrade. 0S 9 will run fine on your 400 MHz. Depends on what you want to do.

    I have 9 and X. When I replaced the HD--which died--then diagnosed the bad RAM chip--I started from the beginning since the volume problems made OS X unusable. BOTH the OS 9 and X disks will allow you to partition your HD. I did it with the 9--loaded the updates and the stuff--then loaded all of my X stuff. Works fine.

    I have an old Missing Manual for Mac OS X--that is worth looking at if you run OS 9 and X. It will tell you how to shut off things you will not need in 9 so when you DO need to use it, it will load much faster. It will also explain how to move from one to the other.

    What you have to do with Linux? Again, strange learning to me!!

    I do not know if you can. The Little Black Book claims that Panther--OS 10.3--does not like USB 1. I have not had a problem using it under OS 10.4, but most of my main peripherals are Firewire--like my old CD burner. No problem. Works better with OS X. Same with ancient but good Scanner. That was one of the reasons I kept OS 9--until I finally found an updated driver.

    No. So, if you do not need the G4 for your Linux, you save some money. Whatever you do, however, computer will love more RAM, especially OS 9.

    AGAIN: seek thee advice of a programmer who uses Linux to tell you what you need.

  11. renai-spirit macrumors member


    Aug 14, 2007
    i just bought a USB 2.0 express card (PCMCIA?) with 2x usb2 ports. c.$20 on ebay.

    no, and i'd go so far as to say it's not worth spending the money on the processor upgrade and it's better put towards a new mac down the road.

    i was lucky to get my pismo on ebay with the g4 550 already on board and for a price around the same or even cheaper than some of the better condition g3 500's on ebay (c.US$500). the g4 is good for me as it allows me to run FCP 4.5 (& DVDSP) surprisingly well at home.

    i've got 768mb of RAM and have thought about getting another 512 stick, but can't really justify it when i know i'll get a new MBP in the first half of next year.

    love the pismo, and hope a black MBP with ports at the back comes out in the future...
  12. Zel macrumors regular

    Jul 7, 2007
    You cant upgrade or fix the existing USB1 jacks, sorry

    but you an add new usb2 jacks in the expansion card slot pretty cheaply as Renal-Spirit said above me.
  13. renai-spirit macrumors member


    Aug 14, 2007
    :D haha, kidney spirit?! hehe..
  14. Doctor X macrumors newbie

    Aug 1, 2007
    Well, if MikeonTV is willing to wait a few months, mayhap he can buy your G4 550 MHz processor off of you? By that time, he should know whether or not his Linux works well enough on a G3 400 MHz or if an upgrade is worth it. If that is good for both, I would recommend he max-out his RAM and see how that is good for him. Whether or not you want to sell the processor, he should be able to tell if he needs the speed for Linux. If he does, he can consider the more expensive upgrades if you do not want to sell yours.

    The RAM should work for whatever processor card you stick in a Pismo.

    I will send my "finder's bill" in the mail . . . I accept all major credit cards. . . .

  15. renai-spirit macrumors member


    Aug 14, 2007
    ah, don't think i could ever bring myself to sell the pismo, it's a classic! :cool:

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