My Turn

Think Twice About Upgrades

Roger Harris - 2002.10.04

My Turn is Low End Mac's column for reader-submitted articles. It's your turn to share your thoughts on all things Mac (or iPhone, iPod, etc.) and write for the Mac web. Email your submission to Dan Knight .

I read and enjoyed Maxwell M Cabral's article on older Power Macs with new G4 upgrades, but I think there were some big gaps that should have been touched on.

I am a graphic artist, and I have and have had a lot of older Macs with various upgrades. These include 6100, 7100, 8500, 7300, 7600, and beige G3s. The processor upgrades have all been from Sonnet or PowerLogix.

I have been very happy with all of the upgrades I have, but I have some reservations about expensive upgrades (over $200 or twice the worth of the Mac) on older Macs. I should mention that I love geeking with Mac hardware and software.

The drives and busses in older Macs are starting to make a big difference if you use or might want to use OS X. I have had a 7300 with a G3/375 and a B&W G3/350 running OS X 10.1.5, and the faster bus and graphics card in the B&W made a big difference that wasn't very noticeable in OS 9.

When I installed an ATA 133 PCI card with an ATA 133 hard drive in the 7300, the differences were mitigated. When I put an ATA 133 card and hard drive in a beige G3/366 with 6 MB VRAM, the 266 ran OS X better than the 7300, but not as well as the B&W.

I also own a new 867 Dual Processor running OS X, and it is a dream to work on. Everything is fast. I had to "beg-borrow-and-borrow-more" to buy this.

Why do that? The old Macs have to have everything replaced and upgraded for a graphic artist to run OS X in a reasonable way. Also, vital parts on these older Macs are starting to go bad. I had more bad hard drives in the last year than all other years combined. I had three bad motherboards, and that is something I never had before this year. I had a SCSI port go out and even a processor go south. I was starting to feel like I was back on PCs. I haven't even touched on the problems and cost of moving to USB and FireWire.

My point is that a 7300 G4/800 might only be cost effective when a lot of "if-ands-and-buts" are taken into account. My opinion is that if you already have ATA 66 or better drive controllers, fast ATA hard drives, a Radeon video card, and USB that is working well, it may be worth another $400 upgrade.

I won't go there with my old Macs. I will buy $200 G4/500 cards, but only because my older Macs already have a lot of the upgrades I mentioned earlier. I wouldn't even spend $400 on an upgrade for my B&W. Why not? No AGP video is the main reason.

Fast video is a must with OS X. On OS 9, the B&W would do very nicely with a G4/500 that will go for $200 or less in the next couple of months, and it would be okay with OS X. Actually, the B&W runs OS 9 well with a G3/350, but a G4/500 would be a luxury.

When OS 8 came out, it left many old Macs behind. The hardware requirements of OS 8 would have been impossible, or nearly so, for the old hardware. This is what is happening with OS X and many of the Macs I have.

I love old Macs, but they are . . . old.

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