Second Class Macs & Road Apples

Beige Power Macintosh G3, Rev. A


Dan Knight - 2003.05.11

Second Class Macs are Apple's somewhat compromised hardware designs. For the most part, they're not really bad - simply designs that didn't meet their full potential. (On our rating scale, the more brown apples, the worse the hardware.)

Apple used two different motherboards on the beige Power Mac G3. Only the Revision 1 motherboard, which uses the Revision A ROM, deserves a Road Apple rating.

What distinguishes the Rev. 1 G3 from Rev. 2 and 3? The biggest difference is that the Rev. A ROM doesn't support the use of slave drives, which was a common characteristic of earlier Macs that supported IDE drives. This really cut into the ability to put drives in all the drive bays unless one was also willing to buy a third-party IDE controller.

You can use the Apple System Profiler to identify which ROM version you have:

  • Rev. 1: $77D.40F2
  • Rev. 2: $77D.45F1
  • Rev. 3: $77D.45F2

We should note that Mac OS X partially addresses this limitation. Although a Rev. 1 model cannot boot from a slave drive, once the computer is booted into Mac OS X it is able to access slave drives.

Because of the inability to boot from a slave drive - even in OS X - it is imperative that the hard drive and CD-ROM both be configured as masters. Failure to do so will make it impossible to boot from a CD to install the Mac OS or run diagnostics.

Other limitations of the beige G3 are due to its age. The video and 16.67 MBps IDE bus that seemed fast in 1997 are very dated today, and the requirement that OS X be installed on a partition no larger than 8 GB on an IDE hard drive (and that it be the first partition) are idiosyncracies that buyers should be aware of, but they are not enough to warn people away from an otherwise attractive machine that has dropped to a very affordable price (sometimes under US$200 in early 2003).

An as long as one is aware of the limitations of the Rev. 1 motherboard and Rev. A ROM, this beige G3 isn't a bad buy either - but you should know about the limitations of the older ROMs so you know exactly what you're buying.


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