Best Buys in Used Macs

Macintosh IIfx

1998.01.31. Updated 2000.08

We're sorry, but these are very old, very dated articles. Best buys in used Macs is such a moving target that we simply can't keep up to date and have given up even trying. Please read these in their historical context, as some of these articles were written in the early years of Low End Mac.

The fastest Mac II ever, the IIfx ran a blazingly fast 40 MHz 68030 with a 32 MB static RAM level 2 cache on a 40 MHz system bus. At that time, the DOS world was struggling with 33 MHz 80386 systems.

The IIfx was available as an upgrade to the Mac II and IIx. It was a good value, although the upgrade meant replacing all your old SIMMs. The IIfx used latched read/write RAM. This was a 64-pin SIMM different from that used in any other Macintosh. This unusual memory was one reason Apple could push the motherboard to 40 MHz.

Mac IIfxHowever, since it was the only Mac to use 64-pin SIMMs, memory remains difficult to find and more expensive than the common 30-pin SIMMs.

The IIfx was the last Mac to use the big, six-slot enclosure introduced with the Mac II. But with six NuBus slots, it has great potential for upgrades. You'll need a video card in one slot, but that leaves five. Options include network cards, SCSI-2 cards (IIfx SCSI was slower than in the IIci), and the Radius Rocket, a 68040-based coprocessor card. (You could add multiple Rockets, each handling its own tasks independently - or have them all working together.)

The IIfx requires a special "black" SCSI terminator to accommodate its unusual architecture. If you buy a used IIfx, you'll want to have one of these so you can attach external drives. I've also had good results using drives with active termination.

Although pricing has dropped below US$30 (with video!) on the used market, the IIfx remains popular among Mac cognoscenti. After all, how many $10,000 computers can you buy for that kind of price! It makes a great server* for a small network or a decent personal workstation. A typical used IIfx has 8 MB RAM, an 80 or 160 MB hard drive, and usually includes an 8-bit video card. Expect to pay a bit more for additional RAM, 24-bit video, or an accelerated video card.

* Using Born Again, you can install and run Mac OS 8.1 on a IIfx with at least 12 MB of memory.

64-pin SIMMs are available on the used market, although they are not cheap. And remember that you'll need to buy four at a time. 16 MB SIMMs are available; they are expensive but will let you reach 128 MB. (I have learned that 8 MB SIMMs are also available and will work in the IIfx.)

What do you do will the SIMMs you pull? Hold on to them. There is a solid market for the IIfx, both as logic board upgrades (usually without RAM) and in configurations with no RAM or only one bank filled. You can probably sell a set of four 1 MB SIMMs for $10, 4 MB SIMMs for $40-50.

Be sure to visit the memory upgrade guide for possible RAM configurations and installation instructions. The IIfx supports 1 MB, 4 MB, 8 MB, and 16 MB SIMMs.

The IIfx is also one of the few Macs that can use a 5.25" hard drive, such as the Quantum Bigfoot, so you have a lot of options should the internal drive prove too small.

What makes the IIfx a Best Buy is its performance and expandability.

Prices listed are approximate at the time the article was written

<go to Best Buy index or Mac IIfx page>

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