Vintage Mac Living

What to Buy When the Old Beige G3 Is Just Too Sluggish

- 2006.03.27

It's been close to three years since I moved to my Beige G3/300.

When I got it, it had 128 MB RAM, a 6 GB hard drive, a Zip drive, and a CD-ROM. Back then it was still considered a very viable everyday workhorse - and depending on what you need to do, it still is.

I moved to Mac OS X 10.2 on that machine, only to find it too slow and limited for everyday use with the stock hardware, so I decided to use OS 9.2 for a little while longer.

The biggest problems I had with running OS X on the beige G3 were the stock video card (6 MB ATI Rage Pro), the small and slow 6 GB hard drive, and the very restrictive 128 MB of RAM. So after a few months went by and I had some extra cash, I bumped it to 256 MB RAM (later bumped to 288 MB), put in a 12 GB hard drive, and finally put in a 16 MB ATI Rage 128 video card.

All of this really made my G3 scream!

Startup time was about 30% faster, applications opened about 20% faster, and 3D graphics were a full 100% faster (based on Frame Rate tests in Quake 3 and 4x4 Evolution. ATI Rage Pro averaged 15 FPS in both games, and the ATI Rage 128 averaged 30 FPS in both games).

Needless to say, my G3 was now ready to sail the OS X seas.

I fell in love with iTunes and all of the iApps; I really don't know how I would live without them today. I love Safari; I really can't believe I ever liked IE (although I still have to run it occasionally to view some websites).

And because I liked OS X's stability so much that I moved from AppleShare IP 6.3 to OS X 10.1 Server on my Power Mac 9600 last year. This made it much easier for me to run a headless server (because I don't have to worry about it crashing as much).

The Old Beige Mac Gets Sluggish

Over the course of the next few years, I upgraded the RAM from 288 MB to 512 MB and put in a DVD-ROM drive so I could watch DVDs, but recently my Beige G3 has started to feel sluggish.

At any given time I am usually running Safari, AIM, Server Admin, Macintosh Manager, Remote Desktop, iTunes, iPhoto, Photoshop, Excel, PowerPoint, and sometimes I run Avid VideoShop 3.0 (in Classic). And even after I bumped it from 288 MB RAM to 512 MB, I was still getting the beach ball.

There were things I couldn't do unless I booted into OS 9, like play some OpenGL based games or watch a DVD.

Going back and forth from OS 9 to OS X can be a major inconvenience, especially once you get used to OS X.

My G3 is pushing nine years old, so I finally decided to retire it as my main machine and put it in use as an OS 9 client machine. I went on craigslist and searched for a newer machine for myself.

At first I was thinking about buying a Blue & White G3 for $125, but after I thought about it for a while, it simply didn't make sense for me to upgrade to a machine that wasn't all that much better than the one I already had.

The Perfect Replacement

Then I found a machine that was perfect for my growing needs - and the price wouldn't take me to the cleaners. It was a fully loaded Power Mac G4/450 with 256 MB RAM, a 20 GB hard drive, DVD-RAM, 17" Apple Studio Display, speakers, and all of the original documentation and install CDs for only $250.

Power Mac G4So I bought it.

Once got it home, I pulled a 256 MB stick of RAM from my G3 and put it in the G4 to bring it to 512 MB, and then I started the process of moving stuff from my G3 to my new G4. Once I managed to copy all of my documents onto it, I started to install all of my OS 9 programs.

I could already feel that it was faster, but it wasn't until I got OS X installed that I saw just how much faster it really was.


I really don't know how to describe just how much faster it is.

It's kind of like driving an Acura NSX when you're used to driving an Accord - it's simply no contest.

It has to be at least twice as fast as my 300 MHz G3 at every task, and even faster at things like Photoshop. And it's compatible with the modern accessories.

It has USB and FireWire, so I could get that new all-in-one printer/scanner/fax machine, an iPod, a new digital camera, and it would all work without the need for a USB/FireWire card.

I'm very happy with my new machine. I just hope it holds up as gracefully as my old Beige G3 has.

No Turning My Back on Vintage Macs

Just in case you are all wondering, I haven't abandoned the vintage hardware. I still use my compact Macs and "pizza boxes" on a daily basis, and I still believe that you can get things done with older (and even vintage) hardware.

That doesn't mean I think it's a good idea for a Hollywood movie editor to try to edit a motion picture on a Performa 6200. If he did that, he would end up watching the computer world (and his life for that matter) go by without him.

My articles are based on the idea that you don't need the latest and greatest. If your G5 breaks down, you can get by running Photoshop on a 8600 or 9600. It may not be nearly as fast, and you might have to do more work to get the job done, but at least you won't be stuck between a rock and a hard place. LEM

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