Mac Musings

G4 Uproar Continues

10 September 1999 - Daniel Knight

Apple has responded to the uproar over the inability of the B&W G3s with certain ROM upgrades to accept G4 processors. The following is from their Tech Exchange. (Because Apple considers this an off topic discussion, it is possible this page will be removed from their site.)

We believe that many of the new and improved features of the Power Mac G4 are an effect of major design changes in the computer. These could not be duplicated by simply upgrading the processor alone. Apple does not endorse third party after-market processor upgrades in any Apple Macintosh computer.

Allegations or rumors that Apple may have intentionally taken measures to disable Power Mac G4 processor upgrades from functioning in a Power Macintosh G3 computer may have come from third party publications and third party web sites. Apple does not own industry publications or third party web sites and therefore cannot be responsible for their content or allegations such as these. Since such content did not originate from Apple Computer, we cannot comment on it. If we have further information on this topic, from an Apple source, we will post it and be able to comment on it. At this time, we have no further information.

Please note that Apple never marketed Power Macintosh G3 computers as being "Power Mac G4 processor upgradable." Apple does not offer such an upgrade path now, nor have we announced plans for one in the future.

Yosemite designWhat Does It Mean

There's a lot of doublespeak here. The first paragraph means Apple believes that all the advantages of the Power Mac G4 derive from major changes in the motherboard, not just the use of a G4 processor.

If this is the case, why is the G4/400 based on the same motherboard (very slightly modified) as the B&W G3? Conversely, what benefits does the G4/400 have over a B&W G3 that cannot be duplicated with a processor upgrade?

In the second paragraph, Apple doesn't deny that they may have deliberately disable G4 upgrades, only that these stories came from sources outside of Apple. Of course Apple cannot be responsible for the content of "industry publications or third party web sites," but they are only trying to obfuscate the issue.

The simple fact, verified by multiple sources including the manufacturers of the G4 upgrades, is that B&W G3s without the version 1.1 or later ROM upgrade work with G4 upgrades, while those with version 1.1 and later ROM upgrades do not.

Yet Apple declines to comment on this fact, whether posted on the web, published on paper, or submitted to their Tech Exchange. Instead, they dance around the issue, like the politician saying "no comment" to a question she'd rather not deal with.

In the third paragraph, Apple rightly notes that they never said the B&W G3 would accept any kind of processor upgrade, G4 or otherwise. Having been sued over such promises in the past (and losing the suits), we would not expect Apple to promise any type of upgrade that they have not verified before releasing product.

Whether Apple promised such an upgrade or ever plans to make such an upgrade is beside the point, but a claim you can expect to hear over and over again from Apple Computer.

The simple fact is that the B&W G3 as initially shipped could accept a G4 upgrade, whether Apple explicitly designed it with that capability or not. And many B&W G3s were purchased in a state that would allow use of a G4 upgrade.

Then Apple introduced ROM version 1.1, which somehow prevented these computers from working with any G4 upgrade. Whether this was a deliberate move, as most suspect, or a programming error, this so-called upgrade improved certain capabilities of the B&W G3 while removing the ability to boot with a G4 upgrade.

One would think, had this been a programming error, that Apple would have corrected it in a subsequent ROM upgrade. Word of the "G4 block" has been spreading since May 1999. Yet all Apple says is, "We never said it would work with a G4 upgrade."


Whether deliberate or not, Apple did remove the ability of early B&W G3 computers to work with G4 upgrades. That is an indisputable fact.

Further, Apple never informed users that installing this ROM upgrade might disable certain abilities of their computers, only that it would improve some things.

Again, Apple has known since May, when this was first discussed on the web, that the ROM upgrade was suspected of blocking use of G4 upgrades, yet they neither fixed the problem nor acknowledged it.

Apple Computer can continue to stonewall, trying to talk around the issue, wishing the Steve Jobs reality distortion field would kick and the issue would fade into obscurity. But as long as anyone has a B&W that once had the ability to accept a G4 upgrade, then lost that capability via ROM upgrade, I don't expect the issue to fade away.

Of course, Apple could admit to the problem and release a new ROM upgrade that eliminates it, saving their PR hacks a lot of work, their lawyers a lot of time, and B&W G3 owners something to complain about on an otherwise excellent computer.

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Dan Knight has been using Macs since 1986, sold Macs for several years, supported them for many more years, and has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. If you find Dan's articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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