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FYI, in addition to publishing Low End Mac and doing some Mac consulting, I'm working a third shift job 2 to 4 nights a week, so replying to emails and phone calls may take some time.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

From Floppy to CD-R in Seven Steps

I worked on a challenging project over the past week, copying files from a handful of 800K and 1.4M floppies and burning them to CD. Some of these files go back to the late 1980s, and there was always the risk that some disks might be unreadable.

My Mac collection is in a storage room in the basement, and I have a desk set up outside the room for work.

Step 1: Set up the old beige Power Mac G3 (giving it a fresh PRAM battery and installing a working hard drive with Mac OS 9.1). Pop in each floppy. If it mounts, copy it to a folder. If not, set it aside to try on another Mac. None of the 800K disks would mount.

Step 2: Pop the floppy drive module in my WallStreet PowerBook, which I always keep handy. No luck with the 800K disks in Mac OS 9.2.2.

Step 3: Dig out the old Macintosh SE, one of very few Macs I own with a built-in 800K floppy drive. The SE was able to mount and copy the 4 disks that the newer Macs couldn't even mount!

Step 4: Find an ImageWriter II printer cable and connect it between the printer ports on the Power Mac and the SE. Enable AppleTalk networking, turn on file sharing, and copy the files to the folder on the Power Mac.

Step 5: Using the same cable and process, copy the files to the "Work" partition on the PowerBook (booted in Mac OS 9.2.2). I am a firm believer in keeping all of my work on a separate hard drive partition.

Step 6: Bring the WallStreet upstairs, connect it to our Ethernet network, reboot into OS X 10.2.8, enable File Sharing, mount the Work partition from my G4 Power Mac running OS X 10.4 "Tiger", and copy the folder to its Work partition.

Step 7: Pop in a blank CD-R disc, drag the copied folders to it, and burn the disc.

This was a real relearning experience. It's been a long time since I've worked with 800K disks that wouldn't mount on a more modern Mac, and it was great having an old SE that could read the disks - which included the client's Masters thesis. And without an Ethernet network in the basement, the PowerBook was a great machine for moving the files to my office.

All in all, I spent more time setting up old Macs, finding cables, etc. than I did actually copying files from the floppy disks. It was also a good opportunity to reaquaint myself with some of my favorite old Macs.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

How Big a Hard Drive Does My Mac Support?

A Low End Mac reader with a Umax SuperMac S900 asked me, "What is the max size HD I can put in my machine?"

Back in those days, Apple still used SCSI drives on its Power Macs - as did the clone makers.

SCSI devices are somewhat intelligent, unlike IDE/ATA/SATA drives which are under control of the operating system and hardware interface. To the best of my knowledge, there is no maximum size for SCSI drives. Mac OS 7.5.1 and earlier cannot handle partition sizes over 2 GB, and from 7.5.2 through 8.0, the maximum is 4 GB. On top of that, you can have up to 8 (or was it 9) partitions per drive. With the introduction of HFS+ in Mac OS 8.1, that jumped to 2 TB.

If you're using more modern hardware with IDE/Ultra ATA hard drives, be sure to read How Big a Hard Drive Can I Put in My iMac, eMac, or Power Mac?, which explains the 128 GB limitation of the IDE bus in G3 and some G4 Macs.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

G5 CPU upgrades?

I received an email wondering whether it's possible to upgrade the CPU in a Power Mac G5. It seems someone had a 2.5 GHz dual-core G5 module for sale on eBay....

The G5 Power Macs were all designed so that the memory bus ran at one-third (in some low-end models) or one-half of CPU speed, and the last generation dual-core Power Macs had a different architecture than previous G5 Power Macs. My guess is that while it may be possible to swap this CPU into a slower (2.0 or 2.3 GHz) Power Mac G5, the memory bus would not run any faster. Assuming the 2.5 GHz CPUs were running at full speed, this bottleneck would make the upgraded machine slower than a true 2.5 GHz dual-core Power Mac G5.

Then there's the question of whether it would run at 2.5 GHz. My gut feeling is that it would run at the same clock speed as the CPU that the Power Mac was designed for, although I have no hardware knowledge to back that up. While a 2.0 GHz or 2.3 GHz Power Mac G5 would benefit from twin dual-core CPUs, I suspect that would be the only benefit of such a transplant.

If you know more about G5 hardware, please tell me more.