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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Mac Desktops > Power Mac G4 as a Media/File/Print Server

Power Mac G4 as a Media/File/Print Server
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Feb 11, 2008, 04:13 PM
 
Today at work it occurred to me that an old Power Mac G4 could make a really good home server. It would mainly be used to store video, music, some files I might want to access across machines, and as a print server. Looking at the specs of various G4s over at Every Mac, I think the best option would be a 800MHz Quick Silver from 2002 or better. There are a few reasons for this: the processor is reasonably powerful; it supports up to four hard-disks internally, and doesn't have a 128GB cap; and finally it wouldn't be extortionately expensive. This setup appeals to me more than having a gaggle of FireWire drives lying around.

However, I've never set up a server in my life, and I've never really used a Power Mac either, which leaves me with questions.
  1. Which OS would be best to use for this purpose? Tiger Server? A Linux distro?
  2. Could the QS actually support four hard-drives (boot and three storage drives), or would it only take three in total? (I had imagined using the external drive bay to hold the fourth drive.)
  3. Any other upgrades besides maxing out the RAM (PCI cards, specifically) that you would recommend for it?
  4. Would it just be a case of hooking it up to an Airport basestation to have it appear on the wireless network, or would it be significantly more complicated that that?
  5. Could I configure it to store all my Adium logs in one place, so that I have them the same on all my Macs?

Thanks in advance!
     
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Feb 11, 2008, 04:35 PM
 
I use a MDD as my primary machine and I'm sure the QS will serve you well as a file server. I have 4 drives in my MDD (2 used in a mirrored raid for the boot drive connected to a pci card) and the only annoyance is waiting for the drive I want to spin up. It also puts out a lot of heat and my guess is that even the QS uses a lot of power even idling.
I don't think you need anything more than the standard version of tiger/leopard.
AT&T iPhone 5S and 6; 13" MBP; MDD G4.
     
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Feb 11, 2008, 04:50 PM
 
I have a DP 800 QS handing around, I was going to use if for a file server but theres no raid 5 support that I could find and its so noisy that it needs its own room and there isn't one available in my apartment. Now I'm using a NAS box w/4 drives thats quieter than my G5.
     
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Feb 11, 2008, 04:53 PM
 
Originally Posted by SSharon View Post
It also puts out a lot of heat and my guess is that even the QS uses a lot of power even idling.
I don't think you need anything more than the standard version of tiger/leopard.
Thanks for the input. I suspect that you're right about the power-use of the QS, but I'm not really sure that's avoidable. I came across an article about the mini which suggests using it as a headless file-server, and I briefly considered using my Cube in that role, but the downside is that it would have a bunch of drives connected to it; the mini uses a single (relatively low-capacity) laptop drive, and the Cube only supports <128GB drives internally. Ultimately, I think that these would make up a similar power-draw to the QS, and need more plugs to boot...
     
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Feb 11, 2008, 04:56 PM
 
I really doubt this is a good idea compared to the very cheap network file-servers. Just from a power consumption perspective as much as anything.
What would this setup do that any airport extreme couldn't?
     
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Feb 11, 2008, 05:51 PM
 
Originally Posted by peeb View Post
I really doubt this is a good idea compared to the very cheap network file-servers. Just from a power consumption perspective as much as anything.
What would this setup do that any airport extreme couldn't?
As an example: it could serve as a backup computer for when you send your macbook air to get its battery replaced.

Since my MDD is my main machine, I use my blue and white G3 not as a file server but for backups. I don't leave it on all the time so I'm not so concerned with heat/power.
AT&T iPhone 5S and 6; 13" MBP; MDD G4.
     
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Feb 11, 2008, 05:55 PM
 
Sure, it could be a backup computer, I guess I was thinking about its role as a server.
     
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Feb 11, 2008, 06:01 PM
 
you can also strip out the dvd drive and fit a drive in the bay there AND in the lower optical bay too.

Never have too many drives

:-)
     
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Feb 11, 2008, 06:16 PM
 
Originally Posted by Andrew Stephens View Post
you can also strip out the dvd drive and fit a drive in the bay there AND in the lower optical bay too.

Never have too many drives

:-)
The other option is to just borrow the cable from the optical drives so that each hard drive can be on its own channel.
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Feb 13, 2008, 08:56 AM
 
Originally Posted by BLAZE_MkIV View Post
I have a DP 800 QS handing around, I was going to use if for a file server but theres no raid 5 support that I could find and its so noisy that it needs its own room and there isn't one available in my apartment. Now I'm using a NAS box w/4 drives thats quieter than my G5.
What kind of NAS box is it, and how much did it cost you? That might be a better solution.

Originally Posted by peeb View Post
I really doubt this is a good idea compared to the very cheap network file-servers. Just from a power consumption perspective as much as anything.
What would this setup do that any airport extreme couldn't?
The major thing it can do over an Airport Extreme is that all the drives would be contained within the one enclosure, running off one plug. Part of my dislike for using an Airport Extreme is the fact that it would require a tangle of cables connected to the various drives connected to it.

I'm not really very knowledgeable about the power consumption of computers, or even what constitutes high consumption (other than higher W more than lower W). Is a Powermac G4 really going to use a lot of power to run as a server? I'm not sure what the wattage on one is, but my Cube has a 200W power supply (again, I don't know if that's high or not). Anyone able to enlighten me?

Originally Posted by Andrew Stephens View Post
you can also strip out the dvd drive and fit a drive in the bay there AND in the lower optical bay too.
Originally Posted by SSharon View Post
The other option is to just borrow the cable from the optical drives so that each hard drive can be on its own channel.
I really like both of these ideas--it would let me have a total of six drives, spread over two IDE buses, inside one case. Thanks for the suggestion.
     
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Feb 13, 2008, 09:15 AM
 
I've still got my Quicksilver 867, and have never done anything with it since I've had my Macbook. I've been thinking of putting a SATA card and a big drive or two in there to use as a Time Machine/iTunes base. Might replace the fans and do some noise reduction while I'm at it.

There's a thread here - http://forums.macnn.com/65/mac-pro-a...o-with-old-g4/ - about using an old G4, and I posted an apple support discussion where a guy is using a G4 with Leopard installed as a Time Machine drive.

With Leopard you could probably also use Back to my Mac to control the G4 from your main computer.

It'll be much easier if you just comply.
     
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Feb 13, 2008, 11:44 AM
 
Originally Posted by Koralatov View Post
I'm not really very knowledgeable about the power consumption of computers, or even what constitutes high consumption (other than higher W more than lower W).
That's really all you need to know.
Originally Posted by Koralatov View Post
Is a Powermac G4 really going to use a lot of power to run as a server?
I don't have the numbers in front of me, but my suspicion is yes.
     
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Feb 13, 2008, 01:48 PM
 
I considered the same thing, but then I realized that our G4s are not just old, they are really old. In addition to power inefficiency they are prone to failure, particularly the old hard drives and optical drives. Setting up a server setup with failure-prone hardware is unwise. IMO best usage is to turn them off and keep them for emergency usage and for seldom-used legacy apps and hardware.

My Nikon 8000ED scanner for instance does not play well with Leopard (required on new Mac Pros). Fortunately I seldom scan since getting the D2x, but the G4 on 10.4.11 can get fired up if I ever do need 8000ED film scans. Or if I should ever need to run an OS 9 app (unlikely).

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Feb 14, 2008, 08:32 AM
 
Originally Posted by peeb View Post
I don't have the numbers in front of me, but my suspicion is yes.
I've done some googling, and I came across a page that lists the G4 QS as using 338W of power. Now, I don't know if that's high, but my 20" iMac, according to the same source, uses 130W--making the G4 run approximately at 200W more than the iMac. I imagine that's quite a lot.

Unfortunately, I have no sense of perspective on just how high or low this is. I have no basis for comparison as to what it actually means. I would be most grateful if someone would be able to put this into some kind of perspective.

Originally Posted by SierraDragon View Post
I considered the same thing, but then I realized that our G4s are not just old, they are really old. In addition to power inefficiency they are prone to failure, particularly the old hard drives and optical drives. Setting up a server setup with failure-prone hardware is unwise. IMO best usage is to turn them off and keep them for emergency usage and for seldom-used legacy apps and hardware.
Do you mean failure-prone if used as a server, or failure prone in general? I use an iBook G3, and an iMac G4, both of them for at least a couple hours a day. Granted, not for heavy use (the iMac playing video, the iBook to do surfing and internet), and--apart from RAM and Airport cards--they're using the original stock components, and showing no signs of failure or age. As for the drives, if I do decide to do this, they would be new--I'd replace the boot drive with a new one of 80GB or so, and put a few very large ones in there (500GB most likely). So from that perspective at least, there shouldn't be an issue of old hardware failing.
     
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Feb 14, 2008, 09:37 AM
 
Originally Posted by Koralatov View Post
I've done some googling, and I came across a page that lists the G4 QS as using 338W of power. Now, I don't know if that's high, but my 20" iMac, according to the same source, uses 130W--making the G4 run approximately at 200W more than the iMac. I imagine that's quite a lot.

Unfortunately, I have no sense of perspective on just how high or low this is. I have no basis for comparison as to what it actually means. I would be most grateful if someone would be able to put this into some kind of perspective.
The G4's don't use that much power. The average PC tower has a 300w-350w PSU and will draw about that much power. The average gaming computer will draw around 550w-600w, and one with multiple graphics cards and hard drives can easily use 1000w+.
     
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Feb 14, 2008, 04:13 PM
 
Originally Posted by bballe336 View Post
The G4's don't use that much power. The average PC tower has a 300w-350w PSU and will draw about that much power. The average gaming computer will draw around 550w-600w, and one with multiple graphics cards and hard drives can easily use 1000w+.
Having spoken to a few people, that doesn't seem so high. I have a couple of friends with gaming rigs that have 600W PSUs in them, so the G4 is quite low by comparison. From what you've said, it seems to be around average for a tower. One question though: will putting a bunch of extra hard-drives in the G4 up the power-draw significantly, and will it overload the PSU?
     
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Feb 14, 2008, 04:17 PM
 
Well, they may not use that much 'for a tower', but compared to something like the airport, it is likely to be high.
     
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Feb 16, 2008, 06:51 PM
 
Originally Posted by Koralatov View Post
Do you mean failure-prone if used as a server, or failure prone in general?
I meant failure prone in general, particularly any moving parts like hard drives, fans and optical drives. My DP 1 GHz G4 tower just had the FW bus fail, and the Superdrive failed a long time ago.

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Feb 16, 2008, 08:07 PM
 
Originally Posted by peeb View Post
Well, they may not use that much 'for a tower', but compared to something like the airport, it is likely to be high.
I realise that, but once you factor in the extra power usage of the various external drives to it, will it really be much worse? I'm not trying to be funny; I'm genuinely curious.

Originally Posted by SierraDragon View Post
I meant failure prone in general, particularly any moving parts like hard drives, fans and optical drives. My DP 1 GHz G4 tower just had the FW bus fail, and the Superdrive failed a long time ago.
You're absolutely right about moving parts being totally prone to failure over time; it's in the nature of them that this will happen. As I said, hopefully this will be side-stepped by installing new drives if/when I try this out.

As for being more failure-prone in general, I really hope that isn't the case--I'm currently writing this on a Clamshell, and my primary Mac is a G4 iMac. I'm hoping that, with careful maintenance, I'll be able to use both for many years to come, especially as I'm so fond of their industrial design. Eventually, of course, they will fail. That's in the nature of the beast, unfortunately.
     
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Feb 17, 2008, 05:41 PM
 
Originally Posted by ajprice View Post
With Leopard you could probably also use Back to my Mac to control the G4 from your main computer.
Why not use the VNC server/Apple Remote Desktop service that is built into Tiger? BTMM is supposed to simplify connecting from the road to your home, not to remote control two computers on the same home network which can be done without any hassle...
Wojtek

All Macs still running: iMac G3 Trayloader 333MHz, iMac G3 350 MHz, iMac G4, PM G4 DP 1.6 GHz, 2 x eMac 1 GHz, PBG4 12" 1.5 GHz, Mac SuperMini™ C2D 2.33GHz/802.11n/200GB, Mac Pro Quad Core 2.0 GHz/4GB.
     
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Dec 7, 2008, 02:18 PM
 
actually an old g4 powermac i find works great as a home server. there are some great open source programs out there that are easy to set up that make it a powerful and versatile system. haven't seen my electric bill go up either :-)

i use mine for file/print, dns, sftp, and a secure remote mac workstation when i'm on the road. I'm on Tiger 10.4.11 and here's how i have it set up:

backups: i threw in a usb 2.0 card and tied it to an external lacie drive and use silverkeeper to back it up.

http://www.lacie.com/silverkeeper/

you can use any drive but since lacie provides it free and needed a drive i bought one. good marketing!

for dns i use dnsenabler:

http://cutedgesystems.com/software/DNSEnabler/

free for tiger but for leopard there's a nominal charge for leopard.

dhcp takes a bit of terminal work but its not too scary,

http://red0hat.com/DHCP.htm

Or use can just turn on the dhcp server on your router/firewall.

for remote desktops i use the built-in client server. make sure ssh is running and tunnel it thorugh there to keep it secure. the link below if refers to Ubuntu but I found the setup to be the same on mac.

https://help.ubuntu.com/community/VN...ect=VNCOverSSH

for SFTP I've been playing around with MySecureShell.

http://sourceforge.net/projects/mysecureshell/

And finally, getting around sharing more than just your home folder on Tiger on the network. To solve this check out SharePoints:

http://www.hornware.com/sharepoints/

Enjoy!
( Last edited by OM NOM NOM; Dec 7, 2008 at 05:04 PM. )
     
   
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