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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Mac Desktops > Bringing my PowerMacs back to life

Bringing my PowerMacs back to life
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reader50
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Jan 17, 2018, 11:21 PM
 
I've been thinking for awhile about resuscitating my PowerMac G4 AGP. To regain access to some older games that lack modern releases on Mac. Then I saw an nVidia GeForce 4 Ti 4600 (Mac) come available on eBay. This is the fastest card ever released with OS 9 drivers. So I grabbed it and started the operation. It got more complicated than I'd expected.

Plugged the card in, no boot (blinking folder and HDD clicks). Pulled the PATA drive for testing in my only PATA enclosure, which itself is dying. The Seagate 160 GB turns out to be crashed. Silent failure from age - it was OK the last time I booted, about five years ago. Fortunately, I'd backed up my G4 partitions.

Two evenings of fiddling followed. To cut the story short, I had several other PATA drives around. But they wouldn't work properly until I reformatted them, overwrote them with data to force mapping-out of all bad blocks, then repartitioned again. Remember to partition on Leopard or earlier, so you can add OS 9 drivers.

All my PATA drives are 10+ years old, and I don't plan to invest in any new ones. So I ordered a Firmtek SATA PCI card, bootable in 9 and X. I've got plenty of old SATA drives in the 250-600 GB range. And ordered a couple spare PATA to SATA miniboard adapters ($3 each), in case Firmtek doesn't have stock.

I already had one PATA to SATA miniboard adapter, so I tried it. It won't fit in the main drive bay, too crowded to close the side door - something would break. It would work on a drive in the optical bay, or sitting on top of the bay. A single HDD can fit in the Zip bay, but with no spare room for adapter boards. Solved temporarily by setting the drive sideways in the bottom of the case, across two bay positions. With the PATA drive moved to the Zip bay. Both work.

Assorted boot issues and the system clock set to 1969 revealed the PRAM battery was stone dead. Order a couple.

Several kernel panics suggested the Giga Designs upgrade card was overheating. Blow out the heatsinks and all fans in the case. Also downclock the CPU from 1.1 GHz to it's rated 1.0 GHz. The kernel panics went away. It's possible it only needed the cleaning, but I won't bump the clock until everything else is stable.

The built-in speaker was almost silent. Pull it - the cone appears to have mostly separated from the magnet. When I looked up the part numbers, all available parts on ebay are used originals. Just as old as mine. Spec the speaker itself, then order a compatible new one ($4). A little solder work will move the cable across.

While I was working, using the G5 for drive formatting, it struck me how noisy the G5 had become. The GPU fan on the 7800GT was the source. Of course there are no new ones available. How silly of me to look for them. Ordered a generic GPU blower cooler ($7) which will fit, and a 55mm axial fan ($9) which may fit the original cooler. All the replacement coolers are smaller than the original, which may make them noisier. So fixing the original is desirable.

My little adventure is approaching $300. But both boxes are booting, and will end up being quiet enough to use. I'm looking to regain access to:

Heavy Metal FAKK2 (not available anywhere today)
Giants: Citizen Kabuto (Steam has it for Windows)
Unreal Tournament (original - Steam has it for Windows)
Quake 3 (Steam has ... you know the drill)
Return to Castle Wolfenstein (Steam has it for Windows)
American McGee's Alice (not available anywhere today)
... plus others as I remember them.
( Last edited by reader50; Jan 22, 2018 at 04:39 PM. Reason: added games)
     
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Jan 22, 2018, 04:34 AM
 
Restoring old Macs gets expensive fast...

That fan though: When an otherwise working fans gets noisy for no reason, usually it is a sleeve-bearing fan where all the oil has evaporated. There is usually a spot to refill it - check behind the label in the center, otherwise you will have to try around the edge of the center. Sewing machine oil usually works best.

Also wouldn't surprise me if some of the paste between the heatsinks and the chips has dried out. That is easy enough to replace.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
reader50  (op)
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Jan 22, 2018, 12:58 PM
 
It's a 2-pin (fixed speed) fan. I tried oiling the bearings on my Radeon 8500 years ago, it would only work for a few weeks. Replaced it with other small box fans - the card doesn't have mounting holes for a real cooler. The fans screw into the HS, which is glued to the GPU chip.

Ultimately I burned the 8500 out, it was getting noisy for the umpteenth time, and I missed it when it got quiet on its own. Fan froze, GPU failed. Mac 8500s don't exist on eBay today, and PC versions are rare. Looks like they all shipped with crappy fans. Hence why I grabbed a GF 4Ti when it appeared. This card does have mount holes for a cooler, and the previous owner put one on.

The SATA card is so I don't have to buy PATA hard drives, which will get rarer and more expensive in the future. Two new PATAs would match the card price already. Other than the graphics and SATA cards, I've only spent $31.03 on the G4, and $16.05 on the G5.

More updates as the parts arrive - most are on the slow boat from China. I forgot to take pics during the initial steps, but only the dirty heat sinks and fans were visually interesting.
     
reader50  (op)
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Feb 21, 2018, 02:51 AM
 
The PowerMac G4 speaker wasn't broken. It was stuck from sitting in the same position for 5+ years. Exercising it gently with a finger freed it up, some loud music finished the repair.

My old Radeon 8500 didn't burn out ~7 years ago. The fan had failed, and the 8500 overheated. Lockup, no boot until I removed the card. But I never actually threw it out.

Before tossing it, I tried it one last time, without a fan. It started up normally to the firmware boot selector. So it was time to replace the missing fan.



The HSF is glued on, using a custom embedded fan that is no longer made. No mount holes for a cooler. Some people have gotten the HS off with a razor blade, so they could glue on a modern chip cooler. Others pulled the top off the chip trying. In the past, I screwed a 50x10mm case fan on top of the heat sink. It was ugly, and blocked the next PCI slot. This time, I used a 40mm case fan, and shaved off half the frame. So it would fit into the original fan indentation.







It really needs a 6mm-thick fan, but I've only found case fans in 10mm. As it is, the blades are little more than 1mm above the lower HS fins, and it's almost touching the next PCI card. Also, it pulls air out of the HS rather than pushing in. Still, it works. The next PCI card is a low-profile USB card, leaving 2/3 of the fan unobstructed.

If I'd known the 8500 survived, I might not have ordered the GeForce 4 card. But my testing in games (1920 x 1200 monitor, high settings) shows the GF4 is perhaps 2x as fast as the 8500. Also, the OS9 Radeon drivers have an annoying bug - you can't select widescreen resolutions over DVI. So the GF4 is the main card, with the 8500 as backup.

Next surprise: most of my old games run on my PowerMac G5. It's a late-2005 Quad, so it only boots 10.4 and 10.5. Leopard doesn't run most of the old games, but Tiger + Classic is significantly more compatible. So maybe the G4 restoration wasn't needed. It was still fun, and there are a few games that need Jag or OS9.

FAKK2 almost fooled me. The OSX port won't run in Leopard or Tiger. The OS9 version threw a graphics error in Classic on the G4, but ran fine on the G5. Even though the Tiger volume had been cloned between the machines. It took awhile to realize there were two monitors attached to the G4, and one monitor on the G5. The OS9 version of FAKK2 doesn't like multiple monitors.

The hardware fixups are done. The G5's nVidia 7800GT card got a new cooler, and is somewhat quieter today. The PowerMac G4 has a working SATA HD, partitioned 5 ways. (Leopard) / (Tiger + classic) / (Panther + classic) / (Jaguar + classic) / (native OS 9).

Looks like the fun hardware tinkering is over with. Though I may take another crack at the G5 fan noise. It still seems noisier than it should be.

I'm building a chart of what OSs each game will run in. Game/OS compatibility tests continuing.
     
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Feb 21, 2018, 05:15 AM
 
Originally Posted by reader50 View Post
It really needs a 6mm-thick fan, but I've only found case fans in 10mm. As it is, the blades are little more than 1mm above the lower HS fins, and it's almost touching the next PCI card. Also, it pulls air out of the HS rather than pushing in. Still, it works. The next PCI card is a low-profile USB card, leaving 2/3 of the fan unobstructed.
That pushing versus pulling isn't great, it relies on the case temperature being under control for a "pull" HSF to work. It is also a recipe for clogging up the sink with dust.

Have you considered a semi-passive cooling? Just take a big 120mm fan and have it blow along the length of the card. The heatsink you're using is a bit small for it, but a 40x40x6 mm fan isn't going to do a heck of a lot either, so it may be enough.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
reader50  (op)
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Feb 21, 2018, 12:48 PM
 
The original fan was a 45mm chip cooler. The equivalent part today is the X-pattern fan, which seems thin enough. But a modern chipcooler HS has the indentation go all the way down so the X frame will fit. I could use a dremel to grind out the fin stubs and make it match. I also considered reversing the connector pins, to make it push air. The blades are optimized for one way, but it should work.

btw, the Sawtooth main case fan is a 120mm. With the side door closed, it blows onto the cards from above.

But that's too much work for a bonus card I don't expect to use. I have a fanless 7000 PCI card in case some game insists on an ATi card. So far, only UT (and UT-engine games like Rune) in OS 9 do that. I plan to experiment with their .ini files to see if they'll accept the nVidia card.
     
   
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