Performance Results – SyQuest EZ-135 vs. Iomega Zip-100

In the last two posts on the topic of the SyQuest EZ-135 “super floppy”, we looked more closely into the product, compared it to the Zip-100, installed the software and hardware and got it fully functioning under Mac OS 8.6 on the Happy Mac Lab’s Power Macintosh 7500/366.

Now, with our SyQuest EZ-135 installed, set up and running successfully, the next questions are clearly “how fast is?” and “how fast is it relative to its Iomega Zip-100 competitor?”. This post delves into that question and provides answers.

The EZ-135 specs seem to have it running about 70% faster than a Zip-100, so it was time to test this out. As a quick refresher from the original post in this series, here is what the relevant specs say:

Iomega Zip-100:

  • Average Seek Time: 30ms
  • Sustained Transfer Rate: up to 1.4 MB/s

SyQuest EZ-135:

  • Average Seek Time: 13.5ms
  • Sustained Transfer Rate: up to 2.4 MB/s

As it happens, I have the good fortune to have both the EZ-135 and a Zip-100 in the Happy Macs lab, both external SCSI interfaced units. In turn therefore I connected each to the same Mac, my Power Mac 7500/366, and tested their performance at the same real world tasks.

ez-135, zip-100 test environment

The Test

The real world test tasks chosen were a small simulation of a backup and a restore: copying roughly 6.3 MB of large files (400KB to 500KB each) onto the cartridge from the HD, and then copying them back onto the HD from the cartridge. As a bonus, and since I had one handy, I performed this same “benchmark” using an Iomega Jaz 1GB as well.

The Results [drum roll please…]

Here are the results (smaller results are better):

peformance result table

These results show that in the real world work of backing up and restoring files, the EZ-135 is faster than the Zip-100, but not by quite as much as the above specifications might lead you to expect. The EZ-135 was 33.9% faster to copy from the HDD to the cartridge, and 41.5% faster to copy from the cartridge to the HDD. Of course, the Jaz drive outpaced both of them by a healthy margin, which comes as no surprise.

SyQuest EZ-135, Conclusions and Wrap Up

In head-to-head performance testing, the EZ-135 beat the Zip-100 by at least 33%, and up to as much as 41%, at the primary task which framed their all too brief time in the sun – backup and restore. Setting these results aside for just a moment and looking at the rest of the commercial offer, the two platforms were remarkably similar: both featured solid hardware platforms, good to excellent software support and very similar usage paradigms. So, with all other things being more or less equal, and with its higher performance, why didn’t the technically superior EZ-135 dominate the market? What happened?

In the end, it may be as simple as time-to-market. The Zip-100 had a six month market lead on the EZ-135, and was firmly established before the EZ-135 debuted. In addition, it was backed by aggressive marketing, widespread bundling with manufacturer offerings (Apple offered the Zip-100 as an option on several models of Macintosh, as did many PC vendors) and a slightly lower price point. Thinking back, I purchased a Zip-100 almost as soon as they came out, and I remember being dimly aware that there was now a competitor when I decided to purchase a second one. However, cartridge compatibility was important at that point, and my second “super floppy” (and all subsequent ones until this series of blog posts) was another Zip-100.

That may be it in the final analysis… time to market and cartridge compatibility. We will never know of course, and so the EZ-135 remains as a fascinating “what if” product, but one that I have been pleased to bring back to life in the pages of this blog, if only for a brief moment.

On a personal note, as a result of this series of posts, I now have two of these excellent devices in the lab, and I plan to keep them in service doing the type of work they shine at these days… mass file transfer to vintage Macintosh computers that I am performing initial software loads on. Of course, the Zip family of devices is well represented throughout the Happy Macs lab and is not going away, and so both the EZ-135 and the Zip-100/250 will coexist and each be used as the application of the moment dictates.

This might seem like the end of the road for this series of posts but we are not quite there yet. There will be one more post… After all the work I have done recently on System 6, I couldn’t resist testing the EZ-135’s support on System 6 Macs. This is particularly useful to me just now as I have a newly acquired Macintosh IIfx that I am about to load up with System 6 and a set of compatible applications. Stay tuned therefore for one last edition of the “EZ-135 story”, telling the tale of System 6 and the EZ-135. Coming soon to a blog near you! Until then…



Installing EZ-135 Software and Hardware

In the first post of this series on the SyQuest EZ-135 “super floppy”, I examined the backup problems presented by the rapidly growing capacities of hard drives in the mid 1990s, and charted the rise of the “super floppy” – drive and cartridge systems with capacities in the 100 MB range per cartridge, which dramatically simplified the task of keeping precious hard drive data backed up.

I zero’d in on the SyQuest EZ-135 super floppy, which has largely faded from the public consciousness, and presented a device that for all intents and purposes seemed superior to the Iomega Zip-100 system that ultimately dominated the field. I acquired a set of EZ-135 drives and cartridges on eBay to learn more about these devices, and in this post I present my experiences installing the software and the hardware onto my Mac OS 8.6 Power Macintosh 7500/366.


The unboxing experience has become a “thing” these days, courtesy of Apple’s frequently exquisite packaging of their new products, and the results are often recorded and presented in detail. My EZ-135s came from eBay of course, packaged by the shipper, and so perhaps unboxing is not a particularly key experience, but first impressions are lasting, and so as I unpacked the package my EZ-135’s arrived in, I made note of my immediate impressions, and present them below:

  • The EZ-135 Drive: The drive is definitely much larger than the equivalent Zip-100 drive and probably twice as thick. It is not unpleasant looking, but definitely much chunkier than its Iomega counterpart.


  • The EZ-135 Cartridges: The cartridges are see-through in places and they seem to “rattle” when handled, as if the platter was loose inside. This did not create an immediate impression of solid quality, and the garish yellow font used on the cartridge’s EZ-135 labeling did not further enhance my overall impression of them.

ez-135 cartridges

  • The Power Brick: Enormous! Relative to pretty much any other power brick for any other product, the EZ-135 brick is huge… and heavy. I am not sure what to think the reason might be for this, but I noted right away that tucking this monster out of sight would be a challenge. In the image below, evaluate the size of the power brick relative to the size of the drive itself!

ez-135 drive and power brick

All in all, my initial impressions were less than 100% favorable, but operation and performance are what really count, so onward I went.

Installing the Software

The supplied software came on three floppies, all of which were for DOS/Windows. The label of the first floppy had a line in small font near the bottom instructing Mac users to access the Mac files via PC Exchange. This likely saved SyQuest the cost of an extra floppy per product sold, at the expense of making it clear that they did not consider the Macintosh platform to be a key market for them.

ez-135 floppies 3

Since I am on the Macintosh platform however, I popped the floppy into my Power Macintosh 7600/366 (a 7500/100, accelerated with a Newer Technology G3 card at 366 MHz) running Mac OS 8.6, and despite being DOS formatted, it immediately mounted on the desktop, revealing an entire diskette worth of dozens of Windows files (.bat, .sys, .com, .exe, .etc!) and a Mac folder containing just three files, one of which was a “readme”. Life is easier on the Macintosh platform! 🙂

I copied the three files across to the Mac’s hard drive and ejected the floppy. The three files were (1) a “readme” file, (2) a SyQuest utility called (how very DOS 8.3!) and (3) the drivers and utilities themselves, all in a single file called mac.sea.

I executed the utility, it scanned my Mac’s SCSI bus and displayed all of the free SCSI IDs on the bus. It recommended “2” for the EZ-135 drive, but I selected “6” instead, which was also free, for the simple reason that it was already selected on the SCSI ID switch on the back of the drive!

I then executed the mac.sea file and it quietly and very quickly installed the necessary software. Now it was time for the hardware.

Connecting the Hardware

Setting up the hardware seemed simple enough: a drive, a power brick and a SCSI cable. All three were provided with my purchase and plugging them all together did not require a rocket scientist. But wait… What about SCSI termination? Anyone who has worked with external SCSI devices knows that the SCSI chain has to be electrically terminated in order to work successfully. Pretty much every SCSI device I have ever worked with has a switch of some sort on the back, usually near the SCSI connector, that allows an internal termination to be set to “on” or “off”.

Not so with the EZ-135. No switch was to be found. Instead, if termination is required, the 2nd SCSI port on the back of the drive must have a SCSI terminator block plugged into it. Now the drives I bought on eBay came with these terminator blocks, but I cannot say if the original retail box included them or not. The ones I received were not SyQuest branded, and so I am just a bit suspicious. It was a curious design decision on SyQuest’s behalf to omit the customary termination switch and hardware. Like the omission of a Macintosh-specific floppy, it suggests to me a product team that was working very hard to fit the retail offering into an overly aggressive price point for the actual product cost.

Setting that concern aside, I plugged it all together, termination and all, powered up the empty drive (no cartridge yet) and booted the Macintosh. When Finder presented itself, I found the newly installed SilverLining Lite control panel and launched it. It detected the EZ-135 right away and correctly declared it to be on the external SCSI bus at ID 6. So far, so good.

silverlining light w ez135

Here is my test environment at this point (with the original Iomega Jaz that was on the external SCSI bus still present but unplugged):

ez-135 testbed

Initial Testing

It was time for the moment of truth – would an inserted cartridge mount on the desktop or not? I inserted a cartridge into the drive slot and pushed it fully in. There is a little mechanical lever underneath the drive slot, labelled “Load/Unload”, that has to be slid fully to the right to lock the cartridge into the drive. I did this and the cartridge immediately spun up. Almost like magic, it popped onto the desktop, just as you would hope it would.

Of course the cartridge turned out to be DOS-formatted and so my first real work with the EZ-135 was to format the cartridge as Mac OS Standard. SilverLining Lite happily provided the functionality needed, and in a few minutes, the cartridge was now Mac-friendly. This is what it looked like mounted on the desktop. Notice the helpful little touch of embedding the SCSI ID in the icon – nice!

desktop w ez-135 2

I did some basic tests, copying files to the cartridge and then from it, and all seemed well. Next up then was to test the unmount and eject procedures, which I had read in one contemporary review were more involved than with their Iomega competitor. Not so! I dragged the EZ-135 icon to the trash and the drive immediately spun down and popped the Load/Unload lever partly to the left. The lever then had to be slid fully to the left, which mechanically ejected the cartridge part way out of the slot, at which point it could be grasped and pulled completely out. It was all very easy and very intuitive.

Just now however, a glitch occurred that has not repeated itself since. I will report it nonetheless, just in case it should happen to you. An apparent artifact of reformatting the cartridge was that I ended up with two EZ-135 icons on my desktop, one representing the original DOS-formatted instance of the cartridge, and the other representing the Mac-formatted instance. Prior to the above basic testing, I had dragged the DOS “ghost” to the trash and it had disappeared. I was able to do my tests and eject the drive without issue, but I suspect that the DOS “ghost” was in fact the artifact of a bug in the drivers, and the Mac was now compromised.

I say this because when I inserted the cartridge into the drive again, to see if it would just as seamlessly remount on the desktop, that ghost, or something anyway, came back to haunt me. I put the cartridge into the drive, slid the Load/Unload lever over, the cartridge spun up and then… Finder crashed! I was presented with a dialog to that effect and I could not clear it. When I pressed the OK button, Finder would restart, re-crash, and re-present the dialog. I ran through this loop several times to ensure that it was not transient, and it was not. I even manually spun down the cartridge and removed it, but Finder stubbornly remained in its crash loop. Finally, I had to unplug the power to the Macintosh to accomplish a restart.

This has never happened since, and perhaps was entirely coincidental, but I am making you aware of it for your future reference. Since then, I have been able to insert and eject EZ-135 cartridges at will, with no issues whatsoever. It has quickly become clear the EZ-135 system can be depended upon to reliably and quickly store and retrieve files to/from its cartridges.


With my Mac OS 8.6 initial testing as my reference, I can say that both the EZ-135 hardware and its supporting software worked intuitively and well, and that operation of the drive and its media followed a paradigm similar to that of floppy removable media: insert the media and it mounts on the desktop, drag the media to the trash and it unmounts and ejects.

It was thus time to put the drive to the most important test of all: performance. Would it live up to its advertised performance specs? Would it be faster than an Iomega ZIP-100? In the next post in this series, I will dig into this and learn how the drive and its cartridges perform in real world tasks.

Read on…

Backing Up Your Mac With the SyQuest EZ-135

Browsing eBay one day I was surprised to happen upon a listing for a SyQuest EZ-135 drive/catridge system, featuring removable 135 MB disks and a rather chunky looking SCSI-interfaced external drive. At first blush, this seemed remarkably like the Zip-100/250 drive/catridge systems that I am so familiar with, and yet completely new – I had never heard of an EZ-135 before! Intrigued, I dug into this unfamiliar “new” product further and uncovered not just a viable competitor to the Zip-100, but in fact a far superior product technically, albeit one that did not impact on the public consciousness to the extent that the Zip-100 did.

Cast your mind back to the early to mid-1990s. Hard drives were sold in capacities of 100’s of MB, and the then ubiquitous 3.5” floppy was the only game in town for backing up the precious contents of your hard drive (setting aside what I would consider to be the fragile and unreliable mechanism of tape backup). Backing up a few 100 MBs of hard drive onto 1.4 MB floppies required enormous discipline, patience and large numbers of the floppies. The backup programs of the day did their best to make this bearable, with as much compression as they could manage, floppy “sets” and so on, but it was still a chore. If you used Macs or PCs at the time, you will remember this not so fondly.

Larger Set of Floppies

The stage was set for a better solution, a kind of “super floppy”, and in 1994, the Iomega Zip-100 burst upon the scene.


At 100 MB per cartridge, it took only a few Zip cartridges to back up your entire hard drive, and the write speed onto the Zip-100 cartridges was so much faster than the equivalent speed onto floppies that the time required to perform a backup was dramatically reduced. The Zip drive met a pressing market need and its fortunes blossomed.

In 1995, SyQuest entered the fray with its own super floppy, and the topic of this post, the EZ-135 drive/catridge system.

EZ-135 External Drive and Catridge (large)

Like the Zip-100 it was competing with, it was SCSI-interfaced, featured large capacity removable cartridges and came in both external and internal formats. The Zip-100 had about a six month market lead on the EZ-135, but (as we shall see) the EZ-135 was a higher capacity, faster and better product. What happened? Well, not what you might expect. Have YOU ever heard of the EZ-135? I hadn’t! I bet you haven’t either, but I bet that you know all about the Zip-100!

Let’s have a look at these two competitors.

Iomega Zip-100

Introduced in late 1994.

Key specs:

  • Capacity: 100 MB
  • Average Seek Time: 30ms
  • Sustained Transfer Rate: up to 1.4 MB/s
  • Reliability: problematic as the drives age
  • Price: $200 with one disk included

These specs may not sound impressive to today’s eye, but compared to the then ubiquitous 3.5” floppy, they were stellar. The 3.5” floppy had a measly 1.4 MB capacity, a seek time of 200ms and an average transfer speed of 16 KB/s. The Zip drive looked like a real racehorse by comparison.

Zip-100 (and later Zip-250) drives were available in both internal and external formats. The internal format came in two flavors, IDE/ATAPI or SCSI. The external format was also offered in two different interfaces, Parallel or SCSI. A little known fact is that the parallel version was just the SCSI version with a Parallel-SCSI converter added internally! That Parallel interface really slowed the drive down however, reducing its transfer rate from 1.4 MB/s to 50 KB/s… still 3x better than a floppy however!

Operation was simplicity itself, and perfectly mimicked the floppy model. Under Mac OS, to mount a Zip-100 disk you simply popped it into the drive and it automatically spun up and mounted on the desktop. Dismounting was similarly straightforward and floppy-like: you simply dragged the desktop icon to the trash and it automatically dismounted the drive, spun it down and ejected it. Users familiar with keyboard shortcuts could accomplish the same dismount action by clicking on the desktop icon and selecting Apple-Y (the “put away” command).

Under DOS/Windows, operation was predictably more cumbersome, but under Windows 9.x, the paradigm was quite simple to navigate.

The software that was included with the drive was quite good. Iomega drivers and utility programs were nicely designed and solid, and the Guest application was very versatile when needed. Support was available from Mac System 6 onward, and for the Wintel camp was available from DOS right through Windows 9x. I *believe* that it carried forward into the Windows XP and later era, but have not confirmed this.

As evidenced by this post, Zip drives remain popular amongst retro computing enthusiasts. The reason for this is slightly different than the reason for their original popularity however. Now it is all about getting files ONTO the computers, not copying the files OFF of the computers (i.e. backup)! Bulk loading of software and files onto older vintage computers has become the main use case for the Zip-100 class of drives, and has in fact featured in at least two recent posts in this blog!

SyQuest EZ-135

Announced in 1995.

The EZ-135 was the “Six Million Dollar Man” to the Zip-100’s “human”: it was “better… stronger… faster” than its competitor, as clearly reflected in the key specs below.

Key specs:

  • Capacity: 135 MB
  • Average Seek Time: 13.5ms
  • Sustained Transfer Rate: up to 2.4 MB/s (burst transfer up to 4 MB/s)
  • Reliability: Mechanism rated for 200,000 hours
  • Price: $220 with one disk included

Like the Zip-100, the EZ-135 was available in both internal and external formats. Internal was IDE/ATAPI or SCSI. External was parallel or SCSI. Also like the Zip-100, a higher capacity version debuted in 1996: the EZFlyer, which had 230 MB disks.

Operation of the drive could apparently be more complex than operation of the Zip-100, but full details on that will come in my next post. I have acquired a set of EZ-135 drives on eBay, and will report on my experience of installing and using them as part of this series of EZ-135 posts. In the meantime, a review written at the time, and accessed today via the wonderful WayBackMachine, mentioned the need to manually mount, dismount, spin up, spin down and eject the disk. While this sounds like a few more steps than is needed in the floppy paradigm, as long as each step is reliable and simple, the net effort is not that much of a detriment.

The software that came with the EZ-135 was, like the software that came with the Zip-100, very good. Each EZ-135 came with a copy of LaCie Silver Lining Lite, a very nice disk utility/maintenance package and a SCSI probe utility that could recommend the SCSI ID to set on the drive. Support was provided from System 6.0.5 right through Mac OS 9.x.

So What Happened?

As a class, super floppies faded from view in the early 2000’s as hard drives burgeoned into the GB range, USB flash drives became commonplace and a 100’ish MB backup drive no longer solved the backup need. During their heyday however, super floppies solved a very real and very pressing problem and were a valuable part of the arsenal of any computer user who was concerned about their data security/longevity. I was one of those, and I remember being able to backup all of my files onto just five Zip-100 cartridges, and loving it.

As for the EZ-135, despite being a technically superior product, it failed to dominate. Most people (myself included) don’t even remember it from “back then”. The ZIP drive zoomed in popularity and the EZ-135 slowly faded away. Perhaps it was the bulky size of the EZ-135 drive, or maybe the slightly higher price point per disk (each disk was about $5 more than its Iomega counterpart) or even perhaps the cool blue design language that characterized the Zip-100 product, vs. the dull gray and garish yellow that SyQuest used for the EZ-135 family… it is hard to say. In the end, better technology doesn’t always win, and this was the case with the EZ-135.

Coming Up Next Time

As I mentioned above, I have acquired a pair of EZ-135s on eBay, and some cartridges to go with them, and will be installing and testing them next. I will report back my experiences in upcoming posts, as the results dictate. Stay tuned!


  • Wikipedia
  • Florin Neumann,, article “Comparison of Zip and EZ-135 drives” published on the web Mar 11, 2007 and accessed via WayBackMachine

Adding External Mass Storage to Your System 6 Mac

In this final and long overdue post on System 6, we will look at adding external mass storage to your System 6 Mac, typically a crucial element in loading application software onto it. After all, you won’t get far with 800K floppies!

External Zip-100 AppleCD300e Larger Set of Floppies

There are several types of mass storage you could choose to add: external hard drives, removable drives, CD-ROM drives, tape storage and so on. All of these are supported by System 6 and are viable options. However, we are going to focus on the two of these that I believe offer the most versatility: the Iomega Zip drive and the CD-ROM drive. Both are still readily available today (if only on eBay). The CD-ROM drive offers a standard media format that a great many programs are distributed on, and the Zip drive offers 100 MB of read/write storage – fundamentally a “super floppy” (this WAS part of the marketing literature for it, way back when!).

I am going to approach this article in the same way as I approached the work: I started with the Iomega Zip drive and then added the CD-ROM afterwards.

External Zip-100

You will of course need both hardware and software to accomplish mass storage for your System 6 Mac. The software of course is freely available on the web, but the hardware will set you back a few pennies. For System 6 Macs, you will want to restrict yourself to SCSI-interfaced Zip 100 drives, and similarly, SCSI-interfaced external CD-ROM drives. As of this writing, SCSI Zip 100 drives are still in abundant supply on eBay, running anywhere from $50 to $100 depending on the seller and the condition of the drive. For the CD-ROM drive, I would attempt to purchase an Apple CD 300 drive, for the simple reason that the drivers are easy to get and are known to be compatible with System 6. You can of course chose different hardware, but you will need to ensure that you also find System 6 compatible software for your drive.

From a software perspective you will need the Iomega Zip driver, v4.2.This can be picked up at Unfortunately, it is not yet out on Happy Macs Gopher site. I have a whole System 6 section that has yet to be loaded! For the CD-ROM driver, you will need Apple CD-ROM Software, v5.3.1. This can be found at the Mac Driver Museum, By the way, you can also get the v4.2 Zip driver here, so this COULD be your one-stop-shop.

Alright, with the preliminaries out of the way, lets get started! For all of this work, I used my (by now) trusty Mac IIsi, running System 6.0.8.


I started by connecting up my external SCSI Zip 100 drive and restarting the machine, just to establish that nothing happens until the driver is loaded. Sure enough, nothing happened! Zip disks, when popped into the drive, were roundly ignored by my Mac. So far, so good. Now I copied the Zip 4.2 driver (a single file) into the system folder and restarted. The restart was clean and Zip disks, when inserted into the drive, now popped up on the desktop as they should. In this case, I inserted a disk labeled System6Exchange, and you can see it mounted on the desktop image below. Well… that was too easy!

ZIP Mounted

… and it stayed that way. Using Iomega Zip drives with your System 6 Mac is incredibly simple. Just connect the drive, add the driver to the System folder, restart, and all is well. This is software the way software should be! Try doing this with a Windows 3.1 PC of the day! It would take days of fiddling to get this right, starting with the nearly Herculean task of getting a SCSI card into the system and running. Take it from me, System 6 Macs were way, way easier to work with than their PC counterparts. I have experienced this from both sides. I was a PC user at the time, and it was a nightmare to add new hardware to a PC. Remember the old ad? Macintoshes were “plug and play”, while PCs were “plug and pray”? 🙂 It wasn’t just clever advertising – it was TRUE!

So now you can read Zip 100 disks on your System 6 Mac. Great! But how do you load anything interesting onto those disks so that you can use them to transfer software and other data onto the Mac? Zip 100 drives are largely a relic of history now, but happily, historical relics remain in abundant supply on eBay. Even given that however, the long and the short of it is that you will need another vintage Mac to write anything useful onto those Zip 100 drives

There are two approaches here. For the first one, you can physically transfer your existing Zip 100 drive to another vintage Mac that supports a SCSI termination, and then load a Zip disk from there. In my case, I have another SCSI Zip drive on my Power Macintosh 7300/200, and I used it to load software and images on to a Zip 100 disk, which I then loaded into the Zip drive on my System 6 Mac. This let me load up my Mac IIsi with software, up to 100 MB at a time.

As a second approach, you can purchase a USB-interfaced Zip 100 drive and use it to load a Zip disk from a USB equipped Mac. I do this as well from time to time. The very PowerMac G5 upon which I am composing this post has a USB Zip 100 attached to it and I use it to load Zip disks routinely. You can see this setup below:

Powermac G5 Dual w Zip

I do not believe that you could plug a USB Zip 100 into a modern Mac and have it work. If any reader tries this and it works, please let me know. My limited work in this area, posted to this blog on July 1, 2013 in the article “Mac OS Standard is Not So Standard” suggests that you cannot write Zip disks in the Mac OS Standard disk format required by System 6 with a Mac running anything beyond Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger. So, I am pretty sure that you will need a vintage Mac to implement even this second approach. If you should find differently, please do let us know!

OK! Onto getting a CD-ROM up and running on System 6. I had quite a bit more trouble with this one, although the outcome was eventually successful. To save you quite a bit of frustration, let me cut to the chase. Before you start down the CD-ROM trail with System 6, you need to add an obscure extension called Desktop Manager to your System folder. This was the key breakthrough in my efforts to get CD-ROMs running on my Mac IIsi. The ever-helpful Macintosh Orchard site, from which you can download Desktop Manager, describes it thus:

“Prevents desktop rebuilds when swapping back and forth with System 7. Allows desktop mounting of CD-ROM. Needed for some file serving apps. Part of AppleShare File Server 2.0.1.”

The key part is that second sentence of course … allows desktop mounting of CD-ROM. After I tracked down and installed Desktop Manager, the rest of was easy.

I am not sure if both of these are needed, but since this is how I approached the task, I will report both. I first loaded Apple CD Setup 3.2, and then when that did not resolve the issue, I loaded Apple CD-ROM 5.3.1.My guess is that all that is really needed is Apple CD-ROM 5.3.1. This is available from the Mac Driver Museum mentioned above.

With Desktop Manager and Apple CD-ROM 5.3.1 loaded, plus a restart, CD-ROMs inserted into my Apple CD 300 drive spin up nicely, and after a disconcertingly long pause, mount cleanly on the desktop. In the screenshot below, you can see both the Zip 100 disk from the steps above and the CD from this step mounted on the desktop.

ZIP and CD-ROM Mounted

When it was all said and done, and with the Zip disk and the CD-ROM together in an external SCSI chain, my Mac IIsi installation looks like this:

Mac IIsi w Zip and CD

Here is an additional “hack” for those interested in trying it. If you have a bootable CD-ROM (in my case a Mac OS 7.6.1 CD), there is a device driver located on track 0 of the disk. This is part of the requirement for being a bootable CD-ROM. If you insert such a CD-ROM into the drive and let it spin up BEFORE you power on your Mac, the Mac’s ROM-based SCSI manager will read and load the device driver from track 0, giving you “software-free” access to the CD-ROM drive. I tried this early in my work above, and after the bootable Mac OS 7.6.1 CD I used had mounted on the desktop, I ejected it and put a different, non-bootable CD into the drive. With the device driver from the original CD still loaded, my Mac went ahead and obligingly mounted the second CD on the desktop too! So, in the worst case, you can “seed” your CD-ROM session with the driver from a bootable CD, and then switch that out for the CD you are trying to work with. Your mileage may vary, but it worked for me.

… and that’s that! You now have both Zip-100 and CD-ROM mass storage up and running on your System 6 Mac. Load away to your heart’s content!


The Reports of My Demise Are Greatly Exaggerated

Alright, Mark Twain said it first, and he definitely said it best, but my last post concerning the demise of my long serving Power Mac G5 Quad may just have been somewhat exaggerated.

As promised, I gingerly moved the machine to a safe location, with a lot of cardboard underneath it, and opened it up, expecting cooling fluid to come spilling out. Instead, I found what looked for all the world like a normal Power Mac G5… Other than a lot of dust everywhere, nothing seemed amiss.

When I removed the main fans to have a better look, it became apparent that there was more than just a little dust afoot however – the main intakes to the CPU unit were nearly fully blocked.

Dusty Grill

I got out the lab vacuum and gently vacuumed all the dust off the intake grill, and off of everywhere else that I could reach, and put the machine back together.

Cleaned Grill

With more than just a little hope at this point I restarted the machine. I was not pleased when it booted and the CPU meter showed a whopping 89C, but to my delight, the reading started to drop quickly, settling down to 54C, before starting to climb again. By the time I was done copying off the Happy Macs Gopher Site, and the few other files I wanted to recover, the temperature meter was reading 63C, but it was stable! The fans were not quite full blast, and the temperature fluctuated between 59C and 63C, with no apparent correlation to what the machine was being asked to do.

I know that the PPC970 chip can run safely at 60C, but prior to this whole incident, the machine idled in the 45C to 48C region, with the fans running at minimum, instead of roaring along at 3600 RPM.

So, after letting it sit for 5 minutes or so, to ensure that it would not recover its normal idle, I shut it down. I am now hopeful that the interior of that CPU compartment is simply choked with dust, and that a good cleaning will recover the machine to full functionality. I will hunt down a service guide for the G5 Quad and see what I can do.

In the meantime, I have restored the Happy Macs Gopher site onto my Power Mac G5 Dual, and it is once more on the air. This post is being composed on that very machine.

Thanks to reader Ty, who responded to my last post with encouragement to soldier on with attempted repairs, instead of just harvesting the useful components and putting the empty hulk of the machine out to permanent pasture. I will be in touch Ty – thanks!

I guess if there is a moral to this story it is that “it is not over until it is over”, and this story is not over yet. These older machines deliver great service, but they will fall victim to their age from time to time, and then they need you to pay back their years of faithful service with the care and attention required to get them back on their feet again.

Stay tuned, I will post more as this progresses.


A Casualty on the Front Lines

No, this isn’t a misplaced war correspondent piece! The title refers to my much loved and long serving Power Mac G5 Quad, which until this week has been on the front lines of the internet as the server for the Happy Macs Gopher site.

G5 Quad

Regrettably I went into the lab mid this week to find its fans running at full throttle and the CPU temperature meter registering well over 80C. Amazingly, the machine was still running and still responding, but of course I shut it down immediately.

Thinking that it might just be a software glitch in the temperature control system, I let it cool off for an hour or so and then restarted it. It started up normally, but to my dismay, the CPU temperature meter started to climb immediately, the fans kicked up in tandem with it, and eventually I was right back to where I had started: fans at full throttle and an unacceptable CPU temperature level. I shut the machine down again to preserve what little run time it would have left at those extreme levels of heat, and pondered what to do next.

I have to conclude that the G5’s elaborate cooling system has failed after many years of faithful service. These machines are well known for this problem, but usually the failure is more catastrophic than the one I have experienced, with cooling fluid spilling out all over and staining floors, carpets and anything else in the near vicinity. I really can’t complain I suppose: 2005 to 2018 is a pretty good run for any computer …and it has not been easy service of late. As mentioned above, this machine has been on the front lines of the internet for several years now, serving up the Happy Macs Gopher site 24x7x365.

I will have a good look at it this weekend, and in the short term at least, I will replace it with my original personal Mac, a Power Mac G5 Dual 2.3 GHz. I will have to fire up the G5 Quad for a limited last run, to transfer the Gopher site off of the HDD and onto a backup drive. This will let me restore it onto the G5 Dual and get it “back on the air”. I can only hope that G5 Quad survives this final service without too much (additional) damage.

Looking forward, G5 Quads are becoming hard to find on eBay these days, and so it may be a while before I can replace my failing friend. I doubt that I can actually repair it – I lack both the time and the skills to do so. I may simply have to “harvest” all the useful components from it (hard drives, RAM, video card, etc.) and put it out to pasture permanently. This weekend’s examination will tell the tale.

RIP my long faithful friend!

Reviving a Non-Responsive 7300/200

I am happy to report that the Happy Macs lab is once more fully operational, after a move of 100’s of miles from its old home to its new home. Of the 28 or so computers that were moved, there was only one “casualty” – my cherished Power Macintosh 7300/200.

PowerMac 7300-200 Image

It would be fair to say that over the last few years, I have lavished many months’ worth of time on it. It has been an essential test bed for almost every new concept, card or technology that I have dug into. It has been heavily upgraded, has a leading edge set of applications installed and has been so reliable that I use it to host an internal Gopher server that the rest of the lab accesses as need be.

Consequently, I was more than just a little distressed when I unpacked it, assembled it and pressed the Power button, only to be greeted by… well, nothing! OK, not quite nothing. The power light came on and the two hard disks spun up, but that was it. There was no startup chime, no video, no response to keyboard start up shortcuts and in general, no signs of intelligent life at all. Even though I packed every computer myself, and moved all of the boxes personally, the process of moving is a physically challenging one for an older machine given the inevitable bumps and bruises along the way. Had my prized 7300/200 suffered fatal damage?

At first, I was concerned, but hopeful. The boxes had been in storage for six months during the move. Perhaps the motherboard battery had expired in that time. I replaced it with a fresh one. No joy. Moving does involve inevitable physical jolts to the boxes. Had a card dislodged from its slot? I checked every card, including the removable CPU card. Everything was snug in its slot. Still no signs of intelligent life. Speaking of intelligence, in the computer world intelligence comes from the CPU. I have an upgraded 500 MHz G3 card slotted into the 7300’s CPU slot. Perhaps it had died in the transfer? I gently extracted it from its slot and replaced it with the original 200 MHz CPU card. The machine remained stubbornly silent. No chimes, no video, no life.

Sonnet 500 MHz G3

At this point I moved from “concerned” to more like “worried”. With physical bumps and bruises comes the possibility that a delicate solder joint somewhere had snapped, in which case it was simply all over (I lack both the skill and the equipment to detect and repair this sort of damage). I also considered the possibility that a cantankerous capacitor had blown somewhere, and spent no small amount of time examining the motherboard and the plug in cards for the telltale signs of cap damage. Again, this was without reward.

OK, clearly “inspiration” was not going solve this issue, so I moved on to “perspiration”. Keeping the case open, I began methodically removing every plug in card (video, IDE and USB) one at a time, and every memory module, until the machine was essentially stripped to its essence.

Power Macintosh 7300 Open

Still it gave no indication that there was any life left in it. Finally, I was left with only the plug in CPU card, which I had already ruled out as the source of the problem in my early “inspiration” testing. Still, the CPU card was all that was left, and if I was going to have admit that this machine was dead, I was going to (re)try this first.

I know that you know what happened next, because the perversity of inanimate objects almost predicts it! I replaced the 500 MHz G3 with the original 200 MHz 604e, powered up for what I thought would be the last time, and was greeted with a robust startup chime! I hardly believed my ears! The machine proceeded to execute the boot process, although it quickly ran into trouble due to a critical shortage of RAM. Ultimately, a minimal version of Mac OS 9.1 managed to project itself onto the display and there was life!

So… I had lost the 500 MHz G3 CPU after all! Well… not so fast. I am nothing if not methodical, and so now I extracted the 200 MHz CPU and replaced it once more with the (by now very suspect) 500 MHz CPU and applied power once more. Once more the machine chimed vigorously and booted into a minimal Mac OS 9.1. This is NOT what I expected, but it was very welcome indeed. I powered down and repeated to be sure that this was a sustainable result. It was.

After that, I slowly, methodically began replacing everything that I had pulled out of the machine. The RAM was first, and with a full complement of RAM came a full boot of Mac OS 9.1. The video card was next, then the IDE card, restoring access to the second hard disk and finally, the USB card. When it was all said and done, I had simply removed everything and replaced it all. I had of course reseated everything in the process, vs. just checking that everything was snugly in its slot, but nothing more.

Reseating the CPU seemed to be the breakthrough point, but I had done that much earlier to no effect. I really have no idea exactly what caused the original failure, nor do I have any real idea how what I did resolved it. However, it IS resolved, and the machine has been starting up reliably ever since.

The moral of this story? Be patient, be methodical and try everything at least twice! The machine is not dead until you give up on it!