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.

 

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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!