Pimp My Ride – Upgrading a Power Macintosh 7300 – Series Wrap Up

Pimp My Ride 10

Welcome to the summation of our “pimp my ride” series. In this series, we have looked at upgrading a Power Macintosh 7300/200. We have upgraded the video card, the CPU and both the hard drive itself and the hard drive interface (from SCSI to IDE). Reviewing the full set of results we have achieved, one upgrade really stands out from the rest: the CPU. Our results clearly demonstrate that to get the biggest “bang for your upgrade buck”, you should upgrade the CPU. This is the highest impact single step you can take. No other single upgrade delivers such dramatic across-the-board improvements.

PowerPC G3

What about the other upgrades? The other upgrades we undertook helped, but none to the extent of the CPU upgrade. Upgrading the video card was nice, but it did not produce that much observable impact in day-to-day use of the computer (unless you are a gamer). Upgrading the hard drive from SCSI to IDE delivered modest improvements in boot time, and also delivered somewhere between 1.5X and 2X reduction in program launch time, definitely making it a good second upgrade step to take. However, in the final analysis, only the CPU upgrade made significant, observable, day-to-day improvements across the board: boot time, program launch time, general responsiveness and so on.

So there you have it. In this series, we started with a stock Power Macintosh 7300/200 and step-by-step, upgraded the video card, the CPU and the hard drive. Of these upgrades, the single largest bang for the buck is the CPU upgrade.

Want to speed up your Power Macintosh? Hit eBay and start searching for Sonnet G3 and Sonnet G4 CPU upgrade cards. Find a good one, install it, and strap on your goggles and driving gloves – you are in for a high speed computing experience!

Goggles and Gloves

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Pimp My Ride – Upgrading a Power Macintosh 7300/400 to an IDE Hard Drive

So far in this “pimp my ride” series, we have looked at upgrading the video subsytem of our Power Macintosh 7300/200 with an ATI Radeon 7000 Mac Edition video card (not much impact) and upgrading the CPU from the stock 200 MHz PowerPC 604e to a 400 MHz PowerPC G3 (BIG impact). In this last installment of our upgrade saga, we will look at upgrading the stock SCSI hard drive to an ATA-66 interfaced IDE drive.

The stock SCSI hard drive that shipped with the Power Macintosh 7300/200 may be many things, but FAST was not one of them. Using the Intech Hard Disk Speed Tools benchmarking program, I was able to measure the maximum transfer rate of the SCSI drive in my 7300 at about 9 MB/s. The graph below tells the tale.

SCSI Drive Speed Results

Now, there is nothing wrong with this number. 10 MB/s is the advertised speed for Apple’s “Fast SCSI”, but to put this number in context, today’s SATA hard drives operate in the GB/s transfer range. Even the older IDE technology delivered up to 133 MB/s transfer speeds. 9 MB/s, while absolutely in spec, is simply SLOW!

To overcome this, I purchased on eBay a Sonnet Tempo ATA-66 IDE interface card. This PCI interfaced internal expansion card promised up to 66 MB/s transfer speeds, a worthy jump in performance vs. the existing SCSI drive. I happened to have a Seagate 3120814A 120 GB IDE hard drive in stock, and so I installed that into the second drive bay of the 7300.

ST3120814A

I then installed the Sonnet Tempo ATA-66 into a spare PCI slot and connected an IDE cable from it to the newly installed Seagate IDE drive. For those that know about such things, I was careful to use the higher speed double conductor type of IDE cable, so as to get maximum speed out of the interface.

I restarted the machine and went into Drive Setup (the standard Apple utility, usually found in the Utilities folder of the boot drive). It obligingly found the drive and offered to initialize it. I will spare you the gory details of that process, but I partitioned the physical drive into several logical drives (one for use as a general files partition, one for use as a second Mac OS partition, and finally, two for a later Linux install on this machine) and initialized each one. That done, I now had no fewer than 5 logical drives showing up on my Mac OS desktop.

Desktop w 5 Drives

How fast was this new disk? Had I accomplished the 66 MB/s I was hoping for? I reran the Hard Disk Speed Tools benchmark, and got a disappointing 31 MB/s.

IDE Drive Speed Results

This is still more than 3X the speed of the stock SCSI drive, but was only half of what should have been possible. I swapped IDE cables, I swapped out the Tempo ATA-66 for another Tempo and generally tried everything I could think of, but nothing would induce the interface to run any faster. I still haven’t solved this mystery, but 31 MB/s IS still a lot better than 9 MB/s, and so I decided to proceed with the testing based on this slower, but still much faster, hard drive and interface.

Clearly, to do any meaningful testing, I needed to be able to boot from, and run applications from, the IDE drive. The Sonnet Tempo ATA-66 box and documentation was very clear that this interface supported booting of the Macintosh and so I proceeded under that premise.

It was MUCH too much work to install a new version of Mac OS onto this new drive just for the purposes of testing, and so I took a very convenient shortcut. I simply copied my entire SCSI boot volume, folder by folder, to a partition of the IDE disk. I then “blessed” the system folder of this copy of my boot disk (if “blessing” of a system folder is a mystery to you, it is the arcane but simple process of making a Mac OS system folder bootable). Finally, I went into the Startup Disk X control panel and selected the new drive to boot from.

Startup Disk X

All set and ready to boot! Stop watch in hand, I hit the power button and timed the boot sequence. It clocked in at 1 minute and 40 seconds, or 100 seconds, from power up chime to the appearance of the control strip on the booted desktop. This may sound slow to you when examined through the lens of today, but this was GOOD! Prior to all of the upgrades undertaken as a part of this series, the equivalent boot time was 2 minutes and 57s, or 177 seconds.

However, I must note that after just the CPU upgrade undertaken earlier in this series, the boot time was already down to 2 minute and 5s, or 125s.  Compared to the new time of 100 seconds this implies that booting from the 3X faster IDE hard drive hadn’t really bought me anything close to a 3X improvement. How could this be? As we noted in the CPU upgrade part of this series, it seems that booting is both CPU bound and disk bound.

What about other performance metrics? After the machine was booted, I tested a few programs that I had comparative metrics for:

– Photoshop 6.0 Load Time: 12 seconds (vs. 27 seconds from SCSI drive)

– Corel Word Perfect 3.5e Load Time: 2 seconds (vs. 3 seconds from SCSI drive)

The improvement in Photoshop load time was impressive; Word Perfect less so, but still good.

Looking at the above, the net result of this decidedly unscientific examination of the relative speed impact of using a 3X faster IDE hard drive vs. the stock SCSI hard drive is that it had an observable impact. Booting was faster, but not THAT much faster, implying that booting was bound by more than just disk I/O. Some program launches were more than 2X faster, while others were only 50% faster or so.

In summary, I think we can conclude that upgrading the hard drive of your Power Macintosh from SCSI to IDE is a worthy step, and one that will deliver you observable performance gains. Critically, booting is faster and program launching is faster. These two areas factor large in the subjective impression of the “speed” of a machine, and this all by itself makes a SCSI -> IDE upgrade well worth considering.

That’s it for this installment! Stay tuned for final post in this series, a wrap up of all of the upgrade steps taken to date.

Pimp My Ride – Upgrading a Power Macintosh 7300/200 to a 400 MHz G3

This is part two of our “pimp my ride” series, in which we undertake  performance upgrades to various subsystems of a Power Macintosh 7300/200. In the first part of this series, we upgraded the 7300/200 with an ATI Radeon 7000 Mac Edition video card, and found the results largely uninspiring. In this post, we upgrade the CPU from the stock 200 MHz PowerPC 604e to a 400 MHz G3.

The CPU is the heart and soul any computer, and a capacity increase in this area should certainly among the highest impact updates a user can make. In my case, my Power Macintosh 7300/200 shipped with a 200 MHz 604e, and was a very capable machine in this configuration. Nonetheless, I had two CPU updates available, both from Sonnet: a 500 MHz G3/1M and a 400 MHz G3/1M. Conceptually, both should have been able to more than double the performance of the 7300, and as we shall see, this was indeed the case.

I am sure that it will come as no surprise to anyone that I started with the 500 MHz card. Installation was simple enough. I located and loaded up the Sonnet Processor Upgrade extension (ce_install_v31.sit) and powered down the machine. I removed the cover, extracted the original 200 MHz card …

2015-10-22.1124, Power Macintosh 7300 with Original 200 MHz CPU in Place

… and slotted the new 500 MHz card into its place. The new card was a curiously small form factor, but It declared itself to be a Crescendo G3, and all of Sonnet’s literature said that this compatible with a Power Macintosh 7300 and so I proceeded. Suspecting that trouble might be in the offing however, I did not replace the cover of the 7300.

2015-10-22.1126, New 500 MHz G3 CPU for Power Macintosh 7300

It slotted into place just fine…

2015-10-22.1127, New 500 MHz G3 CPU Installed, Power Macintosh 7300

…but trouble was indeed in the offing. My attempts to start the machine up after the install were a complete failure. I could hear the machine power on, but there was no start up chime, and no other overt signs of life. I left the machine sitting like that for some time (several minutes), just in case it was running RAM tests, but it remained deaf and mute, and eventually I turned it off.

I reseated the card and retried the start up several times, but always to no good end. I tried zapping the PRAM and restarting, but again, no joy. Finally, I was left to decide that this was either an unsupported card for the 7300, or it was defective. Happily, I had a fallback, the 400 MHz upgrade card I mentioned above, and I dropped back to that.

This card was more or less the same form factor as the original 200 MHz card…

2015-10-22.1134, New 400 MHz G3 CPU for Power Macintosh 7300

…and slotted in easily.

2015-10-22.1136, New 400 MHz G3 CPU Installed, Power Macintosh 7300

When I pressed the Power button this time, the machine sprang to life instantly, issued a robust start up chime and dropping directly into the boot sequence. This sequence was observably faster than before, and quickly yielded a fully booted desktop.

Alright then – so far, so good, but was it running at 400 MHz? Sonnet prides itself on being a no hassle upgrade. As their literature says, “No Switches, No Control Panels, Just Fast”. As you might expect therefore, there was no control panel to look at to verify the CPU speed. Sonnet did however provide a program called Metronome, which measures and reports the speed of the CPU. I found Metronome in my Apple Menu items and ran it. As you can see below, it reported a clean 400 MHz. Sonnet was right. No muss, no fuss, just fast.

Sonnet Metronome, 400 MHz

Apple System Profiler gave me an identical result:

Apple System Profiler, 400

OK, the CPU was running cleanly at 400 MHz. I was particularly interested in this since in the past, I had upgraded a Power Macintosh 7500/100 with a Newer Technology brand 400 MHz G3, only to get a less than advertised 366 MHz from it.  I am guessing that some form of clock auto scaling was responsible for this, perhaps as the card did its best to multiply the system clock, but it always left me wanting… I had paid for 400 MHz and received only 366 MHz. It still made a HUGE difference, but it wasn’t everything I had been expecting. In this case, I was pleased to see that my new Sonnet upgrade was delivering the full 400 MHz I had paid for.

So, how fast IS 400 MHz relative to the initial 200 MHz? I tried a few very subjective tests, and was impressed with the results. Image decoding in JPEGView was significantly faster than before. My ThumbsPlus image cataloger and viewer seemed to race through images in a way I could only have dreamed of before the upgrade. This was all encouraging. It was time for some objective testing.

The system now booted in 125 seconds, vs. the original 177 seconds. This was faster, but not as much faster as I might have expected. It seems to me that this must be reflective of a boot process that is bound not just by CPU but also by disk I/O. I am guessing that having improved only one of these two factors, I did not get the maximum benefit.

Application loading really sparkled however. Adobe Photoshop 7.0 now loaded in 31 seconds, vs. the original pre upgrade time of 1 minute and 30 seconds, a really nice 3x boost. Image decoding improved quite a bit as well. There are three images that I had used in benchmark testing some time ago, and still had the previous recorded decode and display times for. After the 400 MHz upgrade, I tested them again and the new results looked like this:

  • Image One: 3.5 seconds (vs. the original 7 seconds)
  • Image Two: 3 seconds (vs. the original 4 seconds)
  • Image Three: 3 seconds (vs. the original 6 seconds)

Overall, I would summarize the above as a roughly 2x boost, which is not quite as much as I might have expected, when doubling the clock and going from a 604e to a G3 with 1 MB of backside cache, but there you have it.

To offset that minor disappointment however, there was a hidden bonus in this upgrade, quite aside from the new, snappier behavior of the system. The system ran quieter now as well! The 7300 has variable, temperature controlled fans, and I have always noted that as the machine warmed up and internal case temperatures stabilized, the fans would ramp up somewhat and the machine would get noisier. This was  not the case post upgrade. Clearly the new 400 MHz G3 must run cooler than the older 200 MHz 604e, resulting in less need for cooling and thus quieter operation overall.

So, in summary, bumping up the CPU from a 200 MHz 604e to a 400 MHz G3 produced excellent and very noticable results. The machine now booted faster, applications loaded faster AND ran faster, and as a final bonus, the system ran cooler and quieter. I’ll call this upgrade step a big win all around.

Up next, and the last upgrade step in this series, is an upgrade to the hard drive, from an original SCSI drive to an ATA-66 interfaced IDE hard drive. Read on to see the impact of this change.

Pimp My Ride – Adding an ATI Radeon 7000 Mac Edition Video Card to a Power Macintosh 7300/200

Video card updates are often the first stop for users wishing to increase the performance of their computers, and so I decided to start my update efforts in this area. Video card updates are particularly relevant for gamers and for people who are interested in high quality video playback of all sorts.

After reviewing the slate of possible video upgrades for my Power Macintosh 7300/200, I settled on the ATI Radeon 7000 Mac Edition as the best of a limited bunch.

ATI Radeon 7000 Mac Edition Card

While reviewers generally commented on its “tepid performance” overall, it was still a major boost relative to the onboard video system of the 7300, and seemed the most competent of the set of possible options.

The ATI Radeon 7000 Mac Edition debuted in 2002, and was targeted at upgrades of older Power Macintosh units that lacked the then current AGP bus, and thus had only PCI to work with as a system interface. Despite “being hobbled by its PCI interface” as one reviewer put it, the Radeon 7000 Mac Edition still promised a significant functionality boost to users of older Macintoshes: DVI connectivity, dual monitors, accelerated 3D graphics and finally higher resolutions due to its 32 MB of (then) high speed DDR onboard video RAM.

ATI Radeon 7000 Mac Edition Box

Arriving as it did in 2002, and aimed at older Macintoshes, the included drivers assumed Mac OS 9.2.2 would be the operating system environment that they would execute in. Thus the OpenGL elements of Mac OS 9.2.2 were required to get full functionality from those drivers. Early versions of Mac OS X were supported as well, but as this was not my focus, I chose not to explore that further.

I am running Mac OS 9.1 on my Power Macintosh 7300/200, and so I was a little concerned about getting things to work, but it turns out that both the initial releases of the drivers, and the October 2002 retail upgrade of them, both supported Mac OS 9.1, but per the above, without full OpenGL support. I resolved that by copying all of the OpenGL system extensions from one of my Mac OS 9.2.2 systems to the Mac OS 9.1 system folder of my 7300/200. The net result was that my Mac OS 9.1 system was upgraded from OpenGL 1.2 to OpenGL 1.2.4.

Installation of the card was a snap (I picked one up on eBay for next to nothing). I installed the October 2002 version of the drivers, turned off the Macintosh, installed the card, and attempted to move the video connector from the onboard video plug to the Radeon 7000 video plug… Well, wait a minute, perhaps installation was not QUITE so much of a snap. More like a hiccup actually!

I am using an original Apple Multiscan 720 17” monitor with my Power Macintosh 7300/200,

apple_multiplescan_720

and as you will undoubtedly remember, Apple had unique, non VGA connectors at the time. So, I could not simply move the non VGA video connector of the monitor onto the VGA output of the Radeon 7000.

If I had been able to get the Radeon 7000 I purchased with its full original retail packaging, this would not have been a problem. ATI included the necessary adapter for this circumstance in their original packaging. However, all I had purchased was the card itself, and so I was somewhat out of luck.

16991111-1

A return to eBay was in order, and after some trial and error, I discovered that a search for “Macintosh to VGA adapter” turned up the right result, and I ordered one. This arrived a few days later and I was able to complete the install and try out the new card. Needless to say, the delay was annoying!

I connected the monitor to the Radeon 7000 via the adapter and turned on the machine. The Power Macintosh booted smoothly and came right up on the Radeon video port. That was good – basic sanity is always helpful! But what about performance? Well, as reported above, “tepid” does seem a good choice of words. I really did not notice much improvement in observable performance. Subjectively, some applications seemed to accomplish vertical scrolling a little more smoothly, and this was especially visible in Photoshop 6, but that was about it.

Worse, I noticed that selecting and dragging Finder windows seemed to have gotten noticeably WORSE! Where previously window movements had been reasonably smooth, now they were jerky, with the screen image seeming to update very, very slowly. I have been using an extension called Power Windows to achieve solid window dragging.

Power Windows

Suspecting a conflict, I disabled it. That did the trick. Suddenly, although I no longer had solid window dragging, Finder windows moved crisply and updates snapped into place. This was a notable improvement from the state before I had installed the video card, and so I was happy with it.

I am not a gamer, but I have read numerous reports that the Radeon 7000 makes a perceptable difference there, and ditto for video playback. For me, the Radeon 7000 did little for my day to day work on the Power Macintosh 7300. The system did not seem subjectively any faster, short of the minor Finder window update speed improvement I reported, but it did now have  more available resolutions, and dual monitor and DVI connectivity (if I should ever want to use these with this system) and so I will call it a net win.

Overall, the real value of a Radeon 7000 addition will be realized by gamers, users of video and those wishing to go to DVI or multi monitor. For my use of my 7300/200, the Radeon 7000 was a nice addition, but not a great performance uplift.

That brings us to next steps. The objective of this exercise was to get noticeable performance improvements, and so it was time to move on to the next step. One typically gets noticeable performance gains from CPU upgrades, and so next up is just that: a CPU upgrade. See the next post in this series to see how that turns out!

Pimp My Ride – Upgrading a Power Macintosh 7300/200

powermac-7300-200-image

Imagine for a moment that you are a computer. What do you do on a day in, day out basis? Well, in the abstract, you read some data in from disk, you apply various algorithms and transformations to it, and you display something on screen related to the work you have just done.  On occasion, the user inputs something that causes you to execute more algorithms and transformations, and you then update the screen and potentially write some data back to disk. You repeat this cycle over and over again until finally the user turns you off for the day, allowing you some well earned rest.

With the above in mind, If I WAS a computer and I wanted to optimize my day to day operations, I would clearly focus on a few of my major subsystems: disk, CPU and video.

Now you are not a computer and neither am I. However, we are both likely to be users of computers, and as such we have an interest in optimizing (read “speeding up”!) their operations. To that end, I decided to take a run at optimizing my Power Macintosh 7300/200, to see just how fast it could be made to go, within the bounds of reason… It is after all a 1997 machine.

In the vernacular of the day, I decided to…
Pimp My Ride 10

The small series of posts that follow this one will detail the process of, and the outcome of, the following upgrades:

1. Video: addition of an ATI Radeon 7000 video card

2. CPU: addition of a Sonnet Crescendo G3/400 CPU replacement

3. Disk: addition of a Sonnet Tempo ATA 66 IDE controller

I will reveal in advance that the net result of the above upgrades was quite impressive, but not as impressive in some areas as I might have thought going into this process. Read on to learn more!