The Saga of the SSD

My New Year’s resolution has been to get a larger SSD working in my Power Mac G5. It did not start out well.

I’ve detailed elsewhere about my first bad experience with a PNY Optima at a steal of a price. Darn, I wished that thing worked.

Next up was a 120 GB Intel 520 SSD at a nice sale price from Amazon for around $60. I noted on my own hardware page on this site that it should be a good and solid drive to use. Some G5 owners seemed to have gotten it to work. When the package arrived in the mail, I went to work, dropping it into my G5 and hoping that I would not see the same symptoms that I saw with the PNY.

And then, the drive didn’t show up.

It was like a ghost. My machine booted without trouble. It acted like nothing was wrong. The drive would not make an appearance in Disk Utility at all via the app or command line.

So, once again, troubled but undeterred, I sent it back. This time, I ordered a OWC drive that was guaranteed to work in my G5. I paid $10 more than the Intel, but at least my journey would come to an end.

OWC Mercury SSD

And then, this drive didn’t show up in Disk Utility either.

Now, I was confused. I tried my troubleshooting steps. I put it into a different bay, which can be a problem with some configurations on Power Mac G5s. (This really needs more exploration.) I made sure it was correctly plugged in. I put it into a USB drive to make sure it was operational – it was! At this point, even though my old SSD worked just as normal when slotted back in its place, I was beginning to think I was having serious motherboard issues.

Now, let me offer the twist – all along, I had removed my original SSD in place of this new SSD. My plan was to reinstall Leopard from a Time Machine backup that resided on the other internal hard drive I have in the G5. To do this, I planned to use my Leopard DVD (10.5.2) to boot, but whenever I went into Disk Utility from that install DVD, the SSD never appeared – not for the Intel 520 nor the OWC.

On a whim, I put my G5 into Firewire target disk mode and connected it to my Mac Mini G4. Upon boot, I was greeted with Finder’s familiar and suddenly very friendly warning that I had inserted an uninitialized disk. “Would I like to initialize it?” Of course! From this G4 running 10.5.8, Disk Utility saw the SSD and was gladly willing to partition and format it for me. Once again though, the Leopard DVD refused to see this now initialized drive, so I ended up using Carbon Copy Cloner, that external USB drive, and my G4 to clone the hard drives, bless them, and begin my new adventure with my OWC SSD. Wow.

Here is what we know:

  • The PNY Optima drive, especially the version with the Silicon Motion controller, does not work in a G5 in any configuration.
  • The Intel 520 SSD probably does not work, although I don’t believe I tried putting it into Firewire target disk mode and connecting it to the G4.
  • OWC SSDs do work.
  • If your Leopard install DVD is at 10.5.2 or below, it may not have the appropriate drivers, kernel extensions, or something else to see newer drives. I don’t know what different versions of Leopard install DVDs exist, so if anyone else has some clarity, I’d love to include it on the website.

Using old Macs like these G5s is always an adventure. I’m just glad in my case there was a happy ending.

BTW, we now have search on the left side of this page.

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