My Mac Mini G4 Saved Me & APFS Is Here

Last week, I picked up a super cheap Core 2 Duo iMac that is capable of running High Sierra for under $150. With a couple of extra sticks of RAM and an inexpensive SSD, the Mac will likely ease up my back and forth between work and home, so I don’t have to worry about leaving my MacBook Pro behind. But there was one hitch…

The SSD, a Samsung 840 Pro, would not show up in Disk Utility in the High Sierra USB boot drive. And opening up and fiddling with iMacs requires firm but patient hands. The less I was yanking that drive in and out, the better. What to do, right? Why wouldn’t it read in this newer machine? What mistake did I make?

Before I panicked though, I decided to the simplest task first. Open up the iMac, pull out the drive, toss it in an old USB hd exclosure I had, and plug it into my Mac Mini G4. And yeah, it showed up in Disk Utility there. Weird, right? I formatted it to HFS+, moved it back to the iMac, and was off and running.

Speaking of formatting, APFS, Apple’s new hard drive format, is here, initially only working on SSDs. High Sierra did not install correctly when I formatted the SSD in APFS at first – kept booting back to the USB drive – but when I formatted the SSD as HFS+ first, the installer reformatted the drive and the install worked. Apple has some kinks to work out, especially as the support doc ominously warns “you can’t opt out of the transition to APFS”.

With this new drive format though, it’s time to face the truth – newer Macs using APFS cannot be read by older Macs. Yes, a newer Mac using the standard can access older shares and hard drives, but this represents another one of those milestones that leave those of us with Macs on 10.5 or before a little bit farther behind. If you are running a mixed bunch of Macs, it may be that figuring out how to stay on HFS+ will sidestep this change. Alternately, keep using things like Dropbox to share files between your computers or have a separated shared file server of some kind.

The question is – will it be possible to make an APFS driver/app to access newer Macs? I wonder.

— Nathan

Those Finicky SSDs

In more news along the solid state drive front, I got a fascinating conundrum from a loyal reader about issues with what we first wondered to be a failing motherboard or overheating.

After installing a new SSD and using it as the main drive, he reported beachballs and crashes after waking from sleep, forcing a shutdown. Sometimes, the G5 worked like a charm. Sometimes, everything ground to a halt. It didn’t seem to have any rhyme or reason, kind of a random thing, which makes it difficult to track down.

I typed out my standard line of troubleshooting, starting with what changed. Did you install RAM recently? Put in a new hard drive? Install a new video card? Fiddle with something that you shouldn’t have? Then, go down the checklist of cleaning out the case, testing temperatures, double checking cables, switching RAM in and out, and so on until you figure it out. And if all of that fails, then flailing your arms in frustration because it might or might not be your motherboard.

But good news – the reader reinstalled the system on to a main hybrid drive, and things seem to be back to normal. It might be a faulty SATA cable, but it could be the G5’s implementation of the SATA standard which causes weird things with solid state drives. I’ve had an experience or two with such weird behavior. I would love to get hold of an engineer who helped make these G5s and could tell us more about the quirks and challenges of their hardware and where limitations lie. Maybe someday?

The moral of the story is to be cautious and careful with those SSDs. Your best bet is to go the OWC route, since they care about vintage computing. Or use the small list of suggested compatible drives on this website under “Hardware”.

— Nathan

Get an SSD

If you are still on the fence about the potential of an SSD for your Power Mac G5 (or older computer), today is Black Friday, which means there are bound to be solid deals on solid state drives out there.

In fact, yesterday, I noticed the good people at OWC had a 100GB Intel 710 SSD for $29.00. That’s a great price for anyone on the fence about upgrading their older Mac. Unfortunately, the deal is sold out now, but you can also get a 300GB drive for $79, which is a very nice deal too. Go get it. Intel drives are always pretty good, usually built for enterprise which means they are made to endure in lots of configurations. And they are SATA II, which means they will work fine in our Power Mac G5s.

I am not affiliated with OWC in anyway, nor do I shill for them lightly. I have purchased RAM and other upgrades over the years from them and have never been disappointed. They are a great company that still offer some good hardware and resources for our older Macs, so today might be a good day to stock up on another upgrade or two.

If you notice any other good deals floating around, let me know.


— Nathan

New SSD Recommendations

I love getting feedback from readers that can help expand the information on the site.

One reader, xz, wrote in to share experiences with a couple of other SSDs. Consider them a review or confirmation, as individual results might vary in our particular G5s and their different specs. Read more:

I was browsing your site a while back when adding new life to this g5 powermac7,3 that I have; and I found the SSD section most helpful. Even purchased an Intel 320 (80GB) SSD. Also, wanted to let you know that I have an OCZ VERTEX2 120GB disk and it is working as my “Macintosh HD”, with no problems at all. Didn’t know if you’ve tested one with any hardware configurations in the past. Wanted to let you know that it does work, and works well! Thanks again for your site; one of my favs! Very helpful as well! Thanks and have a great day!

Thanks for the feedback! I hope this saves someone time or money as they scour the internet for deals to upgrade their G5.

— Nathan

New SSD on the block

Right now, our list of compatible SSDs remains pretty small, but I am hoping that changes as people out there continue to experiment with different models.

Mushkin, a typically solid producer of solid state drives, has come out with a new model that is a NewEgg exclusive called the ECO2 line. They are cheap. Not just cheap, but super cheap. These are some of the most affordable options out there from a reputable brand.

The question is – do they work on G5s?

I have a little hope that they do. For one, they are aimed at the lower end of the market and use an older version of the Sandforce controller. This means that they are intended to be used in older and newer systems, maximizing compatibility. This also means they are at least worth exploring.

The prices are just nice, topping out at a retail price of $159.99 for a 480 GB variant. They are marketed as having a real solid speed. Of course, real world numbers can vary, but for older computers like ours, we’d never see all that speed anyway.

You can read up more about them here: Mushkin’s ECO2 SSDs Bring Fast Storage to Small Budgets.

The question is – am I going to be the one who gives one of these a test go? I’ll see.

— Nathan