Hard Drives: Adapter Cards
After many years of working well, the hard drive in my Power Mac G4 decided to die. Well, it's not quite dead yet, but something glitched, creating drive errors Disk Utility could not repair. Disk Warrior was able to fix the directory, but the system is extremely unstable now.
I assume that if I reformat and restore from a known-good backup, I should be OK, but given the age of the computer, I think it will probably die again soon afterward if I do that. So I want to put in a new hard drive as a part of this activity.
The problem is that this computer uses parallel ATA drives, and nearly all drives sold today are SATA.
After some web searching, I ran across adapters like this one, which allow SATA drives to be attached to PATA motherboards. There are plenty of people who have reported good luck using these with PCs, but has anyone here used one with a Mac?
If that's not acceptable, I found vendors selling 500G PATA drives, but they cost significantly more than their SATA equivalents (probably because they're not being made any more.)
Yes, I know the correct solution is to just retire the computer and
restore my documents to a new Mac. But I'd rather not spend $1000+ (for
a comfortably-equipped mini) at this time. I'm hoping that a new hard
drive can keep the old machine running long enough so I can replace it
with a new Mac when it is convenient to do so.
G4 PPC Macs thrive on Firewire 400, even as boot drives
Still, you should be able to find some ATA-IDE drives out there somewhere, new or even used. There is utility software that gets around the early G4's limitation to system drives less than 120 GB in size. There's no limit on external Firewire disk size, of course, just the ATA system bus.
I think the last time I looked inside my G4 Sawtooth, I saw an internal
Firewire port on the motherboard, so that is a possibility.
David Charlap reports that the hard drive in his Power Mac G4 is defective and not repairable using Disk Utility.
Recently the clock battery in my own Power Mac G4 "Quicksilver" discharged as a result of the computer being unplugged over a weekend office move. After replacing the battery the computer acted strangely, and Disk Utility reported "extents errors".
I ran Disk Utility from the OS install disk to wipe the drive and write zeros over it, and Disk Utility reported no bad blocks or other issues. So I reinstalled the OS and my files, which I had backed up onto a thumb drive.
So far the machine is reliable again and faster than before, probably due to a bit of extra RAM that I installed along with the new clock battery.
In your position, if Disk Utility can't zero out your hard drive reliably, I would opt for the Sonnet TSATA internal SATA controller and a nice SATA drive. This assumes that the G4 is adequate for your present and immediate future needs.
David Charlap said,
"After many years of working well, the hard drive in my Power Mac G4 decided to die."
We have had success using a PCI card for internal drives using SATA in
Power Mac G4s. It is a cost-effective way to install one or more new
(and, possibly, larger) drives.
Why not just purchase a replacement off ebay? There are quite a few
available for prices as low as $30 or so.
I used the Sonnet Tempo PCI card (Ric's link) in my G4 MDD and had no issues. A great way to get more mileage out of a good old box (albeit noisy box...).
My own G4 drive recently went bye bye, so I ended up getting an external FireWire case with SATA drive inside, and backed up the drive to the external one last time - and then I removed the internal drive and now just boot from the external...
It works great and I have a good modern drive for other purposes in the
I've been running a refurbished WD Raptor SATA hard drive in a 700-MHz
iMac G4 (with the display removed) running Leopard Server with a
PATA-to-SATA adapter for a few years now. The machine has been rock solid
(except for a brief time when the fan died about a year ago, but with a
new fan it's been fine since). I keep thinking I'll replace it with a Mac
Mini soon, but the G4 simply won't quit.
R. Lynn Rardin
Ric's "PATA SSD" suggestion is worth consideration. OWC's Legacy Edition drives are actually SATA drives that ship with a PATA to SATA adapter similar to the one that David mentioned in his original post. I believe OWC uses Addonics ADSAIDE adapter, which can also purchased separately from OWC or other vendors for relatively short money. I've had good luck connecting OWC's Legacy Edition SSDs and regular SATA hard drives from other vendors to Power Mac G4s using the Addonics adapter. Using either a SATA to PATA adapter that attaches directly to the drive or a PCI SATA card has the obvious advantage of allowing you to purchase a SATA drive that you can continue to use in a more modern machine once you retire the G4. On the PCI SATA card front, I've had good luck with both Sonnet and Firmtek products. The Addonics adapter is definitely worth a look, though. It's not only cheaper than a PCI card, but is also simpler (no drivers or firmware) and doesn't require the use of a PCI slot that could be utilized for some other purpose.
David Charlap writes of having trouble finding a replacement PATA drive for an old G4. He didn't specify if this was a MDD (Mirrored Drive Door) G4 or an even older [blue and white] G4. If it is the latter, then he should refer to this document which unfortunately only complicates his predicament: Using 128 GB or Larger ATA Hard Drives.
remember hitting the 128GB limit when replacing faulty drives for
customers 'way back then'.
Steven James May
To David Charlap: I have used such SATA-PATA converters before with expected results -- Parallel ATA performance out of a SATA drive, no surprises.
What I've found to be the best performance in the assorted G4's (all of them) are either Hitachi 500GB or Seagate 1TB SATAs connected to either a 2 or 4 port internal Firmtek SeriTek PCI-X card. Though most SATA cards are not bootable, these cards are. The 2 port SeriTeks used to go for around $50, the 4 port cards around $115.
In terms of benchtesting, I've found the Photoshop/Finder copy/ Retrospect real-world performance of Seagate/Hitachi 500GB SATA drives to double that of their 500GB PATA counterparts.
In terms of SATA striping, 250MB/sec seems to be the physical limit of the G4 PCI architecture.
I've not yet had the time to throw one of my Other World SSDs into any
of the G4s for testing. If anyone has done that, I'd love to hear the
David Charlap asked:
"After some web searching, I ran across adapters like this one, which allow SATA drives to be attached to PATA motherboards. There are plenty of people who have reported good luck using these with PCs, but has anyone here used one with a Mac?"
I have a few of these, which I used in external Firewire PATA drive
cases when I've repalced the drives in them. They work fine. But be
aware thet in your G4, depending on its generation, your 250 or 500GB
SATA drive may show up as less than 140GB in size. The PATA controllers
in the earlier G4s couldn't handle bigger drives.
To David Charlap:
Another option = Install a PCI SATA Card
so you can use standard SATA drives.
If using SATA drives in a G3/G4, one should also be careful that some SATA drives don't have a MOLEX power connector (so you need an adapter and you should also be careful of 2TB+ sizes and Advanced Format Technology
Information on upgrading ATA hard disks in a G4, including links to
currently manufactured ATA hard disks by Western Digital [here].
Six years ago I upgraded a 2002 G4 Quicksilver with a PCI SATA card and a fast, for the day, SATA drive. It was amazingly fast compared to the old ATA drives.
My G4 had a 66 MByte/sec bus; this card can handle 1.5 GByte/sec which is about 23 times as fast.
You need to make sure you get a card for the type of PCI slots on your old Mac and one that is bootable on a Mac. There are now numerous flavors of PCI slots -- your Mac has the old kind, and the card Ric selected should work. Macsales.com will sell you a Mac-compatible card. Other vendors may sell you a card that only works in a PC.
When you finally do upgrade to a new Mini, you may want to buy a
Firewire case for this SATA drive and it will be easy to migrate data as
well as use as an extra external drive.
If David Charlap chooses the PCI card solution, he should be aware that, besides the 128GB issue, the PCI bus of some G4's had sleep issues. Essentially, they didn't pass the sleep command downstream to any volumes on the bus.
I encountered this when I added a USB2 card to my 2001 Quicksilver box. When the machine went to sleep, attached drives were "un-gracefully un-mounted." In the end, I never felt safe using it regularly for drives.
Various third-party card manufacturers told me this was something they couldn't work around, and it applied to other interfaces, not just USB.
I don't know which rev of Power Mac finally fixed this.
I used the Addonics adapters with Hitachi DeskStar SATA drives in my MDD G4, and they worked perfectly *except* that the machine would not reliably wake from sleep.
I didn't want to keep that fairly noisy machine awake all the time, so I got PATA versions of the same drive instead.
Adapter cards make getting around the 120GB limit on the IDE controller
easy, and without the software that sometimes makes things unstable. But
be careful if you have a Quicksilver G4, the first gen of those is very
picky about which IDE controllers it will work with. Read the fine print
of any card you buy; many will specifically exclude the first gen
Quicksilver (or just list all other models). If you are unsure, make sure
where you are buying from has a solid return policy.
Several years ago, I had a 400MHz G4 Power Mac. I put in a Mercury Extreme(?) 1.4GHz G4 upgrade, more RAM, and a Sonnet Tempo Serial ATA card (2 port PCI).
I found the box and it says "Supports OSX mirroring and striping, Boots from any attached drive, support for drives larger than 137GB". It ran so much better, and the big drives were a huge plus for me.
I recall seeing "Seritek" on the board, too. Their stuff is great, BTW.
I wouldn't bother looking for ATA drives anymore.
I've run two Power Mac G4 Sawtooths with SATA adaptor cards (I just took them offline about 6 months ago)... the cards started getting scarce about 2 years ago. I had good luck with the MacSense combo SATA & ATA-133 card.
An easier fix, that would be better for the long term and more flexible,
would be to, instead, get an external FireWire drive, that he could hook
up with FW400 ports and would allow him to use an SATA drive internally.
While it would not be as convenient, it would still function quite well.
And, when he decides to upgrade, he would still have a viable external
Thanks to everybody for their advice.
Based on this, I'm going to buy a 500G or 1TB SATA drive and one of those PATA-SATA bridge boards. But I'm going to buy locally (if I can) so I can return the drive in case there's a problem. If that fails, I'll order a 500G PATA drive from Amazon, which will work, even though it will cost more.
WRT disk capacity, that's not a problem. This is a QuickSilver-2002 model. It supports drives larger than 128G (there's a second drive already in there which works great at its full 250GB capacity.) I may have to relocate the second drive to a different bay to make room for a SATA-PATA adapter board, but I don't think that will cause any real problems, other than possibly making me swap Apple's IDE cable for a longer one.
I considered getting a SATA board, but I don't want to spend a lot of money because I'll probably be replacing the computer in 3-6 months anyway. I just don't want to replace it now, because I've other higher-priority expenses at the moment. (The G4 being temporarily out of commission is not a showstopper for me, since I've got my critical documents on a MacBook Pro, which I'm using in the meantime.) This is the same reason why an SSD isn't an option for me, as much as I like the concept.
A few people suggested booting from a FW drive. That will probably be a third option if the first two don't work for some reason.
Several of the G4's that only had PATA have a 128GB limit. You may have
issues with that adapter and a 500GB. The
Sonnet Tempo TSATA
card is not
restricted by that 128GB limit; therefore if you're going with a 500GB
SATA HDD, the Sonnet card is the way to go. They are available on Amazon
for about $60! I am getting one for my old G4.