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Updating your early iMac G3,

Macs have always had sketchy USB ports from my personal experience and others I've talked to on the radio show I do. I've heard it said that it's because of Apple's half hearted USB implementation in it circuit design, Apple never intended USB to be a streaming data conveyor (hence problems with CD burners and external drives), or that Apple choose to deliver the lowest amount of voltage via the USB ports allowed by the USB 1.0 standards. One 80% solution to this annoyance is a more than sufficiently self-powered external hub. Depending on how many peripherals you use, you've got a choice of four or seven port hubs and the only one I've ever found with enough power is Asante's 7 port hub. Look around the net a bit and you can find them for around $50, a definite best buy recommendation.

Beware of products from companies that don't have any intentions of supporting OS X. There have been many USB 1.0 products that companies have released for PC and Mac OS 8/9. In a lot of cases the Mac support was an after thought, often producing troublesome driver extensions and software. They may be anything from printers, flash card readers, external hard drives to printers and scanners. One company that sold a lot of USB external hard drives to Mac users is BusLINK. In a email correspondence I had with their technical support, I was told that BusLINK had no intentions of coming out with OS X drivers to support their external hard drives. If you're like me, we both have virtually useless expensive product now. Hewlett Packard and Epson have also fallen down with only supporting some of their recent previously released popular printers and scanners. Kudos to Agfa though for releasing OS X support for even three-year-old scanners. Buyers beware do your research first.

With the peripheral upgrades covered, let's take a look at what can be done internally to our iMac. All the early iMac's came with rather meager hard drives by today's standard and there has been considerable debate on various Mac help sites as to what you can and cannot do. Here is the skinny on hard drives for the Rev A through D iMac

You CAN put any size hard drive you want in these four versions of iMac! The Catch 22 is that you will have to have at least two partitions and the first partition for the boot OS must be 8 Gigabyte or less..

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This is the very same BIOS-ROM design issue that all G3 PowerBooks have. I have no idea what Steve Jobs and crew were thinking to limit the hard drive partition size, perhaps they were in the same smoky haze as Bill Gates was when he said " . . .no one will ever need more than 640 MB of RAM. . ", and so all early Windows through Win95 versions had that limit. Go figure!
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BusLINK had no intentions of coming out with OS X drivers to support their external hard drives. If you're like me, we both have virtually useless expensive product now..
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Well that really is no big deal anyway; rather focus on what drive best suits your needs and situation. You can certainly put a 120 GB drive in there if you're using it for a Music Machine, but the 13.1" CRT is to small for graphics or video editing to justify such a huge drive, but suit yourself and your anticipated needs. I choose to be realistic and economical based upon the assumption that this iMac might be used for general use and primarily a study - research tool, maybe even some music editing to an iPod (hint of what's to come). With the thought of increasing performance as much as possible with every upgrade, you should buy a 7200-RPM drive of whatever size you decide, but only if the drive specifies the same BTU or heat output as the original 5400 RPM drive the iMac came with.

We purchased Western Digital Caviar 30 GB 5400 RPM 3.5 inch drive to put into our project Rev D iMac. It has an ample 2 MB Buffer 9.5 ms average read seek time. We found numerous online sources for the WD 30 GB 4200 for around $80 plus shipping. While we choose the Western Digital drive there are a number of great brands to choose from, including Maxtor, IBM, and Seagate . Look at individual specifications, buffer size, seek time and most importantly RPM!

(Update - one year later, the Western Digital Caviar is already beginning to fail; WD keeps it's poor reliability reputation. Argh!)

Installing the hard drive is not as hard as you would think and it can be accomplished by anyone reasonably handy with a screwdriver, it's all you need. If you're faint at heart, gather up someone who has replaced a hard drive in any Mac or PC (the PC guys will be envious, trust me) and have at it. Here's a link that will help you in this task for Memory and Hard Drive Installation Apple's Installation page Click here.

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