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The Final Chapter, Keeping an early iMac Current - Going Faster

by Keith Benicek, Editor (iMac/PowerBook addict)

Originally we purchased a Sonnet HARMONi G3 500 MHz kit for the story; found a great deal at $239. plus shipping. Having done a few Sonnet upgrade kit upgrades for our stories and friends of mine, I expected for everything to go smoothly. You may have noticed in the photos of the Maxtor hard drive swap, the Sonnet kit was already in the iMac. This isn’t the order you should do these upgrades, but we had a bit of a complication.

Before you physically install the new HARMONi G3 daughter card, you must first run the Sonnet ROM transfer installer from the included CD. Then you tear down the iMac again and install the HARMONi G3 daughter card and power up the computer. You should hear a series of tones, which means that the Apple proprietary ROM firmware (which you own when purchasing your Mac) is transferred to the new ROM.
  The yellow arrow points to the HARMONi kits FireWire card

The only problem was that our install didn’t reboot after the install, and nearly every other reboot ended in an OS stall in either OS 9.2.2 or OS X during the “spinning wheel” phase. We called our friends at Sonnet, just in the next city and they asked us to bring the iMac in for diagnosis. After a lot of investigating, Sonnet’s tech staff found that there was a bad component on the kit's daughter card; but then two other problems came up.

Sonnet suspectred the WD hard drive and attempts to reinitialize the old 30GB Western Digital hard drive kept failing. It was determined that the drive was dying, so a temporary drive was used to test the replacement G3 500 kit. But, then the FireWire port didn’t work. Murphy’s Law, right? Somehow this iMac just didn’t want to cooperate with the G3 500 HARMONi kits.

Since Sonnet had already shipped out nearly all it’s stock of G3 500 kits to their retail channel, they decided to put in a G3 600 MHz kit instead to meet our production schedule. It worked perfectly from the very first moment, and has ever since. We want to thank Sonnet’s Joshua Davis (Customer Service Manager) and all the great people at Sonnet who helped out.

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The new iMac port panel. Click on any image to enlarge.

Steve Jobs says OS 9.x is dead . . . who are we to disagree? So since this is a reborn iMac from nearly top to bottom, we decided to walk locked step with “the Boss” into 2003 and only install OS X 10.2.6. While OS X DOES NOT support a few hardware bits in the early G3 iMac's, most noticeably the ATI Rage Pro video card which makes no use of Quartz or Open GL. (Apple was sued over this and has recently settled the suit buy offering refunds for purchases of OS X by G3 PowerBook's and G3 iMac owners) Got refund?

Nonetheless, with the Sonnet HARMONi G3 600 MHz kit and a new FireWire 1394a port, this iMac is nearly as fresh as you’d want. Ready for song ripping, creating favorites for porting over to your iPod, as well as burning CD’s via the new FireWire port to an external burner and even a DVD burner! Though the 13.3-inch (measured) screen is a bit small, even editing some fun digital movies is now entirely possible!


The red arrow points to the upgraded iMac with the Sonnet G3-600. The yellow arrow is the important benchmark number for processor speed compared to other tested systems. Click on image for a larger view.

The red dot show the original iMac 333 MHz Benchmark test at ½ the speed.

Benchmarks with SpeedRun v.120 show that the born-again G3 600 iMac is right there with newer G3 600's and actually faster than a G3 700 iMac, or a G4 800 iMac LCD!

The Bottom Line
We give 5 Thumbs Up to Sonnets HARMONi G3-600 kit and Maxtor’s great 5400 and 7200 RPM hard disk drives.   
   2 Thumbs Down for prematurely dying Western Digital HDD’s and their lousy attitude in supporting customers!



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