Technical Notes
Technical Abbreviations Database
TN0015: Upgrading a Power Macintosh 8600/300 to a G3/500/1M and installing Mac OS v.10.2
This technical note describes how to upgrade an old PowerMac 8600/300, which is not capable of running Mac OS X, to a computer that can run OS X, by installing a new CPU card, a new hard disk and some software.
Honestly, I just wanted to try out Mac OS X , a wild cross between the old Mac OS, and BSD Unix. As a Windows and Linux programmer, I was just curious about what Apple had done with their new operating system.
Our old system
Six years ago, my wife bought a Power Macintosh 8600/300 , which was then near the top-of-the-line of Apple Macintosh computers. It had a PowerPC 604ev CPU installed which was running at a processor speed of 300 MHz. The CPU bus speed was 50 MHz, the system bus speed was also 50 MHz. The L1 cache had 32 K for instructions and 32 K for data. The L2 cache had 1 MB and was running at 100 MHz. We had Mac OS 9.1 installed on a 4 GB SCSI harddisk. We also had 160 MB of RAM installed.
OS X requirements
First, I read up about the OS X requirements. It needs at least 128 MB RAM, a G3 or G4 CPU and about 3 GB space on the hard disk. Experience teaches you can't really trust these numbers, as you surely want to run applications on top of the operating system.
Since I am a PC person and have zero experience with the Mac OS and the Mac's firmware, I thought it might be good to get an introductory book about OS X, so I bought two books. The first was David Pogue's "Mac OS X: The Missing Manual", Second Edition, Pogue Press/O'Reilly, 2002. The second was Gene Steinberg's "Mac OS X v.10.2 Jaguar Little Black Book", Paraglyph Press, 2003. They both have pretty much the same contents, so if you want to buy a book, be a bit smarter than me, and just buy one. I have a slight preference for the first one, but that might be because I am a big fan of O'Reilly books in general.
Our new system
Since RAM prices are low, I decided to buy 512 MB RAM. It hasn't yet arrived, so I can't write about it yet. For upgrading the CPU, I settled on the Sonnet Crescendo/PCI G3 500MHz/1M. This decision was mainly driven by price. The difference in price between the fastest G3 and the slowest G4 was just too great. You may come to a different conclusion. I ordered the CPU upgrade at MacTrade in Regensburg, Germany. I also looked around for a new hard disk and a co-worker gave me a used 9 GB SCSI hard disk.
Upgrading the hard disk
That was the easiest part. I picked an unused SCSI ID, selected this ID as the one for the 9 Gig HD, opened the Mac, put it in, connected it to the SCSI bus, closed the Mac, turned it on, and everything worked.
The books said that on old Macintoshes, OS X needs to be installed on a partition that is in the first eight gigabytes of the hard disk. So, I divided the hard disk into two partitions, the first with 7900 MB (slightly less than 8 GB, just to be on the safe side), and the second with the rest, slightly more than 1 GB.
Upgrading the processor
The Sonnet Crescendo CPU upgrade comes with a floppy disk that contains some MacOS patches that make Mac OS 9 recognize the new CPU, and make it use the L2 cache of the new CPU. So, before upgrading the hardware, this software needs to be installed. I did this and rebooted the Mac, still with the old CPU. To my relief, everything still worked.
I turned the Mac off, disconnected it, and opened it. Following the manual, I took the old CPU card out, pressed the CUDA button. (Don't ask me what that is - I have no idea. I guess it's a grounding button that helps to flush some battery-backed SRAM that contains configuration information. But that's just a guess.) Then, I inserted the new CPU card. (BTW, it's only half the size of the old one.) I closed the Mac and turned it on. After pressing the power button, the green LED went on for a split second and went off again.
I know my limits, so I just went ahead and called Sonnet support. They suggested cleaning the golden contacts and inserting the CPU card again. They said sometimes, there is a thin film on these contacts and this needs to be removed. I did so and turned the computer on again. This time it worked.
My experience is that computer parts either break in the first 24 hours or they don't break at all. So, I ran the Mac with the new CPU card, but still with the old Mac OS 9.1 for a day. I ran into no problems.
Installing OS X
Old Macs cannot install OS X directly from the OS X CDs. First, a small patch needs to be installed that is needed to start the OS X installation CD. I had two options. The first option was to buy a patch from Sonnet called "Sonnet PCI X Installer". The second option was to download a freely avaílable patch called XPostFacto from the Internet at http://eshop.macsales.com/OSXCenter/XPostFacto/ . I have a lot of experience with stuff like that on a PC, but not on a Mac. So, I whimped out and bought the Sonnet PCI X Installer and worked with that.
First, I had to prepare the new 9 GB hard disk. I divided it into one partition with 8 GB, and a second with 1 GB. I formatted both partitions as Mac OS Extended. Then, I put the CD with the Sonnet PCI X Installer in and installed this software. I was asked to put in the OS X installation CD. Later it asked me to reboot.
The Mac booted and a Mac logo appeared on the screen, but otherwise nothing happened. The CD didn't even spin up. I waited for a few minutes and then decided I had a problem. I called Sonnet Support. They asked if my SCSI bus was properly terminated, and I said yes. Then they suggested that the SCSI cable in my Mac was probably connected to a connector labeled "Fast" and that I should disconnect it and plug it into the adjacent connector labeled "Normal" (or was that "standard"?). I did so and rebooted, but no success. I called Support and they suggested zaping the PRAM. This did not help. Since it was already pretty late, I decided to go to bed. (This is generally good strategy when you're stuck. Trust me.)
The next morning, I did two things. First, I remembered that in the FAQ section, the Sonnet Crescendo manual stated that sometimes crashes can be traced back to the configuration of RAM chips. If RAMs are installed in an "interleaved" fashion, it is worth a try to "deinterleave" them. Since our Mac had already crashed before on occasion, I just went ahead and did this. Second, I decided to reformat the 8 GB partition, reinstall the Sonnet PCI Installer and try it again, and this time it worked. After an hour or two, OS X was installed.
Right after the first log in, OS X told me that there were updates available, and asked me if I wanted to install them. I did, and had the OS fetch the patches. This took longer than expected, even though we have a DSL connection.
After that, I put in the CD labeled "Mac OS X Developer Tools," which came with my edition of OS X Version 10.2, and installed these tools, too. I started up a "Terminal" session, hacked in the usual "Hello World" program, compiled it with gcc just like under Linux and everything went as expected.
After a few hours, I noticed the arrow cursor was not displaying correctly. I remembered that somewhere on the Sonnet web site, it was mentioned this can be the result of an old version of Sonnet software having been installed and that it can be fixed by installing a new version. So, I went online and downloaded "Sonnet X Tune-Up" from here: http://www.sonnettech.com/downloads/osx_upgrade_sw.html . After installing it, the arrow cursor problem was solved.
That was it. Not a single crash after that. And that was a week ago.
Document History
First Version: April 05, 2003

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