Rolled out in March 1987 along with the compact Mac SE, the Mac II was the first modular Mac – a revolutionary change in the Macintosh line (so revolutionary that it had to be kept secret from Steve Jobs, who loved the simplicity of all-in-one designs). Options include two 800K floppy drives and a hard drive as big as 5.25″.
Using Apple’s video card, the Mac II supported 8-bit/256-color video at 640 x 480 pixels in an era where DOS users felt spoiled with 64-color EGA (640 x 350 pixels). Other video cards supported different resolutions and bit-depths. Although advertised as a 32-bit computer, the Mac II ROMs were “dirty,” containing some 24-bit code. Running in 32-bit mode requires Mode32 (search the linked page for “mode32″).
The Mac II was the first Mac that could be turned on using the power key on the keyboard.
The Mac II was introduced before Apple adopted SuperDrive floppies* and was never shipped with them; a Mac II must be upgraded to support an FDHD (floppy drive, high density, 1.4 MB) drive and high density floppies. With the upgrade and appropriate software it can work with 3.5″ DOS disks in addition to 800K and 1.4 MB Mac disks. Without the upgrade, the Mac II can read and write 800K floppies in the SuperDrive.
Although Apple officially rates SCSI in the Mac II at 1.25 MBps, real world testing indicates maximum SCSI throughput is closer to 1.4 MBps. For best SCSI throughput, the Mac II should be used with SCSI drives that have a buffer.
The Mac II requires special PAL SIMMs when using 4 MB or larger SIMMs. Even then, it is limited to 68 MB. In comparison, the IIx, IIcx, IIci, and IIfx can all reach 128 MB.
- Got a Mac II or other vintage Mac? Join our Vintage Macs Group or Vintage Macs Forum.
- Our System 6 Group and System 6 Forum are for anyone using Mac System 6.
- Our System 7 Forum is for those using Mac System 7.
The ray-traced image to the right was created on a Cray supercomputer to show off the Mac II’s impressive color capabilities.
Considering the cost of upgrading a Mac II to accept more than 8 MB RAM, you are probably better off completely replacing it. You can buy a Mac IIx that already includes SuperDrive support for under US$20 these days – and a “wicked fast” 40 MHz IIfx for not much more. In any case, you can easily move your video card and other accessories to the new computer.
- If you’re content with performance but run out of memory, move to 8 MB ($10-20 depending on how much RAM you already have). Anything beyond 8 MB gets expensive in a hurry.
- If you need more than 8 MB of RAM, consider a Mac IIx motherboard ($10-25). You can move your Mac II RAM right over. You don’t need to upgrade to a 1.4 MB floppy if you don’t want to; the controller in the IIx supports the older 800K floppies as well as the FDHD floppies. A used IIx is a better bargain than just a motherboard if you also want the 1.4 MB floppy drive.
- Buy a used Mac IIx ($20 or so on eBay, but shipping is expensive). Buying the IIx gets you the 1.4 MB floppy drive and usually includes at least 8 MB of RAM. This is a better deal than a motherboard upgrade.
- Buy a Mac IIfx motherboard ($20-40). You will need to buy 64-bit SIMMs, quite possibly making this more expensive than buying a used IIfx, although sometimes a used IIfx motherboard will include 4 MB to get you started. You don’t need to upgrade to a 1.4 MB floppy if you don’t want to.
- LOW END MAC BEST BUY Buy a used Mac IIfx (starting at less than $50 depending on configuration). This provides roughly 3x the speed of your old Mac II, a SuperDrive, and usually 8-16 MB RAM and an 80-160 MB hard drive. Since you probably have 8 MB or less in your Mac II, the fact that the IIfx uses 64-bit SIMMs instead of 30-pin SIMMs isn’t a big factor. You may well get an accelerated video card in the bargain.
- A newer hard drive will be larger and faster than the one Apple shipped with the Mac II, but you won’t be able to take full advantage of that speed on such an old computer.
- If you want to run a larger monitor, support other bit depths, or have accelerated video, check out our Guide to NuBus Video Cards. There are lots to choose from, and many of them are dirt cheap on the used market.
Because the battery is soldered to the motherboard, a dead battery might be a good excuse for replacing your Mac II with a IIfx. The alternative is hacking your own battery holder.
* Apple later used the SuperDrive name to indicate a drive that could burn DVDs. The two drives are completely different things sharing the same name.
- introduced 1987.03.02 at $3,898 (floppy system) or $5,498 (with 40 MB hard drive); discontinued 1990.01.15
- code names: Reno, Paris, Becks, Milwaukee, Cabernet, Uzi, Ikki, Little Big Mac
- model no.: M5000
- Gestalt ID: 6
- upgrade path: IIx, IIfx (upgrade to high density floppy highly recommended, but not necessary)
- requires System 2.0 (a.k.a. 4.1) to 7.5.5
- addressing: 24-bit, 32-bit requires Mode32
- CPU: 16 MHz 68020
- FPU: 16 MHz 68881
- PMMU: optional 68851
- ROM: 256 KB
- RAM: 1 MB, normally expandable to 20 MB; expandable to 68 MB using both 4-SIMM banks of 120ns 30-pin memory; supports 256 KB, 1 MB, 4 MB, and 16 MB SIMMs; 4 MB or larger SIMMs must be PAL type; use of 4 MB or larger SIMMs requires Apple M6051/C upgrade or third-party accelerator supporting large SIMMs; 4 MB and 16 MB SIMMs cannot be used in Bank A without FDHD upgrade
- 2.4, relative to SE
- 2.6 MIPS
- 1.24, MacBench 2.0 CPU
- 3.4, Speedometer 3
- see Benchmarks: Mac II for more details
- video: requires video card – see our Guide to NuBus Video Cards for more information.
- Hard drive: 40 or 80 MB 5.25″ SCSI
- floppy drive:800 KB double-sided
- internal bay for second floppy drive
- ADB ports: 2
- serial ports: 2 DIN-8 RS-422 ports on back of computer
- SCSI ports: DB-25 connector on back of computer, maximum 11,200 kbps throughput
- sound: 8-bit stereo
- NuBus slots: 6
- size (HxWxD): 5.5″ x 18.7″ x 14.5″
- Weight: 24 lbs.
- PRAM battery: 3.6V lithium soldered to the motherboard
- power supply: 230W
Accelerators & Upgrades
- Interchangeabilty and Compatibility of Apple 1.4 MB Floppy SuperDrives, Sonic Purity, Mac Daniel, 2007.09.26. Apple used two kinds of high-density floppy drives on Macs, auto-inject and manual inject. Can they be swapped?
- Macintosh IIx motherboard (16 MHz 68030)
- Apple Macintosh IIfx motherboard (40 MHz 68030, uses 64-pin SIMMs)
- MicroMac Diimo/030 (50 MHz 68030), 64 KB cache, optional 50 MHz 68882 FPU
- Sonnet Technologies Allegro II (33 MHz 68030), not compatible with 68851 PMMU (PMMU functions are built into 68030 CPU), discontinued.
- Daystar Turbo 040 (33 MHz, 40 MHz 68040), discontinued
- Daystar Turbo 601, 66 MHz and 100 MHz versions, discontinued (resource: Unofficial Turbo 601 Site)
Discontinued accelerators (68030 unless otherwise noted) include the Applied Engineering TransWarp (33 MHz 68040), DayStar Universal PowerCache (33, 40, 50 MHz), Dove Marathon 030 Enhancement (32 MHz) and Marathon Racer II (32 MHz), Radius Rocket (25, 33 MHz 68040), TechWorks NuBus (33 MHz 68040), and Total Systems Voyager (50 MHz).
- Guide to the Macintosh II Series, an overview of the Mac II family.
- Low End Mac’s best classic Mac OS deals. Best online prices for System 6, 7.1, 7.5.x, Mac OS 7.6, 8.0, 8.1, 8.5, 9.0, 9.2.2, and other versions.
- Environmentally responsible retirement for old Macs, Rick Lawson, Pioneers in Mac Development, 2008.06.13. After you’ve scavenged what useful parts you can from your old Mac, what’s the most environmentally friendly way to dispose of the rest?
- Know your Mac’s upgrade options, Phil Herlihy, The Usefulness Equation, 2008.08.26. Any Mac can be upgraded, but it’s a question of what can be upgraded – RAM, hard drive, video, CPU – and how far it can be upgraded.
- The compressed air keyboard repair, Charles Moore, Miscellaneous Ramblings, 2008.07.24. If your keyboard isn’t working as well as it once did, blasting under the keys with compressed air may be the cure.
- Macs: Better by design, Tamara Keel, Digital Fossils, 2008.07.11. From the beginning, Macs have stood apart from other computers with their attractive and intelligent design.
- Tales of old Mac data retrieval, Adam Rosen, Adam’s Apple, 2008.06.13. Getting apps and documents off 400K floppies, old disk images, and a Mac running System 5.
- A vintage Mac network can be as useful as a modern one, Carl Nygren, My Turn, 2008.04.08. Old Macs can exchange data and share an Internet connection very nicely using Apple’s old LocalTalk networking.
- Vintage Mac networking and file exchange, Adam Rosen, Adam’s Apple, 2007.12.19. How to network vintage Macs with modern Macs and tips on exchanging files using floppies, Zip disks, and other media.
- Vintage Mac video and monitor mania, Adam Rosen, Adam’s Apple, 2007.12.17. Vintage Macs and monitors didn’t use VGA connectors. Tips on making modern monitors work with old Macs.
- Getting inside vintage Macs and swapping out bad parts, Adam Rosen, Adam’s Apple, 2007.12.14. When an old Mac dies, the best source of parts is usually another dead Mac with different failed parts.
- Solving Mac startup problems, Adam Rosen, Adam’s Apple, 2007.12.12. When your old Mac won’t boot, the most likely culprits are a dead PRAM battery or a failed (or failing) hard drive.
- Why you should partition your Mac’s hard drive, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2008.12.11. “At the very least, it makes sense to have a second partition with a bootable version of the Mac OS, so if you have problems with your work partition, you can boot from the ‘emergency’ partition to run Disk Utility and other diagnostics.”
- The 25 most important Macs (part 2), Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2009.02.17. The 25 most significant Macs in the first 25 years of the platform, continued.
- Better and safer surfing with Internet Explorer and the Classic Mac OS, Max Wallgren, Mac Daniel, 2007.11.06. Tips on which browsers work best with different Mac OS versions plus extra software to clean cookies and caches, detect viruses, handle downloads, etc.
- Simple Macs for simple tasks, Tommy Thomas, Welcome to Macintosh, 2007.10.19. Long live 680×0 Macs and the classic Mac OS. For simple tasks such as writing, they can provide a great, low distraction environment.
- Macintosh IIx: Apple’s flagship gains a better CPU, FPU, and floppy drive, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2007.09.19. 20 years ago Apple improved the Mac II by using a Motorola 68030 CPU with the new 68882 FPU. And to top it off, the IIx was the first Mac that could read DOS disks with its internal drive.
- Mac System 7.5.5 can do anything Mac OS 7.6.1 can, Tyler Sable, Classic Restorations, 2007.06.04. Yes, it is possible to run Internet Explorer 5.1.7 and SoundJam with System 7.5.5. You just need to have all the updates – and make one modification for SoundJam.
- Format any drive for older Macs with patched Apple tools, Tyler Sable, Classic Restorations, 2007.04.25. Apple HD SC Setup and Drive Setup only work with Apple branded hard drives – until you apply the patches linked to this article.
- Making floppies and CDs for older Macs using modern Macs, Windows, and Linux PCs, Tyler Sable, Classic Restorations, 2007.03.15. Older Macs use HFS floppies and CDs. Here are the free resources you’ll need to write floppies or CDs for vintage Macs using your modern computer.
- The First Expandable Macs: Mac II and SE, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2007.03.02. Until March 2, 1987, Macs were closed boxes with no internal expansion slots, no support for color, and no internal hard drives. The Mac II and SE changed all that.
- Zen & The Art of the Macintosh, James & John, RetroMacCast, 2007.02.18. Looking at the Mac II, books about Macs, and rumors of a subnotebook MacBook.
- The legendary Apple Extended Keyboard, Tommy Thomas, Welcome to Macintosh, 2006.10.13. Introduced in 1987, this extended keyboard was well designed and very solidly built. It remains a favorite of long-time Mac users.
- 30 days of old school computing: No real hardships, Ted Hodges, Vintage Mac Living, 2006.10.11. These old black-and-white Macs are just fine for messaging, word processing, spreadsheets, scheduling, contact management, and browsing the Web.
- Jag’s House, where older Macs still rock, Tommy Thomas, Welcome to Macintosh, 2006.09.25. Over a decade old, Jag’s House is the oldest Mac website supporting classic Macs and remains a great resource for vintage Mac users.
- Vintage Macs with System 6 run circles around 3 GHz Windows 2000 PC, Tyler Sable, Classic Restorations, 2006.07.06. Which grows faster, hardware speed or software bloat? These benchmarks show vintage Macs let you be productive much more quickly than modern Windows PCs.
- Floppy drive observations: A compleat guide to Mac floppy drives and disk formats, Scott Baret, Online Tech Journal, 2006.06.29. A history of the Mac floppy from the 400K drive in the Mac 128K through the manual-inject 1.4M SuperDrives used in the late 1990s.
- Moving files from your new Mac to your vintage Mac, Paul Brierley, The ‘Book Beat, 2006.06.13. Old Macs use floppies; new ones don’t. Old Macs use AppleTalk; Tiger doesn’t support it. New Macs can burn CDs, but old CD drives can’t always read CD-R. So how do you move the files?
- DOS cards, x86 emulation, Boot Camp, and the future of Windows on Macs, Adam Robert Guha, Apple Archive, 2006.04.07. Macs have had DOS compatibility since 1987, and software emulators followed in a few years. With Boot Camp, Intel Macs can now run Windows XP. Where next?
- System 7.5 and Mac OS 7.6: The beginning and end of an era, Tyler Sable, Classic Restorations, 2006.02.15. System 7.5 and Mac OS 7.6 introduced many new features and greater modernity while staying within reach of most early Macintosh models.
- Turning an LC or other ancient Mac into a webcam with a QuickCam, Tyler Sable, Classic Restorations, 2006.01.25. As long as it has 4 MB of RAM and a hard drive, any 16 MHz or faster Mac that supports color can be configured as a webcam.
- System 7: Bigger, better, more expandable, and a bit slower than System 6, Tyler Sable, Classic Restorations, 2006.01.04. The early versions of System 7 provide broader capability for modern tasks than System 6 while still being practical for even the lowliest Macs.
- Web browser tips for the classic Mac OS, Nathan Thompson, Embracing Obsolescence, 2006.01.03. Tips on getting the most out of WaMCom, Mozilla, Internet Explorer, iCab, Opera, and WannaBe using the classic Mac OS.
- The Joy of Six: Apple’s fast, svelte, reliable, and still usable System 6, Tyler Sable, Classic Restorations, 2005.12.06. System 6 was small enough to run quickly from an 800K floppy yet powerful enough to support 2 GB partitions, 24-bit video, and the Internet.
- Which system software is best for my vintage Mac?, Tyler Sable, Classic Restorations, 2005.11.22. Which system software works best depends to a great extent on just which Mac you have and how much RAM is installed.
- The legendary DayStar Turbo 040 hot rods 68030 Macs, Tyler Sable, Classic Restorations, 2005.11.29. DayStar’s vintage upgrade can make an SE/30 and most models in the Mac II series faster than the ‘wicked fast’ Mac IIfx.
- Macintosh II Family Technical Overview, darknerd, Angelfire. Some excellent, rarely discussed technical details on the whole Mac II lineup.
- Games for ’030s, Brian Rumsey, Low End Mac Gaming, 2000.05.26. A look at games that run nicely on the old 68030-based Macs.
- NuBus Video Cards. Profiles of Apple, Radius, SuperMac, and other NuBus video cards for Macs.
- The Once and Future Mac286 Page on the Web, John Rushmeyer. All about the AST Mac286 card.
- Why System 6 for Mac IIs?, Manuel Mejia, Mac Daniel. If they can use System 7, why use System 6?
- System 6 for the Macintosh, Ruud Dingemans. If you have an older, slower, memory-limited Mac, System 6 is fast, stable, and still very usable.
- Mac II Upgrade Page, MacSpeedZone
- Faster browsing on older Macs, Online Tech Journal
- Macintosh II: The Mother of All Modern Macintoshes, Unofficial, Unauthorized, Apple Museum
- Still useful after all these years: the Mac II
- Mac II, IIci, and LC III Questions, Mac Daniel
- Information on 32-bit addressing
- Memory upgrade guide
- Links to System 6.0.8 and 7.0.1
- The Mac II, Apple History
- Mac II Specs, EveryMac
- Macintosh II Technical Specifications, Apple Knowledge Base Archive
- If you need to create the smallest possible System file, you can delete Chicago 12, Geneva 9 and 12, and Monaco 9, since these fonts are in the Mac II ROMs.
- Never connect an Apple II 5.25″ floppy drive to the Mac’s floppy port. Doing so can ruin the floppy controller, meaning you can’t even use the internal drive any longer.
- Mode32 or Apple’s 32-bit Enabler required to access more than 8 MB RAM. (Mode32 v7.5 works with System 7.5; Apple’s enabler does not.)
- Internal video on the IIci and IIsi, and the Mac II mono and color video cards, will not work with multisync monitors, whether Apple or PC style. Griffin Technology made the Mac 2 Series Adapter, which works with Apple’s Multiple Scan monitors and most Mac compatible monitors. There was also a version for using VGA-type monitors on older Macs.
- Serial port normally restricted to 57.6 kbps; throughput with a 56k modem may be limited. See 56k modem page. For more information on Mac serial ports, read Macintosh Serial Throughput in our Online Tech Journal.
- Apple discontinued support and parts orders for the Mac II on 1998.08.31. You may be able to find dealers with parts inventory either locally or on our parts and service list.
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