code names: Pacific, Aurora II, Cobra II
“…may be the best machine Apple has ever produced.” MacUser, November 1989.
Building on the success of the Mac IIcx, the IIci offered 56% more power in the same compact case. A new feature was integrated video. The big advantage: Users no longer needed to buy a separate video card. The big disadvantage: the built-in video uses system memory (this is sometimes called “vampire video”.
Built-in video replaces the Macintosh II High Resolution Video Card (25 MHz motherboard video vs. a 10 MHz NuBus connection) and supports 8-bit color on a 640 x 480 screen as well as 4-bits on a 640 x 870 portrait monitor. Depending on bit depth, this used between 32 KB to 320 KB of system memory. Also, Byte reported (10/89) that because the CPU and video share the same memory, the CPU is shut out during video refresh, reducing performance up to 8%.
- Got a Mac II or other vintage Mac? Join our Vintage Macs Group or Vintage Macs Forum.
- Our System 6 List and System 6 Forum are for those using Macintosh System 6.
- Our System 7 Forum is for those using Mac System 7.
Our own tests on an IIci show that although CPU performance does increase slightly when using a NuBus video card, video performance with an unaccelerated video card is about half that of internal video. Unless you need to support a larger screen or have an accelerated video card, overall performance may be worse with a video card than with internal video.
Adding a video card was a popular way to increase performance and free precious RAM; another boost came from adding a level 2 (L2) cache. This proved so popular that Apple eventually made a 32 KB cache standard.
The Mac II, IIx, and IIcx all ran a 16 MHz CPU on a 16 MHz motherboard with a separate 10 MHz bus for NuBus cards. Byte mentions (10/89) that the IIci runs the CPU and RAM at 25 MHz, NuBus at 10 MHz, I/O subsystems with a third oscillator, and onboard video with a fourth oscillator. By decoupling various subsystems this way, it was easier for Apple to boost the CPU and RAM speed without redesigning every part of the motherboard.
The IIci also had the fastest SCSI in the Mac II series, topping out at approximately 2.1 MBps throughput
The IIci was the first Mac to support the 68030′s burst access mode, which “allows the CPU to read 16 bytes of data at a time in about half the clock cycles. This results in [a] . . . 10 percent improvement in performance.” (Byte, 10/89, p. 102)
The IIci was the first Mac with “clean” ROMs, allowing 32-bit operation without special software. Along with the Mac Portable, it was the first Mac to use surface mount technology.
The IIci is a best buy because of the numerous upgrade options:
- If you don’t have a cache card, buy one – unless you plan to add an accelerator. $5 or less on the used market.
- If you’re running low on RAM, by all means buy more. You should have at least 8 MB, but more is much better (unless you’re sticking with System 6, in which case you can’t use more than 8 MB).
- Buy an accelerated NuBus video card if you’re using internal video. $30 and up on the used market. This will free up to 320 KB of system memory. See our NuBus Video Card Guide for video card profiles.
- Quadra 700 motherboards are uncommon. For that level of performance, consider a 68040-based accelerator, such as the Sonnet Presto 040 (40 MHz 68040 with 128 KB L2 cache, see our benchmark page). See a more complete list of accelerators below. Note that you will have to perform surgery on your case with this motherboard upgrade.
- A newer hard drive will be far more responsive and have far more capacity than the one that shipped with the computer. Any 3.5″ half-height or third-height drive will fit.
- More RAM plus Speed Doubler equals improved hard drive performance through intelligent caching.
- introduced 1989.09.20 at $6,700 ($8,800 with 40 MB hard drive); discontinued 1993.02.10
- model no.: M5780
- Gestalt ID: 11
- upgrade path: Quadra 700
- requires System 6.0.4 to 7.6.1
- addressing: 24-bit or 32-bit
- CPU: 25 MHz 68030
- FPU: 25 MHz 68882
- ROM: 512 KB
- RAM: 1 MB, expandable to 128 MB using 4-SIMM banks of 80ns 30-pin memory; can use 256 KB, 512 KB, 1 MB, 2 MB, 4 MB, 8 MB, and 16 MB SIMMs
- L2 cache: optional, later 32 KB standard
- 3.5 without cache, 4.3 with cache, relative to SE
- 6.3 MIPS
- 2.05, MacBench 2.0 CPU
- 6.98, Speedometer 3.06
- 0.40, Speedometer 4
- see Benchmarks: IIci for more details
- built-in 8-bit video, supports 512 x 384 and 640 x 480 at 8-bits or portrait monitor (640 x 870) at 4-bits (uses 64-320 KB of RAM for video, not separate VRAM)
- video port: DB-15
- hard drive: 40 or 80 MB SCSI
- floppy drive: 1.4 MB double-sided
- floppy connector on back of computer
- ADB ports: 2
- serial ports: 2 DIN-8 RS-422 ports on back of computer
- SCSI ports: DB-25 connector on back of computer
- sound: 8-bit stereo
- NuBus slots: 3
- PDS/cache slot: 1
- size (HxWxD): 5.5″ x 11.9″ x 14.5″
- weight: 13.6 lbs.
- PRAM battery: 3.6V half-AA
- power supply: 159V
Accelerators & Upgrades
- adding a video card frees up to 320 KB of RAM and increases application speed
- 32 KB level 2 cache (which became standard in later production runs) – most accelerators occupy the cache slot, which means removing the L2 cache
- Quadra 700 motherboard (25 MHz 68040), requires case surgery
- MicroMac Diimo/030 (50 MHz 68030), 64 KB cache, optional 50 MHz 68882 FPU
- MicroMac Carrera (33 MHz and 40 MHz 68040), optional 128 KB cache
- MicroMac 90 MHz Carrera (45 MHz 68040)
- Sonnet Technologies Presto 040 (40 MHz 68040 or 68LC040), optional 128 KB cache (see benchmark)
- Daystar 50 MHz 68030 with 68882, 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 (50 MHz 68030, 25, 33 MHz 68040), DayStar Universal PowerCache (33, 40, 50 MHz), Fusion Data TokaMac SX (25 MHz 68040), Logica LogiCache (50 MHz), Radius Rocket (25 MHz 68LC040 to 40 MHz 68040), TechWorks NuBus (33 MHz 68040), and Total Systems Magellan (25 MHz 68040).
- 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?
- Radius Rocket
- Sonnet Presto 040
- Was the Macintosh IIci the best Mac ever?, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2009.01.19. Introduced in 1989, the Mac IIci was fast, had integrated video, included 3 expansion slots, and could be upgraded in myriad ways.
- 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.
- 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.
- Creating Classic Mac boot floppies in OS X, Paul Brierley, The ‘Book Beat, 2008.08.07. Yes, it is possible to create a boot floppy for the Classic Mac OS using an OS X Mac that doesn’t have Classic. Here’s how.
- 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.
- 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.
- 20 year old Mac IIci dies, Mozilla for Classic Mac OS, USB 3 on Mac this year?, and more, Mac News Review, 2009.07.10. Also picking a Mac over a PC, which Macs can boot from SD?, GrandReporter automates searching the Web, an online image editor, and more.
- 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.
- Golden Apples: The 25 best Macs to date, Michelle Klein-Häss, Geek Speak, 2009.01.27. The best Macs from 1984 through 2009, including a couple that aren’t technically Macs.
- 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.”
- 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.
- Replacing the Hard Drive in a Mac IIcx, IIci, and Quadra 700
- Interchangeabilty and compatibility of Apple 1.4 MB SuperDrive floppy drives, 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: 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.
- Vintage Macs provide a less distracting writing environment, Brian Richards, Advantage Mac, 2007.09.18. A Mac OS X user finds an old Macintosh IIsi and discovers the joy of writing undisturbed by music, messaging, and streaming content.
- No junk from Apple, Mac mouse dies after 18 years, time to cut the gigabyte BS, and more, Mac News Review, 2007.08.10. Also new iMac and Mac mini models, Apple’s aluminum keyboards, new NAS drive looks like a Mac mini, first software update for aluminum iMacs, and more.
- 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.
- Appearance Manager allows Internet Explorer 5.1.7 to work with Mac OS 7.6.1, Max Wallgren, Mac Daniel, 2007.05.23. Want a fairly modern browser with an old, fast operating system? Mac OS 7.6.1 plus the Appearance Manager and Internet Explorer may be just what you want.
- 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.
- System 7 Today, advocates of Apple’s ‘orphan’ Mac OS 7.6.1, Tommy Thomas, Welcome to Macintosh, 2006.10.26. Why Mac OS 7.6.1 is far better for 68040 and PowerPC Macs than System 7.5.x.
- 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.
- Mac OS 8 and 8.1: Maximum size, maximum convenience, Tyler Sable, Classic Restorations, 2006.09.11. Mac OS 8 and 8.1 add some useful new features and tools, and it can even be practical on 68030-based Macs.
- 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.
- System 7.6.1 is perfect for many older Macs, John Martorana, That Old Mac Magic, 2006.03.24. Want the best speed from your old Mac? System 7.6.1 can give you that with a fairly small memory footprint – also helpful on older Macs.
- 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.
- Benchmarks: Mac OS 8.1 on a IIci, 2000.08.30. Does Mac OS 8.1 on an ’040 accelerated IIci make sense?
- Run Mac OS 8.1 on your ’030 Mac, Charles Moore, Applelinks, 8/8/00. “Born Again enables certain 68030 Macs to support Mac OS 8.1.”
- Illustrated Mac IIci teardown, Steve Wood, Busman’s Holiday. Step-by-step instructions for getting inside this vintage Mac.
- Games for ’030s, Brian Rumsey, Low End Mac Gaming, 5/26. A look at games that run nicely on the old 68030-based Macs.
- 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.
- Easter Eggs, MacKiDo
- Mac IIci Upgradse Page, MacSpeedZone
- Browsing on older Macs, Online Tech Journal
- Mac II, IIci, and LC III Questions, Mac Daniel
- Should I push my IIci any further?, Mac Daniel
- Information on 32-bit addressing
- Apple introduces two new Macs, MacTech, 11/89. A first look at the Mac IIci and Portable.
- Memory upgrade guide
- Links to System 6.0.8 and 7.0.1
- Macintosh IIci Technical Specifications, Apple Knowledge Base Archive
- 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.
- 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.
- When using internal video, RAM from Bank A is used for video. During video refresh, the CPU is prevented from using Bank A. For best performance, largest SIMMs should be in Bank B if you are using internal video.
- Internal video may reduce system and serial performance; a NuBus video card is recommended.