Can I Overdrive a Power Mac 8600? Should I Repair My 8500?

1998 – One reader asks whether it makes sense to try to overclock a Power Mac 8600, while another wonders whether a $530 repair to a Power Mac 8500 is justifiable.

Is Chipping My 8600/250 a Good Idea, or Should I Buy a 350 MHz 604e card?

EF writes: I was wondering about ways of speeding up a 8600/250. Can it be overclocked? (It’s out of warranty.) Can I buy a 350 MHz 604e card cheaply?


Power Mac 8600Mac Daniel writes: I wouldn’t recommend trying to chip the daughter card in a PCI Power Mac. First, because even if you could get it running, you’d only gain about 10% more CPU speed. Besides, it makes the CPU run faster, which could overstress it and cause it to burn out. Finally, the amount of time you’d invest making it work could outweigh the small gain in speed.

Instead, with G3 cards starting at under US$400, that’s the first place to look (see Guide to G3 Daughter Cards for a fairly current list). Unless you can find a 350 MHz 604e card for under $200, the best performance deal is the G3.

Why? Because a 350 MHz 604e is only 40% faster than the 250 MHz processor you already have. An inexpensive 250 MHz G3 card would outperform that on most tasks.

What Should I Do With a Bad 8500 Motherboard?

MD writes: I have a Power Mac 8500/120 with a bad motherboard. The replacement estimates are $530. This computer crashed while on the Internet through a modem connection when my son tried to force quit. I have had a previous problem with this computer which was only resolved by reinitializing the hard drive! I am now faced with the question of investing a hardy sum into a computer with chronic problems vs. selling it for scrap and getting something cheap like an iMac? Any suggestions?


Power Mac 8100Mac Daniel writes: Oh, I always have suggestions. 🙂

The 8500 was a very nice machine – we have two where I work, each accelerated with a G3 card, boasting 128 MB or more memory, and about 6 GB of hard drive space. They’ve been real workhorses for us.

I’ve never heard of a force quit damaging hardware. It’s possible it was damaged by a surge through the phone line through the modem to the motherboard. (One more place to use surge protection.)

Two things I hope you’ve tried that might resurrect your 8500 without a brain transplant. First, reset the Cuda switch on the motherboard. It’s a tiny (2-3 mm) button near the processor slot. This will flush PRAM, which sometimes becomes corrupt.

The other thing is to replace the PRAM battery, which costs US$10-15. If the battery is dead, the Mac will not boot.

Barring that, you have a hardware problem.

The 8500 still fetches US$750-900 on the used market, but that really makes you think twice about a $530 repair. But selling a Mac as scrap is also pretty drastic. Between the known good parts, you might pull $200-250 out of it, but that still means looking around for a buyer.

The iMac is a nice computer with one huge drawback for Mac owners: It isn’t easy to transfer data from an old Mac to the iMac. This is compounded when the old Mac is dead, because the iMac has no SCSI port for reading your old hard drive.

For this reason, you might be better off looking into a close-out deal on the Power Mac G3/233 – although the supply is dwindling fast. Whether permanently or temporarily, you could add a SCIS card and install the drive from your 8500 or put it in an external SCSI enclosure, making all your old files accessible again.

Still, I’m hoping it’s a battery problem.

Reader Feedback

RH writes: You mentioned to the user that one of the problems involved in upgrading from an older Mac to an iMac is transferring data. I have a cost-efficient solution I’ve used in the past for moving data or configuring printers and notebooks on the fly.

Get hold of a Farallon EtherWave 10Base-T ethernet adapter . . . they are still out there for sale new (check MacWarehouse’s DataComm Warehouse division). Attach the EtherWave to the older Mac (assuming has an ethernet interface port available) and turn on file sharing. Use a 10Base-T cable to connect to the iMac. The EtherWave adapter with its two 10Base-T ports functions as a hub, allowing network speed data transfer, if you keep your old Mac, you can even use it as a cheap local file server.


Many readers wrote to remind me that Apple’s 250, 300, and 350 MHz 604e cards can only be used in the 8600 and 9600. Because they require more power than other daughter cards, they cannot be used in other Power Macs or clones.

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