How Can I Upgrade My Power Mac 6100?

1998 – Readers ask how they can upgrade their Power Mac 6100s.

What About L2 Cache and Clock Chipping a 6100?

SR writes: I have a Power Mac 6100 and some questions. If I upgrade to a 1 MB Level 2 (L2) cache and add a speed accelerator (clock chip) to 80 MHz, how much speed will I gain?

Too bad they don’t make the Sonnet 604 200 MHz anymore. 🙁

How many L2 cache slot do I have? I saw two?


Power Mac 6100Mac Daniel writes: You’re right about that Sonnet Crescendo 604e. I recommended it the other day, based on ads in Macworld, only to get a lot of letters telling me it simply isn’t available any longer.

If you have a 6100/66 and chip it to 80 MHz, you’ll gain about 25% more speed. Upgrading from a 256 KB L2 cache to 1 MB will boost performance anywhere from 15% to 70% depending on what you’re running. (If you have no cache, a 1 MB L2 cache can up to double original performance.)

Total gain from both would be 45% to 100%, again depending on which programs you use.

There is only one L2 cache in the 6100. However, there are two slots for adding system memory, which is another way to speed up your computer. First, this may let you turn off virtual memory, which is slower than real memory. Also, you can create a larger disk cache, which will speed up disk performance.

BTW, Sonnet now makes a G3 upgrade for your 6100. But at $500, you might be better off putting the money toward a faster Mac, whether new or used.

What About CPU Upgrades for the 6100?

JJ writes: I am getting a 6100/60 Power Mac with a 255 MB hard drive (I’m planing on getting a 1.2-4.3 GB one if I upgrade it). I just bought two 16 MB RAM, so now I have 40 MB total. I think it’s a 2x CD-ROM, and I also haven’t checked if/what the cache is.

I had been thinking about a G3 accelerator, but the lowest I’ve seen is $449. That seems high on top of the $200 I’m planning on spending on a new hard drive. So I am pretty sure I should just get a fast 604e card, but Sonnet seems to have stopped making them. I can’t find any others listed anywhere. I’ve seen many 604e listed in DealMac the last week at 200 MHz for $99, and as low as $49 for one model, but none would work in a 6100.

What do you think I should do, and where could I find a cheap card?

This machine is going to be for my mother, who is still using a IIsi for her surfing and newsletters (she just uses AOL 3.0, MacWrite II, and an address program [my mail list?]) .

I want to get it to her fast because she’s thinking of getting a PC so she can practice using the “new” programs she needs at work (Office 97 – they are just getting computers with a mouse at the school).

The Power Mac would be a big improvement to her as is, but to run Win95/98 I need to put on VPC on it. That would need the bigger hard drive and a 604e to run well. I do already have a copy of VPC, so that won’t cost me anything.

Please email me if you answer this.


Mac Daniel writes: Yes, a Power Mac would be a huge step up from a IIsi. Shoot, a IIfx would be a big step, and a Quadra would be a giant step. I’m guessing your mother will be very happy with the 6100.

I agree that spending $450 on a G3 accelerator is a bit much, especially with the iMac going for $1,300 and the Power Mac G3/233 dropping closer to $1,000 by the week. A real shame that 604e card seems to have vanished.

With 40 MB of memory and a 1.2 GB or larger hard drive, you’re pretty well covered on that side. But search around – you should be able to get a 1.2 GB drive for as little as $100.

If your mother needs Windows, you might be better off finding a DOS card for the 6100. Even a 486 card will give much better performance than Virtual PC on an accelerated 6100. And it should be less expensive than a $450 G3 upgrade.

BTW, I reply to all letters by email before I publish them.

Reader Feedback

BDB writes: I’ve read through your answers on the website about 6100 upgrading chances. I own a 6100/60, which served me for years in DTP and multimedia. The only upgrades I’ve made are a 2 GB external hard drive (the internal one was an 80 megs and was instantly upgraded to a 512 megs!) and RAM (it was 16 megs when I bought it, and I upgraded it straight to 24 megs) which now is 40 megabytes. Not to mention the CD-ROM (it was a CD-drive-less 6100), an external 2x by Apple.

I was thinking about upgrading the machine or buying the iMac. The latter appeared as a wise move, as I could just buy a transceiver, and connect the two to go on using all the 6100’s modes,t but still useful, strength and the iMac horsepower, sharing the peripherals. As you can imagine, I decided to buy the iMac. And I’m really satisfied with the choice. One day G3 expansion cards for the 6100 will be really cheap, and maybe I can decide to revitalize it, who knows?

But the main goal of this letter was to outline one of your answers about 6100’s Windows compatibility: I own the PC Compatibility card (also an AV one, but I can use just one of them, as you know), but it’s limited to 256 colours! It’s a real shame, as it could have been a good Win95 clone (it’s a 486DX66), adding just a huge RAM SIMM on the slot it offers onboard . . . shame . . . is there a way to go for a better video mode?


Mac Daniel responds: Remember, I’m a Macintosh geek – not a Windows one. I don’t know of any way to upgrade the video on the Apple DOS card. Your options would be to see if you can find an old Orange Micro, Radius, or Reply card for the 6100 PDS that supports 16-bit video, or to get Virtual PC or SoftWindows for your iMac.

I strongly suspect that software emulation on your iMac would provide similar power to the old 486DX66 – but with additional video modes.

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