Should I Upgrade My Performa 575 or Replace It?

1998.12.02 – GDF writes: I read your stuff regularly, and it seems that you both know your Macs and have common sense [thanks]. This is quite rare, so I’ll ask you what you think.

Performa 575I’ve got a Performa 575, maxed to 36 MB RAM with lots of SCSI peripherals: disks, tape, scanner. I’m running System 7.5.5.

I’ve thought of upgrading to the PPC 601 card from Daystar, but it’s pricey – $300. It doesn’t support 7.5.5, I think, and I want to go to Mac OS 8.0. Should I do anything?

I’ve thought about just leaving the machine as is. I’ve got old accounting data on it, back to 1992, and I want to be able to access it. That requires running the old version of the programs, so I’m concerned that some future version of OS or hardware will make that impossible.

On the other hand, my graphics work and even other stuff is quite slow. I’ve got this thing loaded with software every which way, and it does affect response. I can’t do streaming video or some sound, so I’m gradually losing out on the newer or bigger stuff.

By the way, I bought this in late 1995 for about $900, so I can’t complain. My last Mac before that was a Mac II I bought in late 1988 or early 1989.

The answer might be just to buy a new machine.

I would like to buy a new system – G4 1000 MHz, 256 MB RAM, +++ GB hard drive, 21″ flat screen – I can dream, can’t I?

Anyway, your thoughts please.

Thanks for your help and your website. I really enjoy it.

Mac Daniel writes: I think we all dream of MaxiMacs. And most of us live in the world of budgets. That’s why I started Low End Mac and began writing this column.

I upgraded from a 20 MHz Centris 610 earlier this year, which has about half the performance of your 33 MHz Performa 575, so I know how slow that can be for graphics and Web work. I got a lot of good years out of that Mac, but the advent of the World Wide Web really showed its limitations.

It sounds like you’ve run into the same thing. And it really is hard for Mac owners to admit we’ve outgrown our computers. After all the years we spend with them, they’re more like friends than tools.

The minimum step-up from your Performa 575 is a Power Mac – and the least Power Mac I recommend is a 7500/100. Not only is the 100 MHz 601 CPU a nice improvement over your 33 MHz 68040, but the CPU can be replaced with a 400 MHz G3 card (and probably a G4 card in 1999). You’ve got room to put in 1 GB of memory and a second internal drive. It’s a real nice computer.

But that’s at least $550 for the computer. While you could use your current keyboard, you’d also need a monitor (unless budget is a huge issue, I recommend at least 17″ – a bigger desktop really does improve productivity). So a comfortable setup could cost as much as the $900 you put into your Performa 575 three years ago.

I’d lean toward that or an iMac instead of investing in an upgrade for your 575. Both the 7500 and the iMac will run Mac OS 8.1 and 8.5. The iMac will also be able to run Mac OS X next year; the 7500 probably won’t.

Then, in three years, you can write back.

Power Mac 4400RT writes: I currently am using a Performa 575 almost exclusively for email, Internet browsing, and word processing. I have 36 MB RAM and OS 8. I recently added a Syquest EZFlyer 230, almost doubling my disk size. But would more VRAM make my 575 any better? I’m thinking of moving up to something newer, and the Power Mac 4400/200 seems a pretty good unit. With a monitor it’ll run around $1200.

What are your thoughts on this? There are also good prices on the Umax clones, especially the J700, but what about future support for them? Any ideas you could toss my way would be appreciated.

Mac Daniel writes: I’ve heard a lot of nice things about the Performa 575, especially the monitor. But it has its limitations and is a bit dated by today’s standards. The VRAM upgrade will give you more colors, but you’ll still be limited to 640 x 480.

The honest truth is that you haven’t surfed the Internet properly until you’ve used a bigger screen. It’s not just that you can see more, but that you can have your email program, word processor, HTML design program, etc., running next to your browser window. When switching applications, only the overlapping part of the screen is redrawn, which really helps.

I’m spoiled. I have a 20″ monitor at work set to 1280 x 1024 – that display is two screens across and over two screens high compared with the 640 x 480 screen in your 575. At home, I run a 17″ monitor at 1024 x 768. It feels cramped compared with work, but it’s a huge step up from my previous 14″ 640 x 480 monitor.

If you’re looking at a $1,200 system, either aim $100 higher and get an iMac (many dealers are offering a free 32 MB memory upgrade these days) or get a more upgradable Power Mac than the 4400.

The iMac should be able to support faster processors past the 400 MHz mark as they become available.

The 4400 has a 40 MHz system bus, so based on the G3 running at up to 8x bus speed, the fastest upgrade you could add would be a 320 MHz G3. That may sound like a lot, but Apple is already shipping faster computers.

Between the 4400 and the iMac, consider a nice used 7500 (used from $550), which can accept a 400 MHz G3 card today, or a Power Mac G3/233, which should also go well past 400 MHz as faster CPUs become available.

If you get the iMac, I think you’ll find yourself hooked on the 800 x 600 screen setting (1024 x 768 is a bit fuzzy). It’s so much more space than you’re used to, you’ll quickly become spoiled. With the others, I suggest looking into a nice 17″ monitor. Prices have dropped a lot since I paid $450 for mine earlier this year. And most will work very nicely at 1024 x 768, which is just an incredible amount of desktop space to work with – and the same amount Apple now provides on the Power Book G3 Series.

As for the Umax SuperMac computers, they’re getting harder to find. I use a J700 and love it. It has the same upgrade options as the 7500, but one more PCI slot and even more drive bays. There’s also a great email support group (the SuperMacs list, which I operate) to help out when you get stuck.

Reader Feedback

VSC writes: I just wanted to add my observations to the discussion on the 575:

One of the readers was concerned about whether he could use System 7.5.5 or Mac OS 8.0 on his 575 if he choose to purchase the cobranded Daystar/Apple 601 Processor Upgrade. In a nutshell, they work just fine – Apple has never stated that their card would not support these upgrades, and Daystar simply said that they would not support the use of an OS higher than 7.5.1 on their card. (This is a moot issue, as Daystar no longer is among us to support anything.) An additional point: Given the choice, get an Apple-branded 66 MHz board, as its the only one with a “snowball’s chance” at a warranty (which could be important, see more below).

Three more observations:

One: IMHO, even the lowly 66 MHz version packs a wallop over stock 68040 performance. This is to such an extent that when my 66 MHz board died (this is the “more below” yet-to-come), the machine was rendered unusable in comparison (of course, it was laden w/OS 8.1 and other software that was patently unbearable in ‘040 mode).

Two: The 601 upgrade will physically impede the use of the LC PDS slot on 475, 575, and 630 series, but the latter two will retain use the Comm Slot for ethernet or modem use. 475s do not have a comm slot and will have to employ serial- or SCSI-port solutions if ethernet is desired.

Three (the caveat): These and many similar 601 upgrades are prone to “giving up the ghost,” a fact that I attribute to overheating, as the dead units I have seen have been in “circulation-challenged” Centris 650s, Performa 475s, and Performa 575s, but never in Quadra 900s, so take precautions.

I am not sure that it can be made to fit all of the 601 cards out there, but I’d look into those inexpensive (read: cheap insurance) “Peltier Junction” thermoelectric coolers that Shreve Systems has <>. These are tailored to replace the 601 clip-on heat sink. Then again, some Macs may take some work to get power to this device. Mine died before I had a chance to retrofit it and find out, after three years of faithful 7/24 operation.

I hope these Field Notes give your readers a little additional insight on this upgrade option. And if someone finds those 100 MHz Daystars out there for sale, tell me, I’d probably do it again; 575s are great machines, the sturdy SE/30s of their time. 🙂

Keywords: #performa575 #cpuupgrades

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