Mac Daniel's Advice

Speeding a 7200 on the Web

- 2000.04.21

Q: I have a Power Mac 7200/75 with 48 MB of RAM, a 1 GB internal hard drive and a 4 GB external hard drive. I am connected to the internet via my university's high-speed ethernet system. Here is my problem: I am connecting to the internet as slowly as when I connected at 33.6 Kbps with a 56k modem! Is there anything I can do to speed up my internet connection?

A: I have quite a bit of experience with the 7200/75 - it's what we used to run in the lab where I worked at the University of Kansas. I'm sorry to say that they are dog-slow on the internet by virtue of their hardware design, but there are a few things you can do to help with the speed and RAM consumption of your apps.

  1. Go into your memory control panel and turn on virtual memory so that you have 49 MB of RAM - only have 1 MB of virtual memory used. That will cut your RAM requirements significantly. Resist the temptation to jack up the VM really really high - it will slow your computer down even more. One MB above your physical RAM amount will suffice.
  2. The 7200 did not ship with a level 2 (L2) cache, although it can easily accept a 256 KB, 512 KB, or 1 MB L2 cache. MacSpeedZone and Sonnet Technology show that adding a 1 MB L2 cache can improve performance by as much as 129%! If your 7200 doesn't have a cache, it deserves one.
  3. If you have some extra cash, check out ramseeker or MemoryX and pick up some extra memory. The 7200 uses 70 nanosecond (ns) 168-pin DIMMs, so that is what you should look for. The 7200 as maxes out at 512 MB of RAM using four 128 MB DIMMs, so buy as much as you can afford. There is no such thing as too much RAM.
  4. Expand your video memory. 1 MB is soldered to the board, but there are 3 VRAM slots available. Adding one or three VRAM modules enables interleaving, which improves video performance. Again, check the sites mentioned above for VRAM. You might even call them and speak with a tech if you're not sure.
  5. Make sure you're running a PPC-native operating system version. For a 7200 with plenty of RAM available, I'd recommend investing in a copy of Mac OS 8.6. In this same vein, try to ensure that all the applications you are running are PPC-native. If they're not, your 7200 is emulating a slower machine to run older code - and that slows it down.
  6. If you're really gutsy, your Mac can be overclocked. The instructions reside here: http://homepage.mac.com/schrier/mhz.html

The 7200 will never be a speed demon and its upgrade path is pretty limited, but with some work it can be a very serviceable machine, especially for basic word processing and web use. Remember to keep in mind the value of the computer when you are spending money on upgrades-sometimes it is worth it to just hang onto your money until you can afford a replacement. Good luck!

Julie Fugett is a network administrator for an almost 100% Mac department at a large Midwestern university. Her favorite movie of all time is Tron, and she still can't come up with a decent name or theme for her personal website.

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