Charles Moore's Mailbag

Tiger Great on Old G3 'Books, Maximum RAM for 867 MHz PowerBook G4, and More

Charles Moore - 2008.10.01 -Tip Jar

Tiger Runs Great on Older, Slower G3 'Books

From Simon Royal:


I just read your article, What's the Best Mac OSfor Your iBook, PowerBook, or MacBook?

Interesting. In your mentioning about Classic OSes, you didn'tmention OS 8.6, which I think is just as good as 9.1 and runs superfast compared to OS 9 on older machines like pre-G3PowerBooks.

I had a PowerBook 1400 117MHz model a few months ago with only 32 MB of RAM, and performanceunder OS 8.6 was very good - but pretty dismal under 9.1.

indigo iBookI also had a Clamshell iBook (366 MHz,Indigo model, 576 MB of RAM) and a 'Lombard' PowerBook G3 (333 MHz,256 MB RAM) (400 MHz, 512 MB RAM). All of these machines areunsupported by Tiger. However, I modified the DVD/CDs to remove the'badmachines' and installed Tiger. Tiger runs so much smoother thanPanther, even on the Lombard with only 256 MB of RAM.

I had a WallStreet 233MHz 12" a few months ago and agree, while it will officiallysupport 10.2.8 unless you max the RAM to 512 MB of up the processorperformance is not great, it is much better suited to OS 9.

A year ago I had a PowerBook G4 400 MHz with1 GB of RAM and 60 GB hard drive, which I installed Leopard on.Performance was usable, but not under any heavy use - but then it isway below Apples minimum spec.

My current portable Mac is a Pismo 400 MHz with 1 GB of RAM and40 GB 5400 RPM hard drive, and it runs Tiger. The machine smokes along,even I was surprised just how well it runs on this (but then it isofficially supported by Apple). I actually think it handles better thanthe G4 400 MHz Titanium, and comparing GeekBench and Xbench scores ofmy two machines, the Pismo was slightly ahead. This might be due to thefaster hard drive.

I love older Macs, so much so I have my own column on Low End Mac,which is where I spotted your articles.


Hi Simon,

Umax S900LI agree withyou about OS 8.6 vs. OS 9.x on pre-G3 Macs up to say 200 MHz. I have8.6 installed on my PowerBook 1400 117 MHz, although OS 8.1 (alsoinstalled on another partition) is speedier. OS 9 is essentiallyunusable on that machine. I do prefer OS 9 on my 200 MHz 604e SuperMac S900 tower.

I didn't notice a big performance boost upgrading my500 MHz Pismos from Panther to Tiger, but Tiger is a smooth kitty, andI find it hard to live without Spotlight.

I have two Pismos, both now upgraded to 550 MHz G4.One has a 4200 RPM hard drive, and the other a 5400 RPM drive, and thelatter is significantly livelier even though it has less RAM installed.Both are running Tiger 10.4.11 very nicely.

I was never successful in getting Jaguar to install inmy WallStreet (I expect the RAM wasn't up to OS X standards, butit was an excellent performer in OS 9.2.2. My daughter has it now andis planning to have another go (with different RAM) at getting Pantheror Tiger installed. She has Tiger on her S900, which has a 350 MHz G3upgrade processor.


PowerBook G4/867 MHz: 640 MB or 1152 MB Max?

From Greg:

12" PowerBook G4Iam awaiting the arrival (with fear and trepidation) of a 12" PowerBook G4 (867 MHz)purchased off of eBay. I researched this particular machine on your site and foundinformation that let me to believe that this machine maxed out at 640MB of RAM, which would be a single 512 MB SO-DIMM, plus 128 MB builtinto the motherboard.

Because the auction stated that the SO-DIMM slot was empty, Ivisited both the Crucial and OWC websites to get some RAM; they offeredto sell me a 1 GB SO-DIMM, which was more capacity than I wasexpecting.

Returning to your site, a closer inspection seems to revealtwo slightly different 12" 867 MHz G4 machines; Before, Ithought there was only one!

Both seemed to have a simultaneous release, January 2003.

Are there two different 12" G4 867 MHz machines, one of whichrecognizes 1 GB chips, and one that only recognizes 512 MB chips?Why? Seems confusing.

Do I have to have the machine in hand, boot the system profiler, andsee what flavor of CPU it has to figure out how much RAM to order?

Greg Koelpien

PS - below is the relevant information I found from your site.

Machine #1: Original PowerBook G4

  • CPU: 867 MHz PowerPC 7455
  • RAM: 256 MB (128 MB soldered), expandable to 640 MB using onePC2100 module
  • Hard drive: 40 GB
  • Optical: Combo drive (optional 1x DVD-R/CD-RW SuperDrive)
  • Nvidia GeForce4 420 Go graphics card with 32 MB of VRAM
  • Optional AirPort Extreme Card
  • Integrated Bluetooth 1.1
  • 2 USB 1.1 ports

Machine #2: 12" 867 MHz PowerBook G4 (January 2003) (Onlyspecifications different from the previous model are listed.)

  • PowerPC 7410 (G4) 867 MHz with 1 MB Level 2 cache
  • 133 MHz system bus
  • 256 MB DDR, officially expandable to 640 MB (unofficially to 1152MB)
  • Active-matrix 12.1" color display (1024 x 768)
  • Nvidia GeForce4 420 Go graphics card with 32 MB of VRAM
  • VGA video output supports dual display mode and video mirroring(S-video out requires adapter)
  • tappable trackpad
  • 3 built-in speakers and microphone
  • 10/100/1000 Base-T Ethernet
  • Built-in 56k Fax/Modem
  • 16-bit stereo sound input/output
  • slot-loading Combo drive (DVD-ROM/CD-RW); 1x SuperDriveoptional
  • 40 GB 4200 rpm hard drive standard
  • one FireWire Port
  • two USB 1.1 ports
  • audio line-in and audio line-out ports
  • 16-bit CD-quality stereo input/output sound
  • AirPort ready with integrated antennas and card slot
  • size: 8.6" x 10.9" x 1.18" (219 x 277 x 30 mm)
  • weight: 4.6 pounds
  • Lithium Ion battery (up to 5 hours use)

Hi Greg,

I think the same dynamic applies as with the PowerBook Pismo, which is onlyofficially supported by Apple up to 512 MB of RAM, but which canhappily support 1 GB.

As I somewhat hazily recall it from 2003, when the12-incher was released, Apple conservatively rated it at 640 MB max,partly because of the unavailability of 1 GB upgrade modules atthe time. Later that year, 1 GB PC2700 DDR333 modules did becomeavailable, and it was discovered that they worked fine in the 12" 867MB PowerBook .

TransIntl,which sells RAM upgrades, lists the PowerBook G4 867 MHz [12-inchScreen] January 2003 as being upgradable to 1,280 MB


4 GB of RAM 'Mostly Wasted' with Vista

From Tom:


You realize, of course, that Vista is a 32-bit OS and thus cannotuse more than 2.3 GB of RAM. Anything more is just a rip-off by Dell. Ithink Ars Technica had an article about this last week.


Hi Tom,

My ignorance of Vista's technical particulars isfairly encyclopedic, but I can't imagine that Dell would build or sellmachines that can support 16 GB or RAM if there was no OS available tosupport it. There is: both Genuine Windows Vista Ultimate 64-Bit andGenuine Windows Vista Business 64-Bit are on the Dell Precision M6400options list.

According to DevTopics:

Windows Vista RAM

  • 2 GB is minimum
  • 3 GB if you can afford it
  • 4 GB is mostly wasted

If a PC has 4 gigabytes (GB) of random-access memory(RAM) installed, Windows Vista will show significantly less than 4 GBmemory available. For example, the Vista "System Information" dialogbox may report 3,120 megabytes (MB) of memory available on a PC thathas 4,096 MB (4 GB) of memory installed. Note this only applies to the32-bit versions of Vista; the 64-bit versions of Vistacan access between 8 and 128 GB of RAM.... because of drivercompatibility issues, the 32-bit versions of Vista limit availablememory to 3.12 GB.

Microsoft's page on various Vista editions


PC System Profiler

From Randall

Greetings Mr. Moore,

I was reading through your exchange on this subject, and I noticedthat you mentioned you could not find any equivalent to the AppleSystem Profiler. I've looked for a while, and finally a coworkerrecommended Belarc Advisor.

The advisor polls the computer's hardware and reports severalelements of the system (model, software version, processor, RAM, etc.).It is available for Windows Vista, 2003, XP, 2000, NT 4, Me, 98, and95. It displays everything in a webpage.

I've started dabbling in various Linux distributions as of late (sofar Ubuntu is my favorite). It's easier to pick up a cheap old PC torun Linux (and more compatible). The advisor has been very useful forme when dealing with these older PC's.

Hope that helps you in the future.


Hi Randall,

Thanks for the tip and link. I'll keep them filed forfuture reference.

Unfortunately my daughter's ThinkPad has suffered whatappears to be a charge board failure - i.e.: it will run off itsbattery (or at least it would before the charge expired, but won't runor charge off AC).


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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at and a columnist at If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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