Embracing Obsolescence

Old Power Macs and SATA Not a Marriage Made in Heaven

- 2006.11.03

"I needed another hard drive for backup storage, and I had this Power Mac 7600 sitting here just begging for some higher capacity drives."

So the story began.

I decided to take a chance that the US$50 OWC 2+2 SATA PCI card, with two internal and two external SATA ports, was indeed compatible with Macs older than the Blue and White Power Mac G3 (as listed on the product page, B&W G3 through early generation Power Mac G5s were supported).

I spent a decent time researching the card before making the purchase. While I did not discover concrete evidence that some intrepid Mac aficionado had tested this particular configuration, I did uncover enough peripheral evidence to indicate the possibility of success.

After purchasing the SATA card, it took a few weeks to find a SATA drive that matched both my price point and storage needs. I also spent a little time shopping around for SATA data and power cables. MonoPrice.com came through with some of the best prices I've seen, along with reasonable shipping rates.

I finally collected the necessary parts to put my plan into action. I see no reason to lavishly detail my testing procedure and the resulting irritants that were to foil my best intentions, as that story can be found on the AppleSwitcher blog (see SATA Hates Me and Here's a Little Story About It).

I'll give a concise report here and then meander into my course of action since the initial testing. I installed the OWC SATA card into the Power Mac 7600 and connected my drives as shown in visual aid #1:

visual aid #1

Summary: Mac OS 8.1-9.1 all recognized the 30 GB PATA (parallel ATA) drive and the two formatted volumes on it, but they could not mount the 320 GB SATA Seagate connected to the OWC SATA card. XPostFacto would not boot into OS X 10.3.9 from it's volume resident on the PATA 30 GB drive. Connecting an OS X 10.3.9 SCSI drive to the internal bus allowed XPostFacto to boot the 7600 from the internal bus into OS X. 10.3.9 could not see the installed SATA card nor the drives connected to it's bus (SCSI bus 2).

Drive Setup in the classic Mac OS could not format the drives connected to the SATA card. I had no success, whether booted from the SATA card or from an installation CD. Any Mac OS volume already formatted into HFS or HFS+ before being placed in the Power Mac 7600 could be formatted via the Finder's "Erase Disk" command.

However, I was not able to discover a way for whole drives or individual partitions that weren't already formatted as HFS or HFS+ partitions with classic Mac OS drivers installed to be recognized by the Finder (no luck with a drive formatted in OS X without the Mac OS 9 driver option checked). Also, the Finder utility only allows the volume to be erased; the whole drive cannot be formatted and partitioned.

This article may seem short, but the next installment (planned for Monday) will look at the various findings I have uncovered between my initial test and now.

A quick note before I go: The OWC SATA 2+2 Internal/External PCI card has given every indication that it is operating within specifications. As you will see next time, the issues I have most likely (98% chance) pertain only to unsupported setups like my own.

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