Cheap Power Macs: A $500 G3 and $750 G4

2000: How would you like a Power Mac G3 for less than $500? Or perhaps a G4 Power Mac for less than $750? Both deals are currently available from Web sources with a little mixing and matching.

DIY G3/G4 Power Mac

Power Mac is offering Power Mac 6100/60 machines with 24 MB of memory and a 1 GB hard drive for $99.95. You can add an Apple 17″ monitor for $79.95. Tack on a refurbished AppleDesign keyboard from MacResQ or Other World Computing for $29.95 and some sort of ADB mouse for $15, and you have your basic setup. Now, plug in one of Sonnet Technologies Crescendo NuBus G3 250/512K upgrade cards for $199.95, and there is your Power Mac G3 for $424.80.

Of course, there will be shipping charges to deal with, and you will definitely want more memory, but you will still be in a $500 ballpark.

If you want to move up to G4 power, the Sonnet Crescendo G4/366 upgrade is your ticket $499.95. That will increase your grand total into the $750 range.

Is It Worth It?

The operative question is: Does building up a machine like this make sense when you can buy a used or refurbished iMac for about $600, or a refurbished 366 MHz Revision D iMac for around $700?

With the iMac, you get a much newer machine, with a faster system bus, much more powerful video support, a faster CD-ROM drive, a much bigger hard drive, more RAM, greater maximum RAM capacity, USB support, and official support for Mac OS X.

On the other hand, the Power Mac 6100 offers a SCSI port, ADB and serial ports, a floppy drive, and the deal described above includes a 17″ monitor instead of the iMac’s 15″ screen. However, you will need a video upgrade to get the full potential out of the 17″ monitor, and I’m not sure whether the PDS expansion slot is usable on the 6100 with the processor upgrade plugged into it.

Of course, our “higher end” upgraded 6100 has a G4/366 processor, although the actual performance it would offer might not be much better than the iMac G3 366, given the realities of the 30 MHz system bus, slower hard drive response, and the 6100’s poky video support. Since the 6100’s only expansion slot will be filled with the processor upgrade card, it can’t be used for a video upgrade.

Other Options

Perhaps a more sensible and ultimately more satisfying NuBus Power Mac to purchase for G3 or G4 upgrading would be a 7100 or 8100, both of which offer three NuBus slots. These machines also have a faster 40 MHz system bus, as opposed to the 6100’s 30 MHz bus.

DataTech Remarketing is offering the Power Mac 7100/80/8 MB RAM/500 MB hard drive for $199, and the 7100/66/8/500 for $179. Other World Computing offers stripped 7100/80s for just $75 (see below). notes that they fire up the Power Mac 6100s to make sure they work. Then they install 1 GB SCSI hard drives and 16 MB of additional RAM (24 MB total) and use the Apple Original CD-ROM to install the Mac OS (version not specified). Specs are:

PowerPC 6100/60 (or 66) MHz
24 MB RAM (two 8 MB SIMMs plus 8 MB RAM built in)
1 GB hard drive
Warranty: 30 days
Price: $99.95, 2 or more at $95 each, shipping extra

For a really low ball price, will sell you a completely bare-bones 6100/60 with just the soldered 8 MB of memory and no hard drive for $59.95 (or $50 if you buy two). If you’re serious about upgrading to G3 or G4, this might be the better way to go, since you will probably want more than a 1 GB hard drive and 24 MB of RAM anyway.

Warranty: 30 days
Price: $59.95, two or more at $50 each, shipping extra also notes that they obtain lots of Apple 17″ monitors from corporate clients as they replace them with newer models. They clean and test each unit to ensure that it works, and guarantee that the picture will be “clear and bright for daily operations,” noting that if you purchase a monitor from them “you can be sure that you will be able to use the monitor with a standard Mac system without concern.”

The most common Apple 17″ models are the 1705 and 1710 Multi-Scan, but the company will not guarantee which model you will receive. The monitor includes a power cord.

Warranty: 30 Days
Price: $79.95 ea. (plus shipping)

Another way to go is with Other World Computing’s new online Build To Order system for legacy Mac systems. OWC offers a 45-day warranty on the actual CPU (base system), and standard warranties apply to any extras that you add to the system. All memory has a lifetime warranty, drives are covered by standard (listed) warranties, and PCI cards are also covered by their stated warranties.

Systems do not include a keyboard or mouse; these will need to be ordered separately.

Standard shipping policies apply. All systems shipped for delivery within the United States qualify for $5 Fed Ex, and orders of $250 or more may be shipped UPS Ground for free if delivery is within the 48 continental United States.

Currently, systems offered include:

Note that all these prices are for a base system that does not include a monitor, keyboard, mouse, hard drive, or, in some cases, even a processor, memory, or video card. However, you can start at the bottom and build yourself a bargain Mac equipped the way you want it for very little money, relatively speaking. The BTO selections include a variety of processors including G3 and G4 units, hard drives, video cards, CD and CD-RW drives, RAM, and so on.

All systems shipped for delivery within the United States qualify for $5 Fed Ex, and orders of $250 or more may be shipped UPS Ground for free if delivery is within the 48 continental United States

For more information, visit: <>

This cheap Power Mac topic is of personal interest to me. As noted in my recent articles chronicling our unsuccessful adventures with trying to resurrect a derelict Power Mac 9500, I would like to get an inexpensive but capable backup machine to supplement my workhorse WallStreet PowerBook.

While we have now discovered sources of replacement Power Mac 9500 motherboards for about $300, buying one of those would seem to make little sense when we can get a whole brand new Umax S900 6-slot machine from Other World Computing for the same price.

For my intended purposes, I don’t really need a six-lot machine, and I could get along nicely with a Power Mac 7100 or one of the Power Computing machines from OWC for substantially less. On the other hand, I already have the video card and 180 MHz 604e processor card I got from Dan Knight for the 9500, so buying one of those new S900s plus a hard drive and some memory would put me in business nicely. Well, actually I need a monitor, too, although I am well supplied with ADB keyboards and mice.

I emailed about the cheap power Mac 6100s and 17″ monitors, but they don’t ship to Canada, and while it would be possible to ask one of my American friends to accept the shipment and then reship the stuff across the undefended border, that seems like excess hassle.

So, while I’m not sure yet what I will do, if you’re looking for a cheap computer, one of the configurations described above beats the heck out of a cheap PC.

For more, see Cheap G3 and G4 Reader Feedback.