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Adding ATA drives to old blue G3 Macs

There are thousands of blue G3 Mac owners out there. If you are thinking of putting another ATA drive in your machine you need to be aware of the following:

All Blue G3s have two different IDE busses – one that supports ATA/33 devices, and one that supports only regular IDE devices (i.e. it will not operate at the higher rate of data transfer that ATA/33 allows for). According to Apple, first-run Blue G3s were built with ATA busses that do not support slave devices. In other words, the ATA buss can only recognize one device, instead of two as you would normally expect. This represents a potential hardware issue in the first-run G3s that can’t be corrected without replacing the entire motherboard (hence the introduction of the second-run Blue G3s). Because the ATA buss will not recognize a slave device on a first-run Blue G3, this means that only one ATA/33 hard drive can effectively be used in these Macs, even if you replace a device on the slower IDE buss (most likely a CD-ROM or Zip Drive) with an ATA/33 drive. Therefore, Sweetwater does not recommend installing an additional ATA/33 (or higher) drive in a first-run Blue G3 – the slow rate of data transfer on a regular IDE buss is simply not sufficient for use in most of today’s digital audio applications. It would be preferable to use a SCSI hard drive in this case. Furthermore, because all Blue G3s were built with ATA/33 busses an ATA/66 drive installed in any Blue G3 will still only run at the slower ATA/33 rate.

How to tell if you have a first-run Blue G3

The only sure way to tell if you have a first-run Blue G3 involves opening the machine and looking inside, which is quite easy.

  1. Just pop the latch and open it up. The side will fold down to reveal all of the insides. You don’t even have to turn the computer off as long as you don’t touch anything on the inside.
  2. If your system hard drive is mounted in a ‘U-Bracket’ that would allow for another drive to be mounted on top of it, then you DO NOT have a first-run Blue G3. Yours is second-run, which means you can add a second device to the bus. There’s a great picture of what the ‘U-Bracket’ looks like at the Apple Support center. If you have a first-run Blue G3, there won’t even be enough vertical space to add another drive on top of the existing system drive. If this is the case with your machine then you should investigate SCSI or firewire for any additional drives.

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