Fire Your Mac Up! 9 Essential Mac Upgrades (Plus More Power Tips)

Zack Stern's picture

Fire Your Mac Up! 9 Essential Mac Upgrades (Plus More Power Tips)

There's plenty of latent power lurking inside your older Mac - light it up!


Despite a shipping delay until October, Mac OS 10.5 - aka Leopard - will be here before you know it. Is your Mac ready? If you've got an older model, say a Power Mac G4 or a G4 iMac, you might not think so. But rather than invest in a brand-new Mac just to take advantage of Leopard's new features - like Time Machine file restoration and customizable Spaces user environments - consider upgrading your existing machine. Upgrades will be a lot cheaper than a new system, even with the $100-plus cost of stepping up to Leopard.


We don't yet know Leopard's official requirements, but history can guide us. Mac OS 10.4 (aka Tiger), for example, can run on even a low-end G3. Our educated guess is that you'll get the most out of Leopard with no less than a G4/800 stocked with plenty of RAM. And Apple's newest cat will purr a lot louder if you've got modern connections like USB 2.0, FireWire 800, and SATA (Serial ATA, a current internal hard-drive interface), not to mention a bigger hard drive, a double-layer DVD burner, and additional memory. In a few cases, you might even be able to upgrade your Mac's processor.


We'll show you how and what to upgrade on your older Mac. When we say "older," we mean it: as "ancient" as the first G4 tower (which came out in 1999) or PowerBooks, iBooks, and iMacs that started shipping in late 2002.




Before you make any plans to upgrade your Mac, you need to get to know your machine. Apple may not be creative in its Mac product names - there were about nine different Sawtooth Power Mac G4 systems, for example - but a veritable lexicon of code names and identifiers can isolate a specific machine. From the Apple menu, choose About This Mac to be reminded of your Mac's processor type and speed. Click More Info for specific specs about a system. Visit for other information that isn't included in the system profile - like how many hard drive bays your system has, upgrade options, and its unique code name. In addition, the freeware app Mactracker ( has key specs on every Mac ever made.


With their vertical form factor and easily opened door panels, Apple's desktop machines are the most upgradeable Macs. Intel and G5 Macs from the past few years may not need any of the connection upgrades, but they can always benefit from a RAM, video card, or storage boost. Processor upgrade options are narrow, with slower G4s seeing the most improvement.


Upgradeability: High
PCI slots. AGP slot depending on machine. Several RAM slots. Room for extra hard drives.
Processor upgrade not possible or of limited value for most machines.







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