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)



We upgraded a 450MHz Power Mac G4 purchased in 1999 to get a sense of how much of a performance boost is possible. The original 450MHz configuration featured 128MB of RAM, an ATI Rage 128 video card, a 5X DVD-ROM drive, and an Ultra ATA/66 hard drive. We upgraded the machine with a 1.5GHz G4 processor, 1GB of RAM, an ATI Radeon 9800 Pro video card, a 16X DVD burner, and a SATA card with a hard drive.


Then we ran three tests of our own devising, in addition to the Xbench test suite (, which measures all parts of a system's performance - the higher the score, the better. In our iTunes test, we imported a CD. In the folder duplication test, we copied a 1.8GB folder. In the Unreal Tournament 2004 test, we ran the Asbestos map fly-by at 640-by-480-pixel resolution on minimum settings and measured the framerate. Unsurprisingly, the new video card, processor, and RAM easily beat the original setup. In all but the folder duplication, our upgraded system blew the original's specs out of the water.



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BONUS TIP: A Smoother Leopard Installation


When it's time to install Leopard - or when you're installing any version of OS X - it's always wise to reformat the hard drive and start from scratch. Before you erase everything, save all of your files and apps to an external drive (or burn it all on optical discs).


Locate an unused external drive that's bigger than the internal original for the simplest, best way to back up. Connect a drive, preferably one that uses FireWire, and download Carbon Copy Cloner (donationware, Launch the program and choose the internal drive as the Source Disk and the external drive as the Target Disk. Click the lock icon, type your password, and click Clone. The program will copy everything over to the external drive, duplicating the structure of the original. (Anything that had been on the external drive will be erased.) Verify that the external drive contains a backup, then unmount and unplug that drive.


Insert the Leopard installation disc and restart the machine. Choose the Erase And Install option to write over everything with a fresh Leopard installation. During the process, you'll be asked if you're migrating from an old system and, if so, to connect it via FireWire. At this point, connect the external drive and follow the directions to migrate everything - user information, System Preferences, and other data - back to your Mac. (If you skip this step, you can still get to the Migration Assistant in the /Applications/Utilities folder after the initial installation.)




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