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)

BUSSES: Make New Connections


Modern Macs since 2003 - the iBook G4, PowerBook G4, Power Mac G5, and iMac G4 - all feature USB 2.0 connections, but beginning at the same time with the PowerBook and Power Mac, only "pro" systems include FireWire 800. USB 2.0 is a crucial upgrade over the original USB because of its improved speed. You'll easily notice the difference when connecting iPods, USB 2.0 hard drives, and other peripherals.


FireWire 800 boosts the speed of FireWire 400 (the original), but it's much less common than the original or USB 2.0. FireWire 800 is most often used for large hard drives, so you may not need to add this port. But if you need to add both, consider a card that combines USB 2.0 and FireWire 800 to save a slot - PCI, CardBus, or ExpressCard depending on the machine.


Consider adding other connections (aka buses), like 1000Base-T Ethernet - aka Gigabit Ethernet, which has been standard on Power Macs since mid-2000 - for high-speed local networking, or eSATA for external SATA hard drives. These upgrades don't offer as wide a range of connectivity as USB 2.0, but if you work with huge files on your Mac or over a local network, they can boost your Mac's performance.


TO INSTALL On tower Macs, your process will differ slightly if your computer uses PCI, PCI-X, or PCI Express. Be sure to consult your manual or Mactracker to see which kind of upgrade card to use - these slots and cards are generally incompatible. Some Macs, mostly G5s and the Mac Pro, also have slots that operate at different speeds. Depending on the upgrade, you may see a marginal performance boost with the highest-speed slot; consult the manual for specifics. If you're installing a card into a new slot, remove the PCI slot cover and insert the card straight in, with the front and back ends even. Apply firm pressure, and the card will drop into place in a single movement.


On PowerBooks, just slide the upgrade into the CardBus or ExpressCard slot. Be sure to get a CardBus card if you're upgrading an older Mac, because the ExpressCard slots in MacBook Pros use a different connection.


> WHO'S IT FOR? Everyone who wants the latest connections
> PRIORITY: Medium
> OPTIONS: Sonnet Allegro USB 2.0 ($29.95), Sonnet Tempo Serial ATA ($79.95), Belkin USB 2.0 Hi-Speed 3-Port PCI Card ($39.99), Belkin USB BusPort Mobile ($69.99)
> SUPPORTED MACS: Towers, PowerBooks


Adding USB 2.0 lets you step up to more modern peripherals.






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