RIP PowerMac G5

So it seems my much beloved PowerMac G5 is well and truly b0rked. It’d been behaving *very* badly for the past few months – from general flakiness like graphical corruption in the Time Machine interface, and the iTunes library getting corrupted every couple of days (requiring a restore from the Time Machine backup) through Safari and Mail crashing on launch all the way to kernel panics and random freezes. I’d kinda written this all off as symptoms of having done in-place upgrades from Panther to Tiger to Leopard, but after I returned from India, I found that the lockups were far more frequent than before. In fact, I could get LightRoom 2.0 to reliably lock the machine up just trying to browse the photos I’d brought back from India. In an attempt to narrow down the problem (the machine vs. the photos) I put LR2 on my MacBook and loaded the photos onto that machine … and no problem at all. Works a treat (and *fast* ; the G5 has *nothing* on the Core 2 Duo).

So I tried a clean install with a restore of the user data and applications from backup. No good. Still the same problems. Then I tried a clean install with just the user data restored. Again, no good. Finally a clean install. Guess what? Yeah, still no good.

I really need my computer, so I just shut the big bastard down and moved my daily computing to my MacBook. I love this little machine – it’s ever so fast, and thanks to the SSD, it’s ever so quiet. Still, I miss my 30” main screen and 24” secondary screen, so I decided to try and get the G5 up to shape today.

About a year ago, I bought 4G of RAM from Crucial and jacked it in alongside the 1G that came with the machine. At the time, it was a *huge* performance boost, but (perhaps faulty) memory seemed to think the stability issues arose with the installation of that memory. At the time, it wasn’t a big deal – the machine crashed once in a blue moon, but I didn’t remember it ever crashing before the extra RAM was installed. So I pulled it.

And the machine wouldn’t boot. At all.

So I pulled the original 1G and installed the 4G from Crucial.

And the machine wouldn’t boot.

So I replaced the original 1G and put the 4G from Crucial back in.

And the machine … booted? WTF?

But it was just as flaky as ever. Worse, when I looked at the system status, it said I have 4G installed. I double checked the memory and it’s all seated correctly. Either some of the memory is bad, or the memory slots are. Since this is a G5, the memory has to be installed in matched pairs – and the memory is slotted in as 512k/1G/1G in the primary and secondary banks. Since I’m seeing 4G installed, and the memory can’t be unbalanced, I can only conclude that the Apple-installed 1G is the culprit. But the machine won’t boot with the Crucial memory in the first slot, or without the Crucial memory installed. :/

I no longer know what to do, and I’m pretty much resigned to the fact that the machine isn’t usable any longer. My poor G5 served me well, but it’s time to move on.

The only thing is, a new MacPro is gonna run me another small fortune, and I don’t have one handy. At least not one that I’m willing to part with. The Mini isn’t up to snuff for what I want (it’s slower than my MacBook!), and the iMac is full of stuff I don’t need – I already have 2 giant screens. I wish Apple made a mid-range machine – a Mini that had the innards of an iMac, maybe in a small tower instead of the tiny brick, so it could have extra drives slotted in.

2 thoughts on “RIP PowerMac G5

  1. Have you tried running the Apple Hardware Test from one of the original install disks that came with the G5? Shut down the computer, restart, and hold down the D key before the grey screen appears. I’d give the longer test and go to see what it comes up with. You may find the culprit to your problems. It also may be that the machine has given out it’s magic smoke and it is indeed time to move on. I have a June 2004 dual 1.8Ghz PowerMac G5 that has served me well for a year and a half. It’s a bit slow for video rendering projects but still makes for a great server of all types for the house and general web browsing machine. I also have a mid 2008 MacBook Pro that I use for all of my heavy lifting and offsite backup with Backblaze. Unfortunately Backblaze does not support PPC machines and I have to have my iPhoto library on an external hard drive attached to my MBP. One of these days I will get a Mac Pro that will replace the G5 and will be the computer that has all my files on it with the Drobo attached to it. Like you I need to come up with a small fortune to make that happen. Keep us updated on the status of the machine.

  2. Thanks Brent, I’ll give that a shot. I thought the Apple Hardware Test only came with Intel Macs, but I’ll go digging for my original install discs to make sure.

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