Upgrading a PowerBook G4 Hard Drive

This week’s project was upgrading the OEM hard drive in my 800Mhz Apple PowerBook G4. I did it for two reasons, mainly. One was that the stock 40GB IBM hard drive was getting a bit tight on space, and second, it’s performance left a bit to be desired when recording 8+ 24bit/44.1Khz audio files concurrently. I upgraded to a Toshiba MK6022GAX 2.5″ super-slimline drive (60GB, 5400rpm, 16MB cache) and for posterity, I recorded the steps I took to make the process as painless as possible. Read on for details…

My goal was to make it so that I would get the performance benefits of the new drive, but retain the original installation of MacOS X.2 and all of my files that were on the original IBM drive. The process:

  1. I ordered the Toshiba MK6022GAX drive and a empty 2.5″ laptop drive FireWire enclosure from Other World Computing. My plan was to temporarily install the Toshiba drive in the FireWire enclosure so that I could copy the contents of my old drive to the Toshiba. I did this so that I could verify that the data copy was flawless and that I could boot off of the Toshiba before I took the PowerBook apart.
  2. Once the Toshiba was temporarily installed in the FW enclosure, I connected it to my PowerBook and opened up Applications:Utilities:Disk Utility. Here, I partitioned the Toshiba to one slice, and gave the drive a temporary name. I then formatted it with a MacOS Extended file system.
  3. Now came the step where I would copy the contents of my old, internal IBM drive to the new, freshly partitioned and formatted Toshiba in the FW enclosure. The program I chose to do this is a donation-ware program named Carbon Copy Cloner. Using the program is fairly straight-forward. You tell it the source drive and the destination drive, and by default it will want to copy all contents of the source drive to the target. If that is not desirable, you may remove diretories from the list to be copied. Also, it is optional to have it run Repair Permissions before doing the transfer. This is always a handy thing to do and I recommend it. After making a last-minute check of the options, I activated the unlock icon and hit Copy. The total process took 101 minutes (checking permissions on and transfering about 37GB of data.)
  4. Once the copy was done, I closed CCC and opened System Preferences:Startup Disk and boom, both MacOS X and MacOS 9 images showed upon the Toshiba drive, as expected. I selected the MacOS X image and hit Restart. Now the PowerBook would boot up on the new drive which (if everything went well during the copy) would present me with an identical experience as if I booted off my old internal drive. Sure enough, it came up as expected. My apps ran, and was pleased to note that everything was much snappier. The IO Wait was greatly reduced!
  5. After a few hours of tooling around in Logic Audio and Ableton Live, I was satisfied the the copy went off without a hitch. This was the point where I would crack open the PowerBook and swap the old drive for the new one. To do this, I followed the excellent directions from the xlr8youmac.com FAQ. It seemed that all the screws I had to remove on my PowerBook to get to the old drive were the Torx T8 type. Be sure you have one of these screw drivers before you start. They can be picked up at any reputable electronics supply house (Home Depot and Lowes around where I live seemed to have sizes T10 and up only.)

  6. When I finished installing the Toshiba in the PowerBook per the above mentioned directions, I put the old IBM drive into the FW enclosure and turned the laptop on. To my sudden suprise, the PowerBook booted off of the old drive in the FW enclosure! In a second, I realized that I failed to set the Startup Disk in System Prefs back to the internal drive before I shut my PoweBook down and took it apart. No problem. I set it back to the internal drive (the new Toshiba,) rebooted again, and presto, I was up and running on the internal Toshiba, while the old IBM in the FW enclosure showed up as a regular FireWire drive in Finder. After some more testing, I formatted the old drive and am now using it for back-ups and misc. storage.

Below are some benchmarks I made using the Xbench performance measuring utility. The first one is of the IBM drive prior to the upgrade. The second set is of the new Toshiba after installation into my Powerbook:

PowerBook G4/800Mhz with original IBM drive:

Results	24.16

System Info
    Xbench Version        1.1
    System Version        10.2.6
    Physical RAM            1024 MB
    Model                       PowerBook3,4
    Processor                 PowerPC G4 @ 800 MHz
              Version                 7455 (Apollo) v2.1
              L1 Cache               32K (instruction), 32K (data)
              L2 Cache               256K @ 667 MHz
              L3 Cache               1024K @ 167 MHz
              Bus Frequency       134 MHz
    Video Card        ATY,RageM7
    Drive Type        IBM-IC25N040ATCS04-0

Disk Test     24.16
              Sequential     28.63
                     Uncached Write  24.48  9.74 MB/sec [4K blocks]
                     Uncached Write  23.87  9.32 MB/sec [256K blocks]
                     Uncached Read  60.25  9.54 MB/sec [4K blocks]
                     Uncached Read  24.78  10.01 MB/sec [256K blocks]
              Random        20.90
                     Uncached Write  14.39  0.21 MB/sec [4K blocks]
                     Uncached Write  18.96  4.28 MB/sec [256K blocks]
                     Uncached Read  30.22  0.20 MB/sec [4K blocks]
                     Uncached Read  27.72  5.71 MB/sec [256K blocks]

PowerBook G4/800Mhz with new Toshiba MK6022GAX drive:

Results	57.46

System Info
    Xbench Version         1.1
    System Version         10.2.6
    Physical RAM            1024 MB
    Model                       PowerBook3,4
    Processor                 PowerPC G4 @ 800 MHz
              Version                 7455 (Apollo) v2.1
              L1 Cache               32K (instruction), 32K (data)
              L2 Cache               256K @ 667 MHz
              L3 Cache               1024K @ 167 MHz
              Bus Frequency       134 MHz
    Video Card               ATY,RageM7
    Drive Type               TOSHIBA MK6022GAX

Disk Test     57.46
              Sequential      59.49
                     Uncached Write  63.98  25.47 MB/sec [4K blocks]
                     Uncached Write  60.52  23.62 MB/sec [256K blocks]
                     Uncached Read  56.26  8.91 MB/sec [4K blocks]
                     Uncached Read  57.78  23.35 MB/sec [256K blocks]
              Random         55.57
                     Uncached Write  49.28  0.70 MB/sec [4K blocks]
                     Uncached Write  54.10  12.20 MB/sec [256K blocks]
                     Uncached Read  60.76  0.40 MB/sec [4K blocks]
                     Uncached Read  59.70  12.29 MB/sec [256K blocks]