View Full Version : Speed up a G4 MDD Dual 1.25?

11-17-2008, 09:56 AM

A friend of mine still works with her G4 MDD.
It's a Dual 1.25 Ghz with 2 GB of RAM (it's the G4 maximum).

She complains that's it's really slow, espacially in Quark.
She uses Quark 7.5, PS CS3 and Illustrator CS3. OS X.4.11

I guess I can speed up her G4 by changing hard drives.
I've read/done all the Photoshop/moving users tips I found this forum, but it didn't make a big difference.

This is her configuration
ATA Primary Master: Seagate 7200.10 320 GB ATA100 16MB cache
One partition: OS and Applications

ATA Primary Slave: Maxtor Diamond10 250 GB ATA133 16MB cache
Two partitions:
----- first: Users folders
----- second: Work data

ATA Secondary Master: Seagate 7200.10 80 GB ATA100 2MB cache
One partition: illustrator/photoshop scratch disk

She doesn't have the money to change to a macPro yet. Budget could around $800-$900.

I know it's lots of money on an old computer like this one, but I think SATA hard drives can be reuse with a MacPro for later upgrade.

Does anyone have any tip for a configuration with new drives. Something like RAID-0 raptors with a good hardware RAID controller. Or another solution with eSata enclosure.
I can give her a 74 GB raptor I don't use anymore.

11-17-2008, 12:50 PM
No need for a hardware RAID controller for RAID0. RAID0 is so low overhead that a hardware RAID controller will cost a bunch and accomplish very little for that cost. Definition of a hardware RAID controller is one that has its own CPU and RAM for processing the overhead for the RAID. Unnecessary and expensive for a RAID0.

I don't think you are going to significantly improve things just aiming at a scratch RAID. At this point, having the data on the slave connected to the same channel as the Master OS drive means that is the biggest speed loss. The way ATA works is that EITHER the Master or the Slave is accessed, not both. When you have applications and OS and data on the Master and Slave sharing one ATA channel they alternate access. No gain at all.

I would first off swap the Local drive with the scratch drive. That way the scratch shares the channel with the OS and the Local drive is totally independent.

Yes, you can install a SATA host card and put a couple internal SATA drives for a couple more independent drives. ANd yes, that will gain you some speed. I would probably do that, use the Sonnet 2 port internal PCI card for a couple SATA drives that sit in the places where Slave drives normally sit. Keep a couple ATA drives in the Master positions.

Which drives you use for which task is pretty subjective... not sure how I would distribute things.... probably one ATA for scratch, one ATA for OS and 2 SATA for data.


11-18-2008, 09:28 AM
Thank you for your tips.

I don't see Firmtek sata cards anymore on your website? I compared Sonnet PCI sata card and FirmTek SeriTek 1s2, and the Firmtek was really better in writing performance (I tested both cards on G4 AGP 400).

I spoke about a hardware RAID controller in order to boot from the raid array. I think, Mac OsX can't boot on the softRaid array? Am I wrong?

I thought I could create a RAID-0 startup disk with 2 SATA hard drives (Raptors or Seagate 7200.11???). I do know, it's dangerous to loose everything but a Tiger TimeMachine equivalent would be here to help in case. I could use RAID-0 with 2 SATA hard drives (Raptors or Seagate 7200.11). I could use ATA for local users and one ATA for scratch disk.
I'm wondering if the PSU can handle 6 hard drives. There are 6 molex plugs. 2 for optical drives and 4 for hard drives. I will have to use an Y power cable or I could use the DVD as an external one.

She would have to buy a 4 SATA port PCI card + 4 Sata hard drives. For a small budget, I guess Seagate drives are better quality/price aren't they. She will be able to isntall these drives in her next computer when she have the budget for it.

Will she get a noticable performance boost with this scenario?

11-18-2008, 10:55 AM
Last question, even if you said RAID-0 is not CPU consuming. Can the G4 handle two RAID without any loss of performance?

11-18-2008, 12:46 PM
I would never boot from a RAID. And I can't think of a single hardware RAID card that is really hardware RAID that would cost less than $400 to $800 dollars. Total waste of money to spend that kind of dough on a hardware RAID card instead of a newer computer. Most of the simple cheap RAID cards are firmware RAID cards and they have the exact same amount of system overhead as software RAID. I would always rather have software RAID over firmware RAID - since a software RAID is created by the system and stored on the drives, it is easier to keep working. If you break a RAID card then the RAID built by that card is broken. Not nearly as safe and OS updates have been known to break firmware RAID cards. Hardware RAID cards as well, for that matter. Have to be really careful when updating the OS when you have RAIDs online.

My issues with booting from a RAID, is first, it is asking for trouble. Cannot tell you the number of times we see problems where the user can't boot because they damaged the RAID. The added complexity increases risks of system problems enormously.

Second, RAID0 will boost performance on large file transfers, it does really poorly on lots of small accesses. This means her RAID will help the computer boot faster but she will not realize any performance gains in operation of photoshop from it. Operating systems and applications make tons of small accesses that water down any possible performance increases you might get from booting off a RAID0. Best to target RAIDs towards data types that benefit the most from it. The only data types in her usage that appear to benefit would be either the data files or the scratch disk. I would put them in that order or preference. First accelerate the data, then, if needed, accelerate the scratch disk with RAID.

The Firmtek 4 port SATA card is a SATAI card with Intel chipset. We don't carry it because it won't work with most current SATAII drives. Main reason we stopped selling Firmtek though was they stopped answering our customer's requests for support.

The reason I recommended booting from the ATA drive was so you get around trying to find a bootable SATA card for a G4 (which carries its own risks down the road with compatibility). You might look at Siig, they had a 4 port card that works great - although last I looked they were discontinuing it. I can recommend the Sonnet 2 port card as it does work and gets good support.

You would not catch me putting more than 4 drives inside a MDD G4. I would be hard pressed to put 4 without improving the cooling. We might get Kaye to weigh in on that though as he has tried most everything on his. I like using the Burly eSATA since we can control both power and temperature supplied to the drives. The Burly has no peers when it comes to drive longevity. You pile a lot of drives inside a G4 and you are guaranteed to increase dramatically the chances of failing drives and other components due to increased heat and load on the power supply.


11-18-2008, 01:30 PM
is the Burly eSata faster than internal drives ?

I guess she'd rather buy a mac mini and forget upgrading her G4.

Thank you for your useful advice.

11-18-2008, 01:55 PM
The Intel Minis are quite speedy for the price regarding CPU. But.....

The internal 2.5" (laptop) drive, and the lack of ability to add eSATA are the biggest drawbacks, not to mention the RAM limitation of only 2GB.

If it were me, I would hold out for the next hardware bump (http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/08/11/05/apple_tells_mac_mini_fan_to_hang_in_there.html). Should Apple bump the IMac and Mini over the next couple months to have a similar spec as the current MacBook.....either would be a huge bump. Any chance she can make due for a while longer?

If you go with an external storage box now, if it had both eSATA and perhaps FW 800, you would have most of your bases covered for future hardware. Assuming Apple does not remove FW iMacs and Minis.... If they would just give us an eSATA and a FW port on every desktop, life would be simple.

To reiterate what Rick said: whatever you do, be sure that the MDD has only one drive per channel (two drives, one in each drive tray) for best performance. Better for cooling too.

11-18-2008, 02:39 PM
The Burly eSata should the best solution for her as she will be able to use it with her next computer.
It can be use as a mirror RAID so it can be her backup as well. I guess she could take mirror drives out of home like her current backup when she leaves for a while.

The price will be little bit expansive for our poor Canadian dollar
2 GB Enclosure
+ Host eSata card
+ shipping
+ customs fees

I'm gonna speak with her to see what she wants to do.

11-18-2008, 03:56 PM
One word of caution: RAID1 Mirroring is never to be considered a backup.

Worth repeating over and over. Mirrors do not constitute a safe backup. Problem with a mirror is its instantness. Whatever happens to the main data drive is instantly duplicated to the mirror.

All a mirror gives you is very limited protection from a drive failure. Drive failures are the least likely cause of data loss. Human error is much more common: "oops, I erased it!". Software installers that corrupt the drive index, and worse yet, corruption of the RAID itself. Much more common ways to lose data.

A backup should be of identical size and maintained by virtue of a backup application. We use SyncronizeProX, but other apps are available for backing up.

If you haven't read it, the Guide to building a Photo Database (http://www.macgurus.com/productpages/guides/PhotoStorage.php) is useful for getting started on a safe storage system.


11-19-2008, 09:53 AM
Rick sez:

I would be hard pressed to put 4 without improving the cooling. We might get Kaye to weigh in on that though as he has tried most everything on his.
My GigaMDD was originally an MDD G4 dual 1.25GHz, now with the Giga a G4 dual 1.42GHz. A photo of the internal setup:
Rick is absolutely correct, it takes serious cooling and a strategy for not dragging the system bus down. Two SeriTek/1S2 cards does not work well at all and will slow the bus down to a point well below what one SeriTek/1S2 would yield in thruput.

I use both the ATA66 bus for one drive in the ATA66 horizontal cage on the left in the photo and one drive in the ATA100 vertical cage on the right. Then I use an Acard 6885M four channel card with the yellow PATA cables utilizing 2 of the channels, one going to a drive in the ATA66 cage and one going to the ATA100 cage. That way I never have to deal with the PATA slowdown associated with Master and Slave slowdown where you are only able to access one drive at a time. Everything on my setup is Master. I also have a SeriTek/1VE4 where I can create an external RAID0 for Photoshop work. I found that a two drive RAID0 worked best.

Cooling, several things to note, the Giga has a much smaller copper cooler than the huge aluminum cooler of the original 1.25GHz. That helps with airflow from left to right where I also have an external fan that sucks air from left to right. Things that would normally heat the box up:
1. I have the original 400W PS
2. 4 drives
3. 2GB RAM
4. Numerous PCI cards
5. Last but by no means least the graphics card, pulls about 75W on its own

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask. k

11-19-2008, 10:11 AM
First of all, I have to say this website name suits it well "MacGuru". You are Gurus indeed.

She uses Déjà Vu as backup utility. But I don't like the way it does its archives. It compares what has been changed or deleted between Backup Folder and Data Folder, it copies changed/deleted data to a "Safety Archives" folder, then it does a fresh backup. It's very long (backup drive is on USB2). I would prefer it to keep backup sets for x amount of days.

This is my plan:

Buy an eSata PM enclosure 4-bay.
Buy an eSata 4ports Host card
Buy 3 hard drives (Seagate 7200.11 500 GB)
Buy 1 hard drive (Seagate 7200.11 1 TB)

Primary Master ATA channel:
Her Seagate 7200.10 320 GB
---- one partition : OS

Secondary Master ATA channel
Her WD 250 GB
---- one partition : Users & Applications.
(Do I have to reinstall her applications to the new location or it will work right out of the box by moving them from Root application folder)

3 Seagate 7200.11 RAID0 (1.5 TB)
---- one partition : Work data (Photoshop,Quark,Illustrator)

1 Seagate 7200.11 1 TB
---- two partitions
-------- 1st : scratch disk (100 GB)
-------- 2nd : Backup for her data (900 GB). Backup partition is smaller than her data partition. But she only uses 300 GB of space for a data so it will be enough.

OS and Users Partition will be backup on the USB drive.

Is this plan seems to be correct to increase her performance?
She has an Leopard DVD installer but she hasn't installed it yet.
Should she stays with Tiger or not?

11-19-2008, 10:23 AM
Kaye, it looks very nice!

Actually, external drives in an eSATA enclosure seem to be the best solution for my friend.
But I'm curious, where does your external fan take its power?

11-19-2008, 11:57 AM
Good setup.

Absolute best choice: Burly 4 Bay Kit (http://www.macgurus.com/productpages/sata/satakits.php) (build it yourself and save a few) and a Sonnet Tempo X4P (http://www.macgurus.com/productpages/sata/Tempo-X4P.php) host card. That is the only 4 port eSATA card that works right in a PCI Mac. None of the others are even in the running. Most of them don't work at all.

The Burly in the long run is a great choice since it can be updated or modified to change its connection type. For instance, a kit, which has 4 individual external SATA cables, is great for highest possible individual speeds and the lowest cost per drive. But later on it can be converted to a Port Multiplier enclosure just by getting a PM board upgrade kit. Long term it is the safest storage made and least likely to be tossed out component you can get for her.


Hey Kaye, that sure is a fancy looking fan... off a 747?

11-19-2008, 03:08 PM
That 747 fan gets its power from a black-red-blue 3-wire connector. I had to cut a bit of the G5 back grill to feed it through where it connects just to the left of the ATA cable and then two wires (to get full fan speed) go to a molex 4-pin connector way in the rear right corner under the vertical drive cage. Everything about my GigaMDD is noisy but cool. k

11-20-2008, 07:56 AM
Is there one of PCI slots in the G4 which is better than others?

kaye: thx for the tip. Do you know what is the temperature inside your G4 ? (idle and full charge)

ricks: I was looking at the seritek/2se4. Thank you for setting me back on the right path.
My Seritek 1S2 did perform better than the Sonnet equivalent product in my old G4. That's why I was interested in the Firmtek product. Once more, you are right:
"Some customers have reported compatibility issues when using the SeriTek/2SE4 with PowerMac G4 800MHz and 1.25GHz models." ... source: Firmtek website (http://www.firmtek.com/seritek/seritek-2se4/spec/)

The X4P is pretty expansive.

11-20-2008, 09:42 AM
I believe the card you are thinking about uses same chipset and board design as the Lycom board we sell for $90. It will not work correctly in any PCI Mac, period. The chipset has issues, doesn't matter who you get it from. In fact I believe Firmtek is buying that card from Lycom and putting their own firmware on it.

Hence, once again, I will state unequivocally that the Sonnet is the only 4 port eSATA card that works correctly in the G4. At least to my knowledge, and this is about all I do is test and look at compatibility and chipsets for storage. I don't look at Firmtek cards any longer, so they may have something I haven't seen or tried. But the statements are to the best of my knowledge.


11-20-2008, 10:04 AM
rick: I will follow your advice! I will make her buy the sonnet host card.

What about my other question? Should she stays with Tiger or should she upgrade to Leopard?

11-20-2008, 11:28 AM
She has a minimum machine for Leopard. Might be a waste of money unless there are features that she needs. Leopard takes more processor and RAM to run - in reality that is wasted overhead unless she has a direct benefits.


12-04-2008, 08:35 AM
Hi there..
Ricks, I(she) followed your advice and I made her buy the sonnet card + an eSata enclosure.

Like I said in another thread (http://www.macgurus.com/forums/showpost.php?p=118086&postcount=10), Read & Write performance are awesome.

I made 3 tests with QuickBench. (Custom test 1000 MB, 20 Transfers count, 3 cycles)
Average Write : 190 MB/s
Average Read : 215 MB/s

I want to change the plan a little bit for the RAID
I'd like to create 3 partitions on the RAID (I have to find out how I can do it. It seems to be impossible with DU in Tiger. SoftRaid seems to be the solution).

First partition 100 GB:
Photoshop Scratch Disk. I read somewhere I should use 64K or 128K block size for it because she works with big files. On average, her PSD files weigh 500MB and the scratch size of these files is between 2 GB and 10 GB. So should I change the block size for this partition? Actually SoftRaid presets Block size to 64K for workstation partitions and 128K for Digital video and audio partitions.

Second partition 400 GB:
Data for current projects

Second partition 1 To:

So, is it a good idea? Will this improve performance a little bit more again?

12-04-2008, 09:03 AM
If there is a rule it would be:

THOU shalt never make a partition on an active drive for scratch.

The slowest thing on a computer is the heads on a drive. It is the mechanical part of the computer. If you partition a drive or RAID and use one partition for data and one for scratch then the heads are going to be moving all the time, constantly. You will bring into constant play the slowest part of the computer.


12-04-2008, 09:11 AM
Ok I will keep my first plan. What about the block size? Should I increase it for scratch disk?

12-04-2008, 10:17 AM
Leave block size alone. Changing it will always slow the RAID down.


12-06-2008, 05:37 PM
even if I am almost sure of the answer, which is the best way to organize her data:
Put the scratch disk on the RAID and her work files on the 1TB drive or do the opposite.
I guess 1st solution is the best one! I just want to confirm.

12-08-2008, 07:53 AM
I changed everything on her mac this week end.

This is what I did.
Primary master : Seagate 320 7200.10 (ATA)

Secondary master : Maxtor Diamond10 250 GB
----Users & Applications

Enclosure 4 bays:
First 3 bays, RAID-0 with 3 Seagate 7200.11 500 GB.

----First partition: scratch disk 100 GB
----Second partition: 1.3 TB backup partition (it's the third partition for backup, so it's not so scary to use it on a RAID-0).

Last bay, 1 Seagate 7200.11 1 TB
----First partition: work files 400 GB
----Second partition: Archives 600 GB

Actually, there is almost no improvements. Applications take the same time to load (expect office which is really faster as before). Photoshop takes the same time to open and save a file. Apply filters takes the same time as well.

There is something strange which happens. According to QuickBench (Test 20-100 MB). The read and write performance are awesome (215/190) and the Seagate 1TB performance is pretty good as well (110/105).
Seagate 7200.10 320 : (90/75)
Maxtor DM10 : (70/65)

These some tests I made (each has been made 3 times). I used a 800MB file!

Copy from RAID-0 to RAID-0 : 8 seconds (100MB/s)
Copy from RAID-0 to 1TB : 12 seconds (66MB/s)
Copy from 1TB to RAID-0 : 14 seconds (57MB/s)
Copy from RAID-0 to Startup disk: 14 seconds (57MB/s)
Copy from 1TB to RAID-0 : 14 seconds (57MB/s)
Copy from RAID-0 to Maxtor: 20 seconds (40MB/s)
Copy from Maxtor to RAID-0 : 20 seconds (40MB/s)

I made a backup with Synchronize X pro from Archives partition (located on 1 TB drive) to Backup partition (RAID-0), it took 2h01 for 420 GB which is similar to the test I made. Around 59MB/s

The performance are not as awesome as QuickBench says. Is there anything I did wrong?

12-09-2008, 10:39 AM
Can it be a limitation of the G4 PCI bus?

Any help would be very appreciated! I made my friend spend $1000 (CAD), but she hasn't seen no improvement yet!

12-09-2008, 11:41 AM
Nothing you changed will speed up booting, opening and saving files or launching applications. Well, maybe a little bit as you spread the load out to 2 drives.

You need to look at the flow though.

* During booting she is loading off a single older drive that is capable of 60ish MB/sec.

* Then, when loading an application the system is accessing that data from a single older Diamond Max drive, maybe 55-60 MB/sec.

* Then, when opening a picture file the only drive that is working is one new Seagate drive. This is a bit faster than the old setup just because it is a faster new drive.

The place where you sped her up is in scratch space because you put that on a RAID0 that is significantly faster. So far, on the list above during boot, launch and photo load, that fast RAID0 has done absolutely nothing. Hasn't even been accessed yet..

It really depends on how a user works in Photoshop, or other applications, for us to decide where the most effectiveness is gotten for accelerating scratch or accelerating the data files. My take on Photoshop acceleration is two simple paths:

1) If a user spends all their time opening lots of different files and sorting them, with minor editing on lots of different photos, then putting the DATA on accelerated RAID volume give the best pay off.

2) Or, if like me, the user spends all their time working on just a couple really big photo files - doing major editing on them, then accelerating the scratch space is the best way to speed things up.

From what you targeted you gave her a simpler system that will OPERATE faster during editing of large files - system #2 above. Nothing that you did will boot, launch applications or open files in any hugely significant faster fashion.

I typically put Photoshop acceleration methods in this order of importance:

1) Separate the OS from the data. (not moving users as that is not a big acceleration technique for Photos, it is mostly for security and ease of backups)

2) Accelerate the DATA drive with a RAID.

3) Give scratch its own drive - hopefully a fast one.

4) Accelerate scratch with a RAID.

No one can know the exact right path to accelerating someone else's system for their way of using it. We can guess, but without knowing how they operate their computer there is no way to know the best route. How big are the files? How many files per day? What activities are done in editing or sorting those files? Is printing a big portion of the day? Burning CDs or DVDs? Scanning? Conversions from RAW?

The list of variables is almost unlimited. All we can do is limit the number of suggestions so get a reasonably easy to apply and use acceleration.


12-09-2008, 12:56 PM
I understand all of that, but why copying files from RAID-0 to the new seagate is so slow (vice versa)? It should be faster as before, shouldn't it?

Moreover, it takes the same times to open and save her PSD files even if the new Seagate is faster than the old maxtor.

She works on big files for editing.

12-09-2008, 02:16 PM
Copy from RAID to single drive will go at speed of the single drive.

Her performance increase will come almost entirely in operation of things like filters, layers and other RAM intensive processes where the data gets swapped out to disk a lot. That is the main performance increase, everything else will be incremental improvements.

Heck, maybe the setup that resolves this is put the data on the RAID and use the Seagate .11 for scratch. It is what I would have set up.