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Power Mac G5 upgrades

Updated on March 20, 2012

The last of the PPC Macs still has the horsepower to muscle through complex computer tasks

When Apple introduced the Power Mac G5, it was the most powerful personal computer in existence. In the years since, even faster computers have appeared and Apple has abandoned the Power PC in favor of Intel processors.

While it's glory days may be over, the PowerMac G5 is still a very capable machine. If you don't require the performance of a full-tilt Mac Pro, a G5 tower is still a viable option for many tasks. This lens will look at some of the ways you can maximize the G5's productivity.

Every G5 tower needs a ram upgrade

To get the most out of a G5 system; add more ram

Old hot rodders had a saying: "The only substitute for cubic inches is more cubic inches."

That may be true for hot rods, but in the computer world...the only substitute for ram is more ram.

Make no mistake, the most important thing you can do to improve your G5 is add more ram. There is simply nothing else you can do to increase a G5's performance.

Don't assume just any ram will work, however. Different versions of the G5 utilize different ram chips, and even chips that meet the published specifications have been known to cause problems. To avoid frustration, only ram designed to meet Apple's guidelines should be used. That doesn't mean you have to buy ram from Apple -- the OEM ram chips are far more expensive than third-party ram. Just make sure you buy from a vendor who guarantees that their ram chips will work correctly in a G5.

You could pay a shop to install ram, but the task of adding ram to a G5 is quite simple. Generally, it only takes a few minutes, even if you take your time.

(All photos © Copyright 2008, Tom Bonner. All rights reserved.)

The Power Mac G5 shipped with a meager 512mb ram, barely enough to run OS X, let alone get some work done.

Time to fix that with a ram upgrade.

Open the G5 case by pulling the lever on the back of the machine. Always disconnect power and other cables before opening the case

Once you remove the aluminum side panel, you will need to remove the molded plastic cover.

NOTE: this cover is required for cooling, so don't misplace it.

The ram sockets are located behind the processor fan assembly.

The beauty of the G5 case is that no tools are required to access most of the components. To remove the fan assembly, simply grasp the handle and slide it out.

With the fans removed, you have full access to the ram sockets. Some G5 models have 8 sockets, while others have 4. This is the basic G5 512kb ram configuration, with two 256kb chips installed.

The largest ram chips the G5 Powermacs can use is 1GB. Chips MUST be installed in pairs; one in the upper bank and one in lower.

A new 1GB ram chip is inserted into a free upper bank ram slot. Openings in the chip must match solid areas in the ram slot to prevent the chip from being inserted incorrectly.

With the second chip of the upper bank removed, you can see the the new 1GB chip in place.

A closeup of one end of the ram slot shows the pivoting locking tab securing the chip in place. You don't have to push the tab in place, the tab will snap closed when the chip is pressed into its slot.

Another view of the locking mechanism shows a chip locked in place with the pivoting tab and an empty slot with the tab swung open.

Both upper slots are populated with ram chips. Remember whatever memory is inserted in the upper bank must be exactly duplicated in the lower bank.

The lower ram bank is shown with both chips in place.

All four ram sockets are populated. All that is left is to slide the fan assembly in place, replace the plastic cover and reinstall the side panel.

No more virtual-memory bottle neck. With 2.5 GB of ram, the Power Mac G5 can work the way it was intended to. Of course there is no reason to stop here; another couple of chips will boost the total to 4GB.

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    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      very informative lens, thanks

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      A few notes from a PC guy:

      1. The memory pairs on a mac are laid out differently than a PC. The inside memory slots form a pair (A2 A1 / B1 B2); a PC would be (A1 A2 / B1 B2). For example you see in pic 5 that the 2nd and 3rd slots form a pair- in a PC this would be the 1st and 3rd slots.

      2. Install memory in decreasing size (largest memory pair first). The G5 I just upgraded wouldn't recognize the memory upgrade until this was reordered.

      I found this thread helpful in troubleshooting:

    • tombonner profile image

      tombonner 9 years ago

      Hey Jacob,

      Thanks for your input. The G5 series isn't exactly the latest in Mac hardware, but I think they are amazing machines anyway. Have a great 2009. -- Tom

    • profile image

      JacobsR 9 years ago

      Nice lens about the latest macs. More people out there need to appreciate these amazing machines for what they are.