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cbone's picture
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Joined: 2011 Sep 17
Hard drive sizes for Macs with IDE drives

I recently read some LEM articles and one offered some confusing specs, to me at least. I know when we say hard drive, we (should) mean the physical hard drive. Then there are partition sizes. Here are the parts that confused me on one LEM Article:

Older IDE specifications made no provision for what have since come to be called “big drives” – those with over 128 GB of storage space. Big drives need 48-bit addressing, and almost all Macs built before 2002 don’t have built-in support for it.

Macs that don’t include big drive support include tray-loading iMacs, slot-loading iMacs, beige G3s, blue & white G3s, Yikes! G4s, Sawtooth (a.k.a. AGP) G4s, Digital Audio G4s, and Cubes. On the notebook side, no G3 PowerBooks or iBooks support big drives. Neither do the first Titanium PowerBook G4 models (the ones with VGA output)

I was also referred to this partition size table from 68kmla:

Maximum HFS partition sizes by OS version:
Macintosh System 1.x - 7.1.x : 2GB
Macintosh System 7.5.x : 4GB
Macintosh Mac OS 7.6.x - 8.1 : 4GB (68K without SCSI Manager 4.3)
Macintosh Mac OS 7.6.x - OSX X 10.5 : 2TB (SCSI Manager 4.3 on 68040 or later, all supported PowerPC machines)

Maximum HFS+ partition sizes by OS version:
Macintosh Mac OS 8.x - X 10.1.x : 2TB
Macintosh Mac OS X 10.2.x : 8TB
Macintosh Mac OS X 10.3.x - 10.5.2 : 16TB
Macintosh Mac OS X 10.5.3 - CURRENT : 8EB

Maximum Bootable partition size by OS version:
Macintosh Mac OS 1.x - 9.x : 200GB
Macintosh Mac OS X : Same as max partition size

My Macs of interest are a 2400c, Pismo, Performa 6360 and Beige G3 Desktop. Am I stuck with a 128gb hard drive limit on these Macs without the aid of some sort of 3rd-party hardware or software solution? Shock

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sfp1954's picture
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Joined: 2013 Dec 29

Internally. Yes.
A bigger HD in any of those machine will show up as a 128GB.

The last G4 Quicksilvers I believe supported 160GB.
But to go any bigger required the use of a Sonnet PCI IDE ATA-133 or ATA-100 card.

So you could upgrade your Beige G3 - if you can find and want to spend $100+ on a used Sonnet.
There is no software solution as the hardware can't see or address anything beyond the first 128GB.

You would have to add external storage via Firewire or USB.

cbone's picture
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Joined: 2011 Sep 17

Thank you for that nice summarized clarification: I honestly thought I was misreading the article somehow!

The key to this is the word internal. When I was quoted things like maximum partition sizes and even in my own hardware-side ignorance I definitely was not in the know: for example, I was happily looking for internal drives for my Powerbooks that exceeded their internal hard drive capacities without knowing any better. And mind you, there was a time when thinking about what was considered a larger drive when these Macs were released was a big money thing (taking into account inflation as well) whereas nowadays you can score external drives like I did: a mere 14tb for $250 shipped!

Those who needed any larger drive space back then either worked with digital video or larger-scale image editing anyway or could afford to spend someone else's monthly salary or more on digital toys, lol!

The only Macs I have with USB and Firewire connections are the Beige G3 and my Pismo, so my Powerbook 2400 can't do much more either via SCSI and my Performa 6360 I was reading came with a lower quality SCSI port on top its external hard drive limitation. I'm not sure that a PCI card to allow for bigger drives is the best use of the slot, nor is paying that much for just that component.

adespoton's picture
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Joined: 2015 Feb 15

Due to bus speeds, addressing, etc. my rule is: if it's SCSI, use a SCSI2SD -- the SD card can have as many "drives" on it as you want, and SCSI has no difficulties here, so you can get a 512GB SD card, load it with 120GB drive images, and you're off to the races -- and can hot-swap the card to a more modern machine to read/write.

For ATA+ machines, I then switch to SSD. Once again, an SSD will give you max throughput for whatever data bus you've got, and you can buy 120GB SSD for internal use -- and then plug your 14TB in externally over USB2, USB3 or USB3.1(c).

Nothing beats an SDHC card for portability and affordability, once you've got your machines kitted out with SCSI2SD.

cbone's picture
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Joined: 2011 Sep 17

And I was just using my 14TB external drive as an example, and you literally pointed out how to to incorporate it. Wow! I'm telling you, I am surrounded by some brilliant minds around here Laughing out loud

adespoton's picture
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My network server is a C2D Mini running SLS with an internal 120GB SSD and two external 5TB drives. Via the magic of MacPorts it's also running an up-to-date web service Smile

cbone's picture
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Joined: 2011 Sep 17

Cool we def. need a YT/Cornica video of that setup!!

cbone's picture
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Joined: 2011 Sep 17

Ah, I see Smile so since my Macs are all IDE, I can use a:

1. 120gb SSDs internally on all of them
2. SCSI2SDs (I assume I'd need external enclosures) + large SDHC cards for those w/external SCSI ports
. . (Beige G3 Desktop, Powerbook 2400 and Perfora 3630)
3. USB/Firewire drives for those w/USB/FW ports
. . (Beige G3 DT (w/PCI card) and the Pismo)

I wonder if both my Powerbooks could also use their PCMCIA slots to mount and boot from SD cards, and if so, would that convenience slow access to the SD drive/volumes?

sfp1954's picture
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Joined: 2013 Dec 29

Wallstreets can boot from a CF card in a PCMCIA adapter.
Lombards and Pismos cannot. At least that has been my experience.

You can still use CF cards or CF cards that can hold micro SD cards to add removable storage to the Pismo.

cbone's picture
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Joined: 2011 Sep 17

Oh wow, it's been a while, but I do recall that CF cards can boot Powerbooks! And it's really cool to think you can use a MicroSD to CF adapter. I see how the Pismo may differ in that respect being that Apple was shifting its technology when it came out.

I personally like how the Pismo is a mix of both generations, a little like the Beige G3

OpenSourceMac's picture
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Joined: 2019 Jan 21

To be clear, OS9 can still read and write to volumes up to 2TB, but the system itself must be 200GB or less.

cbone's picture
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Joined: 2011 Sep 17

Right, right Smile

So I think seeing that for SCSI drives and IDE/ATA supported with 3rd-party cards, it's recommended to keep boot volumes to no more than 190gb to avoid potential booting issues. Then larger data-only volumes to use for larger files like video disk images and files can be formatted as HFS and any to store smaller files should either be formatted smaller in size or formatted as HFS+.

I remember formatting my large multi-gigabyte drives with large volumes all as HFS instead of HFS+. Then I created a small mountable image and copy my small files into it to access all my files from any volume when I boot from my faster Mac OS 7.6.1 boot disk on my 68k and System 7-capable PPC Macs like my P6360 and PB2400.