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The Final Chapter, Keeping an early iMac Current - Going Faster

by Keith Benicek, Editor (iMac/PowerBook addict)

This was an unintentional addendum to the Keeping an early iMac Current series. I really hadn’t intended to revisit the possibilities of additional improvements to yours and my “old work-horse” iMac. But a number of new products, better prices and a failed hard disk drive from Part 1 made some additional improvements viable.

If you remember in Part 1, we replaced the original Apple branded drive with a Western Digital Caviar 30 GB 5400 RPM 3.5 inch drive to get something with a larger hardware cache than the standard 256k on the Apple drive. We had searched online to find a good deal on the rapidly disappearing 5400 RPM HDD’s with larger (at the time) cache’s. Our Tech Lab manager finally found an online Western Digital dealer that had the 30 GB drive we wanted.
Unfortunately, and much to our dismay, the Western Digital Caviar 30 GB began failing in less than ONE year after installing it as new. Further insult to injury, the cheap-skates won’t replace the drive under warranty, claiming that the drive was out of warranty (while it sat in some distributors stock) even though we only bought it less than a year before our making the warranty claim! Now you might expect a “fight” when dealing with a company’s customer service; but we were asking Western Digital’s Press Relations department to help us with this! NOT a smart PR move, WD. This is a drive we bought, that we were asking to have replaced; we wonder how WD treats Joe Consumer.
 Out with the bad, in with the really good! Click on images

We decided to turn to the hard disk drive experts at Maxtor for advice on the newest generation on high cache 5400 RPM and 7200-RPM drives. Maxtor has the largest variety of standard desktop drives, high-performance drives for power-users and gamers, as well as drives for Enterprise or server use.

While a 7200-RPM HDD would certainly provide a noticeable boost in performance over a 5400-RPM drive, there is a prohibitive factor in the first four generations of iMac's (Rev A – D). Airflow to




spacerthe HDD in these models is terrible and even the CD-ROMs suffered failures because of excessive heat build-up. Later model iMac starting with the “Gem” colors eliminated some bulky electronics and the near useless fan.

I asked if any of the Maxtor 7200-RPM HDD’s operated at output temperatures near the Apple recommended 5400-RPM drives. After talking with Kristen Keller at Maxtor, we concluded that staying with a high-performance 5400-RPM drive would be much more stable in the very long term than using a 7200 RPM.

Now this isn’t to say you couldn’t use a 7200 in a Rev. A – D, but Maxtor and we wouldn’t recommend it if you leave your iMac on 24-7, as we do at the magazine. If the room your iMac is in stays cool during use and you turn your iMac on and off at the end of the day, you could take the chance for the extra performance.

Maxtor sent us their bulletproof DiamondMax 16 - 4R080L0, an 80 GB drive that has a more than sufficient 2 MB of fast cache. The 4R080L0 model is one of four “L-FDB drives” which use Maxtor’s Fluid Dynamic Bearing Motors, and that means maximum long-term performance while being ultra-quiet. The DiamondMax 16 comes in 60, 80, 120 and 160GB models. These drives are also ATA-133, which is unfortunately a lost advantage with the iMac’s ATA-33 controller.

iMac hard drives are under the CD drive. Take notes when you disassemble so you put back together the right way.

You’ll need to review Part 1 to recall how to take the cover off the iMac and remove the computer cage from the iMac’s body. It really is easier than it looks. After you have removed the computer cage from the iMac, the first thing to do is take off the CD-ROM drive, which is only held in place by two tabs underneath in the front and a spring which is beneath the CD-ROM. Observe how the spring holds the CD-ROM from sliding back too far because you’ll need to put it back the same way. Make a drawing of how the spring in installed if you’re not too mechanically inclined!


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