PCI and Cardbus drive controllers

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The second generation PowerMac series, between the Nubus PowerMacs and the G3s, continue the earlier Apple practice of supporting only SCSI hard drives on the motherboard. The exceptions are such models as the Performa/PowerMac 5400, 5500, 6360 and so on, which allow a single IDE hard drive, but still require a SCSI optical drive.

This presents a problem when replacing old, small or failed SCSI drives. Unlike the workarounds required for 68k Macs and Nubus PowerMacs, the problem is easily overcome by using a PCI drive controller.

Even later models may have restricted support for modern hard drives, such as limits on the size or speed of ATA drives. The user may also wish to support other drive formats, or create a hardware (card-driven) RAID.

PowerBooks can be expanded to use faster or more modern drives externally by adding a Cardbus (32 bit) or PC Card (16 bit) drive controller. Note that Cardbus support is only available on the 2400/3400 and later; earlier Powerbooks have PC Card (aka PCMCIA) slots only. As PCI and Cardbus share a similar architecture they are included together on this page. PCMCIA (16 bit) drive controllers will be covered elsewhere.

PCI and Cardbus drive controllers support a variety of drive formats, from IDE/ATA, to ATAPI, SCSI (on HD50 and 68 pin connectors), SATA (including eSATA), Firewire, and USB. There are also simple drive converters from Cardbus and PC Card to Compact Flash, which allow the Powerbook to mount a CF, SSD or Microdrive. (See Flash Drive Test Results)

Support in OS 9 is variable; for example, USB cards are restricted to USB 1.1 speeds (12Mbit/s). Firewire, SATA or ATA are much faster options if available. In addition, as per usual with Mac expansion cards, it is necessary to ensure Mac and operating system (Mac OS 9/OS X) compatibility before purchase.

Further information on types of cards, and specific cards, will be added below. In the meantime, search the 68kMLA forums for more advice.