The Power Mac G5 may be aimed at high-end video and graphics professionals, but Apple seems to have forgotten that these folks chomp through storage like participants in a pie-eating contest. The computer case holds only two internal hard drives, for a maximum of 500GB.
The G5Jam, from WiebeTech, squeezes two more drives into the G5 case, for a total of four hard drives, or as much as 1 terabyte (1TB) of storage. It replaces the internal side panel of the Power Mac G5 with a mirrored metal plate, which holds the drives in the end of the PCI card space. One slot is still available for a full-length PCI card; the other three slots can hold only shorter cards, such as the included graphics card. The new side plate not only holds the drives, but also dissipates heat better than the plastic plate it replaces. You can purchase the G5Jam in several configurations ranging from just board and cables to all four drives. We looked at the basic board-and-cables model, to which you can add Serial ATA drives as needed.
Because Apple didn’t plan for the extra drives, the Power Mac G5 doesn’t have built-in internal ports or cabling to provide power. WiebeTech includes a power cable that runs from the G5 case’s built-in power port and splits the power three ways.
We saw good performance with the G5Jam and a single Serial ATA drive — copying and duplicating a file took about the same time on the new internal drive as on an external drive attached via FireWire 800. When we added a second drive and striped them together into a RAID 0 array, performance was 40 percent faster than with a single drive. Performance is even more impressive if you stripe all four drives together. (In OS X 10.3, you can boot off of a RAID array created with Apple’s Disk Utility.)
The price for such added performance is somewhat steep. An external FireWire drive costs around $60 more than the drive mechanism by itself. Adding one or two external FireWire drives is a less expensive way to increase your storage capacity.
And even though you can boot off of an internal array, you may not want to. Striping drives together in a RAID 0 array increases the risk of drive failure. If you want to invest in an external FireWire drive as your startup drive, you can lessen the risk of losing your operating-system files.
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WiebeTech has provided a clever workaround to a limitation of the Power Mac G5. Internal storage is less prone to theft and to damage from jostling, and it cuts down on desktop clutter. The G5Jam isn’t for people with full-length PCI cards or for those uncomfortable installing hardware, but it can give your computer juice by adding fast storage.