Mac Mini inside a Powermac G4: Wiring

Following my previous Powermac-mini post, I would like to should you how I wired and coupled the mini to the powermac.

Inside the powermac-mini: wiringThe challenge here was to have the ATX power-supply put inside the powermac to start at the same time the mini is started (and to stop when the mini stops) and also to get the front LED and buttons of the powermac to work with the mini. Grincheux’s dedicated blog powermacmini.wordpress.com gives all the info you need to do all that so I won’t go too much into details about it.

Bellow are pictures showing how I modified the original powermac quicksilver’s front buttons board in order to be able to wire it to the mini. The idea is to wire the power-button in parallel with the reset switch so that it’s easy to wire the reset wires to the on/off momentary connector on the mini’s main-board.
Then on the other side I wired the two unused wires on the 10 pin IDC connector straight to the LED.

Conclusion

I am thrilled with this mod. The powermac quicksilver case looks stunning under my desk, I’ve got plenty of room for hard drives, the mini runs cooler and I can’t hear it any more (if you’ve got a mini sitting on your desk you know what I’m talking about)!

Best of all is arguably the increased expandability the PCI-express 1X expansion slot gives.

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Mac Mini inside a Powermac G4: Body work

After having swapped my mac mini’s internal SATA hard-drive for an external 3.5″ one I got really pleased with the performance boost but also progressively more and more annoyed with the noise produced by the bigger hard-drive, sitting right next to me on the desk.

A few month later I happen to browse Grincheux’s powermacmini blog and got instantly seduced by the concept: Replacing the guts of Powermac G4 with a mac mini! Why not any other PC case for this mod? Well, it’s mostly a question of aesthetics: I really like look of powermac computers.

powermac_g4_quicksilver powermac_g4_quicksilver_open

I chose to experiment on a Powermac G4 quicksilver and it didn’t took me long to get one from eBay. You will find bellow a few pictures of the body work and installation of the mac mini inside the case. For more detailed information please jump to powermacmini.wordpress.com.

Hole cutting

The first thing that had to be done was digging out a hole at the back of the G4’s case in order to be able to connect things to the mini when it is positioned inside.

Internal support

Then, I started converting an old aluminium plaque into a support that would maintain the mini in place inside the G4 case. The left picture bellow shows one of my first satisfying attempts. The one the right shows the final version of the plate (with the paint totally removed so that the plate can act as a passive heatsink for the mini by dissipating the heat that builds up on the mini’s rubber pad). I also cut a section out the aluminium plate to make room for a PCI express 1x female socket…

Powermac optical drive issue

I didn’t foresee something quite frustrating: with the mini mounted like illustrated on the pictures above, it’s impossible to close back the Powermac’s case since the end of the optical drive conflicts with the mini. In the end I was forced to cut a small portion of the mini out. This is the only irreversible modification I performed on the mini, but although irreversible, it doesn’t interfere with the mini’s operation at all, and in fact you can even put the mini’s case back on it and you can’t see a thing (unless you look at the mini upside down).

C-VRM relocation

THE PIECES OF INFORMATION PRESENT ON THIS PAGE ARE PROVIDED AS IT IS WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY OF SUCCESS. I WOULDN’T TAKE ANY RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY DAMAGE OR MISTAKE THAT COULD AFFECT YOUR EQUIPMENT.
! MODIFYING YOUR EQUIPMENT WOULD INEVITABLY VOID ITS WARRANTY !

As I received my brand new C-VRM last week, I was surprised by its size (it’s bigger than the stock VRM), and rapidly realised the new DC-2-DC module would not fit in between the DVD-ROM and the hard-drive.

A few days later, I read Mimram’s post on Cubeowner.com‘s forum about slimline hard-drives and realised I should be able to relocate my C-VRM, despite of the lack of space, since there is a 2.5″ HD in my cube!

Relocating the C-VRM involves obtrusive hacks into the cube. The alumninum frame that holds the DVD-ROM drive must be filed/hacksawed.

    Ingredients:

  • 1 x Gigadesigns C-VRM.
  • 1 x LONG VRM relocation cable.
  • 1 x PCI bracket.
  • 1 x Cork.
  • 1 x Hacksaw and/or a set of small files.

I positioned the C-VRM upside down (with IDC connector up) and the black molex at the bottom. The reason I did this is to get the VRM’s molex as close to the DVD-ROM’s molex as possible. Then I was able to change the orientation of the cube’s DVD and HD power connectors, and have them… both powered.

Hacking and filing into the cube's aluminium frame

Lucky me I made my VRM-relocation cable too long when I relocated my stock VRM: with the C-VRM upside down, it requires a longer 30 pin IDC extension cable.

View of the relocated C-VRM>

Once the aluminium frame hacked and the C-VRM placed (I re-used the PCI bracket I used for my stock VRM relocation), one can see that the capacitors of the DC-2-DC board goes in the hard disk ‘area’. Therefore this mod can only be made if you have a slimline or a 2.5″ hardrive in your cube.

Close up on the Gigadesigns DC-2-DC board

The space in between the hardrive and the DVD-ROM is just big enough: the 3 transformers at the back of the C-VRM are in contact with the DVD-ROM. This will have the advantage to cool them down: the DVD-ROM will act as a heat-sink (when not in use!).

Close up on one of the transormer in contact with the DVD-ROM drive

To secure the board in place, I recycled a piece of cork! It does a very good job here. It was easy to alter the cork’s shape to make ‘hold’ the C-VRM in place, and you don’t have to worry about shortcuts, since it is not conductive.

The piece of cork securing the C-VRM in place

The picture above show that the caps of the board invade as much as 3mm in the disk area.

Detail of the C-VRM and 2.5" hardrive
View of the cube working with its relocated C-VRM

I used the rest of the cork to make the 2.5″ HD stand nicely in the cube.

It took me 3 hours to relocate my C-VRM, but it would have take a lot longer if I had to start from scratch (I recycled my stock VRM holder as well as the IDC extension cable).
The cube runs cooler now: the C-VRM is in the direct air flow, and its transformers are cooled ‘against’ the DVD-ROM.
Since the C-VRM is no longer close the graphic card, it’s also cooler on the other side of the cube! (My GeForce 6200 is 10 degrees celcius cooler).

Relocating the C-VRM is definitely worth doing it, at your own risk of course!

Thank you for your interest.

Apple Powermac G4 black paint job

Introduction:

The Apple Powermac G4 Cube is an exceptional computer featuring a very original and smart design. This computer was introduced in 2000 and was stopped being produced in 2001.

Apple Powermac G4 CubePowermac G4 Cube opened

I recently got one on ebay: G4 450 MHz processor, 1.2 GBytes of RAM, a 120 Maxtor HDD and a Geforce 2MX AGP graphic card. If you want to know more about this computer check out the links at the bottom of this page.

After a few days spent on the computer I noticed two things:

  • The cube even 6 years after it was produced is still a very capable machine! (Tiger runs like a charm on mine).
  • The computer fits perfectly with my silver and black NEC LCD display.

The decision to do a black paint job on the cube was rapid to take. And for a complete match I also decided to pain the metallic parts of the keyboard in black.

Ingredients:

  • One Apple Powermac G4 Cube.
  • A Torx 10 screwdriver.
  • A Torx 5 screwdriver (keyboard).
  • A Small Phillips screwdriver(keyboard).
  • A (black) long USB cord to replace the quite short and translucent original keyboard cable.
  • Black paint spray for metallic surfaces.
  • Masking tape.
  • A well ventilated place to do the paint job.
  • Patience (You’ll have to apply several paint layers)!
  • Some more patience (paint takes time to dry).
  • Definitely a lot of patience to take completely apart the Apple Pro Keyboard!

Result:

Bellow are a few pictures of the resulting black Cube. I also made an iSight fixation adaptor to be able to attach the webcam on top of my LCD screen.

Black G4 cube
Black G4 Cube iSight DIY fixation
Black Apple Pro Keyboard (back)

Conclusion:

The Apple pro keyboard complete disassembly, cleaning, cable change and painting job were quite painful compared to the pleasure taking apart the cube was.

As you can see on the pictures the result looks very nice. I’m very happy with my black cube!

Links: