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R.K.Orion Level 1 Level 1

I've been tasked to sell some of our inventory of old Macs. This include some PowerPC based PowerBooks, a few G5 dual core Power Macs, but mostly they're going to be MacBook Pro's, iMacs, and Mac Mini's. I'm paying most attention to the Intel stuff because most of the PPC stuff is just getting a little too old. NOTE: I am not on here to announce a sale. Please do not ask me where, when, and if the units will be sold. I don't want this thread turning into a spam-fest!


Most of the Intel units have CoreDuo processessors, some of the mini's I believe actually have Core Solo. These are all being upgraded to new systems, as you might guess. All units have their original software because when these are given to an employee to use we take the software and lock it in a file cabinet, which prevents them from losing it or doing something else with it. We have fairly tight control over our machines. I do not believe any of these units are capable of running Lion or later OSes due to their processors. Most systems are running Leopard or Snow Leopard.


In any case, we can do basic hardware tests on the units using AHT, but AHT seems to have little or no testing capability for doing surface scans on hard drives or optical drives. These are, ironically, the most likely things that will break. We want it verified these are in working order because we will be offering a limited warranty on them.


What's available for testing hard drives and optical drives?


As an FYI, having Apple do this testing is out of the question due to cost.

  • ThomasB2010 Level 1 Level 1

    You could look at the following article on the MacRumors web site:



    That's a good write up. The author simply states what's available and to some extent what the products do. If you follow the thread it degernates (yet again...even on that site) into a MacKeeper food fight. Let's hope the same doesn't happen here.


    Most of that is for HDs. Some of the tools, like Scannerz, Disk Warrior, and smartmontools are very specific, meaning they specialize in one type of testing. Others like Drive Genius and TechTool Pro are multi-purpose, and their price reflects it.


    Of all those products, I don't know of one single one that does optical drive tests. I suspect the reason is that their susceptible to media quality problems, meaning one DVD RW media may be low quality and another might be high quality. That's a real problem when dealing with optical drives.


    If I were you I'd take some known good optical media of various types and just test them in optical drives. Another thing you might want to try to make your life easier is to put the test software on one system, then put each unit you want to test into target mode and test it as an external drive.

  • ZV137 Level 1 Level 1

    As far as drive testing goes, the best bet for you is probably Scannerz Lite. It's low cost, and it's basically for someone that just wants to verify that their drive is working, and their products have a good reputation. If I understand it properly, it's designed for people that just want to check their disk and if it's bad, take it to an Apple store.


    Before you start yelling at me about "it's not cost effective to take it to the Apple store" hear me out. The systems you're testing aren't worth that much money, and they're old. If a problem is detected with the drive you should be tossing it, not attempting to repair it. Secondly, the full version of Scannerz is intended for people that want to do extensive testing to isolate a whole host of problems with systems. How much time are you going to take testing and repairing a system that's worth maybe $200.00? Take your hourly wages into account when figuring that out.


    With respect to optical drives I would suggest the following:


    1. Get commercial disks (music, video, etc.) ranging from CDs to DVDs as applicable and see if the optical drives will consistently read them. If they won't, just identify or replace the optical drives. If they can't read commercial they won't read anything.
    2. If it passes the above test, take some known, good R/W disks as applicable to the type of the optical drive and see if the optical drive (OD) can read them. If it can it's even better, but don't be surprised if they're finicky. Just report the status of the OD to a potential buyer realistically.
    3. Finally, if it passes 1 and 2 above, try an actual write test if applicable. If it can pass that then the drive's likely barely been used. If not, just report the facts to the potential buyer.


    People often think the hard drive is the worst thing on a system but that isn't true. HD's get hammered every minute they're in use, and on the average they last years. R/W optical drives do not have that level of quality, especially the DVD R/W drives. They just don't last. After going through several DVD R/W units after only a few thousand hours of use, they all failed. The lasers on them have a short lifespan. From experience, the symptoms of R/W optical drive problems are as follows:


    1. First, the most complex type of format starts failing during write operations. If it's a DVD R/W unit, this will mean that attempts to write a DVD will start to fail.
    2. Second, the READ operations start to fail on more complex operations with DVDs you've writtten yourself. Commercial CDROMs and DVDROMs won't have a problem, but anything you actually burned will be problematic and/or erratic.
    3. The final stage of failure occurs when the drive won't even read commercial CDROMs or DVDROMs. At that point, it's a total loss.


    IMHO the biggest problem you face will be the optical drive, not the hard drive. The systems you're using require optical media for OS re-installation (Snow Leopard or earlier) which you apparently have, but it's useless if the OD doesn't work. I'd be willing to bet you only about 10-20% of those units have HD problems, if even that, but about 70-90% of them will have OD problems. I suspect you'll need to find a good, low cost source for ODs to replace the bad ones. You cannot ethically sell units to people with media that requires an optical drive for re-installation or managment if the OD doesn't work. I know I'd be ticked off as a consumer if someone tried pulling a stunt like that on me! I'm not saying you're going to do that, but just expect a lot of returns and a loss of money if you do.


    Moral of the story: Be honest!!

  • MrJavaDeveloper Level 1 Level 1

    Getting rid of optical drives is the best thing Apple ever did. They're too unreliable. Too bad you're stuck with systems that require them.

  • PlotinusVeritas Level 6 Level 6

       Getting rid of optical drives is the best thing Apple ever did.



    Apple hasnt "got rid of" optical drives, theyre on the Pro and the Superdrive.






    Likely youre using junky blank DVD media, but the optical drives are very reliable.

  • dominic23 Level 8 Level 8
    Mac OS X

    MrJavaDeveloper wrote:


    Getting rid of optical drives is the best thing Apple ever did. They're too unreliable.



    Apple got rid of optical drives from iMac,and Mac mini.


    MacBook Pro retina and MacBook Air were released without optical drives..

  • MrJavaDeveloper Level 1 Level 1

    I beg to differ, Mr./Ms. PlotinusVeritas. The current Mac Pro is by all standards an old design (2005/6) which was probably just about the time the items the OP is describing came out. The new one, like all newer sytems has no optical drives.


    I base my experience with optical drives on my own use with Apple systems. Not one single one of them ever lasted over a year. And by the way, it's not an "Apple Thing" this happens to all optical drives. CDROM and DVDROM drives appear problem free, or at least as problem free as one would expect, but few units, except really really old units have them installed.

  • PlotinusVeritas Level 6 Level 6

    You can beg to differ, but youre wrong none the less. 



    As for the superdrive, its had 2 makers for Apple,  Hitachi and Panasonic (current),  Apple never made optical drives specifically.



    Im burning about 400 DVD blanks a month, ......never an issue unless I run into a bad blank, of course im using the Pro grade Taiyo Yuden disks.




    . The new one, like all newer sytems has no optical drives..........but few units, except really really old units have them installed.


    the new RETINA has no optical, the NEW macbook Pro released mid-2012 has an optical drive.


    You calling mid-2012  "really really old" ?   Interesting



    See macbook Pro below current, updated 2012 with superdrive.




    Optical drives (other than movies, CDs etc.) serve a very vital tool for data archives on 100-year professional DVD blanks which cannot be erased or affected by EM fields like hard drives can be.

  • R.K.Orion Level 1 Level 1

    I've decided to get Scannerz, the full version, for several reasons:


    1. It allows you to stop, start, and resume scans, which would be really good for us.
    2. An acquaintance told me it gets the job done faster, and he said it was picking up problems other stuff missed.
    3. I can likely use the tool FSE for other tasks
    4. I might need Phoenix


    This has caused me to raise even more questions. First, a 12" PowerBook in good - excellent condition is selling in the $100 -$150 price range. We have about 10 of these. If anyone of you has ever taken one of these units apart, you'll know what I'm talking about when I tell you that replacing the optical drive is a 2-3 hour job. The system lies in what I'll call an "aluminum pan" and the system is put together from the bottom up, almost in layers. For example, once you open the unit up (5 min itself) you have to start taking apart each layer, starting with a supply board, then working your way down. It isn't a simple "open it up and replace it". The optical drive is one of the last things you can replace. Once done, you have to start putting it back together in the reverse order. I would guess the number of screws is on the order or 50-100, and they all need to go in the right place or you might find yourself "punching through" another card if the screw is too long. This is seriously time consuming.


    One thing I noticed about the Scannerz package was the Phoenix tool and it's creation of a Phoenix Boot Disk. I know it's intended for creating a sort of e-drive, but in their case the e-drive has the entire OS, just minus any user add-ons. One way to get out of replacing an optical drive on a 12" PowerBook would be to extract the OS from the working volume onto a USB flash drive and then, if needed, allow the user to use Phoenix to restore the OS to the hard drive (this is doable, right???) We could then just sell the units letting the user know the optical drive wasn't working. Unfortunately, there's one critical catch: PPC units, or at least most of them, won't boot a USB unit by default.


    Question 1: I know there are ways to manipulate the PRAM settings via open firmware, and I've heard some people can get some of these old PPC units to boot off a USB device using it. Does anyone know if this is possible with the 12" PowerBook models? We have a few each of 867MHz, 1.0GHz, 1.33GHz, and 1.5GHz. Anyone have any links I could try out or experiment with. It would be a lot easier, especially considering the selling price of these old PPC units to just sell them with a USB flash drive and let the user know the optical drive doesn't work. Another option I guess would be to use an old drive and put it into a FireWire enclosure and use Phoenix to copy to that. We actually have about 10 old 2.5" IDE drives about 20GB in size, never used, and this would be a perfect way to put them to use...of course, where do you get FireWire 2.5" IDE enclosures at a reasonable cost????


    Question 2: Dealing with the Intel units, all of these have SATA drives (great!!) but unfortunately, some of the optical drives are ATA. Looking at a few of Apple's tech specs it doesn't specify which interface the drive uses. Does anyone know what year or model they switched from ATA optical drives to SATA optical drives. By the way my previous comment that none of these units would run anything beyond Snow Leopard was wrong. A few of the MacBook Pro's will run Lion, but none of them will run Mountain Lion.


    Queston 3: Parts. Where can I get some of these parts at reasonable prices - new, not used. Especially optical drives and hard drives. Possibly some IDE 2.5" FireWire enclosures for the PowerPC units if needed. Items would likely be ordered in bulk.


    Many thanks for your help.

  • Grant Bennet-Alder Level 9 Level 9

    Does anyone know what year or model they switched from ATA optical drives to SATA optical drives

    The Mac Pro 4,1 (2009)  was the first Mac Pro to ship with SATA Optical drives. Previous models had two SATA Optical Disk Drive connectors hidden on the motherboard, but no cables for them. The bays were wired with 40-pin ribbon cables for ATA/IDE.



    FireWire enclosure ... cheap

    That is an oxymoron. If you want cheap, use slower USB-2. If you want FireWire, they are not so cheap. Most of the systems you descibed may only require FireWire-400, so there may be some models for a bit less.


    You seem convinced that Macs will not boot from USB. I do not understand why you say that.

  • ThomasB2010 Level 1 Level 1

    I'm sure PPC fans will clobber me over the head for saying this, but if I were you I would just evaluate any and all PPC units, generate a list of defects, if any, and then sell the units "as is." Some of the PPC units you list aren't worth much, and I assume you're doing this for a company. Take into account your hours and hourly wages, and estimate how much it will cost you to bring these units up to what seems to be your idea of a sellable state. My guess is that it will, assuming problems are present here and there, cost you more, possibly much more, to get these units working ideally than the units themselves are worth. Another option might be to see if you can donate them to something like a tech school, community college, or whatever and write them off.


    The USB Flash drive idea would work OK on a newer unit but there are some things you're overlooking. First, Phoenix is licensed software, which means you need to purchase a copy of it for each unit. In order for it to extract its own image and overlay it onto a hard drive means it needs to be present. I don't remember the cost but I know it's low (10 bucks, 15 bucks?) and then there's the cost of the USB Flash media as well. There's probably 30 bucks already. Now add in repairs. How much will it cost you paying staff member to do that? Phoenix can do all that stuff, but that itself will take time. For a hobbyist or someone that just wants there system up and running, it may be OK, but for a company? I can't see it.


    Based on some of your comments, I think your estimates of the values of some of the PPC systems you're talking about are somewhat optimistic. Sure, you might get $100 for a 1.33 or 1.5GHz PowerBook, but an eBay check showed me some of the lower speed systems are selling for more like $30-$50 dollars. In fact, even dual core G5 PowerMacs are selling in the $80-$200 range.


    As far as the Intels go, they still sell for a fair amount and any CoreDuo unit is still quite capable. There are a fair number of people that haven't quite bought into the newer is always better notion that remain devotees of Snow Leopard, and their love of that OS may start, ironically, to put a premium on their prices. I have an old CoreDuo Mac Mini that I turned into a little entertainment center. I hooked the audio output up to an old amp, attached an LCD monitor and speakers and now I use it as basically a web based entertainment system in my home office.


    I'd focus more on the Intel units which are likely to have fewer problems and let the PPC units go as is. If I'm not mistaken, some of those PPC 867MHz units are already 10 years old. Do you really want to try and sell something like that with a warranty?


    In any case, good luck.


    PS: FSE is slick. We use it to monitor web stuff all the time.

  • ZV137 Level 1 Level 1

    A quick check on e-bay, not that that's the best place on Earth to buy anything indicates PPC PowerBooks (12") running $30-$150, PowerMacs running $75-$200.


    Yeah....I'd say bagging the PPC units and focusing on Intels is the way to go. Give the PPCs to a tech school, church, or community college.

  • R.K.Orion Level 1 Level 1

    Well, it seems you guys are right about the PPC units.


    I started testing them today. Over half of them can't even read their own install media. I started doing drive tests on them by putting the units into target mode. Most of the drives seem OK, but one of them is reproducing what Scannerz calls an "irregularity" of about 5.5 seconds. This is repeatable. I assume this is a weak sector, right?


    I guess now I'll have to figure out who to donate the units to. It seems a shame to me to have to give stuff like this away when I know full well I could get it into 100% working order, most of it anyway.

  just seems a shame.

  • Grant Bennet-Alder Level 9 Level 9

    It IS a shame, but so many schools today have better computing equipment in the classroom than I have at home. I found I could not give older stuff away -- there have been too many Internet-based advances in the last few years, and a lot of schools are keeping up pretty well.

  • ThomasB2010 Level 1 Level 1

    R.K.Orion wrote:


    Most of the drives seem OK, but one of them is reproducing what Scannerz calls an "irregularity" of about 5.5 seconds. This is repeatable. I assume this is a weak sector, right?


    I guess now I'll have to figure out who to donate the units to. It seems a shame to me to have to give stuff like this away when I know full well I could get it into 100% working order, most of it anyway.

  just seems a shame.


    Yes, the 5.5 seconds repeatable irregularity is a weak sector. It can either be damaged from a light head crash or the media has a defect. Those can be a pain in the posterior to troubleshoot because old drives like that didn't necessarily re-map them. If the drive could read it, as far as it was concerned the sector was OK. Some of the timeouts and SMART reporting on those drives was abysmal. You could probably try and correct (map out) the drive by zeroing it, but don't be surprised if it's still there when your done. I would suspect that you should conclude that drive is likely on its way out.


    Regarding the old PPC units, all isn't necessarily lost. I have an old 15" Titanium that I take on the road with me with my other "real" computer. The Titanium servers one and only one purpose: To play DVD-ROMS while I'm in the motel! After all these years the thing still works and personally I'm amazed, but it is getting  to the point of being a bit unreliable, but then if I'm not mistaken it's 11 years old too. If the thing gets damaged, I haven't really lost that much.


    Just because the units are old doesn't mean they're useless. Keep in mind 10 years ago people were doing things like running web servers, print servers, or backup storage systems on lesser systems. You likely don't need the latest and greatest devices on the market to handle light weight tasks. If you're clever, you can likely think up a lot of uses for some of those systems.

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