High performance Performa

My first Macintosh was a Performa 630CD. That's not really something to be proud of, but history doesn't care about such things. As a result I've always had something of a soft spot for its siblings, even in the face of the horrifying x200. So with my unreasonably large collection of weird old hardware I set about overcoming the Performa's limits to see if a good machine was hiding inside.

The 630, along with the 580, began a series of machines with apple's second gen slide-out motherboard design. Desktop, tower and all-in-ones shared the same basic design and many of the accessories. I'm partial to the desktop case myself since the AIO is the size of a bar fridge and the tower just doesn't do anything for me. But while it's quick and easy to move boards around, the later ones required a 3.3v power line which wasn't present in the earlier machines. So right off the bat I set aside the 630 and picked up a Performa 6360CD instead.

Now we're talking.

(Some of you are no doubt crying "But that's not even a 630 any more! You said you were going to upgrade a 630 and that's what I expect you to do!" To which I respond, "Shut up.")

The 6360 was already the finest desktop cased machine in the series, with its 6400 inspired 603e motherboard. The sins of the 6200 had been abolished and the world finally saw what the machine was capable of. But I still wanted more. I started digging through my boxes of mac circuit boards in search of upgrades.

First thing I found was a PowerMac 6500/275 motherboard. This was the final evolution of the Performa slide-out board. By swapping the rear bracket with the 6360 it became a drop in replacement. The 6360's revised power supply happily got it going.

Next was the Apple TV/FM kit. The TV kit is an easy one to find, but the version equipped with an FM tuner is much rarer. I'd been keeping one hidden away for just such an occasion. It even includes a remote!

On the other side of the board I socketed in a Commslot ethernet card. It's not the nicer Faralon 10/100 card, but it'll do for now.

Now things started to get interesting. The 2 slot PCI riser from the 6500 is too tall to fit in this case, but the single slot riser from the 6360 was just low enough to scrape by. That meant I had but one slot to place a PCI device in. I was initially thinking of a video card, but decided against it when I realized the 6500 motherboard already had an upgraded graphics chip over the 6360. In the end I went with an Orange Micro OrangePC 620 DOS card. And of course it would be only fitting for me to upgrade that too while I was at it, so I swapped out the stock 233 Mhz Pentium MMX for a 400 MHz AMD K6-2+.

Both the PC and the Mac got 128 megs of RAM each. The PC in the form of a single 128mb PC-100 DIMM and a pair of 64 meg EDO sticks for the Mac.


By luck I had finally found the elusive L2 G3 upgrade card from Sonnet mid way through this project. I eagerly socketed it in place of my 512k cache module upgrade, finding only a hairs gap between it and the DOS card's RAM module.

This left me with only a single slot left unused. J16. The Video out port. To my knowledge it was only used by a composite/s-video output board, which occupied the otherwise disused rear panel opening next to the network/modem card. I'd only seen it once in my life, 6 years earlier in the back room of The Mac Market. I began checking eBay with even more fanaticism than usual.

Another stroke of luck. A seller listed a handful of the Focus branded video out boards. I submitted an offer of $15 and waited.


When it finally arrived in the mail I went straight for the 6360-turned-6500 and tore into it. I had to take nearly everything off the board to reach the rear opening. I imagine the card was designed for the earlier PDS-based Performas, as the board was big enough to press against the PCI riser in the later machines. This made the difficult task of hinging the DOS card into place all the more complicated, as I had to co-ordinate 4 separate boards and a half dozen catches. But on the third try I had it. The board was complete.

There you have it. A fully upgraded Performa. Even the PRAM battery is new. The only way up from here would be the faster 10/100 ethernet card or the 500 MHz version of the G3 upgrade. If you have either of these things and would be interested in parting with them, please contact me.

You can see where the PCI riser touches the video out card, and where the G3 upgrade bumps into the RAM stick.

And here we have the view around back. Not a single slot remains to be filled.

I find it remarkable how cool the whole system runs. I had stripped it apart for a thorough cleaning at the start, and replaced the 40mm CPU fan with a new one as the bearing was getting sticky, but that's all. Even the mighty K6 is puttering along at an entirely reasonable temperature. In fact the hottest thing in the entire machine is the graphics chip on the motherboard. I'll probably attach a small heatsink with some arctic epoxy the next time I open it up for peace of mind.

Page created August 1st 2010

The man in the mac said you gotta go back