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Powerbook Wallstreet Hard Drive Upgrade
Replacing The Original 4GB Drive with IBM's Travelstar 20GB model
by Mike
Published: 8/21/2000

Performance Tests

The tests with the original 4GB drive were run with very little free space (less than 500MB). This means the outer tracks (the fastest part of the disk) were already occupied with data so the test results would have been better had the drive had more free space. The IBM 20GB drive (18.6GB formatted) had about 8 GB of files installed. Ideally both drives would have been blank for all tests (as I've done before in many other drive articles), but the results below show what I saw in actual use before replacing the drive and after installing the new drive with all the applications I was unable to hold on the original 4GB disk. The main reason I upgraded the Powerbook's drive was for additional storage space; the increased performance was a nice bonus however.

Benchmark Tests:

Below are graphs of ATTO benchmark results with the original 4GB drive and with the IBM 20GB drive. Tests were run after a clean reboot to ensure as clean and consistent a system/ram/cache state as possible. Keep in mind the 4GB drive was nearly full, while the 20GB drive (18.6GB formatted) had about 11GB free.

OEM 4GB drive
Original 4GB Drive

2nd VST 12GB Sample after firmware udpate
IBM 20GB Drive

I was very impressed at the benchmark performance gain from the new IBM drive. ATTO Tools Benchmark sustained R/W performance was actually higher than the 12 GB Toshiba (ATA/66) drive in the PowerBook G3/500 I reviewed earlier this year, even though that model has an onboard ATA/66 interface. MacBench scores with my PB G3/250 were lower however than the G3/500MHz new PowerBook. (ATTO test results of the PB G3/500 drive are in my previous Expansion Bay Kit performance tests page.)

I also ran the complete Macbench 5.0 disk test suite on both drives. Disk cache was set to the default OS 9.04 (auto) setting.

Macbench 5.0 Disk Results results

Finder Tests:

Unlike most of my past drive articles, I didn't run as many real-world tests for this one. This is partly due to having removed many applications from the original 4GB drive. (OK, I admit it - I had to make room recently for a Diablo II full install :-). I was also eager to finish this article so I could start testing with the Newer Tech G3/466 cpu upgrade.

For the Finder duplicate folder tests I calculated the actual 'through-the-file-system' transfer rates (rounded to 1 decimal place). Pure benchmarks like ATTO Tools show much higher rates than Finder file copies, especially where a large number of files are involved which have a lot more overhead.

Copy 116.1MB Quake1 Folder (71 files): The table below shows the time to duplicate the Quake1 folder. (Remember the 4GB drive had only about 500MB free space, whereas the 20GB drive had over 10GB free).

Time to Duplicate Quake1 Folder (116.1MB/71 files)
OEM 4GB Drive
IBM 20GB Drive
59.6 sec
1.95 MB/sec
20.1 sec
5.78 MB/sec

Time to Boot: Stopwatch timed tests from the Mac startup icon appearing to the point where the Finder was ready to use.

Time to Boot
Original 4GB Drive
IBM 20GB Drive
1 Min 25 sec
45.3 sec

General Drive Comments:

The IBM 20GB drive is noticably faster in actual use than the original drive which was nearly full. The new Travelstar is very quiet, much quieter than the Toshiba drive in the Powerbook firewire model I've reviewed. As with most notebook drives, you can hear head movement, but the 'whine' (I don't know how else to describe the noise) that I heard constantly with the PowerBook Firewire's Toshiba drive was not present with the IBM drive. To those that say the 'whine' I heard is not the hard drive, I've proven it is by using the Control Strip to 'spin down' the hard drive - which stops the noise. Perhaps the Wallstreet case design shields drive noise better than the slimmer, lighter later Powerbook models. (As a matter of fact, the original 4GB drive was also quieter than the Powerbook Firewire Toshiba drive.)

One other thing I noticed was the IBM drive seemed to take a few seconds longer to wake from sleep (especially when operating on battery power) than the original drive. I suspect the new Travelstar has its own power-saving mode which may be the cause. If used with a Windows 98 PC, IBM has downloadble software to adjust the power saving modes for the drive, however there is no Mac version of this software as of this review date. (There may never be based on past history.)

Another thing I wanted to note was that attempting to use the Password Security control panel with the new drive resulted in a dialog box noting that the drive was not in the proper format, saying I should reformat the drive in Drive Setup. (The drive had been formatted in the Finder after the first boot from an OS 9 CD. Normally I would have ran Drive Setup, selected one partition, etc. but didn't expect to see this warning.) [Update: I later reformatted the drive as I normally do, selecting a Custom Init. in Drive Setup (I do this even when I just run one partition). After doing this, Password Security works fine.]

Important Note on OS X: For some Macs like the PowerBook G3 Wallstreet, Beige G3 and iMac 233-333mhz, OS X must be installed on a partition/volume fully within the first 8GB of the drive. If you're installing a larger drive in a Wallstreet, you need to use the custom initialization option in Drive Setup and create a 1st partition of 8GB or less for OS X. (Otherwise the installer will only show grayed out disks.) Apple posted a TIL on this in 2001.


This fast, large drive is one of the best addons I've ever bought for the Powerbook. Finally I'm able to add all the applications I'd like, even those that I don't frequently use. I'm also now able to install iMovie and have space for DV movies. I feel like this drive has extended the life of my Powerbook Wallstreet. I can't wait to see how the Newer Tech G3/466 upgrade performs with the new drive. (Update: I later published the Review of the Newer Tech PB G3/466 CPU Upgrade.)

Test System Details:

  • PowerBook G3/250 (Wallstreet)
  • 160MB RAM, VM Off
  • OS 9.04 with all updates applied
    (full extension set + Firewire and Wavelan card extensions)
  • OEM 4GB hard drive/IBM Travelstar 20GB
  • Resolution Used: 1024x768, thousands colors

For More Drive Related Reviews see the IDE, SCSI and Firewire Topics pages.

Index of PB G3 Wallstreet Hard Drive Upgrade Guide

Intro | Removing Old HD | Installing New HD | Benchmarks

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