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Internal Firewire/USB Hub in G4 TowerReturn to Accelerate Your Mac!

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Internal Firewire/USB Hub in G4 Tower
(plus system rack mount)
Posted: 2/12/2002
(Updated 2/13/2002 to add sources of the Hub)
(Updated 2/18/2002 to add another reader's problem report)
(Updated 5/15/2002 for reader's problem report on damage [short circuit?])


Note: Although no other reader that installed the mod noted here by "Hi-C" originally ever reported anything like this - a reader said he had what I can only guess is a short ciruit to the chassis (circuit trace w/power shorting to ground I'm guessing). He said he damaged two G4s and 3 hard drives - he's investigating the cause but wanted me to post a warning here. Again not sure why he saw this unless a) there was a part of the metal chassis shorting to a power trace (ground short) or the module he used was defective. Regardless like all mods proceed at your own risk. A reader (see 2/18/2002 update) noted he could not mate a FW cable in the module, but no other damage reports like the one just received. Still I'd suggest caution if you're considering this sort of mod. Here's his email (name removed by request)

    "This is just a warning to you and your readers. I have had two "digital audio/gigabit Ethernet" G4's and 3 hard drives fried. It is currently under investigation and I will report back when I receive a final answer but I would recommend no one try this mod for the time being.
    I read about the Mod here.

    I loved the idea of the front USB and FireWire ports, so I bought the StarTech brand internal HUB (same as linked at Buy.com in the article) It even says it is Mac compatible and works in the G4's
    Here is the site for the HUB
    www.startech.com/ststore/detailframe.asp?product_id=35bayfwusb&referr er=small6

    The hub looked very nice and was easy to connect just Power, and then USB and FireWire to the rear ports. I installed the hub in my Graphite 533MHz G4 and tried to start it up, but it just had a Blank white screen. I disconnected the Hub but it still wouldn't boot. I found that my Maxtor 40GB HardDrive wouldn't spin and the computer wouldn't start if it was connected, I also found that the hard drives IDE channel was dead (I put my BackUp WD 80GB on as slave with the CDRW to use for a few days) I decided to have the Hub tested before I complained about it frying my HD and MB, and took it to a local shop. They put it in a PC and it seemed to work fine, so I started to think maybe the HD blowing at the same time was a coincidence. So before I took my G4 in for repair I Put my WD 80GB HD in the original HD's place on the dead IDE channel and tried the HUB again. This time I only connected the power and started the computer, I then connected the USB to the rear and the hub lights lit up, I then tried to connect the FW cable. BOOM!, a loud POP and billowing white acrid smoke (a lot) This time my 80GB HD was dead (wouldn't spin) and the computer wouldn't even BONG when started. I eventually had the MB, processor, and HD replaced to get it working again. I also lost EVERYTHING since both my main and backup Harddrive blew.

    StarTech was very nice and sent me a replacement FW/USB hub which they said they had tested fully in their G4 (now known to be a G4/400). I just received it this weekend(around 5/4). I was a little scared after the first one blew up my G4 twice but worked in a PC, I thought maybe there was just something goofy about my 533MHz G4. So I decided to put it in another G4 first, I connected it in a brand new 800MHz G4 Quicksilver. This system did nothing when the powerbutton was pressed (except the powerbutton would light up when it was pressed down) not even the fan would spin. This still happened even after the Hub was removed. I found that if the Seagate 40GB hard drive had the power unplugged it would then bong and attempt to start, plug in the HD and nothing happened. I have not tested the IDE controller yet but after the last time I assume it is fried in addition to the Seagate HD.
    StarTech has offered to refund my purchase price including shipping for the Hub and will investigate what went wrong since they say this is the first complaint of this nature.

    I would recommend you put a warning (at least for all 133MHz system bus G4's) not to try this until I get an answer. I have asked StarTech to find out exactly what model G4 they tested it in. (UPDATE 5/16 I received a reply today that said it was a G4/400, I don't know if its a Yikes or sawtooth. They also said their engineers are unwilling to test them in their G4's and will send them to the manufacturer to be tested)"

To be on the safe side I do not recommend you try this mod-Mike.


(original article follows)

A reader sent an email and photos of his internal Firewire + USB Hub mod for his G4 tower, as well as photos of his A/V rack including the G4 tower system.

" Hi Mike
Just saw Christian's mods on your site [the Internal USB 4-port Hub mod in the ZIP drive bay-Mike] and though you might like to see how I customized my G4 450 MP. I have a very small workspace and I have an a/v component rack that I wanted to put the G4 in along with my JVC MiniDV/SVHS vtr and my Kenwood 5.1 receiver. I bought some big rubber feet from Radio Shack, and attached them to the top of my bottom shelf. This gave me a nice rubberized cushion to rest the case on. I aligned the feet on the shelf so that they matched up to the crews on the case so there isnt to much stress on the plastic. Fits perfect.

I also wanted to add a front usb/fireire hub for easy access, just like av jacks on my other components. I sanded the plastic on the hub and used a lime-gold lowrider sparkle paint topped off with a super glossy clearcoat. Now I can plug in all my cameras, scanner, and wacom tablet right on the front as needed. It makes my ultimate digital hub!
Hi-C "

Here's the images he sent:

view of FW/USB ports

photo of Hub

Lining up System

System in Horiz rack

Photo of AV Rack

shelf plate

I've asked where he got the FW/USB internal Hub. (As a FYI - the cables are routed through a PCI slot to the external ports as done with the prev. USB hub article.) Here's the info on the model of FW/USB internal hub used.

    4 Port FireWire + USB Hub:
  • Kouwell KW-7101 FW+USB Hub Product page
  • The KW-7101 sells for $40 plus shipping as of 2/12/2002. (Local retail chain stores may sell similar products)
  • A reader sent a link to a 4 USB port + 2 FW port internal hub at Buy.com for $34.95 plus shipping (as of 2/12/2002) ** NOTE ** one reader that used the "Startech" hub at that page in a Digital Audio G4 noted serious damage to his computer. (See top of page report)

Another Reader's Comments:

    " Regarding the internal Kouwell Combo Hub (4 1394, 4 USB ports) item from earlier this week: BIG STINKER. I'm returning it Monday.

    1) Most of my FireWire cables don't actually fit far enough into the ports (USB is OK though). I could go buy different cables of the sort that I know will fit, or sanding down the face of the unit about 1/8 inch might work. However, there's also:

    2) The computer (G4 500 MP running OSX) will not sleep with the hub attached. It will go through all the motions, spinning down the drives and sleeping the monitor...and then it all comes up again about a second later.

    3) The hub emits a high-pitched whine suggestive of power supply circuitry on its last legs.

    Neat idea. Execution is seriously flawed.
    -- Phil"



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