Sunday, October 24, 2010

Project: "G4 Cube"

Last semester I was introduced to the Power Mac G4 Cube, or more affectionately known as, the “G4 Cube”. This computer was made for only one year between 2000 and 2001. This machine was, to put it simply, beautiful. In fact, the New York Museum of Modern Art holds a G4 Cube in its collection. The G4 Cube shipped, in its most basic form, with a 450mhz G4 processor, 64mb of RAM, and a 20 GB hard drive all in the 8" x 8" x 10" form factor. One of the more remarkable features of this computer is its convection-based cooling system, meaning it has no fans and can run completely silent.

I decided I wanted to find a Cube for myself and eventually was able to track one down on eBay. When I got it everything was stock, including the original ten year old 20 GB hard drive which by now was quite noisy. It was time to do a few modifications…

At first my only intention was to put a new hard drive in. I got a 500 GB IDE hard drive from my dad that wasn’t currently being used and swapped it out for the old 20 GB. I cloned the data from the old drive to the new one and to my astonishment it booted up just fine. Then I decided it needed more ram, so I went downstairs and found some old PC133 ram that wasn’t being used anymore and installed what I could find and what would fit, bringing my ram up to 768mb. Next I discovered there was a slot inside the computer for an Apple Airport card, which would give this old Cube wireless internet capabilities. I found one of those on eBay for $1 and put it in too.

At this point I was only using this computer for file storage and as a media server so I wished I had even more disk space available. I decided to remove the DVD drive from the Cube and replace it with a second hard drive. This got a little tricky because a hard drive is quite a bit different size than a DVD drive. After messing around for a while I found a solution holding the hard drive in place by using longer screws to suspend the drive from the metal frame of the computer.

Now this old computer can sit in my living room hooked up to my stereo and I can access it from my iPod, iPad, or macbook and tell it to start playing music. It also now has 750 GB of space instead of the original 20 and I store and back up my files on it. I can let it sit there and leave it on 24/7 and it is totally silent, not to mention it looks really cool. Pretty good for a 10 year old Mac.


  1. This is a wonderful idea and implementation.

    What was the total cost of bring the Cube back to life?

  2. First off let me start by saying brilliant idea! That little guy was one of the sexiest computers apple has made. However my main concern is the processor I'm assuming it's still running the old celeron or have we been intel for 10 years already? Anyhow I'm assuming that you aren't able to install new versions of OS10 or iTunes on it? Can it still browse stores ok? Also you should get netflix on that thing and you be set for a media box.
    -David Snodgrass

  3. I think the whole thing was probably ~$100. The computer itself was only 60, but most units on eBay are sold without power supply's, which can cost almost as much as the computer itself.

    The processor is an old 450mhz G4, which would equate to about the same power level as a 900mhz Pentium II. The Intel chipset wasn't added to Macs until 2006. OSX 10.5 was the first to REQUIRE an Intel processor, so I have the Cube running 10.4.11. The new iTunes10 is also the first new iTunes that won't work on the 10.4 system, so I'm capped at iTunes 9. So basically I'm maxed out on 10.4 with iTunes 9.

    As far as netflix is concerned, I would love it if I could do that, but the graphics power to pump out HD video just isn't there.

  4. Hey just wondering about the harddrive, I heard you can only put 120 gig in it. How did it handle 720gig's? did the airport come with the bracket?
    can you email me at

  5. You heard correctly. OSX 10.4 in it's default settings only supports hard drives up to 128gb, but there's ways to get around this. I did this:

    Once I got the primary 500gb hard drive working, I removed the optical drive and put a 250gb hard drive in it's place to bring me up to 750gb. It's a tight fit and the screws don't slot perfectly, but it's not like I move the computer around much so it works fine.

    There is a slot inside the cube for an airport card, just slide out the core, pop open the airport card slot (you'll see what I mean) and then plug in a compatible card.