Skip to Content
Skip to Table of Contents

← Previous Article Next Article →

ATPM 7.01
January 2001


How To




Download ATPM 7.01

Choose a format:

Profiles in Networking

by Matthew Glidden,

Power Mac 8500

I’ve owned a number of Macs in my day, but my 8500 (the “Tower of Power”) outlasted them all and I replaced it only recently with the latest addition to Apple’s oeuvre, the G4 Cube (yes, my next Mac was a Cube). Purchased brand-new in 1994, the 8500 was a versatile beast, featuring expansion options only outdone by the 9500 and its six PCI slots.

Note: These setups cover any Mac with built-in 10BaseT Ethernet and PCI slots, such as the 7500, 9500, etc. I specify the 8500 because that’s what I used.

From a networking perspective, the 8500 is ready out of the box with built-in AAUI (transceiver) and RJ-45 (twisted-pair) Ethernet ports. Faster network speeds come via PCI cards, but the regular Ethernet’s 10 megabits per second (about 1 megabyte) capacity is a heady improvement over LocalTalk’s 230 kilobits (which the 8500 still supports through its serial ports). Twisted-pair Ethernet (10BaseT) is a snap with the RJ-45 port and you gain thinnet Ethernet (10Base2) by connecting the proper transceiver to the AAUI port. You can’t use both ports at once, though, as it’s the same internal hardware; it’d be like plugging two mice into one ADB port.

Crossover Ethernet

The cheapest Ethernet option, a $10 crossover cable will network two Macs together. The 8500 works fine here, connecting readily to other Ethernet-ready Macs. You need the special crossover cable for this, which differs from the straight-through cables you use with an Ethernet hub. Both cables are twisted-pair, but two-Mac networks only work with a crossover cable. Color-case Macs (iMacs, G4s, etc.) have no serial ports and use Ethernet as their default AppleTalk connection. To use a crossover cable with beige Macs, you will need to switch both Macs’ connections to Ethernet simultaneously in the AppleTalk control panel. This may require the help of a friend.

Hub or Switch-Based Ethernet

Connect a straight-through twisted-pair cable to the 8500’s RJ-45 port and you’re set. If you use multiple speeds (10 & 100BaseT) on the same network, make sure to use a switch instead of a hub; otherwise you’ll be limited to the lower speed.

Upgrading Your Ethernet

Add a PCI Fast (100BaseT) or Gigabit (1000BaseT) Ethernet card to step up to something speedier than the built-in regular (10BaseT) Ethernet.

Wireless Network

Technically, it may be possible to connect an 8500 to a wireless network, such as AirPort, with a combination of a PCI-to-PC card and a wireless card like Farallon’s SKYLine. The cost being prohibitive, I’ve never tried it, but hey; it might work.

Sharing an Internet Connection

Your 8500 can use software like Sustainable Softworks’ IPNetRouter or Vicom’s SurfDoubler to share a single Internet connection across a network. For high-speed (cable or DSL) connections, you need to add a second Ethernet port, since the high-speed connection uses one port and most high-speed providers will charge more for multiple connections through a hub. Use a 10BaseT PCI card for your second connection, since it can easily handle the typical 200K cable and DSL transfer speed and will be cheap ($10-20). Once you install the hardware, the software handles the rest.

Also in This Series

Reader Comments (8)

Stephen T. Sween · January 4, 2001 - 01:01 EST #1
If you add a gigabit ethernet card, will you get the same performance as you would if you added it to a more recent Mac? i.e., Are there any internal bottlenecks in the 8500 that would slow down the gig ethernet, e.g., the PCI bus speed, processor speed, drive speed, or anything
Prof. S. Sorcar · February 7, 2002 - 09:20 EST #2
I'm working with networking. I've gone through your profile. Will you please send me more details on this topic, step by step, i.e. installation to hosting?
Don Page · May 18, 2003 - 15:57 EST #3
Our church has an 8500 Power Mac. I want to add USB ports to drive a new printer. Will the 8500 support USB? I've tried but software does not seem to see the ports.
Ken Gruberman (ATPM Staff) · May 20, 2003 - 00:46 EST #4
An 8500 can handle a PCI-based USB card just fine. I have successfully installed cards by Belkin, VST, and Sonnet with no problems, although I personally do not recommend Orange Micro products due to shoddy engineering practices at the company.

All you have to do is make sure that 1) your system software is at 9.1 (8500s do not support 9.2.1 or 9.2.2 according to Apple's "OS Compatibility Matrix Page") and 2) that "USB Card Support" software is installed.

You do not need any software that comes with USB cards although, in truth, most of them simply include Apple's own software or provide a link to it. No extra drivers or extensions are needed for any external USB PCI card. You can download USB Card Support 1.4.1 directly from Apple.

It's also included on the OS 9.1 install CD. Use "Custom Install" because it will not be installed if you use the "Easy Install" option.

As to my current favorite card, the always-fine folks over at Sonnet now have a FireWire/USB 1.1/USB 2 card for $89.95. This covers you for everything: USB-based printers and scanners and FireWire-based CD burners, video cameras, and external drives, not to mention iPods! :)
John Hill · November 2, 2003 - 19:53 EST #5
I seem to have the same problem as Don Page. I added a Sonnet G3 processor, downloaded the 9.1 upgrade, installed a SIIG USB Dual Port PCI card, and downloaded Apple's USB Card Support (i.e., all the things Ken Gruberman recommends), but still cannot get the computer to find the HP PSC 2210 printer/fax/scanner attached to the USB port. Any other ideas?
Dana Goodman · January 6, 2008 - 05:45 EST #6
I have a MAC 8500 for which I purchased a Belkin F5U220 5-Port PCI Card. My intentions were to add USB so that I could add a wireless router between both the MAC and a DELL to access the internet(for my son and I).

My MAC's system profiler did not recognize the card; therefore the MAC is without access as of this date. The DELL is working fine.

I love my MAC but I really don't want to sink any more extensive cash into this project. Should I return the USB card, put the MAC on e-bay and start fresh?

What are my options or best solution?
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · January 6, 2008 - 12:33 EST #7
Dana - I think you might be running into two completely separate problems.

The first is that, according to my digging around on the particular card you bought, the F5U220 seems to require Mac OS X 10.2.7 or higher. I'm guessing that old Power Mac 8500 can't even run OS X. Finding a USB card that is compatible with OS 9 might be a real challenge.

But even if you successfully added USB capability to the machine, networking hardware that works over USB is notorious for not having Mac drivers. That's the second issue you'd be up against. I have tried a number of network bridges that plug into USB—even on my newest Macs—and couldn't get them to work.

You didn't specify which router you had, or were planning to buy. Typical routers don't need USB at all—only Ethernet. Those older Power Mac towers didn't have a standard Ethernet port. For some reason back then, Apple used an AAUI (Apple Attachment Unit Interface) port into which you had to plug in an Ethernet transceiver. You can search around for those, but here's one place that seems like they might have them:

Alternatively, you might be able to find a standard Ethernet card that is supported by Mac OS 9. This one might work:
Scott Kinkennon · February 7, 2009 - 11:53 EST #8
"I'm guessing that old Power Mac 8500 can't even run OS X."


That old Power Mac 8500 WILL run OSX up to 10.2.7 with a Sonnet accelerator. Sonnet sells them today for $50, but I'm sure they will soon be discontinued.

I have my 8500 configured with a Sonnet G3 running at 500MHZ, 720MB of RAM, a USB adapter and three internal 4GB disk drives that can boot OS X, OS 9.1 or System 7.5.5 depending on what I need to do. I use the built-in ethernet on DSL.

Limitations are these. To use USB, I have to be booted in OSX. I have also found that some USB devices are picky about aftermarket USB cards vs built-in USB (most notably HP USB printers that insist on built-in USB). Since I use USB mostly for thumb drives and cameras, this doesn't bother me too much. If I want to use the video or sound capabilities, I have to be booted in OS9. System 7.5.5 is for the older applications and emergency recovery.

Add A Comment

 E-mail me new comments on this article