The hard drive in my Mac SE is on the way out. Sometimes the drive is detected, sometimes it's not. Sometimes the SE boots all the way to the Finder without a problem. Sometimes it hangs at the "Welcome to Macintosh" screen. Sometimes I can launch an app and run it without issue, but then the whole machine hangs when I exit the app. It's been like that for about 2-3 months now, and it seems to be getting worse. It's only a matter of time before the drive completely dies.
Luckily, I have an external drive that I copy of all my apps, files, and disk images to for redundancy. Unfortunately, that drive is starting to flake out too. It's more reliable than the internal drive, but it too sometimes doesn't appear in the Finder at startup. Then again, I don't know if that drive is having issues of its own, or if the internal drive is wreaking havoc on the SCSI bus.
I've really been wanting to get away from old spinning platter based drives for a while now. They're just getting too expensive. Finding an old hard drive on eBay for $5 bucks used to be commonplace. Now, they're regularly posted for anything between $30 and $50; sometimes higher. It's no longer cost effective to pay $50 for a vintage SCSI hard drive on eBay for it to either arrive DOA, or die shortly after installing it. Believe me, I've purchased several vintage drives off eBay over the years that arrived DOA.
I've seen a few solid state alternatives online before, although they've been too expensive for me to take the plunge. The closest I ever came to bitting the bullet was when I saw Aztec Monsters hit eBay for $120. That's expensive, but still way cheaper than other $250 SCSI alternatives that I've seen in the past. Unfortunately, me actually having the money and them being available on eBay was never at the same time.
Last December, I was looking on eBay for some drive alternatives when I happened upon the SCSI2SD adapter. It was exactly what I was looking for, and it was only $70 bucks. By far, the cheapest solid state SCSI drive alternative I've seen to date. As cheap as it was, $70 bucks was still $70 bucks with the holidays just weeks away. I figured I'd get through the holidays first, and then pick one up. Well, it's already February, so I figured I'd get one now since the drive is really starting to act up.
This thing is amazing! Why did it take so long for someone to figure out how to go from SCSI to an SD card? It looks simple enough. There's power management stuff on the right, a single chip in the middle that does the talking, and an SD card interface on the left. I'm no stranger to Arduino builds
, and this doesn't look any more complicated that the likes of my GPS clock, or any of my clocks for that matter. Then again, perhaps the firmware on that chip requires nothing short of witchcraft.
See, this is why you shouldn't throw anything away! With 16GB and 32GB SD cards as the norm, what good is a 2GB card? I've had this lying around for years. A 2GB card in a 15MP camera is useless, but a 2GB hard drive in a Mac SE? That's insane!
First order of business was opening up the SE and removing the old drive.
I didn't want to go to all the trouble of mounting the SCSI2SD card inside the drive caddy until I knew that it worked. For now, I just sort of left it hanging off the back.
I booted the machine up with the Utilities disk from the 4-disk System 6.0.8 installer and launched the Apple HD SC Setup utility. As expected, the drive was not detected. Apple's utility cannot recognize non-Apple-branded drives. I tried it again with the "patched" version of that utility (the one that's been floating around the Internet for years) and it detected and successfully initialized the 2GB card as a single partition.
I then thought of an idea. Instead of going through the laborious process of installing everything via floppies, and dragging my backup over from the external SCSI drive, wouldn't it be easier and faster to pop the 2GB SD card into my SD card reader on my Mac Mini and just drag and drop System 6 along with a few hundred Megs of vintage goodies?
I connected the SD card to my Mac Mini via an SD card reader and dragged over a bunch of files, including a complete System 6.0.8 System folder.
I reinsert the card back into the SCSI2SD and fired up the Mac. Unfortunately, the SE wouldn't boot off the card. I figured it was because I didn't "bless" the System folder, so I booted the SE up again with a System 6.0.8 floppy, fully expecting the SCSI2SD to mount on the desktop. It didn't. I don't know what I did to the card inserting it into the Mac Mini, but it seemed to no longer be recognizable.
This time, I booted the machine up with a System 6.0.8 disk and launched Lido 7. The drive was instantly detected. I configured it for 2 x 1GB partitions just for fun.
I gave the machine a reboot with the floppy and my two new partitions mounted on the desktop. Hum, I wonder if a System 6 / 7 dual boot setup is possible?
I then popped in the System Tools disk from the 4-disk System 6.0.8 installer and ran the install utility.
After a few minutes, I had a fresh install of System 6.0.8.
The SCSI2SD has a hard drive indictor LED right on the board, but the sweet thing is that it also has a 2-pin jumper for an external LED. I was able to connect the LED that was on the old drive tray right to the SCSI2SD. They both flash in perfect unison.
Being so small, the SCSI2SD doesn't have traditional hard drive mounting holes. There was no easy way for me to mount it into the old drive tray without 3D printing some kind of custom rig. I didn't think it was worth all the trouble, so I just secured it with some twisty ties. This will at least keep it in place and prevent it from flopping around.
I then put the Mac back together and fired it up. I then copied all my files, apps, etc over from the external drive. It didn't take nearly as long as I thought it would. I thought I had more stuff on that drive than I actually did. It turned out to only be 125 megs.
It's so fast now! It takes seconds to go from a cold start to a desktop. This just might be the fastest computer in the house! Look at how fast it boots up.
I'm going to have to pick up a few more of these!