CF/SD storage for classic Macs

Upgrading Internal Storage to CF/SD

I recently became the proud owner of a 1995 Macintosh Performa 630CD, in pristine condition. The original 1GB IDE hard drive was intact and running normally with System 7.5 installed. While some would be content to keep the machine fully vintage and faithful to factory installed hardware, I've never been a purist when it comes to hardware like this. When considering the reliability challenges that hard drives of this vintage have, I felt a modern replacement was justified for noise and capacity reasons. However, there are challenges to achieving this in 2022. The biggest obstacle will be that using a modern CF or SD card with an IDE interface will lack the special identifiers associated with the OEM hard drive supplied with the machine, so standard OS 7~8 drive utilities from Apple will refuse to initialize the drives and will give confusing error messages like "Installation of driver failed." The only way to overcome this is to use third-party partitioning tools to prepare the drive, then you can proceed normally with the OS installation. This article is not meant to portray the only way to accomplish this upgrade, but merely to document the process I used to upgrade my classic Mac computer.

Requirements for this procedure:

  • A classic mac with a fully functioning CD-ROM, internal IDE Hard Drive, and Floppy drive.

  • A working classic Mac OS installation with StuffitExpander installed.

  • Access to a separate PC or Mac with a functioning CD burner, and internet access. This computer also needs software capable of burning .iso images to disc, and also to burn Data CD's containing .sit files.

  • Blank CD-R media, and a functional High Density 1.4MB floppy disk or two.

  • A CF to IDE adapter or SD to IDE adapter, with 4GB or less media card. It's unclear if a drive with more than 4GB capacity will be recognized or supported. I used the 3.5in Drive Bay IDE to Single CF SSD Adapter Card Reader - MFG.PART: 35BAYCF2IDE with a 2GB Sandisk CF card.

  • In the case of the Performa 630CD, removal of the front panel on the computer and the metal cover over the hard drive bay to expose the IDE and Molex power connections.

On the non-classic Mac computer, you'll want to download the following files from Macintosh Repository:

  1. Unzip and burn the recovery .iso image file to a blank CD-R disk.

  2. Burn the FormatterFive .sit file to a Data CD.

  3. On the classic Mac computer, erase/format a blank floppy disk.

  4. Insert the Data CD containing FormatterFive in the Mac computer. Expand the FormatterFive .sit archive, then run the installer. Install the FormatterFive software onto the blank Floppy disc.

  5. Power off the Mac, then replace the hard drive with the CF or SD solution you plan to use.

  6. Using the Legacy Recovery CD, boot the Mac using the CD. Once fully booted, insert the Floppy disk containing FormatterFive. Run FormatterFive from the floppy disk, and use the software to partition and erase the flash hard drive unit. It is suggested to use HFS Standard format and not HFS Extended because its reported online that HFS Extended will run slower on 68K-powered Mac computers. Note that this erasure step may take an extended period of time due to the slow IDE standard supported by the Mac, and presumably the formatting method used by the software is very comprehensive.

  7. After partitioning and erasure is complete, eject the floppy disc. Navigating the Legacy Recovery CD, find the OS version you want to install and run the installer. I used System 7.6, so it had a single installer file. Older versions may have several floppy disk .img files that may need to be individually mounted prior to running the installer to complete an entire system installation.

  8. When OS installation completes, you are done. You can remove the Legacy Recovery CD and reboot the system to your newly installed hard drive.

  9. For permanent securement of the drive board, you should remove the spinning IDE hard drive, wrap the CF or SD board in some protective material like a packing envelope or plastic bag, and stick the board into the empty drive bay. I suggest you install the empty drive tray caddy in the bay for future safe keeping in case you decide to reinstall the original hard drive at a later date.

  10. Process complete. Your classic Mac should now be fully operational and ready for reassembly.