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I have an old Macintosh SE (the one with the slotted grille in the front) that has been sitting in a closet for years which I would like to spruce up and get it working order. It is complete and did work when I got it in 1997, but the last time I tried it (about 10 years ago), the hard-drive was having some problems (I can’t recall specifically if it had the click-of-death or just trouble spinning up). If I’m not mistaken, it uses a typical IDE drive and there is no specific distinction between a Mac drive other than the file-system.

  1. Can I just pop in a normal IDE drive or are there any gotchas to worry about such as the various size limits of PCs (for example, the 137GB BIOS limit)? Do the speed or manufacturer matter? The original came with a 20MB or 40MB drive, so is there a limit to what can be used? The Wikipedia page for it says that the drive is SCSI.

  2. What can I do about the software (specifically System 7 that is installed)? If I cannot copy the contents of the existing drive, is there a way to reinstall the OS? As far as I know, Mac users never had the option to download or reinstall from CD like Windows users did/do. Would it be legal to find and download a copy of System 7 since the OS was always included with the hardware?

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For a long time Apple made system 7.5.5 (*) available for free to all Macintosh owners. Try Pure Mac and similar sites. Hmmm...looks like you have to get System 7.5.3 first and then upgrade.

Also, I believe that the SE is one of the models that can boot from the firmware so that you can test it before you invest any money. Nope. That was the Classic. I had both at one time and got them mixed up.

It will still be a 8 Mhz, 68000, so there isn't much horsepower there...


(*) Which the SE will run if you have 4 MB of RAM, though you'll want to remove a lot of stuff to get the loaded size down as much as possible. If you have less memory than that you'll have to settle for System 7.0.1.

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Hmm, I knew I didn’t know much about Macs (only ever used them briefly in middle-school). It’s nice to see that they are indeed available. Now I just need to make sure that I can use a compatible drive. I’ve got 3GB and 80GB Maxtors and a couple of 512MB WD that are free. –  Synetech Mar 26 '12 at 1:01
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You definitely need a SCSI drive. Macs used SCSI drives exclusively until the late 1990's. Your SE doesn't have an IDE controller.

Also note that the last version of Mac OS that supported the SE was 7.5.5, which was just before HFS+ came out. So you'll be limited to regular HFS, which used a UInt16 counter for allocation blocks per volume, which means a maximum of 2^16 or 65536 blocks. So if you had an 80GiB drive, a 1-Byte file would take up something like 1.2 MiB. With a 512 MiB drive, a 1-Byte file would take 8K, which seems more reasonable.

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Note that though the standard install didn't do it you could partition large drives. More partitions on a large drive would mean smaller blocks in each partition. –  dmckee Mar 26 '12 at 16:45
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