PowerBook 5300 FAQ

AlkSoft / Contents / Hardware / PCMCIA/PC Cards

2.7) PCMCIA/PC Cards

2.7.1) Can I use PC cards with this computer?

Yes. The 5300 has two Type I or Type II PC Card slots or one Type III PC Card slot. (A Type III PC Card is twice as thick as a Type II card, so only one will fit in the 5300's PC Card module.)

2.7.2) Can I use PC card modems with this computer?

Yes. In fact, this is probably the most cost-effective way of adding a modem to the 5300. There are a variety of PC Card modems made exclusively for Macs that work in the 5300, including models from Farallon and Global Village ranging from 14.4 kbps to 56 kbps.

2.7.3) Can I use PC card modems developed for Windows with this computer?

Yes, most of the time. Most modems that don't support Mac OS will still work with Apple's generic PC Card modem drivers. However, there are a few exceptions to that general rule: Most combo ethernet/modem cards do not work on the Mac and some modems really do require Windows to work correctly. Before you buy a modem that isn't supported on the Mac, make sure it will work with your PowerBook either by testing it first or asking someone else who has tested it.

2.7.4) What ethernet cards can I use with this computer?

You can use any PC Card ethernet adapter with Mac OS drivers, of course. That list is fairly long, but it includes cards from traditionaly suppliers such as Asante, Farallon, and even Global Village. There are even some modem/ethernet combo cards from these companies and others that have Mac OS drivers.

You cannot use most cards developed for Windows PCs that do not have Mac OS drivers! The exception to that rule is the 3Com 3c589 series of cards (also known as 3Com EtherLink III). The cards were cloned and rebranded by various other manufacturers including Dell and Farallon. In fact, it is because Farallon cloned the card that Mac users can use cards intended for PCs. Cameron Kaiser currently maintains the modified Farallon driver that supports any 3c589 series on the PowerBook. You can download the driver and read directions on his fantastic website here.

2.7.5) What wireless LAN cards can I use?

There are currently a handful of wireless LAN cards that are supported on the 5300. The list is pretty limited, however. They are as follows:

2.7.6) Can I use a USB card with this computer?

No. There have been rumors of a 16-bit (true PCMCIA) PC Card USB adapter that would work in the 5300 (and other 16-bit PC Card modules), but no such card is presently available. At the moment, all existing USB PC Cards are CardBus only, meaning that they require 32-bit PC Card slots such as those found on the PowerBook G3 and later.

2.7.7) Can I use a FireWire card with this computer?

No. As with USB cards, there are rumors of a 16-bit FireWire PC Card adapter, but there is currently no such card available. All FireWire cards currently available require CardBus slots.

2.7.8) Can I use a zoomed video/video capture card with this computer?

No and maybe, respectively. The 5300 does not have zoomed video support, so cards such as the Irez CapSure will not work in the 5300. However, Newer Technologies did make a video capture card that works in a standard PC Card slot called the CardCam. This card is exceedingly rare and Newer (even before it dissolved and reformed) ceased supporting it.

2.7.9) Can I use an external video card with this computer?

No. Unfortunately, these cards require more bandwidth than the 5300 can provide. The only card of which I am aware that supports Mac OS is the Road Rocket (from the now defunct IXMicro), and that card requires a CardBus slot.

2.7.10) Can I use a SCSI card adapter?

Probably not. Although there are 16 bit PC Card SCSI adapters for PC laptops on the market, I am unaware of any that have Mac OS drivers. The only adapters that do have Mac OS drivers at the moment are cards from Ratoc or Adaptec that also require CardBus slots.

2.7.11) Can I use a PCI breakout box?

No. The 5300 simply does not have the data throughput required for such a device, much less the PCI bus architecture that would be required to support a PCI breakout box.

2.7.12) Can I use a hard disk adapter to hook up an IDE hard drive?

Yes. In fact, you should be able to use any pure IDE disk adapter, whether it was designed for use with a PowerBook or not. However, there are at least two hard drive adapters made by Macintosh-centric companies. They are the MCE DataShuttle and a similar product offered by Other World Computing. Neither company sells these items currently, but you should still be able to find them on eBay occasionally.

There's also a whole host of products made for use with PC laptops, but they should work equally well with PowerBooks since they don't require drivers. The IDE/ATA protocols are a subset of the PC Card protocols, and adapting IDE hard drives to work in PC Card slots is usually purely a matter of a hardware adapter.

2.7.13) Can I use PC card based solid-state memory cards or ATA Flash Memory?

Yes. These cards (ATA Flash memory) appear to your PowerBook as an IDE hard drive. Basically, if the card fits in your PC Card slot, it should work without a hitch.

2.7.14) Will Compact Flash/Smart Media/Secure Digital/MultiMediaCard/Memory Stick/xD Picture Card adapters work?

Yes. The devices are simple adapters to the actual storage media. They allow the storage media to connect to the IDE/ATA data lines in the PC Card slot.

Simple Compact Flash adapters can be bought at any Best Buy or similar consumer electronics store for about $12. Smart Media, SD, MMC, and Memory Stick adapters are more complicated, since the media itself is quite different from CF or ATA Flash Memory. Consequently, these adapters tend to cost a few more dollars. xD Picture Cards, being a relatively new standard, are fairly expensive. Adapters can run up to as much as $79, I have been informed by a reader.

2.7.15) Can I use one of the above memory modules as a virtual memory volume?

Certainly. In fact, many people use this as a method for increasing their total logical RAM capacity without suffering from the power sapping, disk fragmenting, and performance degrading aspects of using the internal hard drive as virtual memory swap space.

The procedure is pretty simple. Insert the card. If you have PC Exchange enabled, the card will appear on your desktop as a DOS formatted hard disk. Reformat the card as a Mac OS Format disk just as you would with any other storage device. It has been noted by some PowerBook users that you must actually disable PC Exchange before you can format PC Card flash storage to a Mac format. After the card is reformatted, open the Memory control panel, turn on Virtual Memory, allocate as much virtual memory space as you wish, and select the card as the volume for VM. After restarting your PowerBook, the Mac OS will use the flash memory as virtual memory to extend the amount of logical RAM you have.

It should be noted, of course, that the flash card you use for Virtual Memory must have a higher capacity than the total amount of physical RAM you have installed...

The PowerBook Source has a good article on the use of flash memory in a PowerBook.

There are several advantages to following this approach: The power consumption of a flash card is far lower than that of the hard drive, so battery run time is increased significantly when not using the hard drive for virtual memory. In many cases, flash cards have faster access times than actual hard drives (although the data throughput may be similar), so virtual memory may be more responsive. Virtual memory has been known to cause serious fragmentation of hard drives, eventually leading to poor overall performance or worse issues. To avoid fragmentation, many users partition their hard drives and dedicate a specific partition just to virtual memory. This works, but it is annoying if you have data on your disk before deciding to run virtual memory. Finally, virtual memory requires a significant amount of space on your hard drive. If you have a smaller hard disk, this may crimp your ability to store data. Using a flash card avoids all these issues.

If you ever wish to use the card as a storage medium for a PDA or camera after it has been formatted for use in a Mac, you will need to format it in that device. PC Exchange apparently doesn't do a good enough job of reformating the cards to the original format for them to work in another device. You might as well save yourself some time and just do the reformat only once.

2.7.16) Can I use one of the above memory modules for a boot disk?

Yes. You'll need a module at least large enough to hold a stripped down system folder and whatever software utlities you want to run while booted from it. Insert the card and format it as a Mac OS volume. Install whatever system software you want on the card, as well as the other software you need. Select the card as the Startup Disk in the Startup Disk control panel and restart your PowerBook. If everything went well, the 5300 should start up from the PC Card.

Again, the PowerBook Source talks about this in detail.

(Of course, this same approach works for IDE hard drives adapted for use with the PC Card slot as discused in 2.7.11) above.)

Booting off of a flash memory card can significantly increase battery run time (sometimes by as much as 45 minutes to an hour). The battery concious among us may want to try this out.