Transferring data from an old laptop

Christopher Breen
17 March, 2011
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Reader Walt Pinkston, a friend indeed, wishes to help a friend in need with an ancient Apple laptop. He writes:

A friend has a really old Mac PowerBook 5300 and wants to transfer personal data files from it to a new iMac. There is no USB port on the old PowerBook. And I don’t know what OS is installed. It does have a SCSI port. Got any suggestions on the best way to move Quicken, Word, and Excel files and other personal data from this ancient machine on to something new?

Every so often I like to post questions simply to see what our readers come up with in the comments area. This is one of those cases. There are a few ways out of this PowerBook, but none of them are easy.

That PowerBook uses an HDI-30 SCSI connector. Search eBay and you’ll find HDI-30 to standard-issue SCSI cables. Get one and you might be able to add a SCSI-to-USB adapter to get to an external USB hard drive, where you could copy the data from the PowerBook and then move the drive to the iMac. I stress might because the PowerBook could just as easily ignore the hard drive.

The 5300 also has a PC Card Slot. Invoking the mighty might again, you might be able to find a compatible Ethernet PC card that works with this PowerBook. With that card, you could then set up file sharing between the two Macs and copy the files across the network. Again, Google, eBay, and (hopefully) some reader comments could be your other friends.

Finally, the PowerBook 5300 has an IDE hard drive. If your friend is willing to risk destroying what’s left of his laptop (and honestly, this is one of the worst laptops Apple ever made, so it’s no great loss), he could open it up, extract the drive, and use something like Newer Technologies’ USB 2.0 Universal Driver Adapter to attach the drive to the iMac. You can find some instructions for opening the 5300 here.

Image by Serged via Wikimedia Commons

One Comment

One person was compelled to have their say. We encourage you to do the same..

  1. Adam says:

    (1) Find a USB driven external floppy disk drive like the one I purchased with by ‘Blue & White’ PowerMac G3 in 1999.I think Macally was the manufacturer. You might be able to find them on eBay. I can plug this device into my 2009 iMac running Snow Leopard and it stll functions perfectly. Of couse, these days obtaining floppy disks might prove difficult, and if the files on the Powerbook 5300 are bigger than 1.4MB then this could be a very slow and awkward way to transfer the files.

    (2) Find someone who owns a Blue and White G3 PowerMac. These machines still had an ADB port on them for backwards compatibility with older Mac printers. If you have an ADB cable you should be able to network the 5300 with the G3 if it has MacOS 9 or earlier installed on it (a “Local Talk” network I believe). Then you should have an easier time getting the files off the G3 because it supports firewire and USB.

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