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-- b i o --
Shawn FitzGerald spends his spare time in front of his Mac trying to do constructive things, but usually ends up screwing around.

Speed Doubler 8
reviewed by Shawn FitzGerald

Author's Note:

If you are running MacOS 8.1, you need to download the Speed Doubler OS 8.1 Update from Connectix. Speed Doubler 8, out of the box, will not work with MacOS 8.1

I'll admit to some trepidation on my part when Connectix offered to send me a review copy of Speed Doubler 8. Every since the first version of Speed Doubler, I have heard horror stories around the Net about what Speed Doubler did to so-and-so's system on some particular day. I listened to the rumors and legends, and believed that every Speed Doubler disk should include a warning screen with a skull and crossbones and the subtitle, "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here."

This all sounds much worse than reality. When Speed Doubler was first introduced, MacOS had giant chunks of non-PPC native system code. That means, most of the system was written for the older 680X0 processors, which the Power PC didn't know how to read. It would be like having your OS written in Greek when your processor only speaks English. So, Apple included a 68K emulator to the system, which can be thought of as a translator for the Power PC. All the old code would go through the translator so the processor knew what to do with it. As you can imagine, this slows things down considerably.

The early Speed Doubler took certain chunks of non-native system code and made them native. It also replaced the emulator (or translator) with a faster, more efficient one. Thankfully, if you run MacOS 8 you system is mostly native. The emulator is still in there, but it kicks in only when you try to run an older application on a Power Mac. Most software today has Power PC native code, which means it is written in English, the language your processor speaks. It bypasses the translator entirely.

As Apple has made MacOS friendlier to Power PC chips, the need for Speed Doubler has diminished. The emulator is still there, and it is still slow, but you are unlikely need it. Out of 2GB of executable program code on my Power Mac, I have perhaps two programs that have any non-native code in them (I think one of them is an ancient copy of Zterm).

Connectix has tried to keep Speed Doubler useful by making it work in other areas. This has also (thank God) made it more stable. Since it no longer replaces giant pieces of your system code, the likeliness that things will explode is minimal. However, you should do some thinking before you buy this program.

What Speed Doubler 8 does, and does quite well, is speed up file copying. After doing a small test on the software, I can't imagine what Apple did with the file copy code that makes it so dismal. I copied my external Fonts folder from an old external SCSI drive, to the internal IDE in my PowerBase 200. This folder is 62.1 MB and has 1,500 files in it. The results of my test are in the following table, and you can see that Speed Doubler's copy routine kicks the Finder in its electronic bootie. This is especially evident when you attempt to do a background copy. For my test, I moved the folder to a different drive, and then made Word 98 active in the foreground. In fact, I am writing this now while I wait (and wait, and wait) for my background copy to finish with Speed Doubler 8 turned off. From my non-scientific visual perspective, it looks like the Finder is copying files at a rate of two per second. Speed Doubler did in seven minutes what the Finder did in over 25. When I was typing with Speed Doubler turned on, I did notice that it must have been sucking some CPU cycles, since there was some noticeable lag between my typing text, and it appearing on the screen. This did not, however, impede my ability to (8:55) work in the application. As you can also see, file deletion was also markedly improved.

Without Speed Doubler (secs)

With Speed Doubler (secs)

% Increase


Foreground Copy




Foreground Delete




Background Copy




Background Delete





Connectix has added several gizmos to Speed Doubler to make it more attractive. These include a set of hot keys, which can load an application or file just be hitting a key combination. For example, I have Netscape set to F1, and Claris Emailer set to F2. Nice, eh? Hotkeys can also be configured for menu-bar items. Of course, there are shareware utilities that will do this for less money. It is still nice that Connectix has added these features for users who want them. Personally, I don't like the menu-bar keys. I've been using Macs for about eight years. I'm fast enough with a mouse that pushing all those keys would slow me down. Different strokes I guess.

Speed Doubler 8 will also schedule automatic copies between folders and volumes. This could be useful for people who regularly copy the same things from their local hard drive to a network volume. You could schedule a copy of all your artwork files to a central group server, for example.

Lowdown and Whatevers

Speed Doubler 8 is recommended for people who copy large numbers of files frequently, especially if this file copying is done over a network. Though I was unable to test the network copy speed, Connectix claims Speed Doubler provides better performance over a network than it does locally. My own local-copy test showed a dramatic improvement over the Finder's copy, so it would be logical to assume that the network improvement is at least as good. Though the copying improvements are useful on a 68K Mac, I would still only recommend Speed Doubler for Power PC users. Speed Doubler would be a valuable tool for anyone running old, non-PPC software on a Power Mac, though I believe that type of user is rare. The average user, with a single computer and one hard drive, is unlikely to find Speed Doubler 8 very useful.

The writer of this article welcomes your comments: