The SGI Buyer's Guide

 General Information


This guide tries to help you when you want to buy an used SGI. First it will try to help you deciding which system fits best to your needs and then it will point out important items you should care about when buying a machine.

Where to get Affordable SGI Machines


Okay this answer is rather short, but I really don't know other alternatives (except you simply know people who want to get rid off used systems) to get an inexpensive used SGI. You may also google a bit, maybe there is a reseller somewhere in your country. But in most cases resellers do take more money than you would spend on ebay - in exchange you get better support.

Actually I know of the following SGI resellers (of course this is only a random selection). When you consider getting a machine from them, it would be best tp write them an e-mail and ask for a specific configurations, as in most cases the prices on their website aren't up to date.

See my SGI Vendors page for more information.

Selecting the Right System

  • The Indigo is a nice small box, but mostly for collectors.

    The Indigo was a real break through for SGI on the desktop workstation market. Although it really looks nice and can perform comparable to an Indy (depending on CPU and graphics) it is mostly something for collectors, because the price/performance ratio is worse than with most other used SGI machines.

  • The Indigo² is a solid entry system, but you have to know about the details.

    The Indigo² has many different flavours with different processors and graphic options. A good Indigo² can be almost as powerful as a single processor Octane, whereas a really bad Indigo² isn't much faster than a good Indigo.

  • The Indy is a cheap entry system to SGI.

    The Indy is the ideal starter system for people who want to have a closer look at SGIs and IRIX, because the Indy is a really inexpensive computer that even can have a webcam (the famous IndyCam) attached. But for serious business, an Indy may be too slow.

  • The Octane is the powerhouse of the desktop SGI machines.

    The Octane isthe most powerful and expandable desktop machine from SGI that often appears on ebay. It can have up to two CPUs, three harddiscs and even two graphic cards. An Octane is the ideal development plattform with lots of power and ressources.

  • The O2 is the well designed allrounder.

    The O2 is a real allrounder - with its UMA architecture and hardware texture mapping it is ideal for doing graphics business and there is an inexpensive video option available that will enable you to do even video editing. Plus it really looks great.

Comparison PC/SGI

The MIPS CPUs which are used in SGIs offer a very high floating point performance - this is just the thing needed for 3D graphics. I would guess a MIPS CPU is as fast as an Intel CPU with 1.5 times MHz, that is a 195MHz R10000 is about as fast as a 300MHz Pentium II. Plus the memory of an SGI is really fast, because it uses a dual channel system (doubles the performance) as opposed to many PCs.

But you really have to consider that most affordable SGI boxes in the second hand market are already 6 years or older, don't expect miracles. On the other hand, for an 6 year old system, an Octane performs amazingly well.


This is a very special section - in most ebay auctions you won't get the IRIX CDs with the system, although IRIX is preinstalled on the system. This has various reasons: First there are more SGI systems out there than IRIX CD sets, simply because SGIs are most used by big companies, which have hundreds of SGIs but only need a dozen installation CDs. The second reason is that you don't get a *license* with the CDs - the license is legally (not physically) dongeled to your machine. That means you can install IRIX on your machine, but that would not be really legal...

Of course there are also IRIX CD sets on ebay (don't get the so called "IRIX Overlay Sets" with only 3 or 4 CDs - this is just an update, and you cannot use these systems for installing IRIX on an empty disc. A full IRIX CD set has at least 12!), but be prepared to spend another 100EUR on such a set! On the other hand you don't need a set immediately, if you buy an SGI with a clean IRIX preinstalled.

The current Version is 6.5.18, but you can upgrade any 6.5 release up to 6.5.17 by downloading the upgrades from SGI. The upgrade to 6.5.18 isn't free any more, but probably you won't need it anyway, because most improvements are for the big servers.

SGI Monitors

Of course there are original SGI monitors.

General Advise

  • There is a general hint: Buy the system you want, don't buy an entry system for upgrading it - this will cost much more many in most cases, as the single parts get rather expensive compared to a complete system.
  • If you don't have IRIX CDs, ask the seller if he can install IRIX onto the system for you. You might even ask him to install all or most packages, because most simple IRIX installations do not contain development tools (even if you are not a software developer you may need these for compiling freeware)

Specific Guides

  • none