iMac G4 1GHz moves upstairs

I moved the 1GHz iMac G4 upstairs and installed Leopard on it today.

Imacg41ghz osx install

Not much going on there yet, and it is on the network via DHCP (so doesn’t have a stable IP address), but I can screen share into it from my office iMac, which I can screen share into from home.

Imacg41ghz double share

More thoughts on HDD replacements, with boring table

I’ve been exploring drive replacement options for the various machines that I have and which might need drive replacements, and I’m finding a surprisingly small amount of information about exactly what all of the drive options really are. This is a much more complex task than I’d originally given it credit for, there are a lot of different drive interfaces. It’s more than just 2.5″ vs. 3.5″, IDE, SCSI, SATA. Many of the spec sheets I’ve been coming across are not sufficiently verbose about the type of drives the machines take, just the sizes they shipped with. So, let me try to collect my thoughts on this in a way more organized than I undertook in my previous rambling. (This is particularly true of the Mac machines, the Apples II I think I basically grasp.) Warning, however: This is not likely to be very interesting to anyone but me.

The iMac Service Source manual for the iMac G3s indicates shipping hard disks of the EIDE type from 7–30GB. My impression, given the casualness with which information is supplied, is that anything with a PATA physically compatible interface is pretty much backwards compatible, so that I can use a newer, fancier PATA drive even if the machine that’s talking to it doesn’t know how to use its features. Also, I learned from the PATA article that the Compact Flash interface is really just yet another PATA type (with a different physical connector), so that explains why IDE-CF adapters are so cheap.

For drive sizes under, or possibly at, 32GB, an IDE-CF solution as replacement makes some economic sense, but for larger drive sizes, the cost of the CF cards starts getting pretty steep. Although I could in principle hit or near the 128GB maximum addressable size for G3 iMacs, graphite PowerMac G4s, and the G4 Cube by getting a 128GB CF card (currently $898 at or an OWC Mercury Pro Legacy SSD (currently $220), I am not composed of cash. The SSD option is fast enough that it might merit some consideration, but it’s still a lot. A spinning IDE drive is over three times cheaper, e.g. OWC’s 120GB drive (currently $68).

There’s a kind of a conundrum in deciding what to put in the vintage Macs, because although they often shipped with smallish drives, when has that ever been enough? Granted, there is a big usage difference between the times when each of these was serving as my primary computing platform, and now, when they’re likely to be fairly specialized in what they’re being asked to do. But do I focus on replacing the hard drive at its shipping size, or max them out?

The SCSI interface of the still-older Macs is more problematic. Since I still think getting actual vintage drives as a replacement is not a smart move, a SCSI-IDE or SCSI-SATA adapter is probably a better option. Also, the size limits on these drives is smaller; in many cases (where I’m running pre-System 7.5), I can’t get beyond 2GB anyway, which makes a CF solution attractive. Something like PCD-50B with a CF-to-PCMCIA adapter (required because booting is constrained to the PCMCIA slot) looks like a pretty good option, even if it’s kind of overkill, since it’s (at $67 currently) about the cheapest way to get from SCSI to CF. Though it is not universally trouble-free. The PCD-50B setup is about half the price of the CF AztecMonster (page in Japanese, though he sells them via artmix on ebay as well). I bought one of the CF AztecMonsters, but shipping estimates suggest it will be a while before I see it. But SCSI-IDE for an actual drive seems like a dead-end road, since nobody is going to be making new 2GB drives.

[update: I came across some notes on Rob Brauns’s page that might be useful: Experiments in IDE-CF adapters, Experiments with R-IDSC-E SCSI to IDE converter (Oct 2009), and SE/30 Storage Benchmarks (Jan 2010). A few other interesting things there, including a writeup of Remote Booting a IIgs (Oct 2009) which can be seen in action on Brian Picchi’s video demo.]

For my own reference, here is a list of the machines, shipping size, and interface, that I have a chance of trying to replace the hard drives in.

shipped size
OS shipped
OS max
Max under shipped OS
(Max under max OS)



SCSI-CF? System 6, A/UX, NetBSD?




IIe card,
System 7.5.5
Performa 6116CD



AppleTalk/Ethernet bridge?
Mac OS 7.5.5?
Agonizingly slow
Duo 2300c

2.5″ IDE

4GB[2] 2.5″ CF-IDE 2GB replace.
Mac OS 8.6
PowerMac 7500/100



Mac OS 8.6?
Use unclear
PowerMac 8600/200


2TB Mac OS 8.6?
PC Compatibility card. Upgrade HDD? Mac OS 8.6?
PowerMac G3 Beige


PM G3/233.
Mac OS 8.6 or 9.2.2.
IDE-CF seems to be an option.
Replace the personality card with a Wings card? (Then what? Use the PMG3 as an external monitor for an Apple II?)
Use unclear.
Bondi iMac

8.1, 8.5

128GB Not sure whether rev A or B.
IDE-CF realistic.
iBook SE

2.5 EIDE

128GB Airport capable. IDE-CF realistic. Mac OS 9.2.2?
iMac DV, DV/SE

8.6 or 9.1

128GB Not sure on models. IDE-CF realistic. Airport with adapter.
Ruby iMac

128GB IDE-CF realistic. Airport with adapter.
G4 Cube

9.0.4 or 9.1

128GB Unsure of model. Airport capable. Mac OS 9.2.2. IDE-CF realistic.
PowerMac G4 Graphite

8.6 or 9.0.4

128GB unsure of models. Maybe Airport capable.
iMac G4

9.2.2 and 10.1.2, 10.2.3

128GB Airport capable. IDE-SATA maybe.
PowerMac G4 MDD



Not completely sure of model. Airport capable. IDE-SATA maybe. 10.5.8 if DP.

9.2.2, 10.1.4 or 10.2.5 or 10.3.3 or 10.4

10.4.11 or 10.5.8
big One is 1.25GHz/512MB, unsure of other model. Airport capable (1.25GHz requires Extreme). IDE-SATA maybe. 10.4.11 probably.
iMac G5


big 75% sure of the model. Modern HDD.

[1] I will use the LC II at no higher than system 7.5.5 so that the Apple IIe card will function.

[2] LowEndMac passes on warnings that ATA-6 drives are not compatible with the 2300c, which may need to be a consideration in replacing the hard drive in the 2300c with a CF contraption.

That took a while to work up, and I’m not completely sure I got the max capacities right or what the precise relationship I need to worry about is between IDE and EIDE and the different ATA levels. But it is interesting to see this list spelled out this way, it suggests to me that I have too many machines to realistically update them all. It reinforces the idea that I should mainly be concentrating on replacing hard drives that have already failed, and stick with the hard drives that are installed if they still work. Also, I am really leaning toward flogging some of the non-unique (or just uninteresting) ones off on ebay or something once I get them to start. And, sorry to say, those I may well consider putting cheap vintage drives in.

Brainstorming about the iMac G4 as an auxiliary display

So, I have a number of 15″ iMac G4 machines, some of the 800Mhz/512MB variety and at least one of the 1GHz/512MB variety. The 800Mhz machines are capable of booting Mac OS 9.2.2, and are among the last machines Apple made that can, although my G4 MDD is about the fastest (1.25GHz) machine I have (and that exists) that I could boot Mac OS 9 on. However, I think I’ll reserve the power of the MDD for Mac OS X, and so I will designate one of my 800MHz G4s as being a Mac OS 9 machine. The iMac G4s are certified for Mac OS X up to 10.4.11, though 10.5 is possible to do. I don’t actually have very much nostalgia for Cheetah, Puma, Panther, or Jaguar. Absolute no way would I run any of these machines on Cheetah now, that was terrible. For the most part, major upgrades to Mac OS X have been big enough steps forward even in performance that I don’t think I’ll install anything less than Panther unless forced. The iMac G4 is modern enough that it can take an AirPort card, too, so I could use that to get it on the network.

One of the things I have been doing with my modern iMac is hooking up a second monitor that I often use in advising appointments with students as a screen that I can point at them without necessarily revealing everything that I have on my own main screen. But the second monitor I have is a big old gargantuan CRT, and the iMac G4 seems like it has a better physical design for this sort of use.

There are two approaches to this. One that might be a sort of feasible option is to run something like Air Display (which I love for making my iPad a second monitor for my MacBook Pro) on the iMac G4, but unless there is another competing option with lower minimum requirements, I would need to push the iMac G4 up to system 10.5.8, which is well beyond what it’s supposed to run. It can be done using something like LeopardAssist, but it goes against my principle of trying to keep the older machines snappy by sticking with their shipping OS. This would most closely match my current usage, though. Perhaps this is enough of a reason to use the 1GHz machine, too, though I think I’ll want to try to kick up the RAM as well, since 512MB is also not really going to cut it under 10.5.8. I suspect that the iMac G4 would still wind up being very slow when not acting as a second monitor. The hard drives are only 60GB or 80GB big, so there’s not a lot of room to maneuver, but I might try to make the machine dual boot into 10.5.8 and 9.2.2 and use it in 9.2.2.

The second approach is of course just to leave the iMac G4 on 10.4 and use its native processor to do the displaying of the PDFs and web pages and screen-share into it, since 10.4 includes a VNC server. This might work well also due to the fact that I have a somewhat higher number of machines than I have keyboards and mice. One thing I am not sure about is what versions of what browsers function acceptably under 10.4. I need to be able to browse through the university’s data pages in order to get to transcripts, which does involve a certain amount of modern JavaScript, but I think I should be able to find something that can do this acceptably. I also would ideally link my Dropbox folder on the iMac G4, which would make all of my PDFs available (though in fact my Dropbox folder in total is bigger than the hard drive on the iMac G4, so I’ll need to take advantage of their relatively new selective sync ability to sync just my PDFs folder and not the rest of my Dropbox folder). But at least as of now, Dropbox still supports 10.4.11.

Not quite sure where I’ll go with this, but I’m sure I’ll report it here.

Polishing the lamps

Things that come from computer recyclers tend to be a little on the grimy side. So, I spent a little while cleaning up all five of the iMac G4s and checking to see if they worked.

IMacG4a cleaning

A couple of them appear not to have hard drives in them. Really, none of them should have had hard drives in them (but I won’t reveal who it was who gave these to me, this was a bit of a data security lapse on their part). A couple weren’t properly wiped, but I’ll Do the Right Thing and wipe them myself.

IMacG4e info

I also got a couple of install disks, which happened to be in the drives (though they weren’t really appropriate—one had a PowerMac G4 disc, though this is an iMac, and another had a install disc for MacOS 9, into which most iMac G4s can’t boot). However, I was not able to start them up off the CDs, which I’m not that pleased about, I think they should have at least reached a “this machine is not compatible” screen. I didn’t investigate this, though, and I was at least able to read the disc on another machine that booted onto its own hard drive. But they all started up, at least to a blinking folder icon. So, they all work.

IMacG4a pmg4cd

IMacG4c macos9cd

Of the three that booted off their own internal hard drives, two were 800MHz models, and one was a 1GHz model. Don’t know about the other two (which didn’t have internal hard drives), and I still haven’t started up the other one I already had.

Though I still can’t quite see out what I’m going to sensibly do with six of these. I think it’s quite possible that I’ll clean them up a little more and install an appropriate blank system then see if somebody on ebay wants them. These are a little new to be properly “retro,” so I wouldn’t expect to turn much profit. Still, the main thing would be to put them in an appropriately appreciative home.

The nice thing about the iMac G4s is that you can squeeze them into pretty small spaces. Here are three of them sitting on my shelf (above a couple of iMac DV/SEs, a Bondi iMac, near a couple of SE/30s, and a couple of different generations of PowerMac).

Labspace sb2012b

All in all, I do think that I’d be wise to resist further urges to visit computer recyclers. This room is about at capacity now.

iMac population explosion

Before today, I had a graphite iMac DV/SE which got pretty badly cracked during shipping.

Imacdvse 1 cracked side

And I had a iMac G4 (which is currently kind of cutely perched atop my IIgs, Snoopy-style).


Today’s trip to the computer recycler (a different one from the one I visited last time) yielded quite a few more. I got a snow iMac, which I somehow failed to take a picture of, and two more graphite iMac DV/SEs, to make up for the cracked one.

Imacdvse 2

Imacdvse 3

And I wound up with five more iMac G4s. The reason I wound up with five more of these is that they were basically on their way to the crusher. If I didn’t take them, they would be destroyed. And I felt like I couldn’t let that happen. The recycler gave me the whole set for $8 per machine.


Browsing around computer recycling places is pretty interesting. But I don’t think I could ever (even if there were any chance of a career change in my future) work in such a place. Because their main mission is to destroy these things, ecologically. I understand that it probably has to be done. But it seems like it would be rather like working in a slaughterhouse for someone who really loves pigs.

A longer list than I’d realized

There are still a couple of things that I’ve gotten that haven’t been documented here yet. They’ll get more discussion later on. This is really mostly a list with pictures. I now have a Macintosh LC II, which has the notable property that it can host the Apple IIe emulator card, which might make moving software between Mac and Apple II platforms easier (plus, it’s just cool). I don’t have the emulator card yet, but I intend to.

Lcii label

There’s an Apple //e machine that I got some time ago, which contains a number of cards, most notably a Novation Apple-Cat ][. That one starts, but the disk drive that was in it doesn’t work, so I need to do something with it and just haven’t had a chance. But here’s a picture at least.

Iie zthe boredom

Also, on my recent trip to the recycler, I got a ruby iMac G3 (for basically nothing). I’m going to need to put in a hard drive, but it turned out to have an AirPort card already inside. I’ve got a iMac DV/SE on its way (the best looking of all the translucent iMacs, in my opinion, and also the one that I used to have as my main machine). The photo of the graphite DV/SE below is from the auction, but I should have it soon. Both are relatively usable and modern, but I think I really have them for their looks. I also have an original Bondi Blue iMac that I salvaged, but the last time I tried to turn it on, nothing happened, so that one may require some work.

Ruby imac

Imac dvse auction

Bondi imac

A third machine that was acquired at the recycler was a “MacLamp” iMac G4, though I didn’t take a picture of mine. Here’s a stock photo.

Imac flat up

I also have an iBook SE that I’ve had since it was new, and it still starts up but I think the hard drive is getting close to failing, so I’ll probably need to replace it. However, replacing it is quite a procedure (you don’t even see the hard drive until step 34 of the ifixit guide, step 50 of this other guide), so that may not happen soon.

Ibook se open

Also, the battery is dead, which can probably only be solved by finding another one to buy.

Ibook se closed battery

What else? There’s also a couple of eMacs that I want to set up and make AirPort-capable, and a bunch of PowerMac G4s (one MDD, something like five of the earlier kind) that probably need hard drives and power supplies. I have a PowerMac G3 and a couple of PowerMac 7500/100s and a PowerMac 6116CD and a PowerMac 8600/200, all of which were salvaged from the trash and may not be in very good shape, but which I may at some point want to make start. And my Duo 2300c, from graduate school, which still seems to be working fine (though it too may not have very good batteries at this point).

Tower of powermacs

Pm8600 200

Duo mdd pmg4

G4s over lcii

I think that’s about it. Unless I can manage to get an Apple /// or a Lisa. I’m still toying with the idea of getting a platinum //e as well, and I’d probably take a Bell & Howell Apple ][+ or an original Apple ][ if one were within reach. Hard to believe that all fits in this little office I’ve got, but so far it does. It’s conceivable that I might eventually (once they’re clean and working) unload some of the duplicates, since I don’t really particularly need/want more than a representative sample. (Though, then again, having parts machines in the event of failure doesn’t seem unwise either. But, whatever, everything mentioned here is really kind of a long way off I expect. There’s a lot of real work to do in the meantime.)