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G4 iMac 15" - The Resurrection


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#1 Matt Diamond

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Posted 25 April 2020 - 08:49 PM

g4imac.jpg

My son was gifted a G4 iMac from someone's storage, for helping them out. I desperately wanted one of these when they first came out so I've been trying to get it running again.

When we first got it it made horrible clicking sounds and the CD tray wouldn't open. I fixed those by replacing the hard drive and Superdrive (and while I was at it, the PRAM battery). Once I set the master-slave pins on the drives correctly we got the flashing question mark indicating no boot drive. And holding down the mouse opens the CD tray. So far so good.

But I am unable to boot a CD or DVD. I tried burning G4 iMac Restore CDs, and a OS X 10.4 Tiger installer DVD, and neither worked. Holding down the C key at boot, the DVD is ejected immediately. The CD makes normal sounds like it is being read, but nothing happens. Holding down the Option key, no disks are ever shown.

At least one person claims that booting to a burnt disk may not work work and I need to get real system restore disks or a Tiger installer. Both can be found on eBay, but I would like some assurance that this is the problem I'm having.

Another option would be try booting it to an external Firewire 400 drive. I actually have one, but I don't think I have a way to install an old enough OS on it (10.1 - 10.4 Tiger). Newer machines won't run the old installers AFAIK.

It's been a fun project but if I spend much more money on it I could have just bought a working one in the first place!

Suggestions welcome..
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#2 Sneaky Snake

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Posted 26 April 2020 - 10:47 AM

Could you setup a VM of an older macOS version and use that to create the installer on the FW drive? Someone out there on the internet probably has an old VM template for VMware/Parallels that can be downloaded.
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#3 the Battle Cat

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Posted 26 April 2020 - 11:18 AM

I have a G4 Mac Pro, It is PowerPC as yours most likely is.  Try an OS9 installer diisk.
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#4 mattw

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Posted 26 April 2020 - 11:45 AM

If you have access to another Mac of that era I'd try starting it in target disk mode and effectively connecting it as an external disk. You can even clone a working OS to it that way.

I used to do that with several eMacs that didn't even have optical drives as I couldn't find a suitable installer either.
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#5 Matt Diamond

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Posted 26 April 2020 - 12:19 PM

View PostSneaky Snake, on 26 April 2020 - 10:47 AM, said:

Could you setup a VM of an older macOS version and use that to create the installer on the FW drive?
Interesting idea. Will look around. I own a few versions of VMWare, and I think Sheepshaver runs OS 9.

View Postthe Battle Cat, on 26 April 2020 - 11:18 AM, said:

I have a G4 Mac Pro, It is PowerPC as yours most likely is.  Try an OS9 installer diisk.
Pretty sure I don't have old install disks of any flavor. I sold a lot of stuff to fund my first decent iPhone. But I'll look again because that would be easiest.

View Postmattw, on 26 April 2020 - 11:45 AM, said:

If you have access to another Mac of that era I'd try starting it in target disk mode and effectively connecting it as an external disk. You can even clone a working OS to it that way.
We have a Snow Leopard iMac, which is not old enough. Oh wait! I think I have a G3 Powerbook in a closet. Maybe that's running OS 9.

Thanks for the suggestions! Now I have 3 things to try.
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#6 Matt Diamond

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Posted 26 April 2020 - 03:03 PM

Hit some dead ends:
VMWare: I could create a 0x86 OS X 10.4 VM using VMWare Fusion, but I don't think I'll be able to create a PowerPC boot drive that way.
Sheepshaver: emulates a PowerPC, but the only option it gives for initializing the Firewire disk is ProDos(?). Also it's emulating a rather early version of OS 9.
Target disk mode: The G3 laptop I have ("Wallstreet") has almost no ports to speak of, so I can't use target disk mode with it.

The search continues...
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#7 Tetsuya

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Posted 26 April 2020 - 10:12 PM

I have a 20" sitting here that i grabbed at a Garage Sale several years ago.  

One of These Days™ I intend to gut it and put in a modern mac (probably the guts of a Mini) just to bring it back to useful life.  

There's a guide out there on how to re-wire the wires from the monitor arm to a DVI plug and attach a small standalone PSU for the monitor itself.  

The guy who did it originally built a Hackintosh, but i dont want that headache, so i think just buying a used Mini and shelling it and putting the parts inside the old G4 will be a better plan (and just using an HDMI-Adapter internally to drive the monitor from the Mini's HDMI port.  

I have a friend with a 3-D printer who can make a custom backplate, and short extension cables (for USB) can make sure they all line up where you'd want.

#8 ozzy

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Posted 27 April 2020 - 06:19 AM

I might have a couple old OS X 10.1, 10.2, 10.3 and 10.4 install DVDs (the originals, not burned ones). If I can find them I could send you one. If I remember correctly that iMac came with either 10.1 or 10.2 depending on what model it was, so 10.2-10.4 should all work (as long as it's the PowerPC version of 10.4).

#9 the Battle Cat

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Posted 27 April 2020 - 10:37 AM

View PostMatt Diamond, on 26 April 2020 - 12:19 PM, said:

Pretty sure I don't have old install disks of any flavor. I sold a lot of stuff to fund my first decent iPhone. But I'll look again because that would be easiest.

I have an OS9 install disk, with a couple CDs I burned with updates up to 9.2.2.  I'd be happy to loan it to you.
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#10 Matt Diamond

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Posted 27 April 2020 - 03:46 PM

That's really kind of everyone.

You know what, life is short. I see some iMac restore disks that look like the right versions (10.1.3, 9.2.2) on eBay. I'll get those and see what happens.

View PostTetsuya, on 26 April 2020 - 10:12 PM, said:

One of These Days™ I intend to gut it and put in a modern mac (probably the guts of a Mini) just to bring it back to useful life.  
That would be really neat. I was wondering if someone tried that - it's such a cool form factor, and the base is much bigger than the mini is now.

I also see people have turned them into desk lamps. Some people turn the base into a shade, but others keep it as the base. Let's call that plan B...
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#11 Tetsuya

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Posted 27 April 2020 - 03:54 PM

I will look through my accumulated crud and see if i have the install discs that came with the 20".  

I have no particular need for them and as long as you could mail them back when you're done, i'd be happy to loan them, if i have them.  

I say if only because i may have pitched them since i never had any intention of resurrecting the 20" (actually i think its working anyway) as a PPC Mac anyway... and my office has moved rooms twice.

#12 Matt Diamond

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Posted 27 April 2020 - 06:12 PM

Thanks! If the disks I ordered on eBay don't match the model or are damaged, I'll borrow an installer from someone here.
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#13 Tetsuya

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Posted 27 April 2020 - 09:17 PM

View PostMatt Diamond, on 27 April 2020 - 03:46 PM, said:

That would be really neat. I was wondering if someone tried that - it's such a cool form factor, and the base is much bigger than the mini is now.


Yeah, the only really "difficult" part is re-wiring the monitor.  Otherwise, its got plenty of space in it when you gut it, and with low power parts, you can easily fit an off-the-shelf mITX PC in it, or hackintosh...

If you just wanted it to be a functional computer, you could fairly easily put a Ryzen 7 8 core/16 thread CPU in there in a decent mITX board.  (You'd just have to live with it having an external brick PSU with a fairly thick cable heading into the back.  But, i mean, the brick would be on the floor anyway, so who really cares?).  Only remotely difficult part might be fitting a GPU, but you could just get a fanless GT710 or something (ASUS actually just released *new* GT710s with GDDR6) and a PCIe riser cable.

But hackintoshing is a pain, and ive taken a few Mini's apart, and you could actually probably get away without even de-casing it, and just setting it in the bottom.  On the new backplate, have a pass-through for the power cable and you'd be good to go.  As long as you left the fan at the top of the bulb/base of the arm to exhaust the heat coming out of the mini, i think it'd be fine.  

Only other thing you have to make room for (if you want it to not have a power brick externally, you dont even have to do that much if you dont care that it has a power brick) is the little Pico-PSU to power the monitor.  

With some short like 2-3" USB and 3.5mm Extensions, and a 3D-printed replacement backplate with a hole(s) for the two power cables, it would look 99% like it did back in the day, only have a fully functional modern computer in it.  Upgrading it would be simple - simply plop a new Mini in when needed.  Though eventually that 1600x900 display is going to kill its usefulness.  

There are even people who have gone WAY further than i feel like going (and probably beyond my extremely modest modding skills) and pulled the panel out of the monitor and replaced it with newer, higher-res panels and put the frame back around it.  One guy even did a touchscreen.  

There's even some guys that did 23" monitors on them (with new 3D printed housings to retain the right look).

#14 Matt Diamond

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Posted 28 April 2020 - 08:35 PM

People are amazing, aren't they?

Turns out I have a new project though. This one is called "Mac Mini 2018 - The Resurrection". Yes, the refurb I bought last year just started kernel panicking several times a day, seemingly when it tries to sleep. I thought it might have been Apple's 2020-02 security update since other Mini owners have a similar complaint, but today its gotten worse: the thing starts up normally maybe 1 out of 5 attempts. The rest of the time it's a black screen.

* Oddly enough, holding down Option key at startup seems to guarantee that I get the black screen, but maybe that's coincidence.
* I happened to run TechTool Pro on it last week, everything seemed fine.

Time Machine just finished updating so I am free to try a serious of increasingly desperate measures, possibly ending with physical violence. Wish me luck!
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#15 Matt Diamond

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Posted 29 April 2020 - 06:58 AM

Seems to be egpu related.
  • Can no longer boot to egpu alone - always get a black screen and see kernel panic report next time I successfully boot
  • I can boot without egpu, using an HDMI connection to the same video screen
  • Oddly, I can boot if I have both egpu and onboard video video connected to the same monitor. BOTH video connections work and show half of desktop! I can then remove the HDMI connection and run egpu only, though I expect it will KP on sleep as before (will test)
This is a nightmare because I am sure that if I send it in for repair, Apple will not find anything wrong, blame the egpu. And who knows, maybe they'd be right.
The egpu works fine when attached to a MacBook Pro, but the laptop always has its a 2nd video connection (the laptop screen) and double video works on the Mini too.

Maybe it's an Apple bug? If so I hope they patch it soon, my warranty is up in a month.

Next steps:
  • Search egpu.io and other forums for similar reports
  • Try to repro KP some more with HDMI+egpu, or HDMI only
  • Try upgrading to Catalina? (Desperate times..)

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#16 ozzy

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Posted 29 April 2020 - 09:30 AM

This bug might be related? Seems to be that if you install Mac OS updates with an eGPU attached it somehow gets screwed up? Fix seems pretty easy though: https://egpu.io/foru...rom-a-shutdown/

There is also a firmware bug with Mini's that was introduced with Catalina I think and causes them to be unable to boot with Radeon 480/580 series cards. Seems unlikely that is your problem though: https://egpu.io/foru...gpu/#post-68676

#17 Matt Diamond

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Posted 29 April 2020 - 10:32 AM

Thanks Ozzy! In future I will update without the egpu attached for future reference. It's never been a problem until now but why tempt fate? In this case, I'd already tried reinstalling Mac OS X using HDMI and it didn't help.

Happily, I just found this buried deep on Sonnet's eGFX support site:

Quote

Under macOS 10.14.6 (but not 10.14.5) or 10.15.4-, a 2018 Mac mini must be booted with a monitor connected to the Mac mini's HDMI port. The monitor may be moved to the GPU after booting. We have filed a bug report with Apple and expect a fix soon.
That seems like my problem right there. If I dis

One could dream of a world where Apple responds to the KP reports we submit, or Sonnet sends their eGFX Mac users an email. Oh well. Doesn't matter how cheap proactive support gets, companies still don't do it.
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#18 Matt Diamond

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Posted 06 May 2020 - 09:57 AM

Update: the G4 iMac does boot with the official Apple iMac system restore disks I bought. So that hurdle has been crossed.

The memory failed a startup check. I should have predicted this, since it's almost the only thing in there I haven't replaced yet :-) But the startup continued after that. If I get the machine working I'll buy new RAM for it.

The problem now is that the disks run Apple System Restore. It doesn't seem to include an option to run Disk Utility. So I am unable to format the new HD I put in. Perhaps I will need an old OS X installer after all, just to run disk utility?
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#19 Matt Diamond

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Posted 19 May 2020 - 05:13 PM

It's alive!

I got an old Tiger installer, used it to format the HD. Then ran the iMac restore.
OS 9 works! For some reason the OS X 10.1 folder isn't recognized but we can live with that. If we ever get tired of OS 9 I'll run the Tiger installer.

The iMac Restore disks came with two games, Ottomatic and Deimos Rising. But for SOME REASON Apple didn't include the old breakout game I wrote in the 90's so I had to install that manually.

Attached File  g4imac-working.png   836.46K   9 downloads

That's about it. I'm going to refresh the thermal paste in it and then hand it over to my son. Thanks for the helpful comments, everyone!
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