New Toy: iMac G3!

Blue iMac G3, running MacOS 9.2.2 with a cheap Logitech USB keyboard slightly visible

On the weekend I was mindlessly scrolling Facebook Marketplace between bursts of playing Elden Ring, and I stumbled upon an ad for a clearing sale that had a G3 iMac in it. Since I seem to have a penchant for bringing home buggered Macs and reviving them, I asked to go have a look at it… they were out of town until Monday night, but I could come Tuesday after work if that suited? Sure!

Out to have a look, bringing a power cable with me since the ad specifically said they had no cables. It powers up, but refuses to boot… and I’m pretty sure this specific model is way too old to have an SSD so I should be able to hear something, but couldn’t. So I was reasonably confident it’s got a dead hard drive, and christ knows if I could even get another one for cheap, so I certainly didn’t want to pay the $100AUD the seller was asking.

It was about this point while we were chatting and I was thinking it through that I noticed the whole place was empty, it was a legitimate clearing sale, and right around then the seller said “look if you think you can fix it, just take it”. That makes the calculus on the value of it a whole lot easier, the absolute worst case scenario is I’m out whatever the tip costs me to dump a CRT. So sure, I’ll take it!

Brought it home and opened it up just before dinner, and my suspicions were semi-correct… there was no working boot disk because there was no disk! There’s an empty PATA cable where the disk should be, and I was also not 100% sure there wasn’t a drive caddy missing.

I looked around for some specs, eventually deciding it’s a PowerMac 2,2 (ie, the second-gen iMac) - a 400MHz G3 with 64MB of RAM, and the ATI Rage128 GPU (8MB of VRAM). It’s only got a CD-ROM, not a DVD-ROM. I dug out a suitable hard disk for it, an 850MB WD Caviar, which is much too small for the latest supported OSX (Panther, or perhaps Tiger, the information seems to conflict). But I didn’t think OS X on 64MB RAM sounded like much fun anyway, and I already have a much newer Mac I can run outdated OS X on…

So I downloaded an ISO of MacOS 9.2.2 and burned that to a CD (using ImgBurn on my Windows desktop, without issues). After some time getting the drive to accept it correctly (I think there’s a stretched belt in the loading mechanism) I had a dreadful time getting it to boot. But hey, at least there are two screw holes in the bottom that match the hard disk, so I can mount it securely and there’s no missing caddy or anything.

With the help of some folks on IRC, I figured my way into open firmware (ALT+WIN+O+F on a modern PC keyboard), and reset the PRAM and NVRAM and try again… nothing. Opening the boot menu, I’m presented with the name of the disc, but it sternly refused to boot from it.

Was just about to consider the optical drive cactus when something made me think to unplug the new hard disk and try again. Sure enough, the machine booted immediately, and when I observed it the disk was set to “Slave” (unfortunate naming on the drive, not mine), resulting in a conflict. Setting it to “Master” resolved the issue and I was able to boot the installer.

One of the issues I did have is that both of the “laser mouse” peripherals I was using failed to work correctly. My Steel Series Rival and a cheaper unit both worked correctly in the boot menu (except needing to use the middle mouse button to click!), however when I got into the OS 9 installer, only the X axis worked correctly. Without the ability to move the mouse up and down, there was no way to configure the disk and start the restore! Thankfully, I have an old Logitech B100 (M-u0026) mouse that did work and I was able to start installing.

After an excruciatingly long time, I went to reboot and the drive made some horrific clunking noises and refused to boot. Damn it. Considering an 850MB hard disk would have to be around 25 years old, and it got bashed around in several moves (including across the pond from Indiana to Australia) I really cannot complain too much, but it was the only PATA drive I knew the location of without tearing apart my closet. Nothing for it though, I started going through boxes.

I found another drive, the 120GB disk from mum’s very old DVR, which died and I parted up. Installed MacOS to it, and I presently have a working system! However, it won’t hold the time correctly on power off, so I suspect the “CMOS” (I don’t think it’s CMOS really?) battery is probably roasted. I better look at replacing that before it torches the board, but otherwise this unit can go on the shelf and get played with once a year or so!

Horsham, VIC, Australia fwaggle



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Horsham, VIC, Australia

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