recycling a six-year-old iMac w/ OS X "Tiger"

Week before last I was given a 2002 vintage 700 MHz G4 iMac, one of the ones with the LCD on an arm above a half sphere dome (“pedestal”) system unit. It has 640M of RAM, so I expect it will be useful running (Panther or) Tiger. The hardware doesn’t meet the specs for “Leopard”. Besides, I don’t own a copy of Leopard (10.5), but do own copies of Jaguar/Panther/Tiger (OS X 10.2/3/4, respectively).

The iMac came with Jaguar on it. It had been unused for a while and no one knew the passwords. So it was time to learn about the esoteric Apple boot options and keyboard commands.

Spending a little time with it every day for a few days, I wondered if I would ever figure it out, but I did, and now could do things much more efficiently.

Part of the challenge was working around optical disc drive limitations, and flakiness in the Tiger DVD-R I’d made from images downloaded from Apple Developer Connection 3? years ago. Eventually I figured out that the Tiger disc was usable with the right choice of drive. Only one of four candidate drives would read the disc without errors, but that one drive was enough.

The least intuitive of the steps was to cable the iMac to another Mac with Firewire, boot the iMac in “Firewire target mode” by holding down the T key at boot, and letting the second Mac treat the iMac as an external disk. After telling Spotlight to not index the external disk (using the Privacy tab in the Spotlight System Preferences), then Disk Utility quickly removed the old partition and allowed me to create a new one.

Using the Option key at boot to get into Startup Manager seemed the most effective way to figure out which volumes were available for booting. After many false starts and false hypotheses figuring out that with the right choice of drive I could boot from the Tiger DVD-R, the rest of installation and configuration was routine.

Now I can progress to some of my pending Mac projects and postpone thinking about buying a new Mac until they are faster and/or cheaper. I’ve started experimenting with XMeeting again and am pondering next steps.

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