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Old 07-27-2008, 10:09 PM   #1
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Unsure how to install Linux on PowerPC iMac with broken optical drive

Hi all,
I recently got an old PowerPC CRT iMac. Here are its specs:
Mac OS 9.0
PowerPC G3 400 MHz

I'm trying very hard to install some form of linux on it, but am stumped because the optical drive is broken. I also tried installing from a USB thumb drive with boot.img.gz on it, but that didn't work.

I have another PowerBook at my disposal, but I can't put the iMac in Firewire target mode and install using the PowerBook because the iMac's firmware is not up-to-date. Unfortunately, I can't update the iMac's firmware because that requires Mac OS 9.1 or Mac OS X (the iMac has Mac OS 9.0).

I tried to use an external USB optical drive, but the iMac doesn't support booting from external USB optical drives.

Is there a way to install Linux (preferably Ubuntu) onto this iMac?

Thanks for helping out a newbie!
Old 07-28-2008, 12:41 AM   #2
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You might try doing a network boot:

Note that this requires you to have a computer already set up with Linux to act as a server.
Old 08-09-2008, 06:03 PM   #3
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Thanks for the advice everest40. Unfortunately I don't have any other computers with Linux installed (I'm experimenting with Linux for the first time on this iMac . Is there any other way I can get Linux on this old iMac?

Thanks in advance.
Old 08-09-2008, 06:13 PM   #4
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Open it
Remove hard disk
Put in the required install iso somewhere from some where else
Make it bootable with Linux too
Old 08-09-2008, 06:37 PM   #5
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I'm not quite sure how to do it with a mac but on a pc, you can just download an iso to your hard drive. Mount it with some iso editing software, extract the vmlinuz and initrd files and put them in the boot directory. Then configure your OS to set up a bootloader and add references to your extracted files. Then all the remains to be done is reboot and it will be just like running the installer from cd or dvd. But as I said, I don't know whether that will work on a mac.
Old 06-04-2009, 04:10 AM   #6
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I have a simple but long drawn out and at times more frustrating solution.

Use PearPc to emulate a imac g3, install prefered distro onto a virtual disc inside pear pc... then use the dd command to write the fully installed distro to the macs harddrive if u need a better tutorial please pm me. i have used this method on several imac g3's and ive never had a problem with it
Old 06-04-2009, 08:00 AM   #7
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It should be possible to run a net install via FTP. But I question if it's worth the effort to install a contemporary Linux distro on a 400 MHz Mac. It would be OK for old PC'S, because DOS and Windows 3.1/Windows95/Windows98 are truely old - but the MacOS 9 was a very good system in it's own terms and is usable even today. To me it made more sense to keep my old Macs as they were, with the original MacOS systems (68k and PPC alike) and the native tools.

Linux Archive

Last edited by soleilarw; 06-18-2009 at 04:25 AM.
Old 06-04-2009, 08:20 AM   #8
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And, of course, you could simply replace the optical drive.....A basic CD-ROM is pretty cheap, but then a CD-R is "almost pretty cheap"...
Old 06-04-2009, 07:00 PM   #9
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i have had alot of issues installing any OS period on older g3's and g4's for some reason they dont like to boot from cdrs.... i think it has something to do with the software used to burn the iso...
i just "CHEAT" and dont bother with the damnd real hardware i use pearpc it is alot more time consuming but in the long run alot less headache
also u will either need cygwin if u are on windows....
or if u are using linux basic knowledge of the dd command...
if u decide to use this method pearpc uses a .img which can be directly written back to a "REAL" harddrive without bothering to use a partition manger. the result is like i said before a fully installed OS written to a harddrive bootable, usable, but as i said it takes time virtualizing PPC architecture on a pc is slow...
another thing is u dont have to bother with updating firmware if u dont have internet on your mac... but that can cause issues... oh ya and make sure u update your ram

i forgot if u are attempting to write this under windows u will need to know how tell what drive ti write the img to right? start, run, compmgmt.msc then hit enter or press win-key and r compmgmt.msc and hit enter the mac drive wont be mounted under a dos drive and it will be the drive that windows cant read the filesystem... also hrm.... dd command let me find some good references for that one...
that should be it

Last edited by ConstintineVamp; 06-04-2009 at 07:32 PM.


g3, imac, installation, linux, powerpc, ppc, virtualization

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