I found myself asking this question recently. I had just received two of these:
The PowerMac G4 was Apple’s workhorse in the early 2000′s. This machine is what’s known as an ‘New World Mac’. New World Macs, as opposed to ‘Old World Macs’, are the G3, G4, and G5 Mac models. Old World Macs are models that were produced before that. The PowerPC G5 was the last of Apple’s PPC machines. Production for it stopped in early 2006, when Apple began working with Intel.
I knew that this was still a relatively powerful machine, and I wasn’t going to let it go to waste. I also knew that I probably wouldn’t use two of them, but I could use one and keep the other for spare parts. I still wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to use it for, but I was curious to look into the subject.
I plugged these in, excited for what I might see when I pressed the Power button. Both of them booted, and each had a fresh copy of OS X Tiger (10.4) installed on a single 75 Gigabyte IDE hard drive. Not bad for a Mac that’s now 10+ years old. Each machine also had 3 sticks of 512 Megabyte RAM installed in it, for a grand total of 1.5 Gigabytes of Memory per computer:
I continued to explore the hardware, which is easily accessible in the PowerMac G4. Apple actually built a latch into the side of the Tower:
The latch releases a hinged door, which lowers to the ground. From here, all of the hardware components can be viewed and easily upgraded:
The better of the two machines had a 1.25 GHz PPC processor installed in it. “This might not be that terrible of a machine after all,” I thought out loud.
I chose to start things off with the more powerful computer, and immediately began doing some research into the subject of re purposing it. Tiger ran slowly on the machine, so I knew that I would have to install a faster Operating System for whatever it was I was going to do. Quite a few people online have reported their success in using Linux on an Old World Mac with PowerPC architecture. I knew that the journey of installing Linux on the old Mac would probably be difficult, but I was up for a challenge anyways. Ubuntu seems to be the PPC Linux Flavor of choice, so I decided I would go ahead and give that a try. You can check out the PPC downloads page here.
After researching and reading several other guides on this process, I decided to dive right into some hardware upgrades. I wanted to spend as little money as possible (or none at all if I could help it). My plans were as follows:
-Install a second hard drive
-Install a DVD player
After these tasks were complete, I would be able to use the Linux installation on the PowerMac however I saw fit. Ultimately, I decided that I would be using it as a Media Center Desktop/File Server. This way, I could tuck my Mac away behind the TV in the living room. It would run constantly, and I would be able to access it whenever I needed to.
Stay tuned for the next segment of this post, where I show you how to upgrade the PowerMac G4′s hardware.
Questions, comments, or thoughts? Let me know below.