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Earthworm Jim 05-25-2007 10:04 AM

Booting a g3 iMac from USB CD?

I just got my very first apple system yesterday - an old G3 slot-loading imac, 350MHz w 128MB RAM & 6GB drive.

I think both the hard drive & the CD drive are dead. It was $20 on craiglist because it won't boot - it just goes to a gray screen with a flashing question mark. It will not boot from either the hard drive or any CD (Software Install, Software Recovery, PPC Linux, etc) - when I put a CD in the slot, the drive sounds like it's trying to spin up, but then it ejects the CD a few seconds later.

I can drop it to the OFW prompt & boot linux over the network. I've searched the web but my google-fu is not strong today - is there a way to boot it from a USB CD drive? I'd like to replace the hard drive with a spare I have lying around & re-install MacOS


bryphotoguy 05-26-2007 09:50 PM

You could give it a whirl. The 350MHz is only USB 1.1 so it's going to be slow if it's possible.
To test, plug it in and make sure the CD is inserted. Hold down the option button during start up. That will bring up the boot menu and wait for the USB drive to show up. I think it should. Click and then the right arrow button. It should restart with the CD.
I hooked up a external HD to my 350MHz and it took 2 or 3 minutes just to mount to the desktop, so if the CD drive doesn't show up immediately to the boot menu, give it 5 minutes. Hit the refresh button and see if it works.
Otherwise, I don't know if it's any good.

Earthworm Jim 05-29-2007 09:47 PM

Holding down various buttons during booting got me nothing but a the little question-mark-o-doom. But, I did manage to boot from the USB cd. I had to override the built-in firmware device alias for 'cd' and point it to the USB device:

Hold down CTRL+OPTION+O+F, hit power button, get a firmware prompt.
0> devalias cd /pci@f2000000/usb@19/disk@1
0> boot cd,\\:tbxi

Sadly, I haven't yet figured out how to permanently change the cd alias - whenver the system reboots, it comes back as the original alias pointing to the device that doesn't work.

What's more - none of the Apple CDs want to boot from the USB drive. But, I've got Debian Linux up and running for the moment.

bryphotoguy 05-29-2007 10:07 PM

Are they actual Apple cd's, downloads or copies? Downloads never work so that may be the trouble.
Holding the option button should work. It's worked every single time I've used it.
I don't know how else to really help you. If you can't get it to work, don't put a ton of effort into it. 350MHz is slow. Online videos are unwatchable on that machine even with more than the minimum specs. With a bad optical drive, its even more worthless in my opinion. Don't get me wrong, G3 iMacs are cool, just not practical. You can find faster versions with a DVD drive for under $100 anyways.

Earthworm Jim 05-30-2007 11:24 AM

They're actual apple CDs, as far as I can tell. They're branded & don't look like CD-Rs. I'm not sure why they don't want to boot when the linux cd's will. But, that's OK.

I had an extra 512MB of PC-133 sitting around, so it's got plenty of memory. It's slow, but it will work fine for my kids. Browsing & writing up homework shouldn't be a problem - if I can ever figure out how to get my CUPS server to let it print :D

Thanks again.

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