• Updated 2023-07-12: Hello, Guest! Welcome back, and be sure to check out this follow-up post about our outage a week or so ago.

Mac Mini G4/1.33 Is Alive!


Well-known member
Hi folks, after much effort, this ol' Mac mini G4 is Alive 'n' Kickin'! It means I now have a complete-enough bridging range of Macs where the G4 bridges the gap between the PowerBook 1400c (Mac OS 8.1) and the MacBook C2D/2.4GHz.

And what a struggle it's been! This mini had always had a pretty dodgy hard disk, and when I re-acquired it about a couple of years or so ago I kept finding that whenever I booted it up under Tiger, it'd sometimes work for a while, maybe 30 minutes to half an hour and then would basically just hang. I eventually realised it probably was the hard disk so I cloned it as much as I could.

Then, since I bought the PowerBook 1400c, I've been thinking more about bridging each generation and eliminating all the other Macs I don't really need. In this case, it means the spare PB 1400cs; 2x iMac G3s, maybe my awesome PB G4 12" and iceBook/600 and probably my beloved iMac G5 (which has the GPU glitch issue). I bought a 128GB mSATA card + an IDE adapter last week and tried to hook it all up.

The adapter looks like it has master/ slave support. Unfortunately I can't yet get it to be recognised on the internal IDE. I've tried the drive with no M/S jumpers; slave jumper (I think it shouldn't have master) and haven't tried CS. I initialised the disk as APM with 2x 64GB partitions using the MacBook C2D (under 10.7) and then copied the salvaged disk image but that didn't work. I then found that the DVD drive doesn't appear to spin up and even delving into Open Firmware (educational as always, I love Forth ;-) ) didn't bring any joy - I couldn't see the partition!

I kept trying to insert my Mac OS 10.3 Panther installation CD, but it didn't spin up and then ejected the disk (then I found out it doesn't run anything as early as 10.3.0. So what followed was a lot of mistakes and gradual progress. Like: I found out it ran Leopard and I also have a Leopard DVD installation. But it needs 512MB I was pretty sure it only had 256MB. So, I realised my iMac G5 had 2x 512MB PC3200, so I could spare one - only to find that my mini did have 512MB x PC3200! Then, because the DVD drive wouldn't accept the Leopard disk either I tried using one of the iMac G3s in Target Disk mode to remotely install it, but it didn't seem to see the DVD when I booted the mini up with the option key. It didn't work either when I tried the MacBook in Target Disk mode!

Then I had a stroke of 'genius'! The iMac G5 could run in Target Disk Mode, despite the fact that it doesn't usually boot any more, because of the glitchy GPU. And - yay! The first bit of progress, I could get it to see the Mac OS X install disk and the iMac G5's HD. However, I still couldn't boot from the install disk (I kept getting the no-entry sign), but I could, it turned out, boot from the HD image (also running Leopard). Only to find that it couldn't see the mSATA drive there either.

At that point, I decided to swap in my old 60GB iBook HD (GPU issue again). This time I could see the HD! I still got the no-entry sign when I tried to boot from the Mac OS X installer. So I ejected it and found out it was the Panther disk I'd mistakenly inserted. What an idiot! So I found the Leopard one and tried again and this time it worked! In a mere 2 hours it installed Leopard on the mini :) ! And the G5 didn't die in the process, despite the vertical stripe screen flickering

It could work!!! Since then, I used the MacBook C2D to upgrade to 10.5.8 (I found the mSATA does work with the mini over USB-IDE). I found I still couldn't do internet sharing from my Mac mini 2012 (Catalina). But I can get access to the internet using a Raspberry PI 3 configured as an Ethernet Bridge.

And that's where I am now! It works! I'm really pleased! Now to install some iWork apps, Garageband and Final Cut Express! Then maybe do some retro video editing with an old Canon DV camcorder! I still need to figure out why the dvd drive won't spin up (it's no longer connected) and solve the harder-than-a-Rubik's-Cube problem of putting the lid back on!

Thanks for reading this tale of Merlot-enabled incompetence! Have a great weekend! Cheers from JulzMacMiniG4IsAlive.jpg


Well-known member
Follow-up post! If you've read the recent mSATA to IDE thread you'll know that I've finally been able to get one of my mSATA + ATA interface drives to work with the mini G4. I've upgraded the OS to 10.5.8 and added some software I think will come in handy, including iWorks; Garageband, TextWrangler, CrossPack avr-gcc development tools and Final Cut Express HD! With around 80GB of free storage I have enough for some serious (non-HD) video editing :) !

This post completes the project with a !!!Fully Working Mac Mini G4!!!

Earlier I couldn't get the DVD Combo drive to work and didn't know if this was because of the mini's ATA riser board; some conflict with the original hard drive or one of the common faults with the mini G4's optical drive. However, I discovered that my PowerBook G4/12" optical drive was compatible. So, I spent an hour or so further dismantling it (boy is that optical drive hard to get to, everything has to be removed first!) and then fitting it to the mini G4. And the upshot is that the PowerBook's Dual-Layer DVD-R combo drive works, which means the previous drive was dodgy. A bittersweet conclusion as it's an upgrade for the mini, but takes my beloved PowerBook one step further from being fixed.

Obviously I'm using the mini G4 to write this post. I'm impressed with InterWebPPC in the wake of TenFourFox's demise. Admittedly, on Leopard (or maybe it's just this browser) typing is distinctly sluggish, think MacWrite on an 8MHz Plus! A true symptom of 17 years of software bloat. In the screenshot you can see my genuine Mac OS 8 CD mounted and installed and to the left, a Raspberry PI 3 acting as an Ethernet bridge. At least with Leopard it appears to manage modern encryption protocols. I can ssh and scp to my Mac mini 2012 running Catalina.

As with all these projects, one learns quite a bit: I've learned how to rapidly dismantle a mini G4 (quite easy in the end); that its HD really does need to be a slave for it not to conflict with the Optical drive; that not all mSATA to ATA adapters are equal, and not all 'identical' mSATA to ATA adapters are equal either; that the mini G4/1.33GHz is faster than my 12" PB G4/1.5GHz (but I can use its DVD). I've learned useful Open Firmware stuff including how to boot a G4 on USB and finally, that the mini G4 can boot Mac OS 9, which means it can truly function as a bridging Mac from my early PPC era PowerBook 1400.

Again, thanks for reading this!