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Netboot a Powermac G5

macman0512

Active member
Hi guys,

I have this Powermac G5 sitting around that I want to make a bit more useful. Currently it is running 10.3.9, but I want to either install 10.5.8 or linux. Now here's the issue: I don't have easy access to dvds and none of the USB thumbdrives I own seem to work with OpenFirmware (they show up in Mac OS X just fine, but not in OpenFirmware when I enter the devalias command). Since I know that these Powermac G5s can boot from network I was wondering how I would set up a server to boot from. I need to do this from my windows laptop as this is the only other computer I have easy access to. Can anybody help me out?

Many thanks in advance,

Macman0512
 

LaPorta

Well-known member
Why is it that you need to use OF? Just create a bootable flash drive. There's instructions for making that from every OS X installation that was ever made floating out around the internet. Someone can just send you the disc image.
 

macman0512

Active member
That's the issue, I tried that already and it wouldn't work. When I checked I saw OpenFirmware wouldn't recognise it. If OF won't recognise it, the boot selector won't either, because it's basically a gui on top of OF.
 

LaPorta

Well-known member
Something is up then, because ive never seen that not work before, unless the drive is improperly formatted or something.
 

macman0512

Active member
I know that much, since I have used the same method on my MDD with great success. In any case, I still want to use netboot, but have yet to figure out how, so any help would be much appreciated.
 

LaPorta

Well-known member
I'd be interested as well...not sure if you'd have any luck with doing it via a Windows laptop...

Out of curiosity, how are the USB drives formatted? G5s have USB 1.0, don't they? Was it even possible to boot off of that? I only remember using FireWire drives in those years.
 

macman0512

Active member
Jup, by the way I kinda made progress with my USB, it now gives me a prohibited sign when I access it through open firmware. Still, I had this on my Powerbook G4 titanium as well, and I ended up just using a Ubuntu disk I had laying around (which I haven't found yet, so that is not an option). As for Netboot, I figure it's just a matter of finding software which will run a server under windows, as I do have an OS X Leopard image.
 

ScutBoy

Well-known member
Does "hold down the option key" to select a boot device not work for USB on G5s? I thought it did...
 

macman0512

Active member
Technically it should, but mine doesn't. I did some more digging and found out that the Powermac G5 7,3 (my model), is apparently really finnicky when it comes to booting from USB. It almost never works on this model.
 

macman0512

Active member
Thanks for the offer, but no. Postage will probably be ridiculously expensive as I live in the Netherlands and I think burning a disc just to use once is kind of a waste. Besides, I just really want to figure the whole Netboot thing out, as it seems no one has really tried this before.
 

LaPorta

Well-known member
I don't think you have a chance, personally, with no other Mac OS computer. I could be totally wrong, but I haven't heard of a Mac booting from a Windows machine over a network.
 

Cory5412

Daring Pioneer of the Future
Staff member
NetBoot was a thing. Apple emphasized heavily from around 1999 to around 2010 or so at which point it still existed but it was continuously de-emphasized until they removed the ability to boot a Mac from the LAN entirely when the T1 or T2 Macs were introduced. It fell out of the "Mac OS X Server" trim level of the OS at about the same rate.

Alongside NetBoot, and probably the more common use case, was NetInstall. NetInstall worked basically how you'd imagine: A Mac OS X DVD was imaged and made available as a boot source. I believe you can also do some other tricks like laying down images with it if you need to, say, set up an identical software installation on 900 MacBooks.

It seems like once Apple finished gutting Mac OS X Server in 10.14, the option to do a true diskless netboot completely evaporated even from third party solutions.

I've run NetBoot before, however, the easiest way to get it running is to have another Mac, running OS X Server 10.4/5/6 or -- it can be PPC or Intel, with sufficient disk space/performance to cover the needs of the machines booting from it. Plus, the requisite network connectivity to satisfy your capacity/performance demands. (probably not that big a deal for labs, small setups, and doing installations primarily (vs. just running a bunch of diskless macs.)

The short version of the process is:
  • Have a Mac running Mac OS X Server 10.4/5/6
  • Enable the NetBoot role
    • I don't remember if the OS X server wants to be the DNS/DHCP server but it would probably help, so doing it on an airgapped network or vlan may make this work better.
  • Feed the NetBoot image tool a physical CD or a disk image of the OS you want to netInstall or netBoot, or, a prepped/installed image you captured from another machine
  • Hold "N" down on the keyboard of the machine you want to boot from the network
In theory, newer versions should run this, but I would guess the practical newness limit is about 10.11 with Server.app or so and I don't know how well that version handles using older images or booting PPCs.

In theory (2) you can do this with open source software or third party mac management tooling from e.g. JAMF, but I don't know how far back compatibility went. Also, almost all of that stuff is almost certainly now rotting on the vine since NetBoot isn't really a thing Apple wants you to run on your own any more anyway.


EDIT: To add here, you could run OS X Server 10.4/5 on QEMU-PPC or OS X Server 10.4/5/6 (but .5/6 are better) in VMware Player or Workstation on Windows, but I don't have the resources to make that happen handy, especially not in fr-FR, I have a 10.4 client set up in QEMU-PPC in en-US but that, as mentioned, won't actually do the thing.)
 
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macman0512

Active member
Thanks for all the help man! I found out that someone in my neighbourhood was selling an old Mac Mini, so I grabbed that and tried to do it from El Capitan, which didn't work, so I guess I'll need to look for a copy of Mac OS Server somewhere.
 
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