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Powerbook G4 12" 867Mhz. OS sweet spot


Hi all,
Just purchased on eBay a Powerbook G4 12" 867Mhz. This is the 3rd classic Mac I've bought in the last 2 weeks.

This was the 1st Mac I ever bought albeit the 2004 model which was a bit faster.

Now my question is what is the OSX sweet spot for this machine? I know it came with 10.2.3 and could be upgraded as far as 10.5.8 but what is the sweet spot OS for performance/features as I don't want it to be too slow. I know it came with a 4200rpm IDE but thinking of putting in an mSATA mini PCI-E SATA SSD to 2.5" IDE 44pin Hard Disk enclosure which should speed things up a bit. Any other recommended upgrades?

Like I said my main goal is to get the sweet spot OSX on it and take it from there.



Daring Pioneer of the Future
Staff member
A fun project for a couple nights might be to go ahead and try a bunch of different versions and see what feels right to you. If you've got a USB drive, you can fetch updates and software from newer machines. OS X native file formats don't usually use resource forks so you don't need to worry about, say, downloading patches on a Windows computer and moving them around with a FAT32 flash drive, for example.

Depending on what your goals are, the more important question might be what software (and what versions of that software) you want to run. Mac OS X 10.2 and 10.3 do have a fair amount of software but it's all very much locked into its specific era. New software started requiring newer versions of the OS almost immediately upon their availability. With that in mind, 10.4 and 10.5 run most of the same software 10.2/10.3 do and also have newer software, depending on what kinds of things you want to do with the system.

If you put a replacement hard disk in (it can be a newer/faster conventional IDE hard disk or you can use an m.2 adapter or an SD card adapter) up to 10.5 should be at least "fine" on here. this machine does meet the minspecs for 10.5. (the harder these are to open, the more I'd say to trend toward using a good quality Real SSD as a hard disk replacer, to avoid needing to open the machine too often.)

The other thing I'd say is put a bit of ram in it. Newer OS X releases love RAM. Patched 10.4 boots to about 128 megs of usage and applications started to get bigger in this era. The more you'll want to try to do modern tasks or modern-adjacent tasks with it (e.g. using tenfourfox, for example) the more memory you'll want. If you're just doing a day-to-day 10.4 productivity loadout with in-era software, 512 is basically fine.

The other big thing is that 10.5 doesn't have Classic Mode, so if you need that on this machine then 10.4 should be the newest you go. Though, if you get a big enough boot device or have a firewire external disk you can just have more than one boot disk.

TL;DR try a few versions and/or pick an OS version based on what software you want to run and see if that goes well.


Thanks for the reply.

I'm leaning towards Tiger as Leopard has a few performance issues as I recall.

The PowerBook has 640mb RAM so looks like it was upgraded to the max. I could look into the 1Gb module as that is known to work.

Went looking in my filing cabinet and found a load of old software like 'Return to Castle Wolfenstein' and 'Star Trek Elite Force II' good job it don't through things out. Also found 'Starcraft' and 'Warcraft III' :).

Looking forward to having a blast from the past :).


Well-known member
I agree with Cory here - install 10.2 through 10.5 and spend some time with each, see how they feel. I have a 1GHz TiBook with 1GB RAM and a 128GB mSATA SSD. I mostly run 10.4 and 9.2.2 on it and it works great. It will run 10.5, technically, but it's going to be on the slow side, as an 867MHz G4 is the bare minimum, and the Radeon 9000 with 32MB VRAM isn't going to help a lot either.