Blog Post

Forgot Your Firmware Update? No Problem

For those of you reading TAB on a G3 iMac, be assured that we sympathise with your plight. This contributor himself was stuck on a Wallstreet 266 for a week earlier this month while Apple replaced a bad TiBook. Many of you may have been affected by — or put off upgrading to Mac OS X because of — the nearly forgotten dead-screen problem. For those of you who have forgotten the problem, here’s a brief synopsis:

Mac OS 9 didn’t much care what firmware version your iMac was running, and a lot of users either didn’t know there were firmware updates available, or didn’t install them for whatever reason. Mac OS X, on the other hand, required the latest firmware update in order to run properly, and if the firmware wasn’t up-to-date, installing Mac OS X on the iMac would result in an iMac with no internal display. Connecting a monitor to the VGA port worked in the case of the iMac DV models, but it didn’t help users with earlier iMacs, and it required extra hardware that the user likely didn’t have. The end result of all this was that a lot of people ended up with unusable iMacs that they weren’t able to fix themselves.

No longer.

“Poenn” has posted a very simple workaround for the problem on Mac OS X Hints.

Start up the screen-dead iMac, let it boot into OS 9, and wait until the Finder has loaded — you can guess that pretty well by the sound of the HD. Then push the On/Off button to put the iMac to sleep. When the green LED turns to a blinking orange, your iMac is asleep. Then wake it up with a keystroke on your keyboard and (presto!) you have your screen back!

Be aware that the display only will work until your next reboot/shutdown, so now would be a good time to run the Firmware Updater! After the update, the iMac will boot once more with a dead screen (as stated above), but after another shutdown, it will be alive again from then on.

This will be welcome news to anyone in the keep-’em-running-until-they’re-dead school of thought. There’s no real reason to toss these useful machines just yet.

11 Responses to “Forgot Your Firmware Update? No Problem”

  1. Help
    I was installing and update of firmware on my macbook and the screen went black and now there’s a whirring sound, hours later nothing has changed (I have tried all the rebooting techniques). When I turn the machine on it’s a black screen with a continued whirring.I spent an hour with the apple people on line and they told me to take the machine to an apple specialist. Can you help? I’m desperate. THANKS

  2. Robinkerr

    yes had the same black screen after OS 10 install, tried above but it was booting on OS 10 , could tell because of time to boot up ,still had blank screen.
    I tried boot up with apple key down plus c and t together this produced green screen and start up still green, from this was able to select start up disk OS 9 this booted up with orange screen, firmware was installed and after restart screen was back to normal.Just got to replace battery and things should be ok.

  3. I have 3x 350mhz imacs. What happens when I have a clean Hard Drive with no OS in stalled? I try run the 10.3 or 10.4 install CD’s (No DVD) and they need the firmware update? I dont have and cant go back to )S9.x to update?

  4. I have a g3– 333 and tried to update to 10.2 from 9.2.2 and I got the white screen with:

    Apple iMac Open Firmware 3.0 f3 built on 7/16/99
    copyright , etc.
    All rights reserved
    o >_

    I have triesd the “boot” approach on the keyboard and nothing happens.
    I have also tried the:
    reset-nvram (return)
    reset-all (return)

    WIth the same result…nada happens
    Any more ideas????

  5. Wes,

    Not sure why you had to erase Mac OS 9.2.x, but you should be sure to apply any firmware updates. If you still get the Open Firmware screen on boot after applying them and installing the new OS, type the following:

    reset-nvram (then press return)
    reset-all (then press return; the Mac will reboot)

    That should clear up the problem.


  6. Wes DeSelms

    I bought an iMac G3 with 9.2 installed on it.A friend had X.2 I wanted to install.To do so I had to erase 9.2 from my computer.Whan I restarted the iMac I got a white screen
    with DAS like type.With the help of the enternet I found out all I needed to do was type the word “boot” and O.S.X would start-up.My question is If I install a Firmware
    Updater, will it fix the problem and just go ahead and start-up O.S.X? Will I have to erase O.S.X to do so and reinstall the discs?

  7. James Sparkes

    You mention that OS9 doesn’t care what firmware version is installed but that is the problem I am having. My old iMac is (was as I initialised the HD) running 8.6 and I want to put 9.2 on it. It is too old for any version of X. I have tried every firmware update I can find on the net with no success. Any ideas?
    Kind regards,

    James Sparkes.

  8. Andy Seligman

    Brilliant! I struggled with this for hours last year and finally discarded the motherboard. Then I did it again today, and fixed it by following your clear instructions. Thanks!

    Andy Seligman
    Durham Public Schools, NC

  9. I actually had that very problem effect my old 333 iMac about 3 days before i got my new computer, and didnt bother with fixing it because of all the work involved. Good to know, thanks!