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My New Vintage Hardware – Can Leopard be installed on an 800MHz machine?

iMac G4I have a vintage 800MHz iMac G4. There, I’ve said it, and wow, does that sound strange and unpleasant to me. I love my iMac – remember those commercials where it stuck its ‘tongue’ out at the guy on the sidewalk? – and I was very excited to hear, initially, that I could put Leopard on it. For a lot of people, these original-looking iMacs were their first sip of the Apple kool-aid: exciting, different, classy, with a form that looked like nothing else around as well as being ridiculously useful. (Pivoting, tilting monitor – yes please!) The version I have, when it first came out, was the top model for the iMac, and ones like it still command a solid 200 to 400$US on eBay.

So when Apple decided that Leopard would only officially support 867Mhz or higher machines now, I was heartbroken. I’m not alone here, either. The owners of the 800MHz flavors of iBook, PowerMac G4 (Quicksilver and Titanium), and eMac also now are the proud possessors of officially-vintage hardware.  These are not, for the most part, considered to be slow or obsolete machines; granted, they’re not as screamingly fast as the new Macs, but they’re still reliable and steady.

However, I noted that Apple made this decision because the installer ran too slowly, which makes me wonder. Also, earlier dev builds ran on machines like these, if slowly. If I’m willing to let it sit for an hour or so, can I still install Leopard on my iMac? I know I’m not the only one that’ll be wondering, either.

36 Responses to “My New Vintage Hardware – Can Leopard be installed on an 800MHz machine?”

  1. This may duplicate an earlier response that disappeared off screen. Anyway: thank you very much MacSmiley; only in or from America, a friendly helpful rapid response. The keyboard has been changed and all settings worked through courtesy of Apple Care UK. All that remains could be the input connections OR that I am too fast inputting for this particular keyboard, thanks(?) to RAF Signals training all those years ago! I had the mug’s luck to stumble upon this site, full of human beings – what will they think of next? If there is a cash membership contribution, someone please let me know. Does anyone know of an alternative keyboard (spring loaded keys?) that just goes faster? I also had a failure with white mouse – also replaced. The World’s cheapest, most plastic mouse worked perfectly in its place!! Per Ardua Ad Astra (Royal Air Force motto!)
    All good wishes and thanks Derek Weston.

  2. Not sure where this site is in time, but I have enjoyed it immensely. I now haveiMac 20 inch early 2008, and also a G3 (silver and blue beauty??) My only problem lies with the silver metal keyboard which misfires and adds characters I did not input. From RAF Signals training (“accuracy before speed”) and many years professional writer, I know I input fast, and I am sure I am not making these errors to this extent. Apple Care supplied a replacement keyboard, but problems continue. I have never had such difficulties with any other keyboard. Is this metal keyboard capable of high speed operation, Lotsa fun ahead with the little G3!!!

  3. My iBook g4 800 MHz is running Leopard fine. The key is to meet the minimum Ram requirements (512MB) and have an internal dual-layer DVD Rom with all the latest FirmWare updates. Additionally you can use LeopardAssist to enable installation without modifying/hacking the commercial Leopard install DVD.

    The great thing is that Time Machine works great and the system doesn’t seem any more sluggish than it did with Tiger.

  4. I’ve seen a lot of talk about Leopard requiring the latest system just to get it running. So I’m writing to put that myth to sleep.

    I just got an iMac 15″ 700MHz bottom of the range. i.e. 128MB, 40GB, CD-R model lampshade in a 100% mint (as in polo) condition for a crazy bargain 18,000 Yen or about 80 pounds. The mouse was still in its original packaging!

    It came with a factory restored version of OS X 10.2 which seemed to only barely ran in the 128MB originally supplied.

    So, I decided to upgrade to either Tiger or Leopard and test the machine with original 40GB hard disk and just a 512MB upgrade (total 640MB). If it ran Leopoard fast enough as-is, then I’d upgrade to the full 1GB RAM, 500GB hard disk and a DVD-R (requiring a full dismantling), which should provide even better performance.

    I used Firewire target disk mode and CCC to clone the HDD off my 12″ PowerBook (final) Leopard install. This took about an hour for the 10GB or so transfer.

    Booted up fine, first time.

    After removing various settings for bluetooth, airmac and changing the network settings so as not to double up with the PowerBook, I got to work testing.

    I was surprised at the performance, expecting it to be slower than it was and the 1024 x 768 screen to be more cramped. But it runs quite well. I tried Safari, Word, Excel and Mail at the same time (a typical day’s work) and found the machine to be pleasant and entirely usable if not amazingly fast. There were none of the annoyances that I have with Tiger on my stock G4 Cube, for example.

    I found that the 10.5.2 system install was waiting so I installed that plus graphics update 1.0 and a few other queued updates.

    Probably subjective, but I found the whole thing to be even smoother and more responsive. For example, clicking on the finder icon in the dock brings up any open finder windows almost instantaneously over whatever you’re doing at the time.

    A lot better than my stock cube with 1.5GB RAM and Tiger.

    I’d like to test it out with Tiger for a speed comparison, but quite frankly, besides the lack of awaking from sleep, it’s running so smooth that I don’t see the point.

    In conclusion

    Install from cloned PowerBook HDD using CCC was effortless and took an hour or so for a 10GB install.
    Leopard runs trouble free, with so far no crashes or random stuff happening (apart from wake from sleep).
    10.5.2 upgrade and Graphics Update 1.0 work wonderfully.
    640MB RAM and 40GB HDD gives more than adequate performance for Surfing, iTunes, Office 2004 multitasking.
    Remaining Niggles:

    Awakes from sleep with screen artifacts (but at least it can be gracefully reset since the OSX10.5.2 / GU1.0 updates).
    Boot up is slow. Haven’t timed it, but it’s slow.
    Logging in is slow.
    Of the above complaints, only the first is a real one, since, once logged in, everything is hunky dory.

    I think I’ll keep the machine like this for a week or to so that I can appreciate the upgrade when I perform it.

    I wonder how much faster the Seagate 500GB HDD and extra 386MB of RAM will make it…

  5. my cube g4 has now booted leopard from an external drive :-)
    later i will probably do a clone to the cube, then reinstall my data with migration assistant.
    my imac g3 won´t boot from external drive :-/

  6. I am terribly bummed out about my 800MHz G4 17″ flat-panel iMac is below system requirements for Leopard.

    When 10.5 was initially announced, Apple said that G3s would not be supported. So I didn’t sweat it.

    Later on, Apple said support would be dropped for “early” G4s prior to 2001. Since I bought my iMac in October 2002, I didn’t sweat it either.

    So I was flat-out shocked when I heard that the latest builds of Leopard would not install on 800MHz machines. Then I thought about the iBook and PowerBook models which had even lesser specs than my iMac a year or more after I bought my machine.

    So far I haven’t seen anything online about whether or not Leopard, as shipped, runs on 800MHz unsupported or if the installer just refuses to load the OS, the way iMovie ’08 wouldn’t install when the rest of the suite installed with no problem.

    At any rate, at this point I feel like I’m being penalized for having bought the first-generation of the second iMac design. Had I waited 6 months, I would have an 867MHz machine.

  7. My good old Cube (450) is now running the latest Tiger :-) Fast enough for many of my easier tasks!
    She wants a fair chance to show me what she can do with the Leopard… She´s not at all happy about Steve defining her as too slow :-(

  8. What is too slow for some is just fine for others and there are other benefits than raw speed. Indeed, if we were concerned with speed only, most of us wouldn’t be running Macs!

    I have upgraded the OS on some of my Macs (and Windows PCs) only to backtrack when the upgrade proved to be too much of a resource hog for the hardware, but I bought the OS only if I was fairly certain that it would work on at least one of my machines – I’m not adventurous enough to drop $130 on something that there’s a good chance that I can’t use!

    I am in agreement with iamQ – I am interested if my Gigabit Ethernet PowerMac might be capable, with a processor upgrade, of running Leopard and beyond, but I won’t cry too much if it won’t. Tiger is the best OS that I’ve used, so far, and Panther is a very close second. After having played a bit with Vista, I expect to see more defections to the Mac. I just hope that Leopard doesn’t screw things up.

  9. When the question is “will it run on my…” why even waste our time with “you shouldn’t install it on… because it is slow.”

    We want to use the new features of the new OS, and some of us can’t afford to get a brand new computer this year (or next, or the year after that). i run a Gigabit Ethernet model circa 2002 which i’ve upgraded from a G4/400 to a dual G4/1.8ghz and i want to know if i can install Leopard on one of my secondary drives to check it out and consider if it is worth the switch. Thanks in advance for not telling me what i should or shouldn’t do.


  10. Why push the “bleeding edge” if all is well with the current setup? I have Tiger on my PowerMac G4 600MHz and my wife’s iMac DV SE 400Mhz and they run fine (though the iMac was slightly peppier with Panther), Panther on my Lombard Powerbook 400MHz, Jaguar on my wife’s Wallstreet 266MHz and OS9.1 on my beyond-vintage PowerMac 9600 (with a G3 400Mhz upgrade). At one time, I had Jaguar on the 9600 and it was such a resource drain that I reverted to 9.1 and dedicated it to to running my “classic” DTP software. Likewise, Panther was too much for the Wallstreet, so it was back to Jaguar and all is well!
    There is nothing wrong with Panther or Tiger and, until you find that the system or OS requirements for the apps that you run aren’t met by your current setup, there is no compelling reason to upgrade!

  11. Yes you may be able to install Leopard on officially unsupported machines… but why?

    I have a few computers at home and I always run the latest operating system. The slowest and oldest out of them all is an iBook G3 (500 MHz). I managed to install Tiger on it but it runs PAINFULLY slow. I almost want to use it’s BARELY useable. The best part is, Tiger “officially” supports this model, so I would hate to see how slow an OS runs on an unsupported machine.

  12. Another method would be to hold down the “t” key while starting up your iMac. This makes it a target drive (like an external firewire drive). You then connect this to a machine that meets the minimum requirements and simply install Leopard on the “target” drive. The installing Mac must not be Intel, of course.

  13. I have Leopard version 9a559 running on my 800Mhz “lamp shade” iMac. The method I use is to install it on an external firewire drive using my wife’s G4 iBook. I then clone it (CCC or Disk Utility) onto my iMac. It works fine. I also use firewire drive partitions, rather than burn DVD’s for the install disc.

  14. Im almost certain the Apple minimum spec requirements can be circumnavigated. Only a few days after Leopard beta 9a527 arrived (which at the time required a min of an 800mhz G4), a patch appeared on one of those suspect torrent sites which claimed to allow this beta OS to run on far lesser machinery. Right down to G3’s. So one could assume pretty much all G4’s regardless of speed will be fine too. May well not be rip roaringly fast, but at least it could be made to work in the first place. Which is better than nothing?

  15. @Stephanie:
    Please don’t call these 800Mhz machine “vintage”, regardless of Apple’s own designation. That would be misleading and a crime. :) My Quicksilver is still the backbone of my graphics design studio and it runs 24/7, almost 7 days a week without a complaint.

  16. Hey! I have a 17″ widescreen iMac 1Ghz G4 with 512 MB RAM .. the last of the lampshade iMac’s.

    And I love her to death. She’s just gorgeous.

    Sure, her plastic dome shell isn’t quite as white as it would have been when she was brand new, but I think she is stunning … and the ability to tilt AND swivel the screen? Bloody marvellous!

    She runs Tiger absolutely fine, and the only time I notice lag is when I run things like dashboard. I’ve kinda discounted running Leopard on her. For that, I’ll use my 1.25Ghz iBook.

    But I never want to lose my iMac, she’s just wonderful.

  17. Stephanie Guertin

    @mws – Sorry, I had meant original not in the sense of first iMac, but unique design. I fixed it to make that more clear.

    @egbailer – I have Tiger, the latest version, on my iMac. I have newer machines that will run Leopard, but I want to keep my beloved iMac. (I just plain love the look of it.)

  18. Presented with the choice of purchasing a used 15″ flat-screen iMac (G4 800mHz, now with 1GB RAM, 250GB ATA internal HD, 2 external firewire drives) or a 17″ iMac G5, I chose the former, partly due to its unique pivot, swivel and tilt screen. It runs Tiger just fine and in most ways, performs just flawlessly for me. I’d love the chance to try Leopard. Naturally, I’d love to own a new Core-Duo aluminum and glass iMac, but I love owing an good working relic. FYI My graphite iMac G3 700Mhz was running Tiger without much difficulty. Old does not mean dead. Give us Leopard, please?

  19. Ross Winn

    Personally I think that running software on antiquated hardware is technically challenging it usually slows the machine past the point of usability. There is nothing wrong with a nice peppy Panther install, or Maybe even Jaguar. Some times it is just time for a computer upgrade.

  20. You know what? At home, I run Tiger 10.4.10 on a 400 MHz B&W G3 and a 550MHz G4 Gigabit Ethernet. Both are maxed out with RAM. They work. Not blazingly fast, but they work. But then, I’m not doing production work on them-just word processing, email, web surfing, and such.

    Not to belabor the point, but I also have a 8MHZ SE running System 6.0.8. Blazingly fast boot time, and can word process like a champ.

    All older computer equipment in working order is still useful. It’s all a matter of using the right tool for the job.

    Still, I lust for every new system Apple introduces. Ah, fanboydom.

  21. Panther barely ran on these systems, so this would make sense. Also, the fancy new effects and eye candy are most likely going to be hard on those systems.

    The 800MHz iMac was wonderful with Jaguar… you may just want to reinstall that OS and leave it that way. Then, just find some old games from the time on eBay, and go crazy. I know I was never able to buy them all, but if they’re cheap, that could work. You don’t have to have the latest version of the OS to enjoy the computer.

  22. I know Apple usually put a system-info checker in their installers, but it doesn’t make any sense to me. As long as they put the system requirements on the box, no one will be able to complain about the performance (or whether or not it works at all) if they fall below the specs. On the other hand, others might be happy to sacrifice a little speed for some of the new features. Why not let the users decide if their computer is up for the task or not?

  23. Apple has generally put system-info checkers into their installers. You may be able to hack your way around it, but the odds are good that you will not be able to simply put the disk into the machine, reboot, and wait.