When restoring vintage Macs, I like to upgrade Mac OS / Mac OS X / OS X to the latest release to make sure that I have the very latest software on my gear. For my latest project, I am installing Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger and all of the available updates from DVD and Software Update. Looks likes Java has had quite a few updates.
This weekend, I started a small project to install some old DOS and Windows 95-family games into virtual machines (VMs) that I have running in VMware Fusion (VMware Workstation on Windows PCs).
Trying to get old MS-DOS games, like Quake and Tie Fighter working have proven to be particularly difficult as I have long forgotten the art of configuring drivers in autoexec.bat and confg.sys.
To help, I have found two tools that have been useful in this weekend’s hacking effort to get the games loaded and relearn what was forgotten.
The first is Apple’s own Disk Utility. Disk Utility can be used for a number of things on macOS, but it can be used to bundle up the contents of a folder into a floppy disk .img file. Apple has a really good step-by-step KB support article on how to make disk images.
I wasn’t having much success in using Disk Utility to create CD and DVD .iso files. So, rather than waste many hours on troubleshooting, I chose to download InfraRecorder for Windows and load it into a Windows 10 Insider VM. The free software can be downloaded from Ninite.com – a site the provides safe utility software for Windows PCs without all of the malware, bloatware, adware…you get the idea.
Finally, if you are looking for some old boot disks or OS installers, WinWorld has a full library of software that should have what you are looking for. For me, I needed that Windows 98 Second Edition floppy to get the oakcdrom.sys file since my original floppy went missing over a decade ago.
One of the things that I have been doing to keep myself busy during the craziness that is the COVID-19 pandemic (please keep wearing your face coverings in public) is to refurbish some of the old Macintosh computers in my collection.
In particular, I am working on a PowerMac G4 Quicksilver (2001) restoration and a PowerBook G3 (1998) repair. Neither machine is working right now, which is understandable since they are 19 and 22 years old, respectively. Rather than talk about each repair project, I figure it would be more helpful to share some of the resources that I have found online to help others repair and overhaul their vintage and obsolete status Macs.
Repair Information and Manuals
When many Mac enthusiasts think of repair guides and tear down instructions, we think of iFixit.com. They offer a great service for sure and I have ordered my share of repair kits from them. But they are not the only game in town.
If you are looking to repair or restore an old PowerBook, you will want to take a look at PowerbookMedic.com. They have repair guides and reasonably priced spare parts to get your old MacBook back in top condition. They also offer some parts and repair services for the iMac and Mac mini.
Another great site is AppleRepairManuals.com [http://www.applerepairmanuals.com/index.php#tools]. They have a wealth of information in the form of Apple service guides as well as other helpful tips that you will need while servicing your new and old Mac, iPod, Newton, or Lisa.
Finding Spare Parts for Your TLC Project
Once you have found the part number for the component that needs replacing, sure, you can use eBay. Many of my component searches start there. But there are other online retail options that specialize in vintage hardware. Depending on the Mac, Other World Computing (OWC) might have the part. I recently purchased an inexpensive PRAM battery from them for the G4. OWC also has a neat IDE/ATA to SATA adapter and SSD conversion kits. Once I have the G4 booting again, I plan to replace an old spinning hard disk with a 120GB SATA SSD. That should give that old boy a nice little speed bump.
One of my new favorite sites for spare parts is UsedMac.com. Need a replacement IDE drive for your Mac, a floppy drive for your PowerBook, or an external Jaz drive? No problem. I just recently ordered a 6GB 2.5″ IDE notebook drive from them. It was super cheap.
I came to the Newton late in its life. Like weeks before Steve Jobs came back to Apple and killed it late. I am still intrigued by the Newton and how cool it looks. Old Newtons and eMate portables can still be found on eBay. But sometimes you need that special part. For all things Newton, you will want to check out these great resources.
Newton Research offers a modern version of the Newton Connection Utilities that will run on modern versions of Mac OS. I was able to connect my Newton MessagePad 2100 to my Macbook Pro 2016 with Mojave.
Chuma.org has a good write up for how to get Ethernet working on your MessagePad.
Don’t forget UGreen’s USB 2.0 Type A to RS232 DB9 serial cable. This UGreen cable has a built-in FTDI serial converter so you won’t need a driver on the Mac / Windows PC side to get your Newton to connect and sync.
Restoring hardware is only half of the equation. Once you have restored your computer, you may need to download and OS for it. Let’s face it, 1.4MB floppies, in my collection at least, aren’t holding up well. CDs are holding up much better. Regardless if you are the victim of bit rot, scratched discs, or may not be the most organized person in the world, the Internet has you covered.
MacintoshRepository.org has a wide selection of Apple system software for the Mac, Apple //, and the Lisa. WinWorld’s library of Apple-related software is rather extensive with disk images for System Software 0-6, Mac OS and Mac OS X. You can also download A/UX and NeXTStep.
In the world of technology, there are clones and then there are hacks. Depending on who’s point of view is being used and when, clones and hacks can have both positive or negative connotations. Take for instance the well documented case of Samsung outright cloning, or copying, many aspects of early iPhone hardware and software. When talking about personal computers, Macintosh and Apple // clones are fully licensed machines while “Hackintosh” PCs are unauthorized illegal work-alike machines.
In Apple’s long history of making computer for the rest of us, few companies have received special status from Apple to make Macintosh clones. In the mid-1990s, PowerComputing’s PowerWave 604/132 and the UMax SuperMac S900/200 are two examples of favored status Macintosh clones.
A Hackintosh computer on the other hand, is an unlicensed personal computer built from commodity hardware and modified in such as way as to boot the macOS/MacOS/OS X operating system. To do so, one must bypass Apple’s licensing restrictions and copy protections. Hacked copies of Apple’s computers are nothing new. Dating back to the 1980s, the VTech Laser 128 and the Franklin Corporation Franklin Ace 100 were two popular, and unlicensed, Apple // clones. The name “Hackintosh” itself is an amalgamation of the words “hack” and “Macintosh”. In Apple’s view, a Hackintosh is a very bad thing. From the point of tech enthusiasts, a Hackintosh is a call back to the early days of computing when tinkering with hardware and software to make something new or work in ways that were not intended by the original thing is exciting and challenging.
In my view, having worked with both PowerComputing PowerWave “Macs” and a “Hackintosh” or two, the experience is a little bit of both. While PowerComputing boxes were fully licensed clones of the Apple PowerMacintosh PCs of the day, and could boot and use current versions of classic MacOS, I always felt that the commodity hardware was inferior to the more expensive components in Apple’s PCs. For example, after ordering a fleet of 12 PowerWave towers, six of them were defective right out of the box.
Tinkering with a Dell Mini 9 netbook to coax it into running Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard was both a fun science project and an oddity in the office after many of the Macs had been replaced with Windows PCs. The amount of hacking the Dell netbook to install a modified version of the computer’s BIOS and hardware driver software was not for the uninitiated.
One the plus side, a Hackintosh offers an enthusiast a number of configuration and optimization options that are just not possible with an official Macintosh. The ability to use any case style or video card are just two examples. One big draw of a Hackintosh PC is price. Hackintoshes offer a means to get the same or better raw computing performance out of readily available hardware at a much lower price. I remember the point about price being promoted in an old computer book I purchased in the early 1990s titled “How to Build a Cat Mac”. Remember the time when we actually went to a book store to buy books? The premise of the book is that you would take the motherboard out of an old Mac and retrofit it into a PC case and use PC components with it. Unable to afford a Mac as an early teen, let alone take it part to tinker with it, building a Cat Mac was not an option back then, even if I did find the idea of building my own customized Mac fascinating.
However, there are some significant downsides to using clones and Hackintosh PCs. For one, Hackintosh computers are not legal from a software licensing perspective. While not usually a serious issue for a home enthusiast, trying to build a business around selling Hackintosh computers to consumers is a precarious position at best. Such was the case for Psystar Corporation and OpenCore Computer currently. For me personally, inferior battery life on the Dell Mini 9 Hackintosh was a deal breaker as was having to wait for authorized clone makers to update and release their modified versions of MacOS and driver software after Apple released the software for the Macintosh. For me, not having the latest and greatest software bits to play with is a deal breaker. While I am glad that Hackintosh computers exist from a hobbyist standpoint, I much prefer to have a computer and operating system that just work. While I don’t have my Laser 128, my Dell Mini 9 netbook, or even my old Cat Mac book, I do remember all three fondly and am grateful that I was able to learn from and tinker with them.