Beware iMacs bearing gifts

I suppose I’m old enough to know better, but…

A month ago or so, we bought our children an old iMac for what seemed a bargain basement price. At last, neither my computer nor my wife’s would be hogged by kids either doing some homework or playing Runescape (more likely the latter). It shouldn’t be hard, I reasoned, to bring the computer up to date.

I went to the friendly Genius Bar at our local Apple Store. Not as easy as I thought. Just about everything these days requires OS X, so I’d need to add some memory, get an AirPort adapter and card (to access our WiFi) and update the system. He counseled buying a MacMini as the path of least resistance.

Undaunted, I plunged ahead. Tonight I enjoyed opening the back of the machine to slot in the new memory and the AirPort stuff. I’m pretty good at this kind of DIY, I kidded myself. Then I went to update the system with the Panther discs I’d bought from Amazon. Uh oh. It turns out that I need to update the firmware first. In fact, it seems as though I need to install OS 9 before I can install OS X (our old iMac runs OS 8.6).

So unless I can discover something different, I’ll have to wait a few more days until my eBay-sourced OS 9 disks arrive. Pop those in, and I should be ready to install the OS X. I probably should have bought that MacMini.

One thought on “Beware iMacs bearing gifts

  1. Andrew Pontious

    If it runs Mac OS 8.6, then you probably got a Mac that was released, at latest, in 1999. (I don’t memorize these things, really, I just look ’em up on Low End Mac.)

    So it has a G3 processor in it. That’s going to be your biggest issue. Things are going to run slow. The subsequent G4 processors aren’t necessarily hugely faster in and of themselves, but they have the Altivec multimedia extensions used by the OS to speed up some common tasks (like watching movie clips). And of course the new Mac Mini is two generations past that, the new Intel chips.

    Plus, from what I read on Low End Mac, these machines max out at 1 GB of RAM. Some people try to run OS X with 512 MB of RAM, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re only doing the simplest of things. The OS will get sluggish and you may need to reboot to often fix it.

    My suggestion is, if you just need to do the simple stuff, and don’t need to use a lot of new applications to do it, stay on OS 9 on that machine. It’ll run a *lot* faster.

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