Leopard Runs Very Nicely on PowerPC Macs

2008 – There has been lots of talk on various Apple discussion websites and Mac mailing lists that I subscribe to about how Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard is not geared towards PowerPC Macs and was developed with Intel Macs in mind. I disagree with this.

A fellow group member had Leopard installed on a 1.67 GHz PowerBook G4 and claimed it was unusable – so much so that he reverted to Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger, something I found very strange. I have seen Leopard running on a number of G4 Macs. I even have it installed on my 1.25 GHz eMac with 1 GB of RAM, and it runs lovely; even when it had 512 MB of RAM, it was very much usable, and maxing it to its 2 GB limit will make it a very snappy machine.

Power Mac G4 'Sawtooth'As a tinkerer and lover of low-end Macs, I have installed Leopard on both a 400 MHz PowerBook G4 Titanium with 1 GB of RAM and a PowerMac G4 Sawtooth with 640 MB of RAM (see Is Running Leopard on a Sawtooth Power Mac G4 Worth Doing?). While both of these machines are way under the minimum specs Apple restricts Leopard too, they performed a lot better than I expected. Both were useable, but under heavy use they would struggle.

Apple’s minimum spec is an 867 MHz G4 with 512 MB of RAM. I have seen it running on an 867 MHz PowerBook G4 with 1 GB of RAM, which is about as low as you can get officially, and it runs like a dream.

I think the claims of Leopard not being PowerPC optimised is utter rubbish. I had a 1.83 GHz Core Duo Intel iMac with 1 GB of RAM, and Leopard never really ran properly on it. It wasn’t until I upped it to 2 GB of RAM that the machine responded and worked properly – that made it more responsive and a lot more useable, but it was still plagued with problems, so much so that I at one point reinstalled Leopard, but the problems persisted.

In some respects, I think my 1.25 GHz eMac with 1 GB of RAM copes better than the Intel iMac did. I don’t mean it runs faster – obviously the faster chipset, better graphics, and dual-core give the iMac the edge – but the overall stability and sluggishness on the iMac (considering it’s way higher specifications compared to the eMac) is unbelievable.

I have had better results from PowerPC Macs, even lower-end G4s, than on Intel Macs. If there is anyone thinking of installing Leopard on older PowerPC Macs and wondering whether it is worth it, I say go for it.

Leopard is RAM hungry. If you are going to put it on a G4, make sure you have at least 1 GB of RAM, just to make the Leopard experience a nice one. Bear in mind the very low requirements of Tiger, so if you want a lightning fast machine, it might be a better alternative.

Intel Macs seems to be plagued with problem – at least mine was. It was a sad day when Apple dropped PowerPC Macs.

Until Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard is released – which is supposed to cut out the PowerPC platform altogether – I shall not be upgrading to another Intel machine.


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