The Low End Mac Mailbag

Leopard on a G3 iMac (with a G4 Upgrade), Flashed Video Card Problems, the Cheapest G4 Mac, and More

Dan Knight - 2007.12.03

Leopard on a G4-upgraded G3 iMac

From Matt:


I see you are taking submissions about who has Leopard running on what hardware, I would like to give you mine, because I don't see another one like it on the list.

I have Leopard 10.5.1 running on an iMac G3, of the tangerine-flavor slot-load variety. This iMac originally shipped with a 400 MHz G3, but I have it upgraded to a 550 MHz G4. Also, I'm running it with 1 GB of RAM and an 80 GB 7200 RPM hard drive.

It does tend to drag a little - not quite as fast as Tiger is/was on it. The faster hard drive and lots of memory help it out a lot though; I don't think I would have tried it otherwise.

I installed it using Target Disk Mode, from an iBook G4 mid-2005 model. I didn't think it would work, but after I got done loading Leopard on the iBook on launch day, I thought I would try booting the iMac from the iBook, and it worked! So I just used Disk Utility to copy the installation over and it has been working ever since. This may or may not have something to do with it, but when I installed Leopard on my iBook, I did a fresh install, not an upgrade, so there was nothing left from Tiger that could mess it up. Also, I know that Leopard's updates won't muck with it, because I cloned over the 10.5.0 and updated to 10.5.1 from the iMac, no iBook needed.

Anyways, I hope this sheds just a little more light on how good and useful those older fruity iMacs still are.



Thanks for your report. It's the first I've heard of a G4-upgraded G3 iMac running Leopard, and it's nice to know it's possible, even if a bit slower than Tiger.


Leopard on Sawtooth: Video Card a Big Deal

From Chris Kilner:

Hi Dan:

I wanted to share my brief experience with Leopard on an unsupported AGP 450 (stock - 512 MB/DVD/Rage 128 Pro) that I recently picked up to replace an aging G3 iMac.

I installed Leopard (fresh install on empty 30 GB HFS+ volume) on an external FireWire drive from a supported Quicksilver 867 (via a FireWire DVD drive, since the QS only has a CD-RW drive) and updated to 10.5.1. I then tried to boot the AGP 450 from the FireWire drive but got kernel panics (regular and safe-boot), so I booted the AGP 450 into OS 9 and updated the firmware (to 4.2.8?). Booting with the Leopard FireWire drive then worked (I'm not sure how long it takes to boot . . . I kept getting called away from the computer, but is seems a bit slower than 10.3).

  • Cover Flow was (unusably) ssslllooowww, but other views in Finder seemed just as responsive as 10.3. I forgot to check QuickView and Stacks.
  • Mail seemed to work fine and launched 2x faster than Mail in 10.3.
  • Safari launched faster and seemed fine, but QT content (like Apple's ads) only displayed an audio bar. YouTube was choppier than in 10.3.9.
  • iTunes seemed fine, but Cover Flow seemed slower than in 10.3.9 (where it was already slow).
  • DVD player would not boot ("hardware not found" despite the presence of the Hitachi DVD drive - must be referring to a supported video card), and DVD Player from 10.3 was not supported by the OS. My older version of VLC (that works well in 10.3) crashed on launch.
  • Front Row launches to a black screen.
  • I never checked operation of the screen saver.

I'm really interested in finding out whether an upgrade to a Leopard/Core Animation video card (or even a lesser card like a GeForce 2) resolves the other issues (DVD player, QT, etc.) - this is a computer for an 8-year-old who is already happy with the performance of iTunes and Safari in 10.3 (and thus does not necessarily need a 1 GHz+ processor, although I may pick up a dual 450 MHz CPU from a Mystic), but I'd love to be able to use the Parental Controls from Leopard (and standardize all the computers in the house using the same OS).

Chris Kilner


I read this morning that an Leopard-compatible version of VLC is out, and I suspect that moving to a better video card (even an older AGP Radeon) will provide a substantial improvement over the practically obsolete (at least for Leopard) Rage 128 Pro card in your 450 MHz Sawtooth.

I haven't used Leopard yet myself, but our reader reports indicate that a better video card makes a huge difference for these older G4 Power Macs.


Hi Dan:

I sent the report [above] to you a few days ago and wanted to follow up with more of my experience.

I installed a 32 MB GeForce 2 MX video card from my Quicksilver into the Sawtooth (i.e., a minimum Quartz Extreme card) and was absolutely shocked at how well Leopard performed on this 8-year-old Mac. Finder and Safari were noticeably faster than in Panther. DVD Player worked fine, QuickTime movies looked fantastic, Front Row (and the movie trailers) amazed my 8-year-old daughter, who has been regularly using the Sawtooth under OS X 10.3 (although DVDs wouldn't play from Front Row), Cover Flow was better than usable, Time Machine (with reduced eye candy) worked fine. Even Flash movies (i.e., YouTube) worked better. It seems unbelievable that Apple doesn't support Leopard on any G4 with 512 MB of RAM and a video card that supports Quartz Extreme.

I will now be looking for an AGP Radeon or GeForce card to put in the Sawtooth (or possibly a Core Animation accelerated card for the Quicksilver so the GeForce 2 MX can stay in the Sawtooth), and I'm considering picking up a Cube with a Quartz Extreme video card for myself to replace my G3 iBook 800 that can't run Leopard.

Keep up the great work!



Thanks for the follow-up. The biggest complaint we're seeing from the first two generations of G4 Power Macs have to do with video: The older video cards just don't do Leopard justice, but even ones with just enough for Quartz Extreme make a world of difference.

Keep us posted if you upgrade to an even better video card.


Unsupported Leopard Success

From Danny:


I don't know if you're still collecting unsupported Leopard installation reports, but I have one I can toss into the mix: an AGP G4 450. I got it off of Craigslist for $45 with no RAM, graphics card, or hard drive - and a broken handle on the top rear, which I replaced with a spare from a spare I salvaged from a dead B&W G3. But for $45, since it chimed when memory was added, I had to take a chance, and it paid off. I had my own PC100 RAM, a flashed (from PC) GeForce FX 5200 PCI card, and a couple of spare hard drives (one 30 GB, one 10 GB).

I followed, for the most part, the directions posted on's forums. I did a few things differently, though. Since I had two hard drives, I used Disk Utility to image the Leopard DVD to the 10 GB hard drive and added the new OSInstall.mpkg rather than burn it to a DVD. I had that as the slave and my 30 GB as the installation target. The first time I booted from the 10 GB hard drive I thought I'd done something wrong, though. I got a kernel panic. So I dug out my OS 9.1 CD and booted from that. I initialized the larger drive with two partitions and went ahead and installed OS 9 on the first one, just to see what could be wrong. Well, it was running firmware version 3.3.x (if I recall correctly), so I updated to 4.2.8f. Once I had that done, I rebooted from the 10 GB drive, and because I had the modified installer, it installed just peachy.

Once I rebooted into Leopard and let it index my drive, it seemed really slow. I went to the Apple System Profiler and found that the firmware update had disabled 512 of my 768 MB of memory! Darn you, Apple! So I replaced the two 256 MB sticks with two 64 MB ones so I'd have at least 384 MB (which still isn't enough, mind you), and it runs a little better.

Performance on graphical tasks is abysmal. I think it's a combination of the GeForce FX being less than it should have been in the first place and the fact that it's a PCI card rather than an AGP one. I have a Radeon 7500 AGP that I tried flashing with a Mac ROM, but it resulted in a garbled mess (the ROM on only supports 32 MB, where this is a retail ATI card with 64 VRAM). Maybe I'll take a chance on one of the PC flashed (and presumably tested) GeForce 6200 cards on eBay. Since I don't turn off or sleep my Macs (because of running SETI@Home all the time), the long startup doesn't bother me. DVD Player works for movie discs; I haven't tried VLC or Front Row though. Time Machine backs up/restores with my FireWire hard drive.

Sorry for all the parentheses, it's just the way I type. :)

Take care,


Yes, we're still collecting unsupported Leopard reports. The more data we have, the better we'll understand the benefits and bottlenecks with older hardware - video cards in particular. Bumping RAM should also help quite a bit. Let us know if you upgrade the system and how that impacts performance.


Flashed Video Card Problem with Dock

From David Evans:

Love the site! I bought a flashed card on eBay, had the same problem under Tiger, and seller 'macgeniuses' suggested I use System Preferences to move the Dock to the left. I did that and was able to get access to the Dock.

Glad this year has been so good for you, and hope it is the beginning for you. Word of the day: hypergamy.

David Evans


Sounds like the flashed card may have been working at a resolution that put the Dock off the bottom of the screen, a new problem to me. Have you been able to adjust things so you can put the Dock on the bottom if you want to?


I had to go into system preferences to tell the system that I only had one monitor, and once I did that, yes, I could.

God bless,
David Evans

The Cheapest Way to Get Into a G4 Mac

From Vy Tri Truong:

Hi Dan,

I read Russell's question on getting the cheapest G4 Mac, and I had to chime in. I have to recommend a Sawtooth over all other G4s for the following reasons:

  1. Power supply failure. The older the machine, the more likely it's power supply will fail. In a Sawtooth, it's an easy fix: just take a regular PC ATX power supply, solder two wires, and you're done. I was hesitant myself, but after doing it once, it's really quite trivial. All other G4s require quite a bit more work and would be much more costly because of the proprietary PSUs Apple used at the time.
  2. Abundance of PC100 and PC133 RAM. There are lots and lots of old Pentium IIIs out there that people throw away which use the same RAM that Sawtooths do. Sawtooths have 4 RAM slots, so upgrading to 512 MB or 1 GB RAM shouldn't cost very much, if anything.
  3. Video card upgrades do not need "taping." These Macs have a regular 2x AGP slots and aren't affected by the need to tape up the extra connectors on PC-flashed video cards as other G4s do.

The only downsides are no gigabit ethernet and issues with dual processor cards. But from the sounds of it, Russell won't be needing either of those features.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. In my experience, power supply failures are pretty rare, and your second point assumes you have access to obsolete Pentium III computers with more than a rudimentary amount of RAM, something a lot of us can't count on. Overall, I still think Quicksilver takes the value prize, as you can buy new RAM under warranty cheaply, you have a faster system bus and faster AGP video bus, you have gigabit ethernet, and it may work with "large" hard drives, which are the value leader nowadays, without a special controller or driver.


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Dan Knight has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. Mailbag columns come from email responses to his Mac Musings, Mac Daniel, Online Tech Journal, and other columns on the site.

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