Best pre-OS X PowerPC Mac on a budget

retta283

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I've really been wanting to get a pre OS X machine, because I haven't owned one in a long time. I've been looking for something mainly in the 1998-2000 range. However, I'm pretty strapped for cash right now, so I can't spend too much on these right now. Any recommendations?
 

bunnspecial

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May 3, 2014
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What's your budget range?

I think it's hard to beat a G4 tower as an all-around choice for OS 9, but unless you can source one locally shipping can kill you on them.

Titanium PowerBooks are great OS 9 machines on the go, and save for the last and best 1ghz version tend to be fairly affordable. The hinges are a known weak spot on them, so watch out for this.

White iBook G3s are fairly peppy(in OS 9) and can be had for a little of nothing-the late ones got as fast as 900mhz, and it's worth watching for a later one. I have several clamshell iBooks, but they have their shortcomings in the small screen size and also that they've become somewhat collectible.

iMac G3s are a classic favorite and are unquestionably Apple. There again, shipping can kill you on them even if the computer is free. I have a Rev. A Bondi in my office running 8.1 for a real blast from the past, but in practical use I suggest OS 8.6 as a minimum(and many slot loaders will need OS 9.x). The iMac G4 is also worth a look. Some can run OS 9 natively.

The eMac is worth a mention also. Don't have one shipped to you, but at least in the US they are often plentiful and cheap. The last 1.25ghz and 1.42ghz models can't run OS 9, but I think the others can.

One possible REALLY inexpensive choice is the Mac Mini G4, which doesn't natively run OS 9 but the folks over at OS 9 Lives have figured out how to do it.
 

retta283

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What's your budget range?

I think it's hard to beat a G4 tower as an all-around choice for OS 9, but unless you can source one locally shipping can kill you on them.

Titanium PowerBooks are great OS 9 machines on the go, and save for the last and best 1ghz version tend to be fairly affordable. The hinges are a known weak spot on them, so watch out for this.

White iBook G3s are fairly peppy(in OS 9) and can be had for a little of nothing-the late ones got as fast as 900mhz, and it's worth watching for a later one. I have several clamshell iBooks, but they have their shortcomings in the small screen size and also that they've become somewhat collectible.

iMac G3s are a classic favorite and are unquestionably Apple. There again, shipping can kill you on them even if the computer is free. I have a Rev. A Bondi in my office running 8.1 for a real blast from the past, but in practical use I suggest OS 8.6 as a minimum(and many slot loaders will need OS 9.x). The iMac G4 is also worth a look. Some can run OS 9 natively.

The eMac is worth a mention also. Don't have one shipped to you, but at least in the US they are often plentiful and cheap. The last 1.25ghz and 1.42ghz models can't run OS 9, but I think the others can.

One possible REALLY inexpensive choice is the Mac Mini G4, which doesn't natively run OS 9 but the folks over at OS 9 Lives have figured out how to do it.
I'm trying to stay below $150 if possible.
I want a machine from the 1998-2000 range, I've been thinking mostly about an iMac G3 or a G3/G4 tower.

Haven't thought about the PowerBooks though. I would love to get a clamshell G3, but some idiot on eBay cornered the market and is making these weird polka-dot abominations and charging hundreds for them.
 

Raging Dufus

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Aug 2, 2018
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I second @bunnspecial's vote for a G4 tower. You absolutely cannot go wrong there, although as stated, shipping could be a budget (and/or machine) killer. Best to source locally if possible.

I'd like to give a nod to the G3 PowerBooks: Wallstreet, Lombard, and especially Pismo. All can be had relatively inexpensively on eBay, though the Pismo will be more expensive than the others. Being laptops, shipping can be had safely and cheap. They're about as sturdy as laptops come, and if in good shape will likely last a good while. All have G3 processors which run OS 9.x (and 8.x depending on model) quite well, and as a bonus are all easily (though likely not cheaply) G4-upgradeable. All have a myriad of expansion options: since they have a modular design, the battery and optical drive can be easily and quickly swapped out - even while the machine is running - for floppy drives, Zip drives,and other such expansion modules which are often available on eBay. Plus, they all have Cardbus/PCMCIA expansion slots, which open you up to a myriad of options including USB 2.0, FireWire, card readers, faster Wifi, you name it - again usually available cheap.

Downsides include the tendency of the screens to develop a pink cast over time (correctable if you don't mind opening up the computer and replacing parts), as well as the near impossibility of finding a battery to enable their portable use. However, all have video-out capabilities and can be used with an external monitor, keyboard & mouse like any desktop. If I couldn't find a good desktop Mac nearby, one of these is what I'd be looking for.
 

eyoungren

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Aug 31, 2011
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I've really been wanting to get a pre OS X machine, because I haven't owned one in a long time. I've been looking for something mainly in the 1998-2000 range. However, I'm pretty strapped for cash right now, so I can't spend too much on these right now. Any recommendations?
I just want to point out that your thread title puts Macs into two categories. Those before OS X and those after OS X.

Steve Jobs did in fact kill OS9 and therefore there ARE some Macs that came later and are only capable of using OS X. But the time period you speak of sits right in the middle of both operating systems. That means that any system you get is going to be capable of running both OS9 and OS X.

You mentioned you wanted an iMac G3 or a G3/G4 tower. Well, I have a G3 tower that is capable of OS9. Pre-OS X, but only in the sense that it was released before OS X. Just like you ask. But it's also capable of running OS X Tiger 10.4.11 and it is in fact, running the Server version of OS X. Systems that can do both are not 'pre-OS X' simply because they were released before OS X launched.

If you truly want a 'pre-OS X' Mac you're going to have to go back into the mid-90s to find a system that cannot run OS X. And even that's iffy now, considering that recent events have managed to allow some of those older Macs to run OS X and some of the OS X only Macs to run OS9.

I'm guessing that what you really want is a system that runs OS9 and you just don't care if it runs OS X or not because you don't plan on installing OS X. Just your thread title doesn't make that clear.
 
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Expobill

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Try one of those second hand stores, they have several blueish grey towers under $100 bucks were i live. Im looking to replace a g4 igloo logic board i own one of these months just for old times fun!
 

bobesch

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For 150$ you may get any PPC (except the Kolibris) you want. But that's not the point.
os8/9 will run natively on all of the G3 and some of the G4 hardware.
You may go for a PowerMac+Monitor or the all-in-one iMac or a NoteBook. They'll be great machines for os8/9.

There are the big boxes aka PowerMac G3/G4: check everymac.com, if your model of choice will boot into os9. All of them will perform nice with os8/9. The CubeG4 is kind of special (mainly, when it comes to the price)
You'll have a lot of stuff to carry around.

The iMacG3 or even the early iMacG4 are as awkward to handle like the PowerMac-boxes/monitor/cables,
but they do come in one piece and they've got a handle to carry them around and also to stuff them away temporarily. That's a big advantage plus they do look really nice. But keep off the G3 tray-loaders! Their fans don't go to sleeping mode and you'll have a constantly humming Mac in your place until you switch off power.

Me, I'm a fan of the books ...
I do not fancy the G3-PowerBooks and I won't ever go for one of them, but considering "form follows function" they were top of crowd and haunted by a possee of copycats. I happened to ow one of those - a 2003 Acer Travelmate ... that's enough about that. I still like that Travelmate, but I do not want to go the way back to the G3-Powerbooks.
The G3-Clamshell-iBooks are unique. Screen-size/resolution is limited, but ok for os8/9. FireWire really comes in handy, especially if the optical-drive is struggling.
As @bunnspecial said: the white G3-iBooks "snow" are great machines. Better resolution compared to the Clamshells. OSX will also run decently. But you'll have to cope with the smell.
Finally the TiBook G4: blazing screen&performance, high-tech Titanium attached to a plastic frame with dissolving metallic-painting, fragile display-hinges, fans unbound ... (and needs TLC at any time)
I'd start with a limit 50-70 buck for any of those options.
My favorites for a start-up are either an iMacG3 >=400MHz SlotLoader with FireWire or an iBookG3 Snow (600-800 MHz).
 

Amethyst1

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The GPU problems are another thing to consider when hunting for a white iBook G3; I think @AphoticD (and others, of course) will be able to provide first-hand experience on this matter.
 
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retta283

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I don't know why the fact that it can run OS X even though it came out beforehand is important... I have machines that can run modern versions of macOS but are still on 10.5/10.6.

I've always been a desktop person, especially in the early days when the laptop screen were pretty dingy (Some were okay) so I'd probably go with the iMac or a PowerMac, the latter seems more likely as of now. I did own a 2003 iBook G3 at one point but the HDD died and I broke it trying to replace it... That screen was too small for me anyway, especially as I get older my eyesight is really not great. and the keyboard was nasty
 

redheeler

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Oct 17, 2014
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I have a Power Mac G4 (Early 2000 500 MHz + 1 GB RAM + original GPU / HDD) set up with 9.0.4, IMO the newest model that can be considered pre-OS X (discontinued before the Mac OS X Public Beta was released). I recommend one for Mac OS 9 use if you can find it locally, mine was sourced at a thrift store some years ago.

This is assuming you plan to make it Mac OS 9-only as I have done. For Mac OS X use it helps to have something a bit newer, or an upgraded GPU at the very least; but it can still run up to Tiger (10.4.11) with usable performance.
 

eddjedi

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Sep 7, 2011
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I'm not sure where you've been looking, but you don't need to spend anywhere near $150 for a decent PPC system. Even here in the UK it's easy to pick up ones like this on eBay:

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/283391290151

With a little patience you should be able to find a G4 or G3 tower for well under $50, in fact you could buy a Cube for $150 which might be considered an 'investment' as they are practically the only sought after G4 system. Saying that, if you want something you can tinker with I would avoid the Cube, iMac, or laptops as they all have massive compromises and although are very user serviceable by modern standards, are still a lot more painful to work on than a tower.
 

retta283

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I'm not sure where you've been looking, but you don't need to spend anywhere near $150 for a decent PPC system. Even here in the UK it's easy to pick up ones like this on eBay:

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/283391290151

With a little patience you should be able to find a G4 or G3 tower for well under $50, in fact you could buy a Cube for $150 which might be considered an 'investment' as they are practically the only sought after G4 system. Saying that, if you want something you can tinker with I would avoid the Cube, iMac, or laptops as they all have massive compromises and although are very user serviceable by modern standards, are still a lot more painful to work on than a tower.
Yeah, I wrecked an iBook G3 snow trying to replace a hard drive. Don't know how hard it would be to work on an Imac g3
 

retta283

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As they have a built in CRT display, not a good idea unless you know what you're doing! (risk of electrocution)
Yeah that's what I'd be scared of, I refuse to mess with CRT tubes. From what I've heard, the tube is isolated and doesn't affect replacement of more basic parts. Could be wrong
 

amedias

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Feb 9, 2008
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I'm not sure where you've been looking, but you don't need to spend anywhere near $150 for a decent PPC system. Even here in the UK it's easy to pick up ones like this on eBay:

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/283391290151

With a little patience you should be able to find a G4 or G3 tower for well under $50
And even that one looks a little over-priced, they seem to be going on eBay for a lot more than they are locally. I bought a fully working DA 533MHz a fortnight ago for £20 with 3 HDDs included and a Sonnet USB 2 card in it, and I only paid £15 for my DP 450 a few years back!

As you say, with a bit of digging around and patience I reckon you should be able to pick up a G3 or G4 for well under $50, you might even find one being given away if you're lucky!
 

bunnspecial

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As they have a built in CRT display, not a good idea unless you know what you're doing! (risk of electrocution)
You can do most of the typical work and upgrades needed in an iMac G3 without getting near the CRT. The tray loaders have the logic board on tray that pulls out from the back. The slot loaders have an access hatch to install RAM and an airport card, and "heavier" repairs are accomplished by removing the bottom of the computer.

Even if you need to get near the CRT, it mostly just needs some common sense and a bit of respect. I have a Rev. A Bondi that needs a new analog board-I've had one sitting in the box for a few years, and the only thing REALLY keeping me from doing it is a lack of time/motivation since getting tray loaders stripped down to that point takes a lot of work(and usually involves a lot of broken plastic). I've already had this particular computer apart to that point once to diagnose the analog board...

Just don't ever get into compact Macs if you're scared of CRTs as the when you remove the case back, the tube and analog board are both right there.
 
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bobesch

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I don't know why the fact that it can run OS X even though it came out beforehand is important... I have machines that can run modern versions of macOS but are still on 10.5/10.6.

I've always been a desktop person, especially in the early days when the laptop screen were pretty dingy (Some were okay) so I'd probably go with the iMac or a PowerMac, the latter seems more likely as of now. I did own a 2003 iBook G3 at one point but the HDD died and I broke it trying to replace it... That screen was too small for me anyway, especially as I get older my eyesight is really not great. and the keyboard was nasty
The 15" CRT-screen of the iMac G3 doesn't feel better than the LCD-screen on the iBook-G3 "Snow".
It seems clear you better go for a PowerMac G3/G4. Those models previous to the Quicksilver. Price should be less than 50 bucks, but the difficulty will be to find one close by or the price for shipping.
Or a TiBook - you might be happy with a 600 or 800MHz model. They have a great bright 15" LCD screen and the 600/800MHz units don't run as hot as the ones with 1GHz.
If you weight shipping costs of a PowerMac against higher prices of a TiBook, the latter may be more reasonable. You may also hook up an external monitor and a keyboard to the TiBook.
 
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Raging Dufus

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I would heartily recommend the TiBook but for two things: (1) the weak display hinges, and (2) the fact that it must be taken apart to get to anything other than the RAM. The earlier models are also susceptible to the pink screen problem.

Not knowing the OP's comfort level with working inside a computer, I'd say that the G3 PowerBooks offer the closest thing case-wise to the Power Mac G3/G4: the RAM, hard drive, Airport card, even the CPU are accessible/replaceable by simply pulling up the keyboard. Hard to beat that on a laptop, and certainly can't be beat by any other line of PowerBooks.
 

Project Alice

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I would heartily recommend the TiBook but for two things: (1) the weak display hinges, and (2) the fact that it must be taken apart to get to anything other than the RAM. The earlier models are also susceptible to the pink screen problem.

Not knowing the OP's comfort level with working inside a computer, I'd say that the G3 PowerBooks offer the closest thing case-wise to the Power Mac G3/G4: the RAM, hard drive, Airport card, even the CPU are accessible/replaceable by simply pulling up the keyboard. Hard to beat that on a laptop, and certainly can't be beat by any other line of PowerBooks.
Ti Books have easier access to everything than any of the G3s. There are 7 screws on the bottom and then its open. Takes about 30 seconds to get to the hard drive. My Pismo is 30 minutes to the hard drive.
 

Raging Dufus

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Ti Books have easier access to everything than any of the G3s. There are 7 screws on the bottom and then its open. Takes about 30 seconds to get to the hard drive. My Pismo is 30 minutes to the hard drive.
I agree that it's simple to get inside a TiBook, in fact the TiBook is probably my favorite PowerBook to work on for that reason. It was more about a level of comfort: some might feel daunted by having their computer opened up to the world like that. It's like changing the spark plugs on a car, it's typically not difficult but some people don't want to touch their engine. That's all I was saying, I don't know OP's level of comfort/skill.

That being said, perhaps you're confusing the Pismo with something else? If it takes you 30 minutes to do this, you're doing something wrong. That's 6 screws, max; and iFixit even includes several steps that aren't necessary IMO. The comments on that guide bear me out. I can't say that I've spent more than a couple minutes, if even that, on getting a hard drive out of a Pismo. It's no more difficult than getting a hard drive out of a Power Mac G4, for sure.
 
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Macbookprodude

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I just want to point out that your thread title puts Macs into two categories. Those before OS X and those after OS X.

Steve Jobs did in fact kill OS9 and therefore there ARE some Macs that came later and are only capable of using OS X. But the time period you speak of sits right in the middle of both operating systems. That means that any system you get is going to be capable of running both OS9 and OS X.

You mentioned you wanted an iMac G3 or a G3/G4 tower. Well, I have a G3 tower that is capable of OS9. Pre-OS X, but only in the sense that it was released before OS X. Just like you ask. But it's also capable of running OS X Tiger 10.4.11 and it is in fact, running the Server version of OS X. Systems that can do both are not 'pre-OS X' simply because they were released before OS X launched.

If you truly want a 'pre-OS X' Mac you're going to have to go back into the mid-90s to find a system that cannot run OS X. And even that's iffy now, considering that recent events have managed to allow some of those older Macs to run OS X and some of the OS X only Macs to run OS9.

I'm guessing that what you really want is a system that runs OS9 and you just don't care if it runs OS X or not because you don't plan on installing OS X. Just your thread title doesn't make that clear.

Hi, maybe he OP can get a pismo. It runs OS 9 and I think OS 8.6, though it can support up to Tiger.
 

B S Magnet

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I'm trying to stay below $150 if possible.
I want a machine from the 1998-2000 range, I've been thinking mostly about an iMac G3 or a G3/G4 tower.

Haven't thought about the PowerBooks though. I would love to get a clamshell G3, but some idiot on eBay cornered the market and is making these weird polka-dot abominations and charging hundreds for them.
Yeah. He's, uh… he’s a piece of… something. I’d say “work”, but this would dishonour the endeavours of all the labour we (and everyone else around the world) do.

There’s some good input here. Since you’re more at home in a desktop environment (with “desktops” being healthily represented by the G3/G4 towers), which would also offer a blend of customization options, have a look at this short list on Everymac which itemizes the select models could natively boot into Classic as well as offer the speed and flexibility to work all the way up to 10.5.8. Most of these in 2019 should be reasonably affordable with a bit of looking around local places like Goodwill or CL.

The one which caught my eye, if you’re wanting something a bit more all-in-one, is the 1.0GHz eMac model.
 

Slix

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For a simple ease of use machine, iMac G3s are really nice (and taking apart the back to put a new drive in isn't too bad, I've done it a few times). G3/G4 Power Macs are also good, since they work with a larger variety of displays, and you can very easily put new hard drives or ram or parts in. Titanium PowerBook is a nice one too, and those are definitely easy to take apart as well for hard drive/ram replacements.

I use OS 9 on a lot of my Macs alongside Mac OS X, and you can definitely find most of these for under $50 (or free if you ask around!) if you search a little. Look on your local Craigslist-type website, or shop locally. Shipping costs a ton for heaver machines and there's risk of it breaking in transit.