The G5 iMac is DEAD! Long Live the G5 iMac!

iDeadThis is a followup to last week’s article where I performed an autopsy on a six-year-old iMac that had a number of ruptured capacitors. Like a low-rent Frankenstein movie, I ended up transplanting the brains from one computer into the body of another, and I ended up learning something new!

Well, maybe not something new as the world is concerned, but new to me!

Pictured above is the G5 iMac lying face down with its back panel removed. In the right hand corner is the SATA hard drive that originally came with the machine when it was shipped from Apple. Apple moved from the older IDE or PATA hard drives to SATA when G5s came out. I took the hard drive above out of the iMac and slapped it into a dual G5 tower from 2004 that was sitting around idle. Poof! It was as if the old iMac was back with all of its programs and all of its user’s preferences and eccentricities but in a different body. That would have been the end of it, but I felt leery about the computer’s owner forging ahead with a six-year-old hard drive. Hard drives are only supposed to last about five years and this one was well used. It was only a matter of time before it gave up the ghost. Fortunately, SATA hard drives are easy to find so a 500 GB Western Digital model was picked up from a computer super store. I got the drive the next day, slapped it into the G5 tower, and nothing happened.

No window came up asking if I wanted to initialize or eject the drive.


I launched Apple’s Disk Utility which will usually show something, and it showed nothing.

I thought that it was a bad drive. The store sells these sort of drives by the caseload, and maybe I ended up with a bad one. Maybe somebody at Quality Control was asleep at the wheel. I put it in another computer, and it showed up. Weird. I formatted the drive thinking that maybe there was some PC/Windows Voodoo involved that the G5 didn’t like. I gave it a nice Mac-happy format and popped it back into the tower. Nothing.

I turned to the internet and typed something like“G5 fails to recognize hard drive” and this article in Apple Support Communities turned up. It turns out that the G5 tower was one of the first G5 towers and it didn’t play nice with SATA 2 drives. It couldn’t handle the speed and preferred the slower SATA 1 drives. Was there a solution? As it turns out, the solution lies in the jumper pins on the hard drive. I had to play with them on the old IDE hard drives setting the drive to either MASTER or SLAVE, but I’ve been lucky enough not to have to worry about them with the SATA drives I’ve dealt with. I thought the jumper pins were like a vestigial organ on SATA drives or something Windows-centric I’d never have to deal with.

As far as this Western Digital hard drive is concerned,  the jumper is placed on pins 5 and 6 hobbling the drive to SATA 1 speed and enabling the G5 tower to read it.

It worked. I did a fresh system install; migrated the programs, settings and preferences from the old hard drive to the new; reactivated licenses as were necessary, and the user was back in business!


The best way to recycle a Mac is to re-use it. For the past few years I’ve been getting my hands dirty under the hoods of old Macs swapping parts and performing upgrades. This is a new category that I will post to every now and then about mostly Apple computers. Due to my love of computers, my lack of funds and the wealth of information easily available on the internet, I’ve taken it upon myself to become my own fix-it man. I am not the handiest guy in the world, but, thanks to research on the internet, I’ve been able to cobble together and hot rod a few Macs into completely viable machines. It gives me a real Mechanics Illustrated sense of accomplishment, and puts me in touch with my dear departed Dad.

Dad in the Navy

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6 Responses to The G5 iMac is DEAD! Long Live the G5 iMac!

  1. Kyle Skrinak says:

    Nice! I love living cheaply. It seems only a matter time (if not already) that Apple will drop support for the G5. Have you considered running ubuntu?

  2. Joe Williams says:

    Thanks for commenting, Kyle!

    Sadly, Apple dropping support for the G5 is pretty much a done deal, but I’m not done with them. I work in the dead tree industry where we still put ink on paper. The print shop still uses film negatives rather than going direct to plate. We use an old version of Preps for imposition and output and it gets cranky with Adobe CS3 and above and is positively hostile towards anything above Quark 6. Eventually it will all have to be upgraded, but the plan is using it all until the wheels come off.

    The dead iMac was used by a designer in work who is used to what she has and that is that.

    There’s an illustrator named Bob Staake who is much in demand, and he refuses to budge from Photoshop 3.

    There’s plenty of old machines out there and a graveyard full of spare parts.

    I’ve played with Ubuntu. I like it a lot. I got it to work on a PC, and I inherited a PC at home that I will install it on, but I haven’t had luck with it on Power PC Macs. It’ll load right up on an Intel box, but have had no luck on an idle G3 laptop even though it was a Linux build for that machine. Can’t get past the BIOS screen.

  3. Kyle Skrinak says:

    That was like a walk down memory lane. Imposing with Preps, negatives instead of direct-to-plate, Quark 6, Photoshop 3; I’d get misty-eyed if I didn’t hate that phase of my career so much.

    “but the plan is using it all until the wheels come off.”

    That’s, however is what I love about the post. Work the equipment until the IC boards vaporize. That’s a green workflow, baby! I think it’s neat that there’s other options, so that you’re not “abandoned” when your purchasing habits fail to remunerate Apple sufficiently.

  4. Joe Williams says:

    I forgot to write that if I bought the Dual G5 that I use at home new when it came out in October of 2005, I’d be really steamed at Apple abandoning me an operating system ago, but I bought the box used from Wegener Media for about a third or a quarter of the original list price. It’s a wonderful machine.

    The environmental factor is there, but it has little influence over my choice of used machines. Price is the main factor. When I look for a newer Intel box, I’ll look at what is available as far as used Mac Pros. Having dissected a couple of iMacs recently, I want to avoid all-in-ones.

    As far as new machines, I am hearing the siren song of a new Mac Mini. Apparently the high end mini has a video card with dedicated RAM. I’m wondering if it will behave nicely with Photoshop CS5 which has some nice features as far as digital illustration. The problem is I’d be at about $1500 lighter after buying the box and a CS upgrade.

  5. andi says:

    hey man i need your help i get a g5 and always he say still wait´n for root device

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