Upgrading My Old-School Apple iMac G3!

Most of you probably don’t know that I am a collector of vintage video game systems. My collection includes such beauties as the Atari 2600, and 7800, and Atari XE Gaming System, the original Pong console, Intellivision, Texas Instruments (TI) 90, and many, many vintage computer systems including the Commodore Vic 20 and C64, Atari 400, 800, 800XL and 520ST!  I also have a commodore Amiga and a few others.

I admit I went crazy on eBay for a little while. There were just so many systems up for grabs. I also happened to pick up an original Apple Macintosh computer, and not so old, but very cool Apple iMac G3! Most of this stuff has been put away in storage since moving a few years ago, but I do have on display in my home office, a few classic Atari’s among other things.

I, like many of you, recently read the biography of Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson. It came out shortly after Steve passed away in October. I found the book to be well written, and very insightful. Reading about the founding of Apple, and the huge comeback made by Steve and Apple in the late 1990’s inspired me to dig out my iMac G3 to see just how cool it really was.

Not only does it look cool with the different coloured bodies, but it is a little self-contained unit with a handle. It looked completely different than any computer before it. It was really the beginning of Apple’s huge comeback — creating great looking products, which just worked.

My particular iMac has an indigo blue cover, and matching keyboard and mouse. Newly inspired, I have decide to do a few upgrades.  It only had 192 MB of RAM, so I have decided to upgrade to 1 GB.  The cost? Only 15 dollars. It came stock with an upgraded 80 GB harddrive (I think the original was only 4GB), and loaded with OSX 10.1 (Puma).  I plan to install 10.4 Tiger, but first I have learned that I must upgrade the firmware.  For those techies out there who recall, Apple changed over from the PowerPC processor to Intel processors in 2005.  So unfortunately OS X Tiger is as high as this machine will go.

Unfortunately, in order to upgrade the firmware, I have to downgrade the operating system to OS 9.0!  I thought Macs were user friendly?  This is all a learning process for me, as I have used Windows PC’s all my life.  Anyway, I am in the process of acquiring OS 9.0 😉 and expect to be able to upgrade the firmware, and then upgrade to OS X 10.4 within a few days.  I will let you know how it turns out!

After a  few days of fooling around with the iMac, and doing some research online I was able to figure out a way to boot OS 9.2 from a USB drive, since I couldn’t partition the hard drive already in the unit.  Once I was able to boot the system, I was then able to update the firmware! Success!

Then I was able to install OS X 10.4 Tiger with no problems.  What a quantum leap from OS 9 and even from 10.1 which came with the system.  Windows users could equate this to upgrading from Windows 98 to Windows XP!  Quite a jump in capability and refinement.

 It took a while to complete the install — I am assuming it would have been quicker if I had the RAM upgrade installed, but I don;t have it yet…so the system is cranking away with only 192 MB.  I will update once I have the RAM upgraded to see if there is a significant performance boost!  I am expecting that will be the case…

Well, I have been using the 1 GB for about a week now, and have definitely noticed a difference!  The machine boots up much faster, and seems a bit faster.  The biggest improvement is that I can run multiple programs at once without it bogging down to a crawl.  So that’s about all I can do to upgrade the iMac.  But I must say again what a neat little system it is.  It must have been even more fun back in 2000-2001 when it was new!  Thanks for listening…


  1. I just recently got a hold of one of these. I’m really hoping to get going. It boots up great and has iTunes 1.1 and 9.2. Any advice. It’s a factory specs. 350mhz and 6G hd. I have already ordered the keyboard and mouse for it. Do you have your online. I really want to have this for my son to beans to get online.

    • It’s a nice little system, but it is slow compared to what we are used to with today’s computers. I would recommend doing anything you can to speed it up. In my case I upgraded the RAM memory to 1GB. It made a significant difference. How much RAM does your have? To upgrade it simply search eBay for 1 GB of RAM that would be compatible (ie. same speed). You can do a search for RAM for your G3 model and should find it for about $15.

      I upgraded the Operating System as well but it required a bit of work, because the firmware update was required. Let me know how you make out. What color did you get?

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