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I actually want to boot Linux but since that is not working I'm thinking some one might know on the Apple end.

If there's a way to boot Mac from a USB stick, then booting another operating system should not be impossible.

Do I need to use an Apple bootloader to trick my PowerBook into thinking it's booting Mac OS and then slip in the Linux disc or what?

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

I have done this many times since I posted this question.

  1. Create usb stick like this:

    sudo dd if=/<path to iso file>/<name of iso file> of=/<path to usb stick> bs=32768 conv=notrunc,noerror,sync
  2. Put the USB stick into your Mac and press the power button while holding down Command ⌘+Option+O+F

  3. At the prompt, type the following:

    boot usb1/disk@1:,\\yaboot

Note: If you are booting linux then use ,\\yaboot, but if you are booting a Mac OS use ,\\tbxi.

Note 2: If your stick is in the right side of the machine, then you need to do this:

boot usb0/disk@1:,\\yaboot

Note 3: If these commands don't work, then there is most likely a problem with your media or iso file.

I have found that Ubuntu, Debian, and openSUSE work great. I cannot get Fedora or Gentoo to boot this way yet. My optical drive does not work anymore, so this is how I install OS X on my machine. I made a live USB stick of the OS X install disc this way.

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Thank you for your answer, I've found it really useful. Now, I don't know if you found out how to boot Gentoo same way, but I did, so I wanter to share the link that helped me do that. Here it is. Hope it helps! – user25691 Jul 24 '12 at 16:49
thank you so much! this is the best "tutorial" regarding this topic i was able to find. just successfully bootet xubuntu 12.04 mini install iso from USB, because my superdrive in my beloved powerbook is broken. – harald Dec 30 '12 at 16:19
Got there while trying to boot a Ubuntu from a USB stick. You can also type dev / ls to get a tree-shaped listing of devices and see which usb has a disk leaf node. Even if the path to that node looks like /usb@1b/disk@1 (notice extra @ and b), the correct path still looks like boot usb1/disk@1:2,\\yaboot – Stéphane Gourichon Apr 4 '14 at 20:36
boot usb1/disk@1:,\\yaboot


boot usb1/disk@1:,\\tbxi

is not a complete command. You need to list a partition number after the ":"

for example, if you are trying to install on a Mac, you will need to enter something like this

boot usb1/disk@1:10,\\tbxi

(where "10" is the partition number of the usb drive, disk@1 in this example).

To find out the partition number where OSX is located on your USB, use Disk Utility, Click on the partition you set up with OS X and then R-click or Ctrl-L click and select "Information".

You will get something to the effect of: disk1s10

s10 is the partition number. Refer to the example above.

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I've heard that using Super Duper works well for this. I imagine if that's the case, then Carbon Copy Cloner should work as well.

Deploy the image onto the USB through one of those utilities and you should be golden.

Find Super Duper! here.

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So using dd in the terminal has problems? – Joshua Robison Mar 31 '11 at 5:55
And I don't need to partition my USB stick or instal yaboot etc? – Joshua Robison Mar 31 '11 at 5:55
I wouldn't mess around with firmware/bootloaders, personally. I've just heard from colleagues in the business (I am an Apple-certified tech) that this works well. – Harv Mar 31 '11 at 8:30
SuperDuper and Carbon Copy Cloner are good tools to copy bootable systems, but the issue in this question is hinged on PowerBook G4 models not formally allowing USB boot. So the cleanest OS copy created won’t boot on these systems without extra firmware adjustments as outlined in the above answers. – JakeGould Dec 8 '14 at 18:50
@JakeGould I see, thanks! – Harv Dec 8 '14 at 19:08

This thread is old, but i want to add some information that may be useful:

On a Powerbook G4 A1138 (1,67 Ghz 15" late 2005) the above instructions didn't work out of the box. I used the finnix ppc rescue ISO, dumped with dd to the usb key.

1.) OF creates the devalias ud for the usb key in the left port. This ud alias maps to /pci@f2000000/usb@15/disk@1

2.) You can call yaboot with boot ud:2,\\yaboot - but then the kernel will panic because it still searches his initrd + rootfs somewhere at cd:2,/ ... (the cd alias is hardcoded inside files like ofboot.b, yaboot.conf ... on the ISO)

3.) Quick and dirty workaround: overwrite the cd alias in OF with the path to your USB Key (copy the path from the ud alias): devalias cd /pci@f2000000/usb@15/disk@1

4.) Now boot with boot cd:2,\\yaboot

5.) No problem anymore with hardcoded cd alias - it's now poiting to your USB Key. You can just choose a default kernel entry - *finnix in my case - and it will boot properly.

The alias will be resetted to default at the next cold boot and thus you will have to repeat the procedure for every USB-boot.

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Powerbook G4 1.0Ghz 12" External Pioneer/generic USB CD/DVD drive Plug into the rear-most USB port.

  • Power on
  • ⌘ CmdOptOF
  • boot usb1/disk@1:,\\yaboot
  • Return ⏎
  • restart

Installs Ubuntu 16.04 PPC perfectly, first try. Love these old threads and old machines!

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I've just been booting my PPC from an external USB cdrom drive, using the same command as above :

boot usb1/disk@1:,\\yaboot

because my internal cdrom drive is a bit old and does'nt read successfuly the entire install on the CD! Thanx a lot!

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Welcome to Ask Different! This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post - you can always comment on your own posts, and once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post. – Tetsujin Feb 15 at 11:21

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