I had a hard drive failure on my old PowerPC G4 Mac. I need that old Mac to be able to run OS X and OS 9, because I can't retrieve and convert some of the files from the secondary hard drive unless I can run the old programs on the old OS (Like the old Hypercard stacks).

I've been trying to load an image of the installation disk (.dmg) onto an external firewire drive.

I did it using Terminal and the "sudo asr" command, copied that .dmg file, and the partition on my hard drive looks like and behaves like an installation disk (formatted the Hard Drive with Mac OS Extended, Journaled, Apple Partition map format, not GUID).

When I hook it up to the firewire port and boot the G4 holding the "Option" key down, it doesn't bring up anything on the screen where you would select which drive/volume you want to boot from.

Is this an issue with trying to build this from an Intel-based Mac? I'd love to just run the installer and put it onto that hard drive on a partition, but I can't run that installer on an Intel-based Mac.


I need to do the following -

USING AN EXTERNAL HD with a FireWire port -

  1. Have a bootable installation partition with the OS X 10.4 (or 10.5) on it.

  2. Be able to build that partition using an Intel Mac.

  3. Have that external HD be recognized by the G4 PowerMac when I boot it up and hold down the Option key.

  4. I then want to be able to run the installer and load OS 10.4 or 10.5, and OS 9 onto other partitions on that external HD with FireWire and designate it as the startup volume for that machine.

If no one has any insight, I'm considering the possibility that the firmware for the external drive case FireWire port is somehow not readable by 2001 or so G4 PowerMac. I know that an older Intel-based MacBook Pro running OS 10.6 won't format or partition that when hooked up via USB, and indications are that the error has to do with the USB interface. I'm going to get a couple SATA to IDE converter cards, load the installer disk onto one of these SSD SATA drives, plug it into the internal drive interface and install onto a second, empty one.

  • Does this answer your question? Installing OSX onto PPC using Intel Mac and Firewire Sep 20, 2020 at 22:22
  • @SteveChambers - No, that talks about using the G5 PPC mac as a Firewire Target. My PPC Mac does not have any internal drives - I want to use my Firewire external drive to be the boot up disk of choice, eventually, and you can't run the installer from the Intel machine, in any case. I want to boot my drive-less G4, select the FireWire partition with the installation as the boot-up disk, then install the PPC-friendly Mac OS onto another partition on that external drive and use that as my ongoing startup drive for that machine. Sep 21, 2020 at 1:15
  • You may need to make sure that the system volume is 'blessed'. See here: bombich.com/kb/ccc4/what-makes-volume-bootable What Intel OS did you use to make the partition? It's possible that much newer OSes just don't make compatible volumes. Or, as you say a FW issue. You might be better off using VMs and emulation for older software on newer hardware: you can run Leopard on Parallels, and SheepShaver works well for Classic Mac. Relying on 'vintage' hardware to run unsupported software is not a fun place to be, and preparing an 'exit strategy' while things still work is essential.
    – benwiggy
    Sep 21, 2020 at 11:43
  • While I don't have any documentation for this, but in my previous experience, I believe that the OS installer will detect the current machine and install according to that. So if you attempting an install on an Intel Mac, it will do an Intel Mac OS install. Hopefully, someone else maybe able to provide some additional guidance.
    – agarza
    Sep 21, 2020 at 13:36
  • @benwiggy - That was very helpful. Didn't occur to me to check the external enclosure is specifically Mac-boot-friendly. There's an inexpensive enclosure on Amazon where they specifically answered a question that a mac will boot. I have a second SSD internal drive sitting with no enclosure, so I needed a second one, eventually, anyway. Hopefully that will do the trick. Sep 21, 2020 at 15:19

2 Answers 2


Maybe this link helps to accomplish what you described: Installing OSX onto PPC using Intel Mac and Firewire

If it works, let us know.

  • No, that's nothing like my situation. I want to use my external HD to be the drive that my G5 machine boots from. My current Intel Mac does not have any FireWire ports, so I can't target that machine, and it currently has no working internal drives, in any case. My external hard drive has both USB and Firewire, so I was hoping to use my Intel to set up bootable installation partitions friendly to PPC onto that drive. Sep 21, 2020 at 1:19
  • That should say "G4" Oct 22, 2020 at 14:13

Yes. We did this all the time back in the day and it was very fussy. The problem wasn’t so much the process of restoring and blessing as much as the issue is firmware drivers and differences in chipsets on Macs as well as controllers in the USB and FireWire external drives. This all interacted in ways that made booting even more fussy than if the drive worked after the system was up and running.

Brands like LaCie and G-TECH tended to work more universally than others, but it was hit or miss if one drive would work with any arbitrary Mac.

That was when everything was new and hardware failures in the boards and cables and drives (and let’s limo in aging / flakey devices with failing ones). You may have to have multiple devices now to get repeatable results if age is making them less consistent.

My only recommendation is take excellent notes as you triage things and know this process wasn’t a slam dunk when new due to several very technical details down to which of several manufacturers made the same “part” inside your Mac. To do what you mention reliably, you would consider every single firmware and part in the boot chain from the CPU to the storage.

  • 1
    It winds up that the issue was less about compatibility, but availability. I found an external case where someone asked specifically if you could boot, and the answer was yes, but it needed to be powered from the power jack, and not the FW bus/connection. I guess it needs to be up and ready from the moment the machine boots or turns on, or it won't get recognized. I got it to recognize it, but then it didn't load up that "installation disk" - I might not have been patient enough with this old technology. I'll post back when/if I get resolution. Oct 22, 2020 at 14:16
  • Aah yes - we also had all sorts of power adapters - wall warts, split USB power, dual tail cords. Fun times.... @PoloHoleSet
    – bmike
    Oct 22, 2020 at 18:33

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