How to prep an old G4 tower for donation?
October 8, 2011 11:48 AM   Subscribe

I have an old G4 tower that I'd like to donate to charity. I don't have the OS X 10.3 disc to format the drive & reinstall with. What do you recommend I do?

This is a computer I received as a gift back in 2005, and never received the OS install disc with it. I'd like to be able to reformat the drive a few times, reinstall the OS, and give it to charity. I tried using my OS X 10.2 disc to reformat, but that didn't work. It doesn't look like there is anywhere legal that I can download a copy of the .iso for 10.3.

Should I buy a cheap 10.3 disc somewhere & use that? Should I download a Linux .iso & use that to reformat & install an OS? If so, which flavor of Linux should I grab?

If it helps, I have a Win7 PC with a DVD burner & Roxio software to burn an .iso with.

Thanks in advance for your advice. It has been sitting in my apartment for the last 3.5 years doing nothing, and I want to donate it to charity before I move in 2 months.
posted by AMSBoethius to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have the OS install disks that came with an older macbook. They're for OS X 10.5, and a PDF file on one of them implies it's both PowerPC and Intel compatible. I will send them to you if someone indicates that they will work and you are somewhere that shipping is not ridiculously expensive.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 12:11 PM on October 8, 2011

this is a little tangential, but there's a service i donate all my company's computers to in chicago called FreeGeek. there are chapters all around the country. all you need to do is chuck the machine at them, as complete as you can. they'll do the reformat.

basically, you donate your machines and they give them to folks in need of them—on the condition that they come in and learn how to build them up themselves (replacing hard drives, RAM chips, more basic tasks most people would have use for). so it's a sort of hybrid education and donation service. they'd handle all the prep for you.
posted by patricking at 12:17 PM on October 8, 2011

If you have a friend with a Mac with a firewire port and a cable, you can fire up your old G4 in Firewire mode and it will show up as a volume on your friend's Mac. From there, you use Disk Utility to erase and zero out/rewrite random data over to CIA specs the G4's drive. From a clean drive you should be able to boot to 10.2 install disk you have. Or leave it blank and at least Goodwill Computer Works will put a copy of MacOS they can on it.

Of if you can still power up the G4, you can go delete all your personal files (I would create a new user with admin rights, log in as that new person and then delete your user old user name's files). Then go to Disk Utility and in the Erase tab, select "erase free space" and you can zero out the empty space, or you can do an even more secure wiping of the free space and the core OS/apps can stay. I think 10.3 has that option.

tylerkaraszewski, you can't use a DVD/CD install disc with a different Mac. A retail version of 10.5 might work, but not a MacBook version trying to install on a G4 Power Mac.
posted by birdherder at 12:21 PM on October 8, 2011

another option. if you're friendly with usenet (which is still around!), there are a lot of binaries groups dealing specifically in older Mac software. i've had no problem downloading and installing previous systems from there. it's less a hacker/warez community, more of a library/hobbyist kind of deal.

start with alt.binaries.mac.osx.apps or alt.binaries.mac.apps and ask around. they're helpful monkeys in those groups.
posted by patricking at 12:28 PM on October 8, 2011

Best answer: I donate computers in my work role. We remove the hard drives. If we can offer original CDs, we do that.

When I've spoken to places like Goodwill, they've said they prefer simply whatever we can give in whatever condition they're in. There's a very good likelihood that parts will get paired up as the donated system makes it way to the warehouse. There's a good chance that the CDs will wind up available, too. There's also a good possibility that your G3's logic board or RAM will make it into another donated system needing those parts.

I think it's very cool to try to present them a complete, working system. However, don't make the mistake that your G3 is somehow less valuable because it's missing an HDD or the install CDs.
posted by tcv at 6:15 PM on October 8, 2011

Best answer: I am going to suggest you consider if you really want to do this.

I worked for a school district at one point and people would do this to us all the time. They would then want a receipt for their donation. Then they would get mad when you would tell them the Mac was only worth $25 or so. We weren't allowed to tell them "no," since it was impolitic to tell parents the school had no use for the computer. It was also sadly not true. We did need them. So the 4 year old computer would need a current OS ($70), more RAM ($50-$100), and a bigger hard drive ($100). So we'd dump the $200 plus into a 4 or 5 year old computer and dedicate a bunch of time we didn't have to getting it deployable.

Old computers die at a higher rate than new ones. Older computers have no warranty. For what it cost us to get 5 old computers up and running we could buy one new one. In 3 years that computer was still usable, where the 4 year old computer is now 7.

If you are wanting to do this I would suggest selling the computer on Craig's list and donating that money to charity. You get an old computer to someone that knows what to do with it. Then the charity can actually buy stuff they need. Otherwise the suggestion patricking makes it good.

And tylerkaraszewski offer won't work. The OS discs that come with most OS X macs are model specific and won't work. Going from laptop to tower with the discs is a second flag. I can almost guarantee that won't work (as in I would bet my next paycheck, but not my house).
posted by cjorgensen at 8:24 PM on October 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

You don't need them. I process donated Macs all the time and I have all the discs needed to wipe and reinstall the systems. Anyone who works with donated computers quickly builds a library of system discs. And yes, many donated machines end up parted out.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 8:25 PM on October 8, 2011

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