Can I use my iMac integrated monitor as a MacMini monitor?
December 10, 2005 7:00 PM   Subscribe

Can I use my G4 iMac (the one that has a round base and a swivelly flat monitor) as a monitor/second hard drive for a new mac mini?

I have a 17" iMac that I got in mid-2002. I love the display and love the computer but with pictures and movies and music my hard drive is full and my programs (particularly iPhoto, with 2000+ photos) are super slow. We have not upgraded from Jaguar, because I don't have much confidence in the memory or processor (256 and 800, respectively). Rather than spend a bunch of money separately buying (1) RAM, (2) an external hard drive, and (3) Tiger, I thought I could buy the fancy Mac Mini ($700) and get all three. Paying $1700 for the new iMac is out of my price range. Here's my question(s):

(1a.) Can I somehow use my 17" swivelly monitor as the MacMini monitor (even though it is integrated into my iMac?) I figure it wouldn't hurt to just have 'em both on at once, right?
(1b.) Could I format my current iMac hard drive and use it as a second hard drive that is controlled by the MacMini?
(1c.) How hard do you think it would be to get the stuff on my current hard drive onto a MacMini hard drive?

As you can probably see from my questions, I am not terribly smart about this stuff. I thank you in advance.
posted by AgentRocket to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
Best answer: It won't work. Sorry :( The disadvantage of an all-in-one computer is that it's hard to reuse the components on your next computer.

Sell the iMac on ebay and buy a nice monitor.
posted by voidcontext at 7:07 PM on December 10, 2005

This G4 iMac on ebay that is the same as yours is going for $600. You can sell yours for the same and get a really nice 20" widescreen monitor from Dell, and an extra firewire drive.
posted by voidcontext at 7:13 PM on December 10, 2005

If you're still using the original iPhoto that came with your mac, you have an old version, and it gets scandelously slow once your album gets big. (this happened to me too). You can buy the new iLife for $80; I guarantee iPhoto's performance will be light years better. That might be all you really need.
posted by PercussivePaul at 7:20 PM on December 10, 2005

if you can borrow a monitor or have access to another monitor, it might be a good idea to check out using vnc to connect from your imac to the mac mini. in order for this to work you'd have to setup the vnc on the macmini (using a different monitor) then you could run the mac mini headless and connect via vnc.

i'm guessing that the older imac, once you've disabled most of the startup applications, would make a pretty decent vnc dumb terminal. i know the xserver xterms i've used in the past were really really low on resources and as long as you had a decent connection you could connect to a unix vnc and play like you normally would.

if you have an apple store near you it might not hurt to ask if they could set this up for you. not sure what they'd charge.
posted by flipp at 7:23 PM on December 10, 2005

Best answer: Just a question: have you considred the 17"iMac G5? It's only $1300 which, I realize, is a $600 step up from the Mini you've priced out. But if you sell the G4 iMac, and deduct the cost of a monitor + keyboard + mouse for the Mini, it becomes a much more attractive option.

1c: Apple takes care of this for you with Migration Assistant. It's very slick and very reliable.
posted by nathan_teske at 8:03 PM on December 10, 2005

If you hold 'T' while starting up in Mac OS X, then the computer booting up turns into firewire mode, which is essentially like a giant USB thumbdrive (but in this case, firewire). Connect to another computer with a firewire cable and the other mac will recognize the firewire-mode-computer as a mounted drive.

I'm not sure whether leaving the computer on in this mode would be harmful, but you could definitely use this firewire mode to transfer files and such -- I've used this for video editing, where I assigned a mounted desktop in firewire mode as a disk for captured video..
posted by provolot at 12:38 AM on December 11, 2005

Best answer: a) Not gonna happen
b) What provolot said
c) When you first boot up a new Mac, it offers to run "Migration Assistant" which will copy everything (files, settings, etc) from your old Mac.

(I second selling the iMac G4 and buying an iMac G5)
posted by cillit bang at 5:36 AM on December 11, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks, friends. We figured if a Mac Mini won't work without a new monitor purchase, we should just suck it up and buy a new iMac. Three years is a good run for a computer.

For the record, we got the 17" G5, and upgraded to 1.5 gb of RAM and 500 gb hard drive. Out of our price range, but we said the heck with it.
posted by AgentRocket at 9:19 AM on December 11, 2005

Sweet. Now sell the old one. Heck, if you were local, I'd consider buying it. ;)
posted by drstein at 3:33 PM on December 11, 2005

Well, it's too late now, I guess. I was going to say that if you added a bunch more RAM to that iMac you would find that it speeds up dramatically. I also have the 17" flat-panel iMac, and I am running Tiger and I am perfectly happy with it -- but I have a lot more RAM than you do. And it does make a difference. You might have avoided needing the upgrade for a while (iPhoto, yes, is a dog no matter what, as someone said above).

Anyway. I love the monitor-on-the-arm so much that I am going to have a hard time giving this iMac up someday, so I read this question hoping that it would indeed be possible to use the monitor with a Mini. I'm disappointed that it's not possible. Because that functionality of being able to move the monitor around so easily is important to me (now that I'm used to it), and now Apple has eliminated it. sigh. Luckily I don't need to upgrade yet.
posted by litlnemo at 3:56 PM on December 11, 2005

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