iMac with CD-RW needs DVD media

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Reader Josh Keonig wishes to be generous with a now-unneeded Mac, yet that Mac’s deficiencies are making this thoughtful gesture more complicated than he’d like. He writes:

I’ve been waiting until Leopard ships to get a new Mac and now that it has, I want to give my old iMac G4 to a friend. The problem is that I can’t find the original discs that shipped with it and I want to erase the drive and install a fresh copy of OS X. I have a copy of Tiger, but it’s on DVD and this iMac doesn’t have a drive that reads DVDs. I’d also like to give her my copy of iLife ‘06, but it too is on a DVD. How can I install Tiger and iLife ‘06 on this machine? (I promise to give her the old discs so I won’t violate my software licenses.)

Ah, you’ve got the old iMac G4 with a CD-RW drive rather than the Combo or SuperDrive. One way to solve the problem is to throw money at it — purchase an external DVD drive, plug it into your old iMac, and install software to your heart’s content.

If your generosity extends only so far, you can get the job done for free, but to do so you’ll need to locate a PowerPC-based Mac that has a DVD drive (check with a friend or a local Macintosh Users Group). I say this because while you can swap data between an Intel Mac (your new Mac) and a PowerPC Mac (your old iMac), you can’t use one to install the Mac OS on the other. They each run different versions of the Mac OS and this twain shall never meet.

Once you have that other Mac, string a FireWire cable between it and your old iMac. Restart your iMac with the T key held down to boot into Target Disk Mode (you’ll know you’re there when you see a FireWire symbol bouncing around the screen). Fire up the borrowed PowerPC Mac, insert the Tiger disc into its media drive, and double-click the installer application. That Mac will reboot from the Tiger disc.

With the installer running, select your old iMac’s hard drive as the destination for the install. (When you’re in Target Disk Mode that Mac will treat your iMac’s internal drive like any other local hard drive.) Choose the Erase and Install option by clicking the Options button in the appropriate screen. The installation will proceed and in half an hour or so you’ll have a clean copy of Tiger running on the iMac.

As for iLife ‘06, plunk the disc into any Mac you have, launch Disk Utility (found in /Applications/Utilities), select the iLife disc in the list of volumes, and choose File -> New Image From Disk. In the Convert Image window that appears, choose DVD/CD Master from the Image Format pop-up menu and leave the Encryption pop-up menu at None. Click Save to create the image.

After the image has been saved, copy it to the iMac (you can do this while the iMac is still in FireWire Target Disk mode — its icon will appear on the other Mac’s Desktop). With the image copied over, press the iMac’s power button to restart it. When it boots, locate the disk image you created and double-click it to mount it. Once it’s mounted you can treat it just like a DVD. Run the iLife installer and iLife ‘06 will soon be on the iMac’s hard drive.

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