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Is it possible to run Linux on a PowerMac G4? If so, how do I install it?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

One option is the PowerPC build of Ubuntu:

Another popular option is Yellow Dog Linux:

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My recent (2011-10+) experience...

I fought with Ubuntu 10.04 LTS PPC port trying to get it onto my PowerMac dual G5 (2003) for quite a while. No luck with the Desktop nor Server install CDs, I did manage to get the "Alternate" install CD working -- but it took 3 tries before I managed to not mangle the yaboot bootloader install & config -- not very fun.

I had much better luck with http://MintPPC.org -- it is a PowerPC only distro, based on the Very stable and well-supported Debian distro. It supports even ancient G3 machines, so your G4 should be no problem. The community there is responsive, helpful and mostly former Mac-heads. IMHO that is a big benefit over generic Linux distros (Fedora, Ubuntu, etc) which tend to consider old PPC hardware as an unpopular afterthought.

I have yet to try http://YellowDogLinux.com They are also purely a Mac / PPC heads, which is good for newbie support, but the most recent ISO image is from July 2009-06-29.

First:

  1. Know your exact model and hardware -- check http://EveryMac.com
  2. Back up everything(!)
  3. Have a Mac OS X Installer disk handy for emergency boot.
  4. Expect to get it wrong the first time and have to install again.
  5. Have another machine handy so you can Google for help when things go wrong ;-)

As for this install process itself:

  1. you boot from a cd, follow the onscreen text prompts, and hope for the best.
  2. It's much easier if trying to make the whole machine a Linux box.
    1. Setting up a dual-boot machine with both Mac & Linux is more complicated.
  3. Beware that any partitioning / formatting you do from Mac OS X (Disk Utility) is likely to break the Linux install (Mac OS X on PPC does not try to play nicely with other OSes). Stick to the partitioning tools in the Linux side.

Good luck & happy hacking, ./ddd

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