back to article 17 years since release, iMac G5 finally gets an upgrade after tinkerer shoves M1 Mac Mini inside

The iMac G5 was once a formidable piece of computer hardware. Improbably thin for the time, it packed a 64-bit Motorola PowerPC 970 processor, and had room for a relatively extravagant 2GB RAM. It was a favourite of developers, sound engineers, and schools. But progress stops for no man – or machine – and this sturdy workhorse …

  1. Red Ted Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Capacitor Plague

    This is a general problem with electrolytic capacitors, so is not restricted to Apple and any electronics with that type of capacitor will tend to suffer. It's partly dependant on how much headroom both the designer of the circuit and the manufacturer of the capacitor give between the conditions under which it is used and the absolute limits. the closer you get the limits the shorter the Mean Time Between Failures.

    What's most fun is when the capacitors finally declare that they have enough and explode, emitting a shower of confetti when they do, along with the obligatory magic smoke.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: Capacitor Plague @Red

      Whilst that is true, there were a number of years when seemingly new manufacturers, often from China, were producing absolutely junk capacitors which often failed well before their MTBF (and yes, I do know that that is a measurement of the average failure time, the operative word is well).

      I repaired any number of TVs, monitors and Satellite STBs, (and a fair number of computers as well) from the early 2000s that had problems because of failed capacitors, whereas the HiFi amps from the '80s and '90s still work with their original capacitors, although I think one big difference was the increase in the use of switch-mode power supplies that are very intolerant of failed capacitors.

      1. MatthewHughes

        Re: Capacitor Plague @Red

        This is true. The original Xbox, for example, is notorious for having faulty capacitors. It'll make them a scarce commodity in the coming years.

  2. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells

    I don't understand why you'd go to all that effort but not upgrade the screen. Surely you could get a modern 17" LCD panel in there.

    1. Wyrdness

      Maybe because the original panel is 1440x900 and a new 17" LCD is likely to be, at most, 1920x1080. It's probably not worth the trouble and expense of replacing it, considering that it's not a vast increase in resolution.

      1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells

        1,680 x 1,050 according to the article.

        You can buy 4k panels that size as replacements for broken laptop screens.

        1. Wyrdness

          The Reg article says it's a 17" iMac and links to a spec sheet that says that the 17" is 1440x900, whilst the 20" is 1680x1050. Since the video says 1680x1050, I guess that the Reg has reported the wrong screen size and it's actually a 20" iMac.

  3. Wyrdness

    The G5 iMac was 17 years ago? How the tempus doth fugit.

    I bought one of these iMacs for my (then) partner, expecting that she'd use the Mac and I'd continue to use Linux (Gentoo back then) for my main PC and Windows for games. I played around with Mac because I though that knowledge of OS X might be useful (and it was Unix underneath). What I didn't expect was that I started to use the Mac for almost everything and, eventually, retired the Windows and Linux machine and switched completely to Mac.

    These days, we've still got Macs at home for everyday use, plus a couple of Linux Mint machines for WFH and NAS.

    1. Kane Silver badge
      Joke

      "(and it was Unix underneath)"

      Its a Unix system! I know this!

  4. AIBailey

    Not just Apple...

    Later Commodore Amiga's suffer badly with capacitor leakage. The A600 and A1200 were the first Commodore computers to use surface mount components, and the capacitors are more than happy to try and eat away the circuit board from within.

    The earlier Amiga's are largely safe, due to having through-hole capacitors instead that seem to hold up much better.

    Apart from the A500+, which included a Varta rechargeable cell to provide power to a clock circuit, and also has something of an electrolyte incontinence problem.

    Bah, a plague on both your houses.

    1. MatthewHughes

      Re: Not just Apple...

      Yep. There's actually an entire cottage industry where people will re-cap vintage logic boards/PSUs/analog boards. Amigas are common patients, as well as pre-historic Apple kit. If you're a dab hand with a soldering iron, there's decent money to be made.

  5. GlenP Silver badge

    Dell Too

    Dell went through a phase of capacitor problems on desktop motherboards. No spectacular explosions but for a while it was routine practice that if any problems were experienced you'd whip the lid off and look for the doming. To be fair Dell were very good about the replacements.

    1. chivo243 Silver badge
      Go

      Re: Dell Too

      Aahh yes... the Dell GX260s & GX270s. I was also quite happy with Dell's response to repairing them, or was it Getronics?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dell Too

      Yep, we had to replace caps in several hundred Dell Optiplexes. Wasn't fun.

    3. David Neil

      Re: Dell Too

      The Dell capacitor problem was down to a component supplier, industrial espionage and chasing the bottom line

      Decentish write up here

      https://www.theguardian.com/technology/blog/2010/jun/29/dell-problems-capacitors

  6. Claptrap314 Silver badge

    El' Reg is slipping...

    According to link in the article to a previous article, the iMac G5 shipped with the G5 processor, not the 970. It's the earlier article which is correct. I know because I was at IBM at the time, and did a lot of work on validating the part. As I have mentioned, the entire GPUL project was a $2 billion hissy fit by IBM designed to drive Motorola out of the PowerPC business.

    1. Proton Wrangler

      you've slipped, luv

      The PowerPc G5 -is- the 970 in a couple of sometimes die shrunk or dual-corr versions. The G4 was variations on the 7400, and the G3 was the 750 in Motorola/Freescale naming.

      1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

        Re: you've slipped, luv

        Nope. It was the GPUL. We (IBM) took the GP, cut 2/3rds of its L3, added graphics instructions, and sold it into Apple's entire line.

        Sucker.

  7. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. James O'Shea
      Boffin

      Re: potentially warranty-voiding

      Ah... it's the warranty on the new, M1-powered, system which was used to provide the new guts for the old iMac which will be void...

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