PowerPC Macs such as G3's and G4's can boot off of USB sticks, even if this functionality has been buried so deep in technical details that almost nobody knew about it until nobody used G3's anymore. If you're a collector or hobbyist and got a G3 or G4 and would like to install Mac OS 8, 9 or Mac OS X on it but that the CD/DVD drive is broken, here's a complete guide that will prove to be useful to you. It will let you achieve this task in a matter of seconds, super easily using a normal Windows PC.
I'll demonstrate how to "burn" various bootable Mac OS 9 CD images (but you could use this tutorial for any Mac OS version really) onto an USB stick using the free, simple and super useful HDD Raw Copy Tool under Windows. You can also achieve what's described in this article under Mac OS X using the Terminal. Using this software, I successfully booted a .TOAST CD image made with Roxio Toast under Mac OS 9, a .DSK hard drive image made with QEMU, an .ISO CD image from a real Mac OS CD dumped with PowerISO and even a .IMG hard drive image made with SheepShaver... all of them burned onto my old 4GB USB stick on my DV+ G3 iMac from summer 2000.
QUICK WARNING IF YOU'RE ABOUT TO CLONE A MAC OS 9 INSTALL CD!
Some versions of Mac OS 9 install disks will refuse to boot (and/or install) from an unlocked drive (such as an USB stick) as it was supposed to be a copy protection scheme (I guess)... so to overcome this, I suggest that you boot from an already installed Mac OS 9 system folder. You could make one yourself using an emulator (SheepShaver or QEMU) and on that disk image, you could also put various useful tools for mounting disk images, expanding archives (DiskCopy, Toast, Stuffit Expander, etc...) and while you're at it, you could also copy that Mac OS 9 CD image as is on the same disk. Once you're booted off of this already installed Mac OS 9 disk image you made, lock and mount the Mac OS 9 CD image file and launch the installer from there, which will enable you to install Mac OS 9 onto your Mac's hard drive without a hitch. If this sounds like too advanced or time consuming for you, then just grab my own Mac OS 9.2.2 bootable USB stick disk image here and boot your PowerMac with it :P
COMPRESSED FORMATS AND DMG FILES...
Before you begin, if your disk image is zipped or compressed, make sure to expand/uncompress it first. This software does not take ZIP files, it only takes the uncompressed disk image (.iso, .dsk, .toast, etc... not .zip, .sit, .7z, etc...). Also, you CANNOT directly write DMG images, because they are compressed. So, if you want to write a DMG image, you have to convert it to ISO first. You can do that using PowerISO in 5 seconds: Open the DMG file in PowerISO, then select TOOLS menu > CONVERT... and then in the "Convert" window that will appear, make sure you tick the ISO checkbox, set the destination save file path and hit OK to save the ISO file.
1) Grab a copy of the free, simple and useful HDD Raw Copy Tool , unzip it and have a disk image you want to burn handy.
2) Plug in your USB stick in an USB port on your PC and then launch HDD Raw Copy. See at the top/left corner it says SOURCE. So, now double click the line that says "FILE - Double-click to open file".
3) Make sure the type drop-down menu (bottom/right) is set to "All Files (*.*)" and open the disk image you want to "burn" onto your USB stick.
4) Now, see at the top/left corner it says TARGET, so click the USB line that shows the USB stick you want to write the image to.
5) The progress window will appear, so click START at the bottom/right and let it write all the sectors to your USB stick. Then you're done! Just exit the program and safely eject your USB stick! Done :)
Note: If you need instructions on how to boot an old G3 or G4 Mac using that USB stick with the help of Open Firmware then make sure to read/follow the article that explains that procedure.
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