Scott Hanselman

Updating an old iMac's Firmware while running OSX

April 06, 2005 Comment on this post [16] Posted in Musings
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Here's some randomness. I had to do some testing with Safari 1.2, which is apparently only available on Mac OS X 10.3. Version 10.2 has Safari 1.0. Why I need to upgrade the OS to get a new browser, I don't know.

So, here's what went down.

  • Boot up iMac that has OS X 10.2
  • Put in OS X 10.3 disk
  • I'm informed that I need to "update my firmware" and I should visit I'm unable to continue and install OS X 10.3
  • I go to the Apple site and search for "imac firmware"
  • I'm greeted with KB articles from 1999. Apparently "relevance" is low on the priority list there.
  • I finally find some firmware from 2001 and download it.
  • When I run the firmware updater, I'm told it will only run on OS 9. Lovely.
  • I find a copy of OS 9 and install it side-by-side. (What if I DIDN'T have it around?)
  • I go to System Preferences|Startup Disk and tell it to dual boot into OS 9.
  • I boot up, download the firmware again.
  • I run it, and I'm told that I have to reboot AND I have to find a secret recessed button on the iMacs ass and push it in with a pen. Stunning.
  • I reboot, push the funny button. The iMac screams in pain. It then sits for a minute doing nothing.
  • It restarts, again into OS 9 and tells me that it's flashed the firmware successfully.
  • Now, I'm just tired. I can't figure out how to get back into OS X 10.2...
  • I boot off the OS X 10.3 disk and just format the hard drive completely with the new OS X 10.3.

All this to update Safari on a 2-year-old iMac.

Anyone who says it's all peaches and cream in the Mac world is nuts.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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April 06, 2005 4:20
Yeah, you really should make sure you upgrade your firmware before upgrading or installing OS X! But I'm puzzled why the format after firmware install and reinstall of OS X? In os 9, you can go to Control Panels -> then choose Startup Disk, then select your OS X.2 System (then just restart). I know, a "helpful" comment after the fact. Whoever installed OS X.2 on that older machine should have read the OS X.2 "Welcome and Install Manuals" that came with the installation discs (see as a PDF. I can't blame them for not reading them though, I usually plunge in head first and deal with the consequences later myself. Makes the learning last that way!

Love the comment post validation here btw, much nicer than my own site's implementation!

April 06, 2005 8:55
I have an eMac. I had exactly the same problem updating Safari. I wanted to update Safari, but I didn't want to have to buy newer version of OS just to upgrade a browser. So I left it alone for a while. Then I heard about FireFox, and I was able to install FireFox on MacOS X 10.2 without having to upgrade OS itself.

Imagine Microsoft requires you to upgrade OS for you to be able to upgrade IE... I wonder why the fact that Apple requires you to upgrade OS is somewhat ignored.

I let my son (eight years old) use Mac for his browsing web and his email and some games. It's a fun little machine, but I don't see Mac OS X being superior to Windows XP.
April 06, 2005 16:07
Don't forget that, for the longest time, Microsoft was only going to release IE 7 on Longhorn. The difference is that both Microsoft and Apple know what's right for you, but Microsoft actually concedes when the shit hits the fan. Apple doesn't need to. What's a Mac user going to do -- not buy a Mac? Blasphemous!
April 06, 2005 17:44
Nuts? Have you seen those Tech-Ed videos? Those guys are the nutty ones!
April 06, 2005 19:23
I have an iBook. I love it. But I have to say that MacOS X is seriously overrated. Don't get me wrong- I love to see the cool eye candy all over the place. It is plain akward to upgrade an OS just for a browser update. It is because of this nonsense and lack of humility, that Apple will never be a serious competitor to Microsoft (and the fact they won't standardize and contract out their hardware).
April 06, 2005 19:52
"Imagine Microsoft requires you to upgrade OS for you to be able to upgrade IE..."

Yeah, just imagine... what if you couldn't get the latest version of IE (with built-in pop-up blocker, add-on manager, etc) without upgrading your OS?

You know, I don't think you can.

April 06, 2005 20:26
"Why I need to upgrade the OS to get a new browser, I don't know"

Why do you assume the browser has to be free? The browser is a component of the product they sell. Should they be forced to create a SKU and separate price for each individual piece of their product?

Can you buy the WinXP version of Notepad without buying WinXP? You might want the new features that aren't available with Win95 Notepad, but you don't want to upgrade your OS.
April 06, 2005 21:13

So you're saying that the version of Notepad in XP has some strage and wonderful properties that are the equivalent of the upgrade to Safari? Please enlighten us further.

And I personally tried to install 10.3 on an older iMac and nearly destroyed it, just because I followed the directions in the "installation guide". Silly me. It's only after the installation goes horribly wrong that the guide tells you that you should have upgraded the firmware first. And by the way, you may have damaged your system hardware. More on my blog somewhere.
April 07, 2005 0:06
I'm saying that Notepad HAS been upgraded over the years, and the version in XP is not exactly the same as the version in Win95. I think Word Wrap was added at some point, the Search menu was changed to Edit|Find, etc. Are you criticizing my arbitrary example (fine, Notepad might not have been the most compelling), or the point I was trying to make (it still stands)?

I'm just playing devil's advocate (can I call Steve Jobs the devil?). I'm no Mac fan. I just think it is perfectly reasonable to accept that software companies shouldn't have to sell each individual component separately. Does it suck when you just want that one component? Yes.
April 07, 2005 1:20
Scott, I don't disagree with you that what you went through is excessive, but your cleverly inserted derogatory comments and the overall negative tone of your post is leaning towards the childish side. It looks like you really have a chip on your shoulder when it comes to Apple.
April 07, 2005 2:05
Browsercam has Safari 1.2 , can remotely login and test lots of browsers on different platforms and get screen shots, not free though

April 07, 2005 4:04

Clever? Perhaps. Derogatory? Maybe. Negative? Sure. It's a crappy thing I had to do. Childish? Nah - realistic. Not only should I have been able to flash from within OS X 10.3, it should have been included on the CD and happened automatically.
April 07, 2005 6:17
I too have experienced this same problem. We inherited an old G3 500 iMac after an employee retired. It was their office computer. It already had 10.2 installed with a 10.3 box and discs sitting there. I often wondered why they never upgraded to 10.3. Well, I found out. They didn't have the 9 install discs and could not upgrade, because a firmware upgrade was needed. So your stuck. A computer that can never be upgraded again (unless you happen to locate a 9 disc). Luckily for me I have a fellow coworker who is a mac user and he let me borrow his 9 disc.

I have no love/hate for any OS. I use Windows mainly, because I always have and all my experience and software run on Windows. Plus I game a lot. I have wanted a Mac (something like an iBook). The iMac is nice, for an older machine. But it doesn't show me anything that would explain the "oh oh, switch to the Mac!!" feeling.

A lot of people like to complain about constant updating and patching of Windows. All I know is that when I installed 10.2 for a fresh install and 10.3 when I got the 9 disc, there were just as many patches and updates for the Mac. I think I had to reboot the computer 2-3 times. Not complaining, just saying the experience is the same as Windows. Most people don't mention it.
April 09, 2005 2:01
No one I know says it's all peaches and cream in the Mac world. You can usually clarify your statement with, "Compared to the PC world, the Mac world is all peaches and cream.". You can also say, "compared to the Linux world, the Windows world is all peaches and cream.". I know there is a world of difference in my experiences using PC and Mac laptops.

From the IE FAQ:"Internet Explorer 6 SP1 is not supported on Windows 95"
Tens of Windows 95 users are saying the exact same thing you are Scott. ;)

Face facts(faqs?). Computers today suck and basically it's our fault for putting up with it. (to those of us who program for a living it's REALLY our fault).
July 04, 2005 13:00
True Scott,

However, trying to update software in windows usually doesn't cause hardware problems. I just tried to get os 10.3 (i think) onto a 400Mhz G3 IMac. After much adoo I now have os9 back and working but without the color red, and sometimes the green doesn't come on. Sigh. BTW is there a degauss funktion on the old imac? and looking for firware: what firmware am I looking for? Is there on firmware per model? I recon firmware is some sort of "bios" update right??

I am not impressed.
October 08, 2005 6:54
You can check your firmware version with system profile to see what version you have.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.