Mac OS runs under DOS

10 great things an old Mac can still do

Christian Rentrop

An old Mac is in the basement, alone and lonely, but it was once your favorite computer and you went through thick and thin. If you don't want to sell it for an apple (sic!) And an egg on Ebay, you have to think about other ways of using the old computer again. We have put together 10 ideas for you.

EnlargeApple actually buried discarded computers in the desert
©, David Pruter

Apple computers are not immune to technical obsolescence either. Even if the Macbook, iMac, Powerbook and Power Mac have been loyal companions for years, the day will come when they have to be taken out of service. Regardless of whether a premature defect occurs or the Mac is replaced by a newer device after years of use: At some point the day will come when the old computer will find its way from the desk to the basement. From here it is usually only a short step to bulky waste or to Ebay, where the device then has to be sold for little money. Even very old Macs with PowerPC technology, whether defective or not, can still be used for all sorts of technical gadgets or completely converted with a little tinkering.

EnlargeTekserve is auctioning collectibles - in New York on August 23rd.

New life for old Intel Macs

Newer Macs in particular - this means all devices from the last twelve years since Apple's switch to Intel - are usually still suitable for everyday tasks, provided they are still working, even if Apple has long since stopped supplying operating system updates. But they are not absolutely necessary: ​​Thanks to the Windows and Linux operating systems, ten-year-old Intel Macs are of course still suitable as a hardware basis for handicraft projects. After all, even the oldest Intel Macs have at least one powerful core processor, and the RAM can usually be expanded to up to two gigabytes or even more in just a few simple steps. The hard drive can also be easily replaced on a number of older Intel Macs. Some of the first Intel Mac Minis with lame Core Solo processors even allow, within certain limits, the installation of a faster processor and thus raise the computing power to a level that is perfectly suitable for the present. With an inexpensive upgrade, the old Intel Mac can definitely become a veritable Windows or Linux PC, especially since in this case macOS is completely dispensed with and Windows or Linux installation is child's play thanks to Bootcamp or rEFInd.

Incidentally, the Intel Macs can easily be upgraded to the most recent operating system possible. Apple still offers the download files for older systems in a hidden way, but for OS X Snow Leopard you have to use the web archive. For example, MacOS High Sierra is available from the Mac App Store at this link. You can find the link to OS X El Capitan in our tip.

What to do with PowerPC computers

But what if your Mac is older? Between 1994 and 2006 Apple relied on IBM's PowerPC processors, which at the time depended on every Intel processor, especially in terms of performance. Unfortunately, today there is only one possibility for this device class to make it fit for current applications again, especially since its computing power hardly comes close to the current iPhones: Linux in the PowerPC version. Current versions are also available for old Macs. If you have an old iMac or a Powerbook / iBook with a G3, G4 or G5 processor, you can usually install an (early) version of Mac OS X and use the computer as a jukebox for iTunes: Simple Replace the internal IDE hard drive with a larger model - unfortunately there are hardly any hard drives on the market anymore - and save the iTunes media library on it and play it back if necessary. All older generations of iMacs have good speakers and a CD drive, which is why they can be used as a jukebox. Of course, it only becomes really powerful if you hook it up to a stereo system or good active speakers. But that's just one option. Another would be to just leave the Mac as it is - and use it as a classic gaming platform.

New life for dead Macs

But what if the Mac is older or simply defective? Good: On Ebay, collectors pay moon prices especially for ancient Macs from the 70s and 80s or some of the exotic ones from the 90s such as the Macintosh TV in a functional, good condition, but that should hardly affect most users. And what if the old Mac, which has been gathering dust in the basement for 20 years, simply no longer works or its degree of preservation is rather poor? Well: Such Macs still have one or the other application possibility, for example there is also an adapted Linux version for them, whose operation, however, due to a lack of computing power, certainly no longer meets current technical requirements. Of course, 68K Macs also have the option of simply using them in classic mode as a game console or for old applications, provided that they are functional. But what if the Mac is defective? Then there are at least some interesting handicraft projects, especially for devices with colored polyacrylic housings.

Here are ten things to do with your old Mac:

1.Use your old Mac as a media center computer (Intel Macs only)

If your old Mac is an Intel Mac, there's nothing wrong with using it as a Mediacenter PC. Mac Mini and Macbooks in particular are suitable for this because they require little power and space and can be easily operated on current televisions via the necessary connections: Whether display port, Thunderbolt or DVI - there are inexpensive adapters for all of this HDMI format. And if Apple's Mini-DVI is installed, as is the case with the first Intel Macbooks, for example, there is an adapter in the usual online shops for little money. Once wired to the television, the Apple remote supplied with all Macs up to approx. 2009 at the infrared input, which Apple unfortunately deleted at the time, does a good job. Another practical feature of these Mac models is the fact that the original operating system is still equipped with Apple's Front Row: This is the media center software discontinued in 2011, which is reminiscent of today's Apple TV and the operation of the Mac up to Makes Mac OS X 10.6.8 a breeze on TV. Now the Mac basically only needs a wireless keyboard and mouse solution, either via radio or Bluetooth, which are available as accessories for little money and of course a large hard drive (internal or via USB 2.0 or Firewire) - it can already record videos, Play music and pictures on TV.

EnlargeOn Macs between OS X 10.4 and OS X 10.6, Frontrow is part of the scope of delivery

Play all media with Kodi and Plex: Just like the old-style Apple TV, Front Row is unfortunately very limited when it comes to playing non-Apple media. In these cases, we recommend the use of the Kodi media center, which can be installed either as an app under Mac OS X 10.7 and higher or as a complete Linux distribution Kodibuntu based on Ubuntu, which significantly reduces the hardware requirements. Unfortunately, Kodibuntu is currently only available as a 64-bit version, which means a Core2Duo processor or an Intel-i processor is mandatory. There is a 32-bit version, but it requires the user to have a significantly higher level of Linux knowledge. A third variant is the Plex media player, which already works with Mac OS X 10.6. Unfortunately, it is not available as a stand-alone solution. Software keyboards and mice such as Mobile Mouse or WiFi Mouse, which allow effective remote control from another Mac or a mobile device, are also practical in this context.

EnlargeThe Kodi media center can also turn an old Mac into a powerful media center PC

2. Use your old iMac as a jukebox (iMac G3 and newer)

If you have an old iMac, as already mentioned above, it can also be used as a pure music player, as a chic jukebox, after all, an iMac, especially in the colorful, round G3 version, is more than an old computer: It can also be used as a Go through design object and also works well as a decorative object in living rooms and offices. We recommend installing a larger hard drive internally, which is relatively easy with a little sensitivity. Hard drives with up to 320 gigabytes of capacity for the IDE connection are (still) new or used for little money on the network. Alternatively, a corresponding hard drive can of course also be connected to devices with Firewire, which of course disrupts the appearance of the "design object". Then the highest possible Mac OS X version should be installed on the iMac, with the G3 iMacs this is Mac OS X 10.4.11, which has grown to meet the current requirements. The iTunes supplied here fully fulfills its purpose as a media player for MP3 and AAC files, including those from the iTunes store. However, listening to Apple Music is not possible with it, not even with other players. If you want to use more formats, you have to switch to an alternative player here too. For example, VLC is available for older Mac OS X versions on PowerPC computers.

EnlargeITunes also runs on old Macs. If a larger hard drive is installed, an old iMac, for example, can function as a stylish jukebox

3. Use as a typewriter (notebooks only)

Owners of an old iBook, Powerbook or Macbook can of course also use their old mobile computer as a practical portable typewriter. The advantage of the old computers: If they are stolen or broken, the damage is limited and in terms of computing power, both old iBooks and Powerbooks with G3 or G4 processors and all Macbooks with Intel processors are more than suitable for the Word processing and other office tasks. If you still have an Apple Works or even a Microsoft Office from the original scope of delivery, you can install the software and use the Mobilmac as a mobile typewriter, even the current Open Office is still available for PowerPC Macs, provided they are already operated with OS X. . Alternatively, Linux can also be used here. The small screen is also an advantage over current notebooks, as it allows distraction-free work, which many authors appreciate. This is how the author of "Game of Thrones" George R.R. Martin with an ancient computer and MS-DOS - there is nothing wrong with using old Macs accordingly, the influence on the creative process is positive in case of doubt. Of course, many old notebooks also have old batteries - but even for the colorful iBook G3 there are still retrofit batteries from third-party providers such as, which makes this problem easy to get rid of. However, batteries for very old Apple notebooks are slowly becoming scarce - in such cases, however, stationary use on the power supply is still possible.

EnlargeFor years, Apple Works was part of the scope of delivery of every Mac and is a very spartan, but thoroughly functional office program.

4. Use the old Mac as a web server

A Linux installation naturally opens up completely new application options for old Macs: even an old computer, if it is still halfway state-of-the-art, can also serve as a data grave in the home network or as an intranet server. It can even be used as a web server, provided you have a sufficiently fast Internet connection and Linux or Mac OS X. The Apache web server has always been part of every Mac system and also of Linux distributions for PowerPC such as Debian for PPC, otherwise the web server can easily be installed via the command line.With a web server for the Internet or intranet, you can easily test a website or provide information to a company, completely separate from normal Mac operations.

EnlargeAll Mac OS X versions have a built-in Apache web server. It only has to be started via the system settings or, since Mac OS X 10.7, via the terminal with the command "sudo apachectl start" and ended with "sudo apachectl stop".

5. Use the old Mac as a practical NAS, as a file and print server

Of course, an old Mac can easily be used as a file server or NAS for the home network. Safe: Routers like the Fritz! Box, small cheap computers like the Raspberry Pi or dedicated NAS systems from Western Digital, Buffalo or Synology probably do this job faster and with less energy, but it can still be a nice gimmick for anyone who deals with network technology want. However, the setup is child's play under macOS, which is why this application is perfectly suitable: In the system settings there has always been the item "Sharing" with which server services such as "File sharing", "Printer sharing" or "Remote login" can be quickly activated to let. Connected via Ethernet or fast WLAN, a not-so-old Mac can work without a monitor and keyboard and host files as a private cloud that do not fit on the typically low-memory Macbooks. This makes sense for playing around with technology, especially since most Macs since 1998 have at least a 100 Mbit Ethernet socket that is fast enough for many services. The “remote login” function is also practical, with which the Mac can be remotely controlled from another Mac, Windows PC or a mobile device such as an iPad without a monitor or keyboard.

EnlargeOlder Mac OS X versions already come with powerful options for server operation in the home network

6. Install Windows or Linux

Incidentally, the continued use of the Mac as a PC with Windows or Linux is simple but effective. While Apple will at some point no longer allow installing new macOS versions on older Macs, Windows and Linux are not that picky here. However, both operating systems require suitable drivers for the Mac hardware so that everything runs smoothly. While Linux relies on a broad pool of open solutions here, Windows is more picky here, which is why it makes sense to first create a driver disk for Windows via Bootcamp before destroying the old Mac. Another hurdle is that Macs have an EFI, while PCs still rely on BIOS technology for system-related functions.

From Windows 7, which supports EFI, it is sufficient to reformat the hard disk with the rescue partition of macOS or the supplied CDs / DVDs in MS-DOS format and select “Master Boot Record” as the partition scheme in the partitioning options. The Intel Mac becomes a PC. Incidentally, with the rEFInd software, several Windows and Linux systems can be installed in parallel, regardless of Bootcamp. However, the boot manager intervenes deeply in the system - so if you are not familiar with it, you should keep your hands off it.

EnlargeEven if many older Macs are no longer running the current OS X version, you can easily install a current Windows version here

7. Use as a classic gaming machine

Anyone who owns a really old Mac - for example one with a Motorola processor, but also with an IBM PowerPC - can of course also set up this old Mac as a retro gaming machine. Many classic games were no longer maintained by the manufacturer after the Intel switch and have not been playable on current Macs since Rosetta was discontinued under OS X 10.7. It was similar with Apple's switch from the 68K processors to the PowerPC. In such cases, all you have to do is put your old Mac back into operation with the preinstalled operating system and look through your game collection - it's often great fun to play old classics again, after all, the game designers had to come up with particularly good game concepts and storylines due to a lack of technical capabilities imagine.

With a little attention, accessories such as joysticks and other old control devices can be obtained for little money via Ebay or other classified advertising services. Incidentally, newer Macs with OS X and PowerPC can be transformed into small arcade machines using Mame for OS X. The computing power of all Mac models from around 2002 is fully sufficient for this. Mame is of course also available for newer systems and if you have a current Mac, you can play classic video games here too - all you need is OpenEmu.

EnlargeCheap gamepads for the USB port are available on Ebay. This is how old consoles or Mac games can be brought to life in proper style.

8. Empty the case and use it elsewhere (defective Macs)

But what if the Mac has given up the ghost? If the case is still intact, it can be worthwhile to use it for other purposes. The colorful plastic housings of the Knubbel iMacs of the first and second iMac generation are particularly suitable for being transformed into stylish pieces of furniture. Anyone who removes the inner workings and buys and installs a power cable with a bulb socket can, for example, make a pretty ceiling lamp. The housing cover of the iMac G4, which was already known as the “desk lamp” during its lifetime, is ideal for luminous design objects or as an iPad holder. Those who travel further back in time will find a 9 “monitor in the original Macintosh that can be replaced with an iPad with a little tinkering. G3 iBooks can also be converted into i Pad docks. And if you still have a defective PowerMac G5, you can perhaps put it on a stylish little shelf