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Setting up your vintage (classic) 68k Macintosh

I recently pulled my old Macintosh Color Classic (with an Apple IIe Emulator Card) out of storage in preparation for a move to see if it still works (last used in 2001)… so far so good.   I also obtained a Macintosh LCIII to setup as my backup system in case the Macintosh Color Classic decides to die on me (need to get a cap job done on both of them).

When I started to look for the guides etc.  that I used back in 1999/2000, I quickly found out that Apple has finally started to abandon these old machines, removing the free downloads and knowledge base articles that vintage mac users have relied on.  Luckily the software can still be found on the internet archive, or sites like the Macintosh Garden and the Macintosh Repository, but it looks like it will be a lot harder to find the information that used to be in the knowledge base.   To help myself remember what to do in the future, and to hopefully help others, I’ve decided to put up a series of posts on how to set up these old systems with links to the disk images and files I use.

Step 1: Getting your 68k Macintosh up and running

There are a few common reasons why your 68k system may not work, or may soon stop working: dead PRAM battery, capacitor failure, battery bomb.

1.1: Dead PRAM battery

Several Macintosh systems will not start unless they have a working PRAM battery. The battery is used by your Macintosh to provide power to a small amount of RAM in your system where system settings are stored. If your system doesn`t have a battery or the batter is old, try replacing it to see if your system will start. Most 68k Macintosh systems use 3.6V batteries.

1.2: Capacitor failure

Unfortunately many 68k Macintosh systems were built with capacitors that contain liquid electrolyte. These capacitors can begin to leak over time, resulting in failures from the capacitor itself no longer work, or worse, the electrolyte liquid corrodes the circuitry (traces) on the mother board. So you have two options, if you are handy with a soldering kit you can buy capacitor kits for some systems from companies like Console5, or 8-bit Guy, or if you are like me and want someone else with a steadier hand to do some or all of the work, I highly recommend Amiga of Rochester, he replaced the capacitors on my Apple IIe card, LC 475 and 660av, and cleaned the boards (ultrasonic cleaner).

1.3 Battery Bomb

This is typically the worst reason why your system isn`t starting. Unfortunately the PRAM batteries originally used in these systems can leak or even explode overtime, causing a significant amount of damage to a system when the do. So always remember to remove your PRAM batteries when you are going to store your 68k system for a prolonged period. If the damage is done, you may be able to repair the board, or contact Amiga of Rochester to see if they can repair the damage.

1.4 Everything else

If your Macintosh system is turning on but beeping, or showing an error code, one of the best resources for determining the issue is a book called the Dead Mac Scrolls, which is luckily available online through the internet archive, you should also consider joining the discussion group at the Macintosh Liberation Army and posting a description and if possible photos/video of the error message or sounds coming from your system.

Step 2: Determine what versions of the Macintosh OS your system can run

Not every Macintosh System can run every OS, for example System 8.1 (with a hack) was the last version to support the Motorola 68000 (68k) series of processors, while support for Macintosh Systems with the PowerPC series of processors started with System 7.1.2 and ended with OS X 10.5 (see Wikipedia’s: history of Mac OS).

To help myself in the future I’ve put together a Macintosh System Compatibility Table that I can use to see what systems support which versions (with links to any required the System Enablers for System 7.x).

Step 3: Selecting an installation approach

Depending on your system and the equipment you have on hand, there are different options for getting your 68k Macintosh System up and running.  Option 3, emulate a floppy drive should using a work with any 68k system.   Options 5 to 10 all require a 68k Macintosh System that supports SCSI, and also either require a way to connect the SCSI device to a more modern system, or that you have a USB, Firewire (IEEE 1394), or IDE version of the same device that you can connect to a more modern system.

If you have to purchase equipment I recommend that you skip hunting through ebay, and instead either buy Floppy-emu (option 3) or SCSI2SD (option 9.1), these are the most modern, reliable, and rapidly becoming the most affordable solutions.

  1. Using a real 3.5″ HD (Floppy) Disk Drive: This was the cheapest option, but 3.5″ drives and disks are becoming harder to find.  This option assumes you have a Hard Drive or equivalent to use as your working drive and are only using the floppy drive to get the software installed.   If you do not have a Hard Drive or equivalent, you may be able to use one of the following four variations:
    1. bootable 3.5″ HD floppy disk and a bootable RAM Disk, useful if you don’t have a 2nd floppy drive
    2. bootable 3.5″ HD floppy disk and AppleShare over a LocalTalk network (optionally with a RAM Disk)
    3. bootable 3.5″ HD floppy disk and AppleShare over an Ethernet network (optionally with a RAM Disk)
    4. bootable 3.5″ HD floppy disk and a CD-ROM Drive (optionally with a RAM Disk)
  2. Using a real 3.5″ SS or DS Floppy Disk Drive:  You’ll need a second 68k or PPC system running as a “bridging” system that is capable of reading and writing these disks.
  3. Using FloppyEmu to emulate a floppy drive: If you don’t have a floppy disk drive you can now buy a floppy drive emulator that will let you use disk images on an SD card as if they were real floppies.  Highly recommended if you have a 68k System that only supports 400k or 800k floppy disks.  (Note: if you don’t have an external floppy connector, you can still use this emulator connected to your internal floppy drive connector)
  4. Using FloppyEmu to emulate an Apple Hard Disk 20 image, up to 2GB, for Macintosh 512K, 512Ke, Plus, SE (not SE/30), Classic, Classic II, Portable, IIci, IIsi, or LC I.
  5. Using a bootable CD-ROM: This may or may not work, not all 68k systems will boot from a CD-ROM, I was able to boot my LCIII, but not my SE, using an NEC MultiSpin 8x CD-ROM drive.  This option assumes you have a Hard Drive or equivalent to use as your working drive and are only using the CD-ROM to get the software installed.   If you do not have a Hard Drive or equivalent, you may be able to use one of the following four variations:
    1. a bootable CD-ROM and a Floppy Drive
    2. a bootable CD-ROM and a RAM Disk
    3. a bootable CD-ROM, a Floppy Drive (or RAM Disk) and AppleShare over a LocalTalk network
    4. a bootable CD-ROM, a Floppy Drive (or RAM Disk) and AppleShare over an Ethernet network
  6. Using an internal SCSI Hard Drive connected to a SCSI ISA, PCI, or PCIe card, and you plan to remove that drive and use it as your 68k Macintosh System’s internal drive
  7. Using an external SCSI Hard Drive that you can connect to a modern system using:
    1. connected to a SCSI ISA, PCI, or PCIe card
    2. connected to a SCSI PCMCIA card (CardBus, PC CARD)
    3. connected using a USB to SCSI adapter
    4. connected using a Firewire (IEEE 1394) to SCSI adapter
    5. connected to a SCSI to Parallel adapter
    6. connected to a SCSI to Parallel adapter, connected to a Parallel to USB adapter
  8. Using a removable-cartridge drive, that can also connect to a modern system using one of the above options for external SCSI Hard Drives, or you have two drives, e.g. a SCSI Iomega Zip Drive and a USB Iomega Zip Drive:
    1. using an Iomega 100MB Zip Drive
    2. using an Iomega Jazz 1 GB or 2 GB Drive
    3. using an Iomega Bernoulli Box (5, 10, and 20 MB)
    4. using an Iomega Bernoulli Box II (20, 35, 44, 65, 90, 105, 150, and 230 MB)
    5. using a SyQuest Drive (44, 88, and 200 MB)
    6. using an LS 120 or 240 SuperDrive (120 and 240 MB)
    7. using a Castlewood ORB drive (2.2 and 5.7 GB)
  9. Using an emulated SCSI drive
    1. using a SD card in a:
    2. using a Compact Flash card in a CF2SCSI adapter
    3. using a SCSI Media Card Reader
    4. using a Compact Flash card in a PCMCIA reader connected to an IDE to SCSI adapter
  10. Using an IDE to SCSI adapter to connect an IDE Hard Drive
  11. Using the Mac ROM-inator to boot from ROM for the Mac IIx, IIcx, IIci, IIfx, IIsi, and SE/30

I’m sure there are other options, specifically using other brands and types of removable drives (e.g. Magneto-Optical and Floptical Drives).  In most cases they can all be treated the same way as a SCSI Hard Drive, as long as you’ve inserted the removable disk in to the drive before you turn on your Macintosh.   I plan to update this post and to make guides for additional options overtime, and if I can, with downloadable images that can be written to the various media.

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