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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on (still available on apple support, use the search, then select filter, then check the box labeled “include content no longer being updated).  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, or will start but will not display video, 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. If you have to purchase equipment I recommend that you skip hunting through ebay to find an old hard drive or zip drive, and instead buy on of the multitude of SCSI emulators (option 1) or the Floppy Emulator (option 2) now available.

Option 1: Emulated Hard Drive

This is the most flexible option for setting up your Macintosh system. The following devices connect to your Macintosh’s internal or external SCSI connector and use a SD card as the storage media:

To help with setup, I have created bootable drive and volume image files for use with each of the above devices, or you can use a tool such as Disk Jockey to create your own image files. You can mount these drive and volume files in a emulator such as Basilisk II or Mini-vMac to add and remove files.

For Macintosh systems supporting internal IDE drives, the best option I’ve found is a CF2IDE adapter plus an Industrial CF card. Industrial CF cards are designed to replace fixed disks, they identify themselves as fixed disk vs. removable storage. I have had issues with other CF cards not working in my Macintosh LC 630, but have had not issues when using an Industrial CF card.

For some systems you can also use the FloppyEMU to emulate the Macintosh HD20 hard drive, up to 2GB, that connected to the floppy external or internal floppy controller for Macintosh 512K, 512Ke, Plus, SE (not SE/30), Classic, Classic II, Portable, IIci, IIsi, or LC I.

The other option is the Mac ROM-inator to boot from ROM for the Mac IIx, IIcx, IIci, IIfx, IIsi, and SE/30

Option 2: Emulated or Real Floppy Drive

  • Using FloppyEmu: 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)
  • Using a real 3.5″ HD (Floppy) Disk Drive: This was the cheapest option until the drop in cost of the Emulated Hard Drives, but 3.5″ drives and disks are becoming harder to find and much more expensive. This also only supports systems that have HD Floppies, not 400k or 800k.

If you just have a floppy in your system, but no 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 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)

Option 3: CDROM drives

Not recommended unless you already have a CDROM burner and plenty of blank CDs and software that can burn HFS bootable images to a CD (many can’t):

Using a bootable CD-ROM: If you system has an internal CD you should be able to boot from CD. I am still researching which systems can boot when attached to an Apple branded external CD ROM drive.

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

Option 4: External Hard drives and Removable Drives

Not recommended unless you already have one or more of these drives:

  • using two Iomega Zip Drives: A USB Zip Drive on your modern system and a SCSI Zip drive on your Macintosh System. Before the SD options were available, this was the most popular way to transfer files between a modern and vintage systems.

The remaining options require you to have a way to connect a SCSI device to a modern system using either a SCSI card, SCSI to USB adapter, SCSI to Firewire Adapter or SCSI to Parallel adapter (to USB adapter):

  1. using an external SCSI drive and enclosure.
  2. using an Iomega 100MB Zip Drive
  3. using an Iomega Jazz 1 GB or 2 GB Drive
  4. using an Iomega Bernoulli Box (5, 10, and 20 MB)
  5. using an Iomega Bernoulli Box II (20, 35, 44, 65, 90, 105, 150, and 230 MB)
  6. using a SyQuest Drive (44, 88, and 200 MB)
  7. using an LS 120 or 240 SuperDrive (120 and 240 MB)
  8. using a Castlewood ORB drive (2.2 and 5.7 GB)

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.

One Comment

  1. olegyk olegyk

    It may be worth mentioning that in conjunction with the external options (emulated SCSI drive or FloppyEmu HD), it should be possible to perform the whole setup procedure first in an *emulator* (BasiliskII on a modern machine), and then either to use the resulting volume or copy (and bless) the System Folder or disk copy to the target 68k Mac.

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