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Apple Computers & iMac - Repair, Mod, and Upgrade!

Posted: Sat Dec 16, 2017 4:32 pm
by samsonlonghair
Big Update: Original Project was a success, and there's more to come!
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I repaired my early intel iMac using an LCD I sourced from a cheap, second-hand monitor.

Let's keep this ball rolling!
I learned a lot about how my iMac is constructed while I was working on this project, and now I'm excited to tackle more Macintosh projects. I'm broadening the scope of this thread to include any repairs, restorations, mods, or upgrades to Apple computers. This includes everything from Apple ][ on up to modern Macintosh with a special emphasis on any Apple computer that you consider to be cool, retro, or vintage!

In this thread, I will encourage tinkering, experimentation, and fun!
-Want to fix up an old Mac? Post it here!
-Are you installing OS9, OSX, Windows, or another operating system on your Mac? Post it here!
-Want to try dual booting operating systems or running parallels? Post it here!
-Just want to nerd out and share stories of old Apple computers? Post it here!
-Want to push the limits of your older Mac or install an unsupported version of OSX? Post it here!
-Want to discuss everything Apple did right and did wrong? Post it here!
-Got a busted old Mac collecting dust? What do you have to lose? Let's get hacky! 8)


Here's my original Post that started this thread:
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So I have this little project I have been putting off. I want to hear y'alls advice on how I should proceed before I paint myself into a corner. I have worked on Mac Pros, MacBooks, and MacBook Pros before, but not iMacs.

I picked up a broken old iMac super cheap. I figured I would either fix it up, or or mod it. The monitor on this iMac is broken, so I looked into sourcing a cheap replacement. Anyone who has ever tried to purchase replacement parts for Apple computers knows just how bad the "apple tax" can hit. I wasn't interested in paying more for parts than the iMac is worth, so I got creative.

I started by looking up my iMac on EveryMac(dot)com.
https://everymac.com/systems/apple/imac/specs/imac_cd_2.0_20.html
Code: Select all
Apple iMac "core Duo" 2.0 20 inch
model number a1174\
Identifiers: Early 2006 - MA200LL - iMac4,1 - A1174 - 2105

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Then I started looking for the LCD itself. I found out that the LCD panel in the iMac 4,1 is made by LG.
Code: Select all
Part # LTM201W01

Google seems to indicate that there are a number of monitors that use the exact same LCD panel. The cheapest one I could find was the LG Flatron W205TQ for $20. I went ahead and picked it up on the 'Bay when I saw it for sale.
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Now that the LG Flatron is here, I'm second guessing myself. Does it make sense to take apart a working monitor to fix a broken iMac? Even if everything works out alright, I would still end up with an eleven-year-old iMac badly in need up numerous upgrades. I could upgrade the processor to a Intel Core 2 Duo 2.33 GHz T7600. I could upgrade the RAM to 4GB (of which only 3GB would be available). I could replace the stock mechanical hard drive with an SSD if I buy an adapter kit. Best case scenario is I would wind up with a machine that runs OS X Snow Leopard, OS X Lion, or Windows 10, but nothing that could run a modern version of MacOS.

After considering all these caveats, I'm starting to wonder if maybe I should take an alternate route. Maybe I should just mod the iMac into a monitor using the LG Flatron I already bought. Basically, I could just gut the iMac and force the LG monitor into its case like Ed Gein trying on a new suit.

What do you think?

Re: Early Intel iMac - Repair it or mod it?

Posted: Sat Dec 16, 2017 7:09 pm
by CRTGAMER
Love the vintage iMacs, so future look shiny and have Harmon Kardon speakers! I searched the specs and you iMac does not appear to have an auxilary video out? That would be the easiest way to verify if the PC inside still working. Replacing the LCD screen could be tricky due to usually not just a VGA, DVI or HDMI connection inside. Too bad on that beautiful glossy screen not working,

It would be worth fixing as a browser and can easily run Youtube HD videos at full speed. Safari a breeze to use. For a comparison I have the older iMac G3 which can run Youtube videos, but would struggle in the higher resolution video streaming.

Re: Early Intel iMac - Repair it or mod it?

Posted: Sat Dec 16, 2017 11:42 pm
by samsonlonghair
I dig your enthusiasm, CRT. I love the space age look of Apple computers from that era too. My favorite is the G4 iMac, but that's another topic altogether.

I have already confirmed that the computer inside runs just fine... for an eleven year old computer. If given a bootable volume, this old iMac can boot Snow Leopard without a hitch. Roughly half the pixels on the LCD are dead. I can make out enough of the screen to verify that the computer is operational.

But it's still a 32 bit computer in a 64 bit world, you know what I mean?

That's why I'm thinking maybe I should mod this old iMac into a monitor rather than restoring it into a computer that's already obsolete. I'm not 100% sure either way.

Re: Early Intel iMac - Repair it or mod it?

Posted: Sun Dec 17, 2017 12:53 am
by CRTGAMER
Is there an auxiliary video output for the iMac?

Based on your reply, I think you are meaning just using the shell and installing another monitor inside for use for any PC and convert the iMac into a dedicated monitor? If that is the case, might take advantage of the on board speakers, the Harmon Kardons have decent sound. Either salvage the amp off the motherboard or go an easier route of buying a small amp that can be mounted inside.

Re: Early Intel iMac - Repair it or mod it?

Posted: Sun Dec 17, 2017 10:41 am
by isiolia
I don't think it makes a lot of sense to use the shell as a monitor only - seems like a lot of effort to get back to the same functionality that the monitor itself has, only in a much larger enclosure.

Personally, I also wouldn't consider it for running OS X either, since (as you likely are aware) 10.7.5 will be stuck running old versions of everything. Instead, I'd maybe look at doing something like running Emulation Station on Debian - it's still got more substantial hardware than a Raspberry Pi 3 would for RetroPie, doubly so if you could play original discs (not sure if that'd be the case).

I actually have a similar-ish thing sitting in my basement - 20" iMac from the next big revision (so an aluminum one) that had some damage from humidity. The the LCD works, but a layer of it crinkled, and there's corrosion on some parts, like the metal strip on the back of the glass. Got it for free, just never did anything with it. In that case, the LCD seemed like it'd be very pricey to replace.

Re: Early Intel iMac - Repair it or mod it?

Posted: Sun Dec 17, 2017 8:43 pm
by fastbilly1
It is very tricky to make old imacs work without the built in monitor. If you can make it work I am very interested in knowing your findings. I have only had this work on a G3 and it was alot of soldering.

Re: Early Intel iMac - Repair it or mod it?

Posted: Sun Dec 17, 2017 9:55 pm
by CRTGAMER
fastbilly1 wrote:It is very tricky to make old imacs work without the built in monitor. If you can make it work I am very interested in knowing your findings. I have only had this work on a G3 and it was alot of soldering.

The G3 CRTs have an auxiliary VGA output, at least in the later series with slot loaders that I have. Is your G3 a tray loader? I swapped out the internal CDR over to a DVD Rom and kept the CDR. Not an issue since an external USB CDR Enclosure works just fine.

Couple iMac G3s spotted in cartoons, hey AC port in back has no cord!!

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Remember the G3 came out and did not have a floppy drive?
Crazy and innovative back then considering the USB Mem stick not common.

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Re: Early Intel iMac - Repair it or mod it?

Posted: Sun Dec 17, 2017 10:49 pm
by samsonlonghair
First of all, thanks to all three of you for your input. It means a lot to me.
isiolia wrote:I don't think it makes a lot of sense to use the shell as a monitor only - seems like a lot of effort to get back to the same functionality that the monitor itself has, only in a much larger enclosure.

Perfectly valid point. In this case the iMac enclosure would be purely cosmetic. I would lose all other functionality. You're right, it is a lot of effort just to get back to being a monitor. Maybe I was over-thinking it; I tend to do that.
isiolia wrote:Personally, I also wouldn't consider it for running OS X either, since (as you likely are aware) 10.7.5 will be stuck running old versions of everything.
Yes, I'm very familiar with the software limitations of early Intel Macs. I own more than one of them (more on that later).
isiolia wrote:Instead, I'd maybe look at doing something like running Emulation Station on Debian - it's still got more substantial hardware than a Raspberry Pi 3 would for RetroPie, doubly so if you could play original discs (not sure if that'd be the case).

Neat idea! I do have a DVD drive in here. I suppose I could make this bad boy an emulation box. Emulation Station looks like a neat front end. I'll check it out when the time comes to cross that bridge.
isiolia wrote:I actually have a similar-ish thing sitting in my basement - 20" iMac from the next big revision (so an aluminum one) that had some damage from humidity. The the LCD works, but a layer of it crinkled, and there's corrosion on some parts, like the metal strip on the back of the glass. Got it for free, just never did anything with it. In that case, the LCD seemed like it'd be very pricey to replace.

Well, if this project pans out, I might be looking for another iMac project. I would take it off your hands for you. :mrgreen:
fastbilly1 wrote:It is very tricky to make old imacs work without the built in monitor. If you can make it work I am very interested in knowing your findings. I have only had this work on a G3 and it was alot of soldering.

C'mere fast, I got something to show you...
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Here's the iMac in question sitting on my workbench next to his older brother, the G4. I also keep a couple Mac Pro towers nearby to drive this array of monitors. I'm typing this sentence on one of those Mac Pro towers right now.

In addition to a cracked LCD, my iMac also has no hard drive. This is a standard data security precaution for used computers.

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Here's the back of the broken iMac. The port on the far right is a mini-DVI output. I'm using an adaptor to connect it to another monitor via VGA. I'm connecting a Firewire 400 cable from this iMac to one of my Mac Pro towers. Don't you just love Apple's proprietary connectors? :roll:

I'm booting one of my Mac Pro towers into target disk mode by holding the T key at boot. Next I boot the iMac and hold the Option key. My broken iMac shows bootable volumes.
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I'm lucky that so much of the LCD works! This is more than the 1/2 pixels I had previously estimated. If my LCD was completely dead, I would need to take a few extra steps. I would remove all but one drive from my Mac Pro tower so that EFI only sees a single boot option. Then I would use the keyboard to select the single bootable drive and proceed. I'm choosing to boot to the drive called "tensix" here. That's my shorthand for OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard.

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Here is my iMac on the right booted up with an external monitor in the middle. The monitor to the far left is connected to the Mac Pro in target disk mode. In this instance, the external monitor is displaying in "extended desktop" mode, but I could switch it to "mirrored mode" by using the Command + F1 keyboard shortcut.

And here are the modest specs of this early Intel iMac in case anyone is interested.
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In case you have a hard time reading that photo, here are the specs:
iMac 4,1
2GHz Intel Core Duo
1 Processor; 2 cores
1GB 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM

CRTGAMER wrote:The G3 CRTs have an auxiliary VGA output, at least in the later series with slot loaders that I have. Is your G3 a tray loader? I swapped out the internal CDR over to a DVD Rom and kept the CDR. Not an issue since an external USB CDR works just fine.

I think those tray-loading G3 iMacs are cool because they have a VGA connector on the INSIDE of the computer. How cool is that? If all iMacs had been designed that way, screen replacement would be much easier!

Re: Early Intel iMac - Repair it or mod it?

Posted: Mon Dec 18, 2017 2:39 am
by Anapan
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Do it.

Re: Early Intel iMac - Repair it or mod it?

Posted: Mon Dec 18, 2017 9:05 am
by samsonlonghair
Anapan wrote:Image
Do it.

Not exactly the mod I had in mind. :lol: