Is there a way to flash/hack/jailbreak the firmware for say a 15" G4 powerbook so that I can boot from Linux live usb sticks?

As it is many macs simply do not boot from usb, let alone usb sticks and the ones that do are a complete pain to set up.

If someone were to write a kind of replacement firmware for ppc macs there would be a whole community switching to Linux because many mac users have thousand dollar paper weights sitting around their house ever since Apple dropped support for ppc.


  1. Can anyone help me find a link to an alternative firmware which I can install on my g4 laptop to replace the mac version of open firmware which can not boot from usb?

  2. Is the firmware the reason why a perfectly healthy live usb would not boot? if you cancelled out all the posibilities that the usb stick is faulty or how you installed the system on it is faulty all that is left is the firmware not allowing it right?

  3. Can I just install a clean version of Sun Microsystem's open firmware that hasn't been tinkered with by apple and get it to boot live USBs?

I'm so frustrated that my mac is a paper weight right now. The CD drive on it doesn't work so I need usb sticks to work. Plus depending on what distro you go with, with a lot of tinkering and playing whatever I install will only last a couple of days so I need to use live USBs so I can play around a lot and mess stuff up.

  • There's nothing I can do about that. Most of the questions I ask are like the one above. They are questions that no one knows the answer to. They are usually barely impossible things or something that takes a lot of work to answer. I want to get linux liveUSB sticks working on my g4 powerbook and the firmware is the only wall between me and that dream Jun 19, 2011 at 9:36

4 Answers 4

  1. No.

  2. I don't know about USB boot, but some time ago I booted a G4 into a firewire attached system.

  3. No.

In the past I found it relatively convenient to network boot from the Openfirmware shell (G3/G4/PreP). I mean, network boot would be an alternative to CD or USB-booting.


From USB I dont think it is possible however you if you have a firewire port and drive you can boot from that. Otherwise I would recommend running Vmware inside your Mac and you can run Linux all you want and have snapshots to boot.


Another possibility would be to boot a live CD from another Mac in "Target Mode". You would need to connect using a firewire cable, my Powerbook has Fw400 and Fw800 ports. If you boot another mac, holding down the T key, it should go into target mode and if you insert a CD/DVD it may be readable and bootable.


Not only is it possible, I’m doing it right now.

1) The firmware isn’t the reason why your usb boot isn’t working.

2) The reason I can think of would be that your USB stick isn’t formatted as Apple Partition Map, that it’s smaller than 8GB, or that the disk image used to create the USB stick was for the wrong architecture.

3) I don’t think so.

Sometimes you have to go into open firmware (cmd-opt-o-f at boot), it seems, but in that case he’s working from a g5, so... well, on a g4 I didn’t have to.

usb stick

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