17 years since release, iMac G5 finally gets an upgrade after tinkerer shoves M1 Mac Mini inside
And for my next trick... an M1 Macintosh Color Classic?
It was a favourite of developers, sound engineers, and schools. But progress stops for no man – or machine – and this sturdy workhorse has since been relegated to the history books.
Enter Hans Strupat, an Orange County-based Mac enthusiast and tinkerer, who managed to jerry-rig this antiquated all-in-one to house an M1 Mac Mini.
Regular readers will note we recently covered the exploits of Luke Miani, a popular tech YouTuber who shoved an M1 Mac Mini into a 2011 iMac, creating among the first Apple Silicon iMacs. Although impressive, it did have some drawbacks, with the power button and USB/Thunderbolt ports completely inaccessible.
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Strupat's attempt differs slightly. Like Miani, the tinkerer stripped the iMac of its internal components to make room for the logic board and power supply of the M1 Mac Mini. Strupat also used a conversion board to pass video signals from the machine's HDMI port to the iMac's 17-inch display.
But this implementation went further still. With a bit of soldering, Strupat connected the M1 to the iMac's rear-mounted power switch, allowing him to turn the computer off without having to disassemble the entire machine. Extension cables gave him access to the machine's onboard connectivity, including the built-in Thunderbolt and USB-A ports.
This setup isn't for the faint of heart, and requires a decent amount of electrical engineering nous – not to mention the courage to required to void the warranty on a brand-new, £800 computer. And on a practical level, it's not exactly something you'd want to use on a day-to-day basis. The machine's tiny screen and low 1,680 x 1,050 pixel resolution is far removed from the standards of contemporary display technology.
Still, for a proof of concept, it's pretty neat.
Sold between 2004 and 2006, the G5 iMac has proven itself weirdly well suited to experimental (potentially warranty-voiding) hardware experimentation. As is the case with a lot of computer hardware from that era, it suffers from the dreaded "capacitor plague". Over time, the electrolytic capacitors that regulate electrical flow within the PSU and logic board will start to leak, spilling their corrosive contents onto the surroundings.
This fluid literally eats away at the printed circuit board underneath, as well as any other nearby surface-mounted components. In some cases, it's possible to remove the spilled fluid with a splash of isopropyl alcohol and replace the faulty capacitors with some handy soldering work. In other cases, the damage is too severe. And while this has been bad news for collectors of retro Apple kit, it does allow creatively-minded techies to repurpose the dead machines for other, more novel projects.
The "capacitor plague" wasn't limited to the G5 either. Early Mac computers – particularly those produced in the late 1980s and early 1990s – were notorious for it. With that in mind, it's only a matter of time until someone tries to shove an M1 into the guts of a Macintosh Color Classic. ®