Mac OS 9 Isn’t Dead Yet…

The final release of Mac OS 9 occurred 10 years ago in 2001. Mac OS X was launched that same year, and Steve Jobs symbolically buried his old nemesis in 2002. The old Mac OS survived for another few years, running on dual-booting G4s or as Classic mode under OS X until the release of Leopard and the Intel Macs.

Mac-OS-9-CD-smApple is a very forward thinking company, but sometimes you can’t escape your past. Some operating system releases have a way of surviving long past their expiration dates – Windows XP, anyone? Based on recent personal experience it’s safe to say that Mac OS 9 isn’t dead yet!

Recently I wrote about Reinstalling Mac OS 9 on a PowerMac G4 MDD. A client needed the older OS to run a pre-OS X version of Digidesign Pro Tools, and that Mac model requires a system-specific (non-retail) install of Mac OS 9.2.2. Obtaining and reinstalling this older software proved an interesting experience, so I posted the info online for other vintage Mac nerds.

Turns out that column has had surprising popularity. Many more hits than average, and I’ve been directly contacted by many people since that posting looking for copies of OS 9 to install on their old Macs.

Like my first client, a few folks are also running Pro Tools or other old DAW applications and looking to get things setup on a fast single- or dual-processor G4 tower. Professional audio software is not cheap, and many users have a slew of third party plugins in addition to the primary application. When OS X came along many systems weren’t upgraded due to the total expense involved, which means a lot of working but now incompatible hardware and software is still out in the field.

Another client who contacted me works for a national medical diagnostic company. They are using some lab equipment which has control software that only runs in Mac OS 9. A few QuickSilver G4 towers had been procured for installation but their IT manager couldn’t get a stable OS 9 System running on the machine. He needed to get a working setup going to replicate throughout their facilities.

Like the MDD the QuickSilver was produced after the last retail OS 9 CD was released, and some later models require a system-specific installation. As with the MDD, this was only available on the bundled Software Restore CDs. I don’t have a set of QuickSilver Restore CDs but I suspected that the liberated version of 9.2.2 from the MDD’s Restore disc would work on that model, and my client agreed to give it a try.

Verdict: yes, it works fine. Sweet!

A few days later, I (fortuitously) inherited a QuickSilver myself, and confirmed again that this does work. However on my particular model I needed to disable the ATI Video Accelerator extension to fix a hang at the desktop after bootup. Ah yes, incompatible System Extensions, don’t we all have warm fuzzy memories of those (not).

What surprises me is how many people are still using a ten-year-old Operating System for productive tasks. A not-insubstantial set of folks still need (or want) to run OS 9 for reasons both business and personal. We know that Macs themselves are well-built machines that stand the test of time, it appears Mac OS versions do so as well.

One technical note for those trying to recreate an OS 9 system themselves: be sure to partition your boot disk in Apple Partition Map format with Mac OS 9 drivers. Drives formatted under Mac OS X 10.5 (or higher) will not contain these drivers and will be invisible to the older System Software. You will need to format the drive using Disk Utility in Mac OS X 10.1.x – 10.4.x and check the option to Install Mac OS 9 Drivers, or use Drive Setup in Mac OS 9.

Finally, a helpful tip from one reader about how to find those elusive Software Restore discs:

I was at the Apple store today and while talking to my genius I mentioned my problem. He went out back and got me a shiny new set of system discs for my specific machine that they had hanging around […] He also said that if one were to call AppleCare and explain the situation that they would burn a copy of the original system from the vault and it would be free except for postage. This is an avenue I had not thought of and might be very useful to others looking for older install discs.

Viva la Mac OS 9!!!

—–
Update June 2012:
Mac OS 9 for PowerMac G4 MDD has been made available for download via the Macintosh Garden.


31 responses to “Mac OS 9 Isn’t Dead Yet…”

  1. Adam Rosen says:

    ORIGINAL BLOGSPOT COMMENTS:

    Yuhong Bao said…
    Actually, the original QuickSilver shipped with Mac OS 9.2.0. A Mac OS 9.2.1 disc shipped with the Mac OS X 10.1 package.
    June 10, 2011 at 12:40 AM

    Adam Rosen said…
    Yes, as noted above it’s the later model (second release) which needs the post-retail system.
    June 10, 2011 at 8:47 AM

    Anonymous said…
    I created a “drag and drop” Version of 9.2.2 that works on all QS 2002 and MDD Models (except FW800), by booting to an external FW Drive you can format large hard drives (500 GB) into multiple partitions and then Drag the entire 9.2.2 OS. You can then enable of disable the nvidia or ATI extensions after check which video you have; the entire install of 9.2.2 takes about 3 min lol; I have also used this version on imacs, older QS, Powerbooks and DA towers with no issues

    you can read more about it at http://os9daw.com
    September 19, 2011 at 10:31 PM

    Anonymous said…
    Hi.Great stuff here!!
    Vis a vis your old mac comments, I,ve been trying to add a second drive to my old Beige G3 and finally got a result by making one drive “master” and the other “slave” I am now able to choose either as my boot disc….finally a result.
    P.S…Can I use a ribbon cable from a pc IDE drive in that old Mac?(to get zip drive hooked up as well??)
    December 14, 2011 at 6:12 AM

    Adam Rosen said…
    Yes, any IDE cable will work. They aren’t platform specific.
    December 14, 2011 at 7:01 AM

    Anonymous said…
    “Mac OS9 isn’t dead yet.”
    Thats right, in our office (engineering in stainless steel pressurevessels) we work with about 10 Powermacs, varying from 450 to 867 MHz. All running OS9.
    Our database (Helix) and CAD application (TopCad) is older software that works very well for us.
    I bought a Powermac 768MHz MMD, without original disks, assuming I have enough software to install OS9. Not.
    With the suggestions I get from your site I think I can manage. Thank you very much for sharing.
    December 25, 2011 at 9:21 AM

    Anonymous said…
    I’d love to have OS9 running on my Mini G4!
    Is it possible somehow or totally impossible?
    December 25, 2011 at 4:12 PM

    Adam Rosen said…
    You can’t boot into OS 9 on a Mac mini, but you can run the software in Classic mode. Mac OS X Tiger will run on all G4 minis, so install that, update to 10.4.11, then copy over a System Folder (v9.1 or higher) for Classic.
    December 25, 2011 at 6:11 PM

    Anonymous said…
    One of the best machines out there for OS9 is the blue and white G3. I think they are more stable and better tuned for OS9 than the G4 or G5 machines.
    January 27, 2012 at 10:57 AM

    Anonymous said…
    How can i make a dual bootable clamshell ibook 366 Mhz fire wire ?
    February 1, 2012 at 1:52 PM

    Anonymous said…
    Dear Mr. Rosen, I have been reading about the dual boot g4’s running 9.2.2.. I have a dual boot quicksilver g4 and the hard drive just died. I had a new HD installed and the repair guy installed 10.5. Can I get this machine to dual boot to 9.2.2 like it used to? I have the discs that came with it, but it ran 10.3 (Panther) originally and that is on the discs I have. Will I have to go back to 10.3.9 to boot into 9.2.2? Please help me with this. Thanks again, Paul
    February 6, 2012 at 5:38 AM

    Adam Rosen said…
    You can dual-boot between 10.5 and 9.2.2 on a G4 QuickSilver, but the hard drive has to be formatted with OS 9 disk drivers first. If the new HD was formatted under Leopard it won’t have these drivers and OS 9 won’t see the disk. You need to use either Drive Setup under OS 9 or Disk Utility under OS X 10.1 – 10.4 to format a drive first – Apple Partition Map scheme with OS 9 driver – then you can install the desired operation systems. If you don’t want to reformat your existing drive you can add a second disk to your QuickSilver to run the older OS.
    February 6, 2012 at 9:47 AM

    Anonymous said…
    I was attempting to setup a dual boot on a G4 MDD that I had recently purchased (without the original restore discs). One of the first things I did was to contact Applecare to see if they could supply discs or disc images of the original discs that came with the G4. I was informed that they no longer had these discs archived, and could not help me. I discovered this blog and contacted Adam, and he is sending me a copy of the OS 9.2.2 system on CD. Thanks, Jim
    February 12, 2012 at 2:27 PM

    Phil A said…
    I’m also attempting to run a G4 Quicksilver 800MHz machine booting up in OS9.2.2, however non of the disks I have work on this machine. Can anyone help…
    Thanks, Phil A
    February 22, 2012 at 1:59 PM

    Adam Rosen said…
    Phil, the same System Software used with the MDD will work with the QuickSilver. Contact me directly at info@vintagemacmuseum.com
    February 22, 2012 at 5:11 PM

    Unknown said…
    i need help…please! i have to pull cad drawings for my dad off his computer, but i don’t have a print driver with a printer that print 11×17. all the new printers require newer platforms.
    have tried converting the minicad 5.0 drawings with not much success.

    what can i do?
    mac g4
    os 9.2.2
    June 2, 2012 at 3:43 PM

    Adam Rosen said…
    Please contact me to discuss your situation: http://oakbog.com/contact
    June 2, 2012 at 7:10 PM

    Lou Bogart said…
    We are using two dual-boot eMacs running Tiger with OS 9.2.2. We cannot afford to upgrade all our Adobe graphics software (+ computers) and Photoshop 5.5 works just fine in OS 9 and seems “upwardly compatible” where necessary. We have both a DVD installer for Tiger (with OS 9) as well as a set of CD installer disks for Tiger. Recently, my husband’s eMac has developed problems: unable to find start up disk, freezes, etc. I ran Disk Utility in OS 10 from the DVD installer, found some problems and they were repaired. I checked his OS 9 start up disk and there are problems that Disk First Aid cannot repair. I’d like to know how to run Disk First Aid from either the DVD or CD installers, to hopefully fix the problems. (We can boot up in OS 9, we do not use “Classic.”) We may also have a “stand-alone” OS 9.1 installer CD. I have read all of the previous comments, but none seen to apply specifically to eMacs and we can’t afford to make any serious mistakes! Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated (nice to know we’re not the only one’s in this situation). Thanks!
    October 12, 2012 at 4:11 PM

    Adam Rosen said…
    Lou, you can boot the problematic eMac in FireWire Target Disk mode and connect it to the other system for repairs. I recommend getting a copy of DiskWarrior (which is bootable) and trying that as well.
    It’s also possible your eMac hard drive is failing and needs to be replaced.
    October 13, 2012 at 3:11 PM

    Anonymous said…
    Mr Rosen,
    I have a Mac MMD firewire 400 I just purchased that the owner put OS9.2.2 on before he sold it to me. It fires up great, but Simpletext and the Finder will not function. I’ve read this instability can occur with this machine/software combination. I have an older coppy of OS9, should I blank the drive and reload that older OS, or is there a way to repair what I currently already have? Thanks.
    October 15, 2012 at 9:04 PM

    Adam Rosen said…
    G4 MDDs require a non-retail version of Mac OS 9.2.2, installations done from other CDs will not work correctly. The correct version with the right ROMs is available to download via the link to Macintosh Garden at the end of the post.
    October 16, 2012 at 7:56 AM

    Anonymous said…
    Thanks Mr Rosen. One morw thing, the G4 has OS9.2.2 only. Not OSX. Must I blank the drive and reinstall OSX before this will work, according to these directions:

    “To use this software to boot an MDD in OS 9, use Disk Utility in Mac OS X (10.1-10.4) to format a hard drive in Mac OS Extended format, and be sure to choose the option to include “Mac OS 9 Drivers”. Once formatted mount the .dmg file and copy the System and Applications folders from the disk image to the hard drive. Restart your MDD via the Startup System Pref Pane or with the Option key held down, and select your Mac OS 9 drive as the Startup Disk.

    For more info see The Vintage Mac Museum Blog: Reinstalling Mac OS 9 on a PowerMac G4 MDD
    Compatibility Architecture: PPC
    Boots PowerMac G4 MDD (FireWire 400 models only); should also work for other Mac OS 9 compatible G3 or G4 Mac models. Usable as Classic Mode for all PowerPC Macs running Mac OS X.”

    Thanks for your help. I got the download from Macgarden, now I just need to figure out if I need to find a copy of OSX. Also will any version of OSX work?
    Thanks again.
    October 16, 2012 at 9:33 AM

    Adam Rosen said…
    You can either install OS X (your best bet for a G4 tower is Tiger 10.4.x), or you can setup the drive via FireWire Target Disk Mode and a second Mac. If you need further assistance I’d be happy to setup some consulting time, please contact me at info@vintagemacmuseum.com.
    October 16, 2012 at 9:59 AM

    Lou Bogart said…
    Hi Adam, Thanks for your suggestions. We do have Disk Warrior (the version recommended by Alsoft). But while the “problematic” computer’s internal drive recognizes the original DVD installer, it doesn’t read the DW CD,. I can install DW, using our external disk reader, but I wonder if that might jeopardize the files? They recommend against installing the program before running it from the disk. This seems to be a Catch 22 situation. We also have DiskTools Pro and TechTools Pro. They indicate that the actual disk is sound (it is much newer that the eMac). Your thought about using the 2nd eMac as a Target Disk is interesting. Given their size (and weight!) and the fact that they are set up on different floors of our house, this idea will probably be a last resort. (After talking to Apple, which will be the second to last resort…) If you have any other ideas or suggestions, we’d love to hear them! Lou
    October 21, 2012 at 11:41 PM

  2. wanda says:

    Man i just inherited emac, with os 9

  3. Terry says:

    Thanks for making this file available. Has anyone been successful using it to run Classic on a G5 (late 2005) running Tiger? If so, is there any difference in install instructions? If I am running it as Classic, is the OS X format for the hard disk OK??

    • Adam Rosen says:

      This should work fine as Classic on a G5 running Tiger, and yes in this case OS X only format (Apple Partition Map with no OS 9 drivers) for the disk is OK.

  4. Anonymouse says:

    Having MS I can still use a lot of old apps.
    Old and simple. OS 8.6 ~ 7.1
    I have been running OS9.2.2 on a G4 125 Single.
    I also have a dual G4 1.4? but no original disks. Running OSX10.5 happily.
    A nice dual 1.6 Mhz Sonnet upgrade unused sitting in it’s box but no energy or will to install it.

    Adobe Pagmeaker 4.2 -6.5 Fantastic ~ Aldus Pagemaker from version 2. Adobe illustrator 6 or 8 I think Claris works 2 or 4
    All sorts of HTML stuff as well ~ even BASIC
    Heidelberg SCSI scanner and linotype pro software. Old flight sims with serial joysticks.
    I have some very old flying apps designed for mac classics and up to 9600 macs.
    Sadly no Microsoft fly.
    What do I keep and what do I get rid of.

    Do I keep the Quadra 900 with some old Server software in UNIX ? Centris ~ Quadras LC475 with either net and running OS9
    Do I keep old G3’s ?
    Do I keep a 9600 200MP ? ~ 300 Mhz with G4 /1000 upgrade cards and USB
    OS7.5.5 native with a large 64 or 128mb graphics ~ and the 8600 with video capture.
    I have some brilliant Heavy duty Laser printers with very low milage. Loads of toner.
    Old Epson 900 serial printers.

    Yes I enjoyed the simple life.

    But to much stuff :-((((

  5. Pincrete says:

    Just to say that the Mac Garden links for OS 9 are mostly dead, I myself have had problems, firstly for a full install on a late MDD, and more recently to set up Sheepshaver. I eventually found all the necessary (using your OS general advice and building from there) and now have copies of everything I require for both, but getting hold of the originals is becoming increasingly difficult.

    Many sites for both real-Mac and Sheepshaver now have dead links!

    best wishes and also thanks for the advice which was very useful last year
    Paul

  6. Pincrete says:

    I couldn’t get the Mac Garden links to work on several attempts when I needed them for Sheepshaver earlier this year, they were working last year for the MDD. However your link above IS still working today!

    I just discovered today that a decent Sheepshaver tutorial and working links to an OS 7.1(?) startup image and a simple OS 9.0 image are also available at :

    http://www.redundantrobot.com/sheepshaver-tutorial/

  7. Patrick C says:

    That extracted OS9Genreal DMG has been invaluable. I struggled for 3 days to figure out why every boot disk I downloaded, including the original machine disks, simply would not turn into bootable OS installation volumes.

    Then suddenly it’s as simple as dragging and dropping a couple folders? Almost makes me ashamed! Thanks so much.

  8. tommytriggs says:

    ive got a G4 quicksilver & the drive has started making foul noises….can i just copy my OS9/OSX drive to a new drive, or do i need to do some sorta mirroring trick????

  9. Tony says:

    Recently I was given a PowerMac G4 Digital Edition by a friend as he thought I might be interested in restoring it. Unfortunately the hard drive is missing but when plugged into a monitor and powered on it shows the smiley face and a question mark. I have downloaded the OS9 software mentioned above with a windows machine. I have some old ATA hard drives I could put into service for the Mac but I have no idea how to create a bootable disk for the Mac. I used to work in computer retail sales about 20 years ago and we sold Macs but sadly it’s a distant memory. Any help greatly appreciated.

    • Adam Rosen says:

      You’re not going to be able to setup the G4 having only a Windows machine work with, you will need another Mac or a bootable OS install CD to format the drive. The System Software linked here is not a bootable disk image.

      • Tony says:

        Hi Adam, I have made a little progress. I have installed a hard drive in the G4 and borrowed a PowerBook G4 set of install disks from a friend. However when I boot from the first disk I get an Alert saying “This software cannot be installed on this computer”. I guess it may be for a different processor.
        I went ahead and ran Disk Utility anyway and erased the Hard Drive setting the volume format to Mac OS Extended (Journaled) and ticked the “Install Mac OS 9 Disk Driver”.
        Then I used the Windows PC and Transmac to copy the 9.2.2 image I downloaded earlier to a USB stick which I then restored to the Hard Drive with Disk Utility. Unfortunately it still wont boot and I just get a question mark.
        I notice on the second install disk the words “Includes Mac OS 9.2”. Is it possible to somehow extract the files and copy to the Hard Drive in my G4 so it will boot. Thanks for any help, my knowledge of Macs seems to have faded badly.

        • Adam Rosen says:

          You won’t be able to use the PowerBook install discs on the G4 tower, they’re machine specific. The items available on Macintosh Garden for download are copies of the proper System Folder and Applications (Mac OS 9), which you should just be able to copy over to the Mac formatted disk. The use of a PC to do the downloads and transfers may cause problems. If you’d like more help we can arrange for some consulting time, please contact me here.

  10. Essie says:

    I am a graphic designer running OS 9.2.2 on a G4 Quicksilver that is working like a charm. The reason I didn’t upgrade? The cost of Quark, Photoshop and Illustrator software upgrades or new purchases for OS X. I’m a firm believer in, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I have Acrobat, albeit an older version, but can create pdfs just fine with Distiller. On the PC in my studio is a new version of Acrobat Pro, so if any pdf edits are necessary, I can do them on the PC.

    The one problem I have is with the Netscape 7 email client I’m running. It won’t transfer anything larger than 20 megs to my PC. I tried to access DropBox and similar solutions, but Netscape has made that impossible as it doesn’t read the website code correctly and the landing page is severely messed up, with a download link all but invisible. Is there a transfer solution for large files that will work with OS 9.2.2? I can’t use FTP, because I don’t have access to the server of my dog boarding website. Thank you for any help you can render. Outside of that one issue, I’m very happy.

    • Adam Rosen says:

      Hi Essie, I would recommend downloading a copy of Classilla, this is a port of a newer Mozilla-based browser for Mac OS 9. Netscape 7 is very outdated, Classilla less so. You might also consider using a USB Flash drive to copy files from your old Mac to a newer computer, that may be the easiest option.

  11. MD says:

    HI

    I have an old B&W mac running OS9 (cute).
    I also have a G4 desktop, just been given.
    Is there any way to transfer the installed applications without the install discs to the newer machine?

    M

  12. Zaphod says:

    This page was very useful in getting a dual boot OS 9 G4 MDD to function. I still ran into a few pitfalls, so I made a guide that covers some of those. Here you go:

    OS 9 and OS X dual boot instructions

    Boot from the OS X install media (No newer than 10.4 aka Tiger).

    Use Disk Utility to partition the disk. Make sure you check the box to install the OS 9 drivers. The partition for OS 9 should be no larger than 190G, and it should be formatted Mac OS extended, but not journaled. I prefer using clear labels on these partitions, like OS 9 and OS X.

    Install OS X on the OS X partition.

    Boot to OS X.

    Open os9.dmg, and copy the contents to the OS 9 partition. (Note, if you are working with a G4 MDD, you must have a special build of OS 9.22.

    Open System Preferences, choose Classic, and select the OS 9 system folder, then start Classic. This will update the OS to work with Classic, and test that it is working correctly.

    Stop Classic, then go back to the System Preferences and choose Startup. Select the OS 9 partition as the boot OS, and hit the restart button.

    The system should now default boot to OS 9. To boot to OS X, hold Option when the system chimes, and choose OS X.

    Notes: It is sometimes difficult to eject the CD. Holding the left mouse button on boot normally opens the drive. If this fails to work, you can open the CD from open firmware mode. Boot to open firmware mode by holding Command-Option-O-F during startup. Once you are at the command line, type eject cd.

    If you don’t have an OS 9.22 install image, you can find the 9.22 universal image here:
    http://macos9lives.com/smforum/index.php?topic=2109.0

  13. Harold Sink says:

    Hello.

    I have a 15″ Powerbook G4 with 1.5 GHz PowerPC G4 and 1GB DDR SDRAM, with Mac OS X version 10.4.11.

    I know it had been a while since you have published this, but I am curious if you think at this late date I could find a clean OS disk along with Mac 9 for my Powerbook. I don’t know if iPhoto came with the original laptop, but it seems I need it in order transfer files onto a USB drive. I’m sure there’s another way, but I am not Apple savvy.

    It took me a few attempts to transfer photos from my mother’s old iPhone 4s to the laptop, and then I was stuck because everything went to Kodak Share software. I can edit photos but can’t do much else with them.

  14. Hi Adam, thank you for your post but it seems that most of the Mac versions of the OS 9 or OS X on Macintosh Garden are corrupt, and do not work after downloading them, several LowEndMac members have complained about this, can you confirm that what’s there still works?

    Jose F. Medeiros
    http://www.facebook.com/josemedeiros007

  15. staygroovy says:

    Hello Adam, just wanted to simply post my thanks and appreciation for your efforts in keeping this page and its links active.

    For the benefit of those reading this, the information and downloadable .dmg provided have made it a breeze to get my dual 1.25 MDD running like a champ! So in my case I have managed to use all of the chassis’ four disk bays, kept one 80 GB physical drive for OS9, and another larger one for OS-X 10.4 and the key to dual-booting is to simply go into the System Preferences in OS-X and select whichever “Startup Drive” you want.

    I am assuming that once the partitions are configured and ‘blessed’, it’s actually possible to copy over files from a 9.2.2 backup while in OS-X? Not sure if that’s necessary but curious.

    • Adam Rosen says:

      You’re welcome, glad you found things useful. Those G4 machines never die, built like tanks! Once the drives or partitions are setup correctly, yes you should be able to copy all Mac OS 9 files while running OS X. Nothing more than a Finder copy is needed.

    • Sheldon says:

      I have found that copying and moving OS9 from within OSX can cause problems. Invisible “files” called resource forks are left behind and some OS 9 apps will not work correctly or appear to be missing unless opened directly. I’m curious if anyone else has had 100% success?

      • Adam Rosen says:

        Sheldon – the problem usually isn’t with OS X moving older classic Mac files, but rather moving those files onto drives with non-Mac filesystems such as FAT32 DOS formatted drives, sending via FTP, etc.. In those transfers the resource forks can be lost, affecting files and applications. The StuffIt and BinHex formats were used (back in those days) to transfer Mac files across non-Mac filesystems.

  16. Annie says:

    Hello! I have a question. I recently acquired an old iMac g3 from the trash. I messed up and got it into multiple-user mode and can’t get back into the old owner account. Is there any way to put it back into single user mode without the owner password or to reset the owner password? Thanks. It is running os 9.0.4.

    • Adam Rosen says:

      The only way I’m aware of is to remove the Multiple Users Control Panel and Multi-User Startup Extension from the System Folder, then reboot. If your iMac has a FireWire port you can connect it to another Mac using Target Disk Mode, or boot the machine from another (compatible) FireWire disk to access the internal drive. If not, removing the drive from the computer will be necessary to make any changes.

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