The cheapskate's guide to G3 iMacs

» Or: How to get a dated but cool hacking box for cheap.

First of all, why would you even want an old iMac? Why, because they are pretty, cheap, and make excellent hacking boxes, of course. Use that boring Windows machine for work and a colorful iMac for stuff you actually like doing. ;-)

So what are the benefits and drawbacks of a G3 iMac? Let's break it down.

The good

The bad

The ugly

There are rumors that Mac OS X 10.5, Leopard, won't run on G3s at all. Ugh. It's unclear at this point whether this will actually be the case. If so, G3 users will still be able to get by with Tiger for a while, but eventually new versions of many apps will be Leopard-only, making it more and more difficult to stay up-to-date. :-(

(There's also a possibility that Leopard won't be officially supported, but that it can be made to run on G3s anyway, with some clever hackery...)

Your choices

There's more to choose from than just colors.

The G3 iMacs came in two variants: tray loading and slot loading. In general, a slot-loading iMac is a bit more modern and has better specs than its tray-loading counterpart.

Date Color Speed (MHz) Type
Aug 1998 bondi blue 233 tray
Oct 1998 bondi blue 233 tray
Jan 1999 strawberry, blueberry, lime, purple, tangerine 266 tray
Apr 1999 strawberry, blueberry, lime, purple, tangerine 333 tray
Oct 1999 strawberry, blueberry, lime, purple, tangerine, graphite 350/400 slot
Jul 2000 graphite, ruby, snow, indigo, sage 350/400/450/500 slot
Feb 2001 indigo, graphite, flower power, blue dalmatian 400/500/600 slot
Jul 2001 indigo, graphite, snow 500/600/700 slot

Also note that while some Macs come with CD-ROM drives, others have CD-RW or DVD-ROM players. This really depends on the actual machine rather than the series. Ditto for memory. Naturally, the older machines started out with less memory (32/64 Mb) than the later ones (128/256 Mb).

What to look for

Now go on eBay (or your favorite second-hand Mac store) and get the machine you want. :-) Here are my recommendations.

Some considerations

These pretty much speak for themselves, but I thought I'd mention them anyway.


Since your Mac is not a Dual Core, you probably won't want to bog it down by running all kinds of unnecessary stuff. Here are a few things you can do to free up memory and cycles:


Update/1: There's now a cheapskate guide for clamshell iBooks too! ^_^