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Booting your iBook G4 from a USB stick

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Original source (ben-collins.blogspot.com)
Tags: os-x Mac howto bootable-usb ibook-g4 ben-collins.blogspot.com
Clipped on: 2018-08-13

Technical ramblings of a Linux developer...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Booting your iBook G4 from a USB stick

So I spent the better half of the night trying to figure out how to make my iBook G4 boot from a USB stick. I have the Leopard ISO, but none of my DVD drives will burn Dual Layer, so I needed to use the USB route.

However, none of the nonsense I found on the Internet could give me proper instructions. The system itself doesn't directly support it (holding down option during power-on doesn't show it either).

So I had to dig into my OpenFirmware roots and do it the old fashion way. So here's the quick tip for the rest of you out there (hopefully Google will eventually pull this up in page ranks so it gets hit first and saves people time).

  1. Plug in the USB device where you have copied your bootable system to (I do not cover this part since it's well covered already, google is your friend).
  2. Power on your iBook and hold down Command+Option+O+F. This will take you into the OpenFirmware. Scary looking if your not a computer type person.
  3. Once you see the screen go white with some text on it, you can release the keys in the previous step.
  4. Type "boot ud:,\\:tbxi" and if you're lucky, it will start booting from your USB device. If not, continue on.
  5. Type "dev usb0" at the little ">" prompt and hit return.
  6. Type "ls". If you see something like "/disk@1", continue, else go to the previous step and use "usb1" instead.
  7. If you get here and you haven't seen something like "/disk@1", then you're likely screwed, sorry.
  8. Type "dev disk@1" and hit return, and then "pwd" and hit return again. You should see something that looks like "/pci@f2000000/usb1b,1/disk@1". You will use this in the next step.
  9. Type "boot /pci@f2000000/usb1b,1/disk@1:,\\:tbxi". This is the device part you got in the last step after typing "pwd" with ":,\\:tbxi" added to the end.
  10. Moment of truth, hit enter. You should now be booting into your USB drive. IT WILL BE SLOW SO BE PATIENT

This should also work on other PPC Mac's that don't normally boot from USB, such as G3s.


  1. Image (Asset 1/11) alt=
    boot ud:,\\:tbxi
    boot usb0/disk@1:,\\:tbxi
    boot usb1/disk@1:,\\:tbxi

    See if any of those works

    1. Image (Asset 2/11) alt=boot usb1/disk@1:3,\System\Library\CoreServices\BootX then i hit enter and that was it for me.

    2. Image (Asset 3/11) alt=But it stops at a spinning wheel .... just like my hdd installation does, I'm beginning to suspect something is broken and it's not just a hdd issue. I tried an usb image and my external dvd reader. the normal dvd player just spits my DVDs out again, quite literally ....

    3. Image (Asset 4/11) alt=Thanx!!!!!

  2. Image (Asset 5/11) alt=any suggestion?

  3. Image (Asset 6/11) alt=
    Apple PowerBook6,7 4.9.3f0 BootROM build on 07/05/05 at 11:14:11

    0 > dev usb0 ok
    0 > ls ok
    0 > dev usb1 ok
    0 > ls
    ff9e3dd8: /disk@1 ok
    0 > dev disk@1 ok
    0 > pwd /pci@f2000000/usb@1b/disk@1 ok
    0 > boot /pci@f2000000/usb@1b/disk@1:,\\:tbxi can't OPEN: /pci@f2000000/usb@1b/disk@1:,\\:tbxi

  4. Image (Asset 8/11) alt=

  • Image (Asset 9/11) alt=
    Thank you thank you thank youuuuuu

  • Image (Asset 10/11) alt=
    @niccolo :
    -> try with this command : "boot /pci@f2000000/usb1b,1/disk@1:3,\\:tbxi"

    1. Image (Asset 11/11) alt=
      All works well for me, except for the last part.
      I see the MAC OS X Apple, but after a while it turns into a circkel with an oblique stripe through it.
      Any idea how?

      Cheers, Jeroen

    2. I'm also getting the "cant open device or file" message. Has anyone found a solution? Mine will be to go out and get a blank DVD-DL :)

    3. error load size is too small

    4. can't open as well......???

    5. I get load is to small errors

    6. Skip this guide.
      Didn't work for me.
      (Apple PowerBook6,5 4.8.5fo BootROM built on 04/06/04 @ 16:22:09)

      "0 > BOOT UD:," just boots to my internal HDD

    7. didn't work for my ibook g4.Boot Rom 04/05/04

    8. Brilliant! These instructions worked great but I managed to do something to the USB stick with Leopard on it so that the iBook insists that there is a sector size mismatch and will not boot. Plan b: target disk mode through a MacBook.

    9. boot ud:,\\:tbxi
      boot usb0/disk@1:,\\:tbxi
      boot usb1/disk@1:,\\:tbxi

      every time i'll type this my mac ibook g4 say
      load-size is too small,,
      help me to solve this plsss tnx

    10. Amazing ! It finally did the trick for me ! Leopard is installing on my iBook at the time I write this.

      This is the command which worked : "boot /pci@f2000000/usb1b,1/disk@1:3,\\:tbxi"

      I tried every others on this post (even the ones in comments) and it's the only working one on my ibook. I don't know if it's linked to the usb stick model or the dmg of Leopard I used but now I'm satisfied, it's installing right now ;)

      Thanks a lot Ben Collins and Noel for your advice.

    11. Great! A new life for my old iBook! Thanks Ben!

    12. Would this work for trying to boot up with an ubuntu CD or USB stick?

      1. Yes it does. Booted a Lubuntu Live-CD with this hint.

    13. I see the MAC OS X Apple, but after a while it turns into a circkel with an oblique stripe through it.

      what now?

    14. Dear Ben,

      You are the best man. I spent a lot of time to figure out and failed many many times. Your simplest steps completely solved my problem. I finally got my OS X10.5. Thank u very much!

    15. The following command works for me just now!

      boot usb1/disk@1:3,\\:tbxi

      1. boot usb@1b/disk@1:3,\\:tbxi

    16. Ben, I hope you can help me, man! I just got an Ibook G4 40GB HD, 256MB RAM from a friend and the OSX installed doesn't come up...just stuck on the white screen with the apple logo in grey and a loading bar on it...ah, there is another problem too, the CD-ROM is not working properly, when you put the disc in, it's ejecting right after...I have tried with many different kinds of medias and no lucky with none...so, the problem is the CD-ROm...so, my question is, there is a way to install or create a bootable OS in a USB stick and then start the system from it...? I am searched on google for a long time (about 1 month already) and no lucky...so, if anyone has a solution for that, please, send me an e-mail: freder.holland@gmail.com

      I've downloaded the OSx Panther and Tiger, but there is no way to burn and try on the iBook because the CD-Rom is damage...so, my last hope is the USB port to revive this "old boy"...lol.

      Thank you very much, and sorry for the long text :P


    17. There are 3 install disks that came with my iBook G4. Do I have to copy all the Three ISOs to the USB stick?

      1. I had a lot of errors, but turns out i had a bad burn. So after re-burning the iso it was smooth sailing at step four! Thanks you are awesome!!!

    18. Thanks Ben! This worked first time great!

    19. Leopard ISO is about 7GB File. How are you getting an iso to copy a 7GB file when FAT32 can only have 2GB max per file?

    20. If you are having problems .. Go down the list.

      boot usb1/disk@1:1,\\:tbxi
      boot usb1/disk@1:2,\\:tbxi <- Worked for me
      boot usb1/disk@1:3,\\:tbxi

      Thank for the guide Ben and thanks for the rest, people !

      1. This worked on my Mac Mini G4, usb1 is the one next to the DVI connector.

    21. Thxxxxxx alot guys....!
      i couldn't get it to work for a month but decided to give it a last try before sending it to a retailer and wolla! This command Worked for me...
      boot /pci@f2000000/usb@1b/disk@1:3,\\:tbxi

    22. Hello there,

      First of all, thank you for the method. Unfortunately, I'm having a hard time with the "Warning: sector size mismatch! can't OPEN: usb1/disk@1:1,\\:tbxi" error.

      - I used "dev / ls" to locate the disk, and it appears it is effectively mounted as "disk@1" on "usb@1b"
      - I used DEVALIAS to see the disk alias for "usb@1b", and it appears it really is "usb1"
      - The partition number appears to be "1"
      - I tried every single method listed in here, none of which worked (always getting this error, or "partition not found" etc if I try other values)

      If somebody had a solution for that problem, I would be infinitely grateful *-*

    23. I followed your steps but when I hit return there will be a NO sign.Why is this happening
      ibook g4 1.33ghz

      1. When I do this, I get the apple logo, and then the "no entry" sign. How do I fix this?

      2. When I do this, I get the grey apple logo screen and then it changes to the "no-entry" logo. Is there a solution to this?

    24. Well this isn't working for my I book g4 ...
      I got the disc image .dmg file I put it on my USB using transmac on my PC and after I do all this it stays on a grey screen with just an apple logo on it and won't boot ):

    25. Work! iBook G4 1,42 Ghz with USB Stick : )

    26. I tried every one of the comments, but appear this message:
      USB-MS-CLASS: Open of DISK-LABEL can't open pci@f2000000/usb@1b/disk@1:3,\\:tbxi Can't open device or file.

      Someone knows why happen this?

      Of course it's a iBook G4 Power PC 512MB in RAM

    27. Hello everyone. Since I have this PowerBook G4 1.67GHz and 1Gb RAM old laptop with no main battery, with dead internal PRAM battery (I guess) and most importantly with a faulty DVD drive that works only now and then before it heats up and stops, I decided to try the instructions on this blog. I used an external LG DVD drive instead of a USB stick. The laptop already had OS X 10.5.8 on it so I decided to try to install either Ubuntu 10.04 PPC Lucid Lynx or Yellow Dog Linux 6.1 PPC, both well known to work (except Airport card that has to have its driver compiled and manually configured) on most PPC Macs. Conclusions: for this particular PowerBook G4 the only command that works to boot from the external USB DVD drive was:

      boot /pci@f2000000/usb@1b/disk@1:3,\\:tbxi

      This command opens the installer disc and installs properly OS X 10.5.1 from the original dvd disc that I have. On the other hand, when I tried to open the installer disc for both linux versions I wanted to try to install, the command worked in the way of opening the disc on the external USB DVD drive (I could hear it spinning) but I got the message that cd:\yaboot\install cannot be opened (yaboot is the bootloader used for ppc versions of linux). It may work directly from a USB stick but I decided not to try to compile the installer on a USB stick. At least I know that if I'll ever have to reinstall OS X I will be able to do it from an external USB DVD drive. Last mention: the external drive must be also plugged-in in its external power supply (either the 12V one for the big 5.25 inches drives or the 5V one for external slim DVD drives). Good luck.

    28. Hi. the boot /pci@f2000000/usb@1b/disk@1:3,\\:tbxi doesnt work for me, I have also tried all boot usb1/disk@1:1,\\:tbxi
      boot usb1/disk@1:2,\\:tbxi <- Worked for me
      boot usb1/disk@1:3,\\:tbxi

      none worked out, it says unknown word..

      1. Make sure you type "boot" correctly, as I once typed it "bot" with my faulty keyboard and got that error.

    29. For me too its not work none of these so what can i do can u help me??

    30. Hold alt and press power button chose usb druve and hit enter

    31. All I get is LOAD-SIZE too small. Is there any way around this?

    32. OK this is gonna make you feel a little stupid, because it sure did me. Make sure the flash drive is formatted with Apple Partition Map instead of GUID. It will save you may headaches.

    33. Im on a Powerbook G4 1.5GHz, I dont know if anyone looks at this anymore, but when i do this from an ipod, i get "USB SETUP ERROR: 40140000 400001" 3x then it says "RESET-PORT timed out 1 0 1" and it freezes and im forced to power down the laptop

      When i attempt it on my USB flash drive it either says it cant access it, or it flashes the screen grey like its about to do something then goes to a light grey screen with the circle with the slash through it in the middle of the screen

    34. HELP, the one that worked for me was

      boot usb1/disk@1:3,\\:tbxi

      BUT i get a circle with a line through it, what does this mean? I have a ibook g4 1064 mhz, 256 ram, and a 20gb hdd. Email would be appreciated @ tylercloutier@gmail.com

    35. change "dev usb0" for "dev usb1" it worked for me

    36. Step 4 worked great on my 1.33 ghz 1.5gb ram ibook!1st time I tried I tried every other site's suggestions mac hints,ect,ect hours of nothing then blam the 1st try from this page and leo was booting!Thanks Ben!

    37. Many thanks!
      For me, iBook G4 PowerPC 1 GB RAM, step 4 solved it.
      Wish I had found your post about a week earlier :)

    38. Dear Ben, my iBook G4, 1.42Ghz wont do anything with any of the commands you suggested. Actually this one: boot usb1/disk@1:2,\\:tbxi gets the mac booting from the USB and then the message ''this software cannot be installed on this computer'' appear....I am puzzled Ben. I hope you can help.

    39. Hi everyone.

      My iBook G4 accept commands but after enter the code and hit return it just freeze every time.


    40. Just ran into some of the same problems as others seeing the "Prohibitory" symbol (circle with line through it) while booting from a USB stick. Use these tips to create a proper USB stick:

      In Disk Utility, select the USB device and then the Partition tab. Create a new GUID partition with 1 partition (HFS). After this, select the .dmg for the MacOS X install and select the Restore tab. Next, drag the new partition you created to Destination (not the USB device itself).

      The Prohibitory sign is because it cannot find the root filesystem (if you boot with Single-User/Command+S, you will see it saying "Still waiting for root device.").

      This is true for all versions of Mac OS X, not just the PowerPC versions. I had this issue on my MacBook Pro/Intel system as well.

    41. I got it to work by directing it to the specific place on the usb drive:
      boot usb1/disk@1:3/System\Library\CoreServices\BootX then I hit enter and voila Mac OS X 10.5.6 (updated to 10.5.8 with the first software updateran).

      My machine iMac G4 17" 1GHz 1Gb 80Gb HDD

    42. Hi, I just got an old G4 PowerPC (733MHz) from my dad and want to install the latest version on OSX using open firmware. I have mountain lion on a usb thumb drive but when I press Alt to see boot devices and can only see the hard drive. I followed your instructions to open firmware but I get the following problem.

      0> dev usb1 ok
      0 > ls
      ff9c7f8: /disk@1 ok
      0 > dev disk@1 ok
      0 > pwd /pci@f2000000/usb@19/disk@1 ok
      0 > boot /pci@f2000000/usb@19/disk@1:,\\:tbxi can't OPEN: /pci@f2000000/usb@19/disk@1:,\\:tbxi

      Can you please help me as I really want to try and use this machine as this is my first mac. Also I tried to get DIR on disk@1 but it looks scrambled a bit.


      1. You cannot install Mountain Lion on PowerPC based systems. The newest you can run is 10.5.8/Leopard.

    43. Muchas gracias.

      Ibook G4, step worked wonderful.

      Installing at this very moment.

    44. thank you for those steps are well worked but it took too long, so can you help me is for how long will it take to reboot?
      thank for your help , am appreciate your contribution and the steps mentioned above

    45. I tried seemingly everything, and on my best attempts I was still getting "sector size mismatch". Finally, on what seemed like attempt #200, I stumbled upon my solution. Using, disk utility, I went again into the partition tab. There, I finally, noticed and clicked on the "options" button below the partition graphic. In there, it had been set to a MBR partition table. I changed it to "Apple Partition Map". Then I set it up with the one partition again, and saved that. Next, again I went to the restore tab and transferred over my bootable partition (or possibly your image) to the partition just created. The next attempt to boot with the method beautifully described here didn't give me the mismatch error, but instead began booting with the apple logo! Sadly, it shortly went to the circle with the slash through it, and I thought I was still stuck. Continuing my insane attempts, I tried holding option from a cold boot and was, surprise of all surprises, able to see my usb partition, select it, and boot it fully! Thanks to everyone for the suggestions, not least Ben for the initial writeup that spurred the discussion!

    46. This worked for me when TRYING to install Lubuntu 14.04.2 LTS:
      boot usb1/disk@1:3,\\:tbxi

      I was so excited to see the blue Lubuntu splash screen. But it won't go into live mode...got some silly Radeon error:
      [drm:radeon_get_bios] *ERROR* Unable to locate a BIOS ROM.
      Then it drops into the BusyBox shell with an prompt. :-(

      ** curses ATI hardware!!! **

    47. Worked like a charm. Looks like Google did its job as I found you right away! Thanks for your help!!

    48. I spent over an hour trying to firgure this out until finally I realized the usb stick I was trying to boot from didn't have anything on it. :(

    49. Thanks man! It worked. I did it with an external hard drive and im installing it on my ibook g4. And yes yor are on the top when i searched for it!

    50. Hi I have iBook g4 mid 2005 and I have a .DMG of 10.5.8
      I restored my flash drive with the DMG then booted the iBook with the USB drive. When I did that the iBook treated my flash drive as the main hard drive and if I am to remove the flash drive the computer will not operate as a restored computer. So I keep the flash drive in. I was told to open the flash drive and then hit install is x 10.5.8 but that's not even an option in the flash drive at all its just a bunch of folders as you'd see on Mac such as "applications"
      So I thought maybe use the drive to restore the Mac HD but nothing happened Mac HD is now called untitled and the computer doesn't even want to boot up at all without the flash drive.

      Any help appreciated

    51. Just upgraded my old ibook g4 to a cheap SSD I picked up on ebay (I use it for writing, so it doesn't matter that it's old).

      Didn't particularly want to clone the old drive (ok, I forgot), so I've been trying to use this method to reinstall tiger using a 10.4.6 disc image.

      Ran into several problems, this is a good place to leave the problems and solutions, since it's the top result in google.

      1) No USB disc seen when doing dev usb0 ls or dev usb1 ls
      USB drives aren't great at being 100% compatible with USB spec, so you run into all sorts of problems with older computers (PC, Mac, Sparcstations, etc).

      I had to go through nine different USB thumb drives before I found one that was both recognized (4 of 9 were never seen) and booted all the way (4 of 5 which were recognized never booted correctly).

      2) Prohibited symbol
      I tried to write the bootable image using an El Capitan machine. The Disk Utility changed from Yosemite and older, and using the "partition" option frequently makes unbootable USB drives. You have to use "Erase" instead to get a working bootable drive to write your disc image to.

      3) Eternal loading
      Apparently the install CDs don't work if your date resets. When you load OpenFirmware it tells you the current date. When the date is the system default (end of the year, 1969) the boot scripts don't create the /tmp folder correctly, and the installer hangs before it ever opens because it runs out of space.

      If you run into an eternal load time, make sure the date is correct. In Open-firmware you set the date using:
      decimal dev rtc seconds minutes hours day month year set-time
      so for example:
      decimal dev rtc 10 24 16 16 11 2015 set-time
      sets the date to Nov 16, 2015, 4:24 pm

      4) grey screen, nothing visible
      The original Tiger install disc doesn't have drivers for the latest ibook or powerbook g4. Buying a retail DVD is a gamble. I bought three and all of them ended up being the original release.

      You can find images for the 10.4.6 DVD on PowerPC abandonware sites, and it seems to have drivers for all of the g4 models built into them.

      Once those kinks were worked out, however, this method worked beautifully to get everything up and running again.

      Thanks for posting this!

    52. Sometimes if volumes don't appear in Startup Manager (what you get when you hold down the Option key at startup), you need to reset the Mac's PRAM, NVRAM, and Open Firmware. Shut down the Mac, then power it up, and before the screen lights up, quickly hold down the Command, Option, P, and R keys, until the Mac has chimed twice more after the powerup chime. Then, before the screen lights up, hold down Command-Option-O-F until the Open Firmware screen appears. Then enter these lines, pressing Return after each one:


    53. I tried everything on my 15" ibook G4. Finally

      boot /pci@f2000000/usb1b,1/disk@1:3,\\:tbxi

      worked. But Im stuck at a "light blue screen" now. :S

    54. boot /pci@f2000000/usb1b,1/disk@1:3,\\:tbxi

      will make the USB Stick boot on all my ibooks, but on one it stops at a blue screen right after the apple logo.

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