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Saturday, July 6, 2013

If you purchased or received an older Mac, this blog is your friend

If you got an older Mac at a garage sale or from eBay or as a graduation present from your parents/grandparents/someone else who loves you…then this blog is your friend. We’ve got your back.

First, what kind of Mac did you get? Go to the Apple menu in the upper left-hand corner of your screen.

Click on it once:


Do you see the red rectangle at the top enclosing “About This Mac”?

Now click on “About This Mac”

You’ll see this:

  • PastedGraphic1-2013-07-6-08-43.png

What is your processor? If the line for Processor says some sort of Intel processor, then you have a post-2006 Mac. If the line says PowerPC G3 or G4 or G5, then you have a Mac made between 2000 and 2005. Apple switched from its own PowerPC processors to the ubiquitous Intel processors in 2005.

How much memory do you have? Always try to install the maximum amount of memory your particular Mac will hold.

And most important, what version of OS X came with your Mac? I have OS X 10.8.4, the latest and greatest. If you got a PowerPC Mac, you will have at most OS X 10.5.8. That is the last version of OS X that Apple made for its PowerPC chips. You should have version 10.4.11 at least.

Are PowerPC systems dead in the water? No, they last a long, long time.

If you got a PowerPC system for your graduation or bought it on eBay or a garage sale; all is not lost.

#1, Do you have the disks that came with the original installation. You can get disks from eBay, but the seller should have included them in the sale.

#2, Do you have broadband Internet? Dial-up Internet is slow and only sufficient for e-mailing and surfing the Web. If you want to play movies or music on your Mac or download programs; then you need broadband Internet. If you have ATT U-Verse, Verizon FIOS, Time-Warner Cable, Comcast cable, or Charter cable; then you have the wiring in your home for broadband Internet. You may even have the box, called a “router," necessary to connect your Mac to the Internet.

Check your telephone or cable bill to see if you have Internet included if you don’t know.

#3, Did you get a keyboard and mouse and monitor with your system? If not, do not worry. You can use a conventional Windows keyboard and 2 -button mouse with your Mac. You just need to make sure the keyboard and mouse come with USB plugs and NOT PS/2 plugs.

As for monitors, Apple switched from proprietary monitor plugs and jacks when it first brought out the first iMac. It had a VGA jack on the back.


Later models, such as the first Mac Minis, had DVI-D video ports on the back.


You may have a monitor you’d like to use, such as your big screen TV. But how do you plug a big screen TV into your Mac if the plug and jack don’t match? Answer is, you get an adaptor. The cheapest place to get these adaptors is through the Web site The Apple Store may have them or not, but they charge an arm and a leg for them. How did you think Apple made all that money, anyway?

You have a variety of sources for monitors. I once found a VGA tube monitor in the laundry room of my condo complex! But in your case, I’d look at these vendors here in Los Angeles: (1) Best Buy (2) Staples (3) Office Depot (4) Office Max (5) Frys Electronics

You can get these keyboards and mice from a wide range of stores and Internet outlets. I have seen them in the office supply section of my local Rite-Aid. You can go to Staples, Office Depot, and Office Max. Best Buy and Radio Shack have them, as does Frys Electronics. And, of course, you can get a keyboard made for an Apple Mac at the Apple Store.

#4, The trick to using a Windows keyboard with a Mac is this: You substitute the Windows key (usually marked Win or stamped with the Microsoft Windows symbol) for the Apple Command key. If yougo back to my earlier article on using Windows keyboards with Macs, you can download free software to swap key functions on the keyboard.

#5, What about software? What about an office suite that can read and write Microsoft Office?!

You’re in luck. You can use the office software.

Slightly off-topic, LibreOffice and OpenOffice and NeoOffice can all read each other’s files. They have split off from each other for various reasons: feuds between developers, not wanting to wait for the head office to approve their software updates, etc.

In any case, if you have come into possession of a vintage PowerPC Mac, I can suggest this office suite for you.

#6, Here are the system requirements for


My thanks to the Web site for this use of a piece of their screen.

You have other choices in office suites. You can get Microsoft Office 2004 for Macfrom eBay. This is still good software. It’s only limitation is that it reads and writes the Microsoft Office 97-2004 formats (.doc, .xls, .ppt) not the current formats of .docx, .xlsx, .pptx. So if you get a document in these formats, you need to download and install Microsoft’s conversion software that opens documents in Mac Office 2008/Windows Office 2007 format. You might want to get LibreOffice just for its ability to read an astonishingly wide range of formats such as Windows Office 2007/2010/2013 and Mac Office 2008/2011.

You also have Apple’s own Appleworks integrated suite. If you have it, you should make sure it’s upgraded to version 6.2.9. You can get the upgrade program here. No, LibreOffice won’t read its proprietary formats for word processing and spreadsheets and presentations and vector drawings.

What about iWork? Apple intends iWork for the latest and greatest versions of its operating system and hardware.

And you have the option of going on the cloud to use Google Drive for word processing and spreadsheets and presentations. But that’s another topic.

Well, I’ve stuffed quite a lot into this blog post. I’ll have more tomorrow.

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