Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Completed Mod - The 20" iMac G4 / Apple Cinema Display Touch Screen Mod

I am thrilled with how this mod came out.  Not only does it look great, but I really believe that it will stand the test of time.  It is rock solid stable and an absolute pleasure to use.  And to be honest, relatively speaking, the mod was not that difficult.  It can be done in a few days.  For those interested, I can give very detailed instructions.

OK, I wanted to make it this all-in-one BADLY! But, after almost shorting out my itx mobo, I was in no mood to open the mac mini up and put it inside.  That said, the older generation mac mini would likely be superior to the mini itx in terms of fit.  However, the new mac mini is a no-go without serious modification to the internal faraday cage.  For now I am going to keep the mac mini external.  I may revisit this in the future, but for now, I put the power adapter, touch controller, and usb hub into the base.  I was also going to add the griffin powerwave adapter, but am considering trying to track down an iFire adapter (if the price isn't astronomical).  They both power the Apple Pro Speakers. but the iFire doesn't require external power.

Here are several additional pictures:
    The ports on the back are simply a USB (to connect the USB hub), an AC cord (the cinema display power adapter is at the top of the dome), and a DVI.

The 5 wire touch screen cable is still a little but of a work in progress.  I'm confident that Ill be able to hide it under the front bezel, but I am likely going to have to cut into the ribbon cable.  Because I do not want to damage the 20" touch screen, I have purchased, a much smaller 7" 5 wire resistive touch screen to experiment with.  But for now, this works fine.

This mod has really been my favorite so far.  It feels exactly like the original iMac to me, plus the touch screen.  This was certainly not the direction I expected to go when I restarted this project, but am very happy where I wound up.  Again any comments or even constructive criticism would be appreciated.  Thanks again and happy modding!!!

Update: Touch Panel wires hidden under bezel


  1. Hi J,

    Thanks for the summary, you are the authority on this subject!

    Am intrigued by the touch screen option but know little about them. How does the touch screen adhere to the LCD? & is there any matt screen option?

    Am also wondering, if I discard some of the neck wires what exactly is it that makes feeding wires through the neck such a nightmare?



  2. Roger, it was kinda fun to review. Projects like this are always interesting as there are so many different ways to do them.

    To get the one wire through its not all that difficult, but can get frustrating. The top part of the neck is the problem. The wires make a pretty sharp turn, so its a little difficult to get the wires to go in that direction. Plus any force while the neck is open can cause the spring to fall off its moorings. Its just easy to get frustrated when that keeps happening. With the hybrid method its not that bad - take out the microphone cable and put in the power cable. The cables of the ACD are thicker (more and looser shielding) than the native iMacs) so when you replace all of them, the last one (whichever you choose) is nearly impossible.

    I just love this design with a touchscreen - its just not a standard size monitor 20" 16:10, so options are limited. Now buying a capacitive touch screen from a distributor from a company like 3M is an option (they have nearly every conceivable dimension), but the cost is very high - I mean >$400. And just because you buy a capacitive monitor does not mean its definitely multi touch.

    I have found 2 20" touch screen overlays. One was a surface acoustic wave touchscreen. It was also somewhat reflective, but what is awesome about it is its resolution, its glass, not plastic. Its also amazingly sensitive. The problems I had with it and why I didn't use it for this is because its HEAVY (again its glass), its controller needed additional power more than USB, and could not find drivers for OSX. So I went with a 5 wire resistive screen. I've been pretty happy with its (its better than 4 wire). I just hate how glossy it is. When the monitor is on its not noticeable directly. But off center, its like looking in a mirror.

    I used an adhesive to secure the touch overlay to the iMac g4's native bezel (which had all pins removed). I played around with different latch mechanism, but I found what works best is actually clear strips of supervelcro. It works great - the bezel and overlay, snap on. I know its not advanced but its the easiest and most secure. The resistive screen is really quite light.

    Touch screens keep improving and going down in price, now I'm seeing more touch screen films. i wanted to make sure the touch screen was very easy to remove. I have a feeling that this will be improved and upgraded over the next few years.

  3. Hello,

    Long team reader, first time poster, let me say how I'm impressed by your work.

    I have two working G4 20" and one broken 17" , and I think I will attempt your mod in the next few months.

    Keeping the mac mini external is really the solution as far as I think, since you still have the possibility to upgrade easily (just have to change the mini and you're done). In addition, you don't loose warranty as the mini is not altered. You can also hide it directly into the furniture, in a drawer for example.

    I have some questions remaining : are the USB ports on the Cinema Display still working ? Is the firewire on the screen working also ? Why did you put a USB hub in the dome if the usb ports are working in the screen ? Did you ever consider to add a CD/DVD/ maybe Blue Ray in the dome ?

    Lastly, I would be extremely thankful if you could manage to post a detailed step by step how-to to perform this mod. I hope this will allow a lot of persons, and not only me, to bring this old G4 back to life again.

    However, I will wait a little bit before perfoming the mod, just waiting for a decrease in the price of the components.

    Lastly, I have noticed this stereo ampifier :
    Do you think this can be used instead of Griffin Ifire or Powerwave? Are you satisfyed by the Powerwave, by the way ? The apple pro speakers are really part of the Imac and hearing their great sound is also part of the challenge.

    Many thanks for your help and your blog !
    Lionel (Paris)

  4. Lionel, thank you very much, I would be happy to post a step by step and to be honest, this is my favorite mod so far. Unlike other mods which I've treated very gingerly - I am using this as one of my primary computers and although time consuming, its really not that difficult. I've actually updated it and I will be posting the changes shortly. But, I will work on a parts list and step-by-step this weekend.

    I agree about the external mini. The footprint is really so small and updating the computer is as simple as connecting a DVI or HDMI cable. When I was considering opening up my 1.8ghz mini I thought that I'll probably need to this computer in a year.

    The USB ports do work. The reason there is a hub in the base is simply that I have both the USB touchscreen and the USB from the monitor which go into the base and I only wanted one USB cable to have to go to the mini for both. I did not connect the firewire ports, however, if you do not use a touchscreen, you can use those extra wires for the firewire or try to squeeze the extra wire through the neck.

    I have used a Bluray on some of my other mods. As there is no computer in the base - it fits easily. All you need is an internal drive and a SATA to USB adapter (about $20) and you're all set. Put it in the original drive caddy, screw it in and you're all set. I was actually going to put it in this mod, but apple's lack of bluray support, coupled with the fact that I have the mini and its DVD drive already on my desk caused me to hold off. If I did hide the mini I would certainly put it in. Remember you actually need "stuff" in the base - especially the 20" to ensure it doesn't tip over.

    I am almost ashamed to say it, but I bought the bullet and grossly overpayed for an ifire. The powerwave was ok, but remember its a USB device not just an audio out. Plus, it required external power. Really any amp should work (just don't blow out the speakers - I believe they are 10watts). You would just need to wire the 2.5mm jack. But, I've never done it, so I can't say for sure.

  5. Hello, can you send me detailed instructions on this wonderful experience? I have a G4 I-MAC 700Mhz bat today, is very very older for all programs and WEB.
    Walter Mirabile

  6. Walter, I am working on a step by step for this mod and will post it shortly.

  7. hey relly cool display but how could i buy one

  8. The Display itself is a 20" Apple Cinema Display, although they are not made anymore, they are certainly available on ebay.

    The touch screen is a 5 wire resistive touchscreen from a company called nyjtouch. It is also available from ebay here:

    Hope this helps, JB

  9. I often get emotionally involved. Like when I read your post, I can cry, laugh, sad, funny, depending on your written words. I think you are a sensitive person.

  10. With a capacitive touchscreen the conductive material indium tin oxide (ITO) is additionally used to coat the outside board of glass, Faytech

  11. Nice post! This is a very nice blog that I will definitively come back to more times this year! Thanks for informative post. large touch screen monitor