Tuesday, May 24, 2011

iMac G4 20" All-In-One ECX Mod - Completed

Left Side with computer on

There are still some small tweaks I may make, but for all intensive purposes this mod is now complete.  I completed the ports with one exception, I still haven't figured out how to handle the apple cinema display's power cable.  As it plugs directly into its power supply, there is no "female version" of this plug.  I think I'm going to experiment with different connectors, but for now the middle section with the power cables is unfinished.  I am also likely going to add an HDMI extender for "HDMI" out capabilities.  The onboard intel graphics are 1080p capable and I have included a bluray player, thus this computer may make a reasonable HTPC.

The power cables come out the back.There are 4 USB cables to the left.  The firewire ports are empty (may put HDMI out here).  To the right is an ethernet and Power LED, HDD LED.  The original power button is also operational.

The computer currently boots to windows.  As I explained in a previous post, the onboard graphics work, but with limitations on hackintoshes.  To get snow leopard on here, I would have to purchase a 1.8" SSD (it will not reognize the compact flash) - which I would be fine with as long as it was fully functional.  This appears to be a problem that many people in the hackintosh community are working on, so if a solution presents itself, its certainly first on my list to add.  As I am showing this right now to demonstrate a hardware hack, I again respectfully askto refrain from comments about how sacreligious it is to see windows on an iMac etc.

The drive is a "killer" in this mod.  Any slim or non-powered drive tray is not able to push open the door.  The drive probably occupies 60% of the "usable volume" of the entire dome and it has been the first thing to go in most iMac G4 mods.  Because of the ECX board I was able to spare the drive and use a bluray to boot.  Although optical media is getting somewhat useless, its still one of the signiture features of this computer.  And if I do go the HTPC route it will be a valuable addition.

I also need a proprietary adapter for onboard audio.  If I use HDMI out for an HTPC I won't need onboard audio and I have a griffin audio adapter which allows me to use the native speakers, so its not a necessity.

As you can see this is certainly NOT a hard core gaming computer.  But it is a good machine on par with the current generation of mac minis.  It is noticably faster than the (2 generations ago) mac mini that I currently have hooked up to my touchscreen mod.

I highly recomend this mod.  Even if you could get the native inverter working with an external power source you would still need to manage a 24V, 12V 5V, and 3.3V lines.  The LCD controller for the apple cinema display does it for you.  Except for that this is really no different than the DVI hacks for the 15 and 17".  This is much easier than the previous mod as you do not have to do any cutting or modifying of the case itself.

The 3 things that do concern me about this mod are

1) Not a touch screen - to keep the weight neutral and the mod as close to original as possible I did not go the touchscreen route.  I am currently experimenting with optical sensors.  If I could incorporate these into the bezel it would be essentially weightless and would save me from having to put a poor resolution piece of plastic in front of the monitor display.

2) No Snow Leopard - I didn't want to put a troublesome video work around on just to say its Mac OS X.  I'm going to keep my eyes open and maybe Lion will be different or maybe the next generation of ECX board will have a different graphics option.  And that brings me to #3...

3) The future of ECX boards.  I love this form factor.  Its not only perfect for this mod but I could see doing a lot with it.  The board was developed with the intention of having the power of a mini itx board in a smaller form factor.  But, this is the only small form factor board that I've found that uses something superior to an Atom processor.  As these boards are not mainstream, there is no guarantee that they will be upgraded to anything like sandy bridge architecture.  While I was hoping to see the next generation mini become "smaller", for my purposes they actually became "bigger".  Yes they are thinner, but they are now actually harder to fit within the iMac G4 shell.  But, for now I'm going to enjoy this mod.

I hope people find this helpful and I would love to see people replicate or improve upon this mod.  Starting out I did not think a core 2 duo all in one was possible with the native iMac shell - especially not the 20", but here it is.  As always, I welcome all questions and comments.

Thanks for reading.


  1. Hey JBerg. I just finished wiring up my DVI end to the native neck wires, but no dice. Would you mind checking out my post and seeing if there's any glaring mistakes?

    Thanks so much!


  2. Hey did you use a multimeter to verify all your connections. Also did you try the red inverter wire to 5V as one reader recommended? No problem I will check it out now.

  3. Dave, I have posed what I think is your problem on your blog. I think you are not taking into account that DVI pin numbers are based on the FEMALE connector and you are using a male connector in the form of a DVI cable. So your pins are likely the mirror image of where they should be.

  4. Hi JBerg,
    I just wanted to tell you that I have finished my iMac 17" mod. Currently it plays some music since hours and is perfectly silent - no cooler, no HDD inside. I actually used this Intel MoBo (Atom N270 with mobile GMA950) with LVDS output - your posts and information here were very helpful for me while building the mod, thank you. Now I have a fully-functional Hackintosh that does not look like one. The description is again in German, but if youz might take a look - there's also a lot of pictures there.

  5. Jean Luc - thats wonderful and I'm delighted by your progress. I am happy that this blog was helpful to you. It's such a great desktop to use and I know you'll enjoy it.

    A couple of questions. Were you able to create dedicated ports in the back? When I tried to use a mini itx mobo I thought the fit may be very tight. Secondly, I was thinking about a post referencing and citing some of the work done by people who have been reader of my blog. I was hoping to reference your work with picture and link to your blog if you are ok with this. Thanks and well done.

  6. Jberg,
    I posted a link to the description together with my name, but here it is again: http://www.brennecke.org/?page_id=553.

    On the photos here (http://www.brennecke.org/?page_id=628) you can see the different ports I created on the back - 3x USB, VGA, Line Out, Network and power supply (12V line). There are also a reset switch (helpful during Hackintosh isnatllation) and a brightness control potentiometer for the LEDs (which is really necessary with this Samsung LCD display).
    You can also see on some pictures that space is not that big problem at the back. One corner of the Mini ITX board sits below the VGA output, that's when I decided to solder the connection cable on my own. But everything else uses standard cable connections to the board; especially the USB Ports.

    I completely left out the board backside USB Ports and used them only for internal purposes (power for Sleep light, Bluetooth, startup sound). I also followed your recommendation and left out the internal Audio - the ALC662 reproducible prevents sleep on Hackintoshs. However, the USB Audio stick is inside the housing.

    Of course you might publish the links to my documentation - will also try to translate it to English for a bigger audience.

  7. Jberg,
    Here's the link to the complete story with six pages: http://www.brennecke.org/?page_id=553

    As you may see in some of the pictures in http://www.brennecke.org/?page_id=628, space seems not a big issue at the backside. So I was able to create 3 USB Ports, VGA, Line out, Network, power supply, a reset switch (very helpful during Hackintosh installation) and a brightness control for the LED backlights.

    I connected the VGA and the network with small cable extensions (much soldering and many heat shrink tubes) to the motherboard backside. For the USB ports I used the internal header (2 available with 2 USB each, the last one I used for USB AUdio).

    The Hackintosh is fully standby enabled (with internal ALC662 Audio switched off completely), features WiFi 802.11b/g and even a startup sound module. I also created a small circuit to control the display backlight (on/off and brightness, controlled by an antiquated potentiometer. This circuit also simulates the dimming sleep-on-off phase of real Macs when my iMac is sleeping.

    Of course you might link my page to your reference board. If you need more pictures than the ones available, please just ask me.

  8. Hi,
    Great tune!
    Does this boot Win7 directly from default Compact Flash card type II port ?so simply insert a CF II card and install/boot from, or i miss something?

  9. Thats all - Windows 7 will boot directly from the compact flash. But, do not expect SSD speeds - without a ridiculously expensive card. Its about the same as a Hard drive. I have not figured out how to get snow leopard to recognize it, however.

  10. I like your blog very much. The consent of this blog is no doubt super. I will visit again to see something new.


    Rajesh Bothra

  11. Hi, JBerg. Im reading you from Yucatan, Mexico regards. Its A great work what you post here, Very useful information Thank you for Share it. Look, I Want to make a mod from my Intel iMac G5 17"(With Vertical Lines Problem) to an Intel Aluminium 20" Chasis. Recently,I bought a 20" iMac G5 display (A5)(K2) with original Inverter. In Theory only need find how to Feed, the original inverter because the imac 17 conector had 4 pins from motherBoard to 17 inverter (1 brown & 3 blacks) but the Imac 20 Inverter, had 6 pins (1 brown & 5 blacks) & the LVDS looks the Same(maybe need switch some rails) . Does have any ideas about the 20iMac inverter pinout or when I can find it? Or if its Posible, feed from the same 4 pin conector in the MotherBoard, or from Original PSU.?. Im Understand the 20" display need a 24V. But, No have idea, about how obtain the inverter pinout for test the Screen. I look an pinout on you 17 imac step by step post, but no have colors in my inverter cable. Do you thing that had the same configuration?. Pins only had 1....6 printed on the board. I apreciated, any comments or sugestions. Thanks.

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