Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Technical Difficulties

My apologies to those that have been unable to access the pictures on this site.  It appears that I mistakenly made the pictures that were being pulled into this blog private.  I have made all pictures public and I am hopeful that this will alleviate the problem.  Please let me know if there is any issue with viewing these pictures.

In regards to the future of this project, I have certainly not forgotten about it, but 2 young children and time constraints have made small iterative changes - not worth it.  The Haswell updates to the NUC (outside of power consumption) had no noticeable advances to the Ivy Bridge NUC.  I have put together quite a few tutorials that are essentially the same.  To repeat the project, I am swaiting for a substantial upgrade.

The iMac G4 20" mod (which I prefer over the 17") comes down to two variations that I recommend.  One variation utilizes only the existing iMac G4 LCD and the TMDS signal is made useable by wiring it to a DVI connector.  Use of the existing power supply allows the LCD to turn on using a 5V trigger to the 24V inverter.  The second is replacement of the iMac G4 LCD with the 20" Cinema Display.  This keeps the original inverter, but adds the Cinema Displays control board to the base.  This mod is made more difficult by having to change some wires in the neck.  However, if you can open and close the neck without damaging it, this mod is potentially more stable as it utilizes everything as intended.  It turns the G4 into a Cinema Display in disguise and gives you the power and brightness control afforded by the cinema displays control board.  This also utilizes the cinema displays power supply instead of the native iMac G4s.

Either mod results in the lcd and neck becoming an external dvi/hdmi compliant monitor.  The base will loose some space to either the native power supply or the Cinema Displays control board (the power brick can be internalized or externalized).  What goes in the rest of the base or externally is really a matter of personal preference.  There just needs to be a 5V trigger from the computer to turn on the monitor.  This can come from a USB port or the outgoing video DVI itself.

Waiting for Something New

There are 2 ways I can see to substantially improve these mods.  The first addresses the major issue that I have with me all in one Ivy Bridge Mod - Native OS X.

I have never been fond of hackintoshes.  I do not like having to worry about installing upgrades and can not use a machine as anything more than a hobby if there is a chance it could brick with an update.  Unfortunately the latest mac minis simply do not fit without dramatic modifications to the base.  I keep hoping that apple will release a Mac mini form factor that substantially shrinks down its current length and depth.  If it does this makes a new mod a no brainer.

The second improvement would be an LCD upgrade.  This is much trickier as the 20" 16:10 form factor is no longer made and in fact no LED backlit variations of this size and aspect ratio has ever been produced.  Thus, the entire chassis would need replacement.  I have looked at alternatives from apple including the 24" LED and 21.5" iMac.  While the newer iMacs look only slightly silly on top of the base, the gargantuan 24" looks ridiculous.  I have not yet found a chassis that I like though have settled on a 21.5" 16:9 thin bezel (preferably LED and touchscreen) as the best fit.

The issues that come up with this include the look.  (White is preferable and no white plastic monitors that I've seen have the right aesthetics).  Even with the right monitor, connecting it to the iMac G4s arm and utilizing the existing cables or replacing them represents a challenge either way.  I have even thought about custom 3D printing a new 21.5" with neck attachment chassis in the style of an iMac G4, however, I am then worried about the effect it would have on the arms which is so perfectly balanced to the existing monitor housing and LCD.

I have also considered an all in one (as they are not much larger than monitors in many cases) thus eliminating the need to route anything through the neck other than a power cable and possibly USB.  However, putting an all in one on top of an empty base may take away what makes the iMac G4 so special in the first place.  Nevertheless, I remain on the lookout.

Thank you to all my readers and I apologize again for the picture problems.


  1. I'm so sad i cant get my g4 20" working... i am doing something wrong but can't telle what... (with molex plug + 24V charger) i gave it to a friend to see...

    i would personnaly prefer replace the monitor LCD and put all cables in the neck (do you have a video demo to open it?) but i thing power + dvi would be too thick to fit into it :'(

    i have 3 imac g4 20" (1 last working) and stuck :( if anyone knows how to do it in europe / France !!!!

    ps: the new mac mini should be like the NUC, i gues...

    1. I am sorry to hear about your problems. I still strongly recommend staying with the TMDS wired as is. Opening the neck is a HUGE PAIN. Once the spring pops out of the joints, you may not be able to get it back it. In have done a 20" TMDS to LVDS conversion and detailed the process here:


      There is little space for wires, much less than what you may even think. No connector comes close to fitting, all wires have to be pulled through individually. Using a CCFL monitor is not recommended due to the issue with the inverter that I detailed (you can electrocute yourself). More modern LED monitors can help with this problem, but no LED monitors exist in the 20" 16:10 format, so the imac lcd housing can not be used.

  2. What a great initiative here. I'll look around the site and see if I can offer any additional ideas. Thanks.

  3. I rescued a working (!) 15" iMac G4 from a dumpster and is now itching to carry out this mod. I am going to separate the 15" neck and LCD panel and rebuild it into a standalone monitor while replacing the power supply and everything from the neck up with 20" parts. Can a 20" Apple Cinema Display bolt on a iMac G4 20" housing?

    I did some looking and found that the Haswell NUCs have one major advantage over the Ivy Bridge ones - it can run on 12VDC the native PSU provides which eliminates the need for the 19V converter. All we need is a small picopsu to supply 5V for the optical drive, and a way to turn it on via the NUC's 5V pin. This thing should work out of the box on Mavericks and there are ways to download a Mavericks install image via Snow Leopard and the Mac app store.

    Finally, thanks a lot for this guide!

    1. Its my pleasure - I'm happy to see people resurrecting their iMac G4s instead of them staying in the dumpster.

      I do need to clarify your question, when you ask if a 20" Cinema Display can bolt onto an iMac G4s housing, do you mean, bolt the cinema display directly onto the neck, or fit it within the LCD housing itself?

      In regards to the bolting it onto the neck, the answer is yes. It works fine when done in this fashion, though it is somewhat heavier, and slightly more difficult to move, though there is no significant "drift" downwards of the neck. I have done this mod and it is here:


      However, it takes a little work. The existing VESA adapter for the Cinema Display caused the Cinema Display to drift down as it displaced the weight of the monitor forward (it adds about an inch between the neck and the display itself). You must open the Cinema Display and add the support (I cut mine from the G4s LCD casing and used liquid welder to attach it to the inside rear of the Cinema Displays Housing.

      In terms of the LCD itself (the 20" cinema display and 20" iMac G4 use essentially the same LCD panel). With a few tricks you can even use the LCD controller from the cinema display, though some wires have to be added to the neck which makes it more complicated. This is detailed in a few posts:


      However, there is a problem with your plan (at least from what I can tell). Obviously, you seem aware that the 20" neck is needed on the 15" as it is much more rigid to support the heavier LCD on the 20", as well as the wiring being markedly different. However, you may not be aware that base on the 15 and 17" do differ from the 20" base. At the top of the dome on the 20" base are two solid heavy weights connected to the metal support cage. In addition, the faraday cage (the metal that gives the dome structure) is much, much heavier and thicker. You can easily tell when picking up the faraday cage of the 20" This results in a doubling of the weight of the base. While this may not seem that important, connecting the Cinema Display or even the native 20" display to this base will result in your entire computer "falling forward". Unless the monitor is standing absolutely straight up, the base of the 15" can not support this weight.

      Hope this is helpful

    2. I have experienced this first hand sadly. :( A quick calculation tells me I needed to add 18lbs of weight, but I have to abandon the DVD drive to have any chance cramming that much weight in, and I only have 12lbs on hand. I am going to order the 20" base, but I need to make sure one thing to avoid spending $70 I may not have to: Can the 15"/17" drive carrier bolt into the 20" base?


  4. DremelJunkie,

    I would really like to do a 20" mod. I want to use it as a monitor, not an all-in-one. I would like to keep any power supply in the base as well as the native CD drive (if possible). Why do you no longer recommend using the native LCD? Cinema displays are very expensive. Is there a safe way to use the native one with all the native LCD parts?

    1. Definitely still recommend the native LCD. Cinema Display is just an alternative method

  5. I'm my head I keep wondering if I can get away with multiple laptop size inverters. I'm not sure if the brightness would be even and how complicated it would get. I just don't want to use the native power supply since I could use the space and am worried about heat since I'm using a 3.5 hdd with my nuc. But I may just have to. I'd love to hear your thoughts if you get the time. Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. The inverter is tricky on these, it's the flattest inverter I've ever seen. I could not get any other inverter to fit. One possibility that I've thought about is getting rid of the inverter altogether by using LED lighting. You'd have to disassemble the actual LCD itself, but you would replace the bulbs with LED strips which are DC powered

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