Installing macOS 9.1 on the Power Macintosh 5400
Apple released the Power Macintosh 5400 back in 1996 and it was mostly sold to educational institutes. Those that know me know two things about me: I love old Apple hardware and I love pushing hardware to its limits. I recently acquired this old Power Macintosh from a friend of mine and wanted to see what it could do. My specific model is the Power Macintosh 5400/180. The 180 signifies that it has a 180mhz CPU. My 5400 has a PowerPC 603e CPU running at 180Mz with 64MB of RAM. The 5400 originally came with a 1.2GB hard drive but unfortunately the original Apple drive that came in my machine had died so I upgraded it to a massive 20GB drive! Little did I know, macOS 8 does not recognize 20GB volumes. So why not boot macOS 9? Mac OS 9 surely could read my new 20GB hard drive. While its true macOS 9 can see those volumes, the 5400 can not boot directly off the macOS 9 install cd. My initial reactions were "What!?". So I needed to get macOS 9 running on my 5400 but it can only boot the macOS 8 install disk but macOS 9 can read larger volumes but the 5400 cannot read the macOS 9 install disk so I have to boot macOS 8. This kept going round and round in my head and it drove me crazy! So I had to settle on a small 4GB hard drive. macOS 8 seemed to like that hard drive and installation proceeded like normal. After macOS 8 installed the 5400 was working fairly well so I figured it was time to move on to my next challenge, macOS 9. Little did I know (de ja vu) you cannot upgrade macOS 8 directly to macOS 9. So I had to install macOS 8.6 first… I didn't know if it was something wrong with my hard drive or the install disk but my install kept crashing! At that point at I had to walk away for the night, I'm going on around 7 hours of work.

In the morning I woke up and put myself in troubleshoot mode. I ended up putting another 4GB hard drive in because when I booted up, macOS informed me that my existing hard drive did not pass the hard drive test. A few hours pass and I have macOS 8 installed. Then I was able to install macOS 8.6. Things are looking good and so I went for the daring task of installing macOS 9. Long story and a lot of cursing later, it failed.. Why!? There must be something else going on here. Adequate amount of RAM? Check. Adequate CPU? Check. Adequate hard drive space? Check. So what could possibly be the issue? I have absolutely no idea. I started trying a few new things. I made sure to only instal the base system and non of the add-ons. It still failed.. Maybe macOS 9 on my 5400 wasn't meant to be? Weirdly enough the thought of constantly moving the mouse cursor during the install crossed my mind. So since my macOS 9 install failed, it corrupted my macOS 8 install. Three hours later and I am back on 8.6 gearing up for my macOS 9 install. I uncheck every thing except the base system, check the "Clean Install" button, and gear up for a half hour of constantly moving the mouse cursor. It succeeded! I was thrilled to death! Finally macOS 9 is running on my 5400 but there was still the problem of the extra goodies I wanted such as networking and the color calibrator that were on the extras section of the macOS 9 install disk. I was feeling really good so I checked everything except the base system and told the 5400 to install everything. It failed… Now I'm back at square one.. I get 8, then 8.6, then 9.0 installed and I'm back at a bare bones macOS 9 install in only 5 short hours. Yes I really did spend my entire day on this and yes I'm still single, who would've thought? Long story short, I installed each of the extras separately and came to the realization that the network monitor extra was crashing the installation. I'm done! My 5400 now has a fresh install of macOS 9 with all the great networking goodies!

So why did I do this? Am I really that crazy? Yes I am but that's besides the point. What's cool about this particular 5400 is that it has an ethernet expansion card installed and it had the classic Macintosh modem port meaning I could have the best of ethernet and LocalTalk on this machine. I built this to be a network bridge. It has happened to many many times that if I wanted to do file transfers between old and new Macintosh computers I would have to go the route of floppy, cd, and zip disks. Let's say I download a classic macOS application on my 2012 iMac and I wanted to run it on my Macintosh Plus. How do I possibly get it on there? Well now I can FTP into my Power Macintosh 5400 because it can now be used as an FTP server (I used the application Fetch to start my FTP server). From there I used Fetch to share off some LocalTalk (or AppleTalk) network shares using a LocalTalk cable system as FTP shares so I was able to talk directly to the Macintosh Plus since it has the former standard Macintosh modem port. It would've been nice if macOS 10 played nice with LocalTalk networks but I doubt that would ever become a reality. So that's it, my 5400 is now a great bridge on my network and it is making Macintosh file transfers a breeze between new and old machines. Some still ask why I did this and my answer is always "because I could." There's nothing better than almost spending 3 full days cursing at a 20 year old Macintosh because of some strange issue you cannot figure out how to fix… If you enjoyed this vintage Apple computing article, be sure to leave a comment down below. If you know anyone who enjoys vintage Apple computing, be sure to share this to them and watch them respond to you fully agreeing that mid 90s Apple computers are just weird.
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