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Apple's line of PowerBook laptops was intended for the professional and power users. The PowerBook line includes the PowerBook 100, Duo, 500, and 5300 Series; the PowerBook 1400, 2400, 3400; the PowerBook G3, G4 Titanium, and G4 Aluminum.

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PowerBook G3 PISMO Firmware Issue


I would like to know how can I flash the firmware on my PowerBook G3 PISMO if I am encountering the following problems.

So, I bought parts for it like an HDD cable, RAM, and a new charger after not using my machine for over 10 years.

After all the parts arrived I tried to boot it, but nothing showed in the boot manager.

When I tried to boot it straight up, the only thing I got was a folder happy and a question mark. So, I started digging and tried to figure out what might be a problem.

I run a few tests on Linux Mint and Windows 10 with the HDD and in Linux, I could see most files except the MacOS9. In Windows, I tested the HDD with MacDrive 10/11. In VM I ran the disk utility and it said nothing is wrong with the drive.

Then, I took the machine apart and saw if maybe a connector was lost, but after running commands like power+options, or command option p r, basically all troubling commands available and all worked I started to think the issue might be something else.

I entered Open Firmware with its designated command and did three command resets. All went well, but still no boot. so I checked the version of open command I have on my machine and it was completely different from what most people are using.

Mine is version 4.1.8f5 which was issued by Apple but after that people were having the same issues I am having now. Tried to search for this version with no luck except one or two pages talking about the issue.

The solution I found was; to delete the Extensions.mkext file (/System/Library) via OS 9, then restart (the file automatically regenerates. This clears the extension cache, which is designed to shorten startup time (Macaddict August)

Of course, I cannot do that because I cannot boot into MacOS9 or Jaguar that I have installed on the HDD.

So, how could I flash the firmware in Open Firmware or without booting?

I am 100% sure it is possible, and I might have done it in the past when I successfully flashed this faulty (final) version of the firmware to my machine.

Now since my DVD or HDD doesn`t want to boot I assume the only solution would be USB - I need to check if my 5TB external HDD could be recognized by the machine and I can copy the stable version of the firmware into it so I can maybe load the file from it through Open Firmware.

I just need some help with the command and how could it be done.

Thank you for the help, anyone who can guide me?

I don`t feel like buying a no-logic board just for that.

Update (06/08/24)

Sure, I can help you troubleshoot your PowerBook G3 "Pismo." Let's go through a step-by-step process to diagnose the issue:

Basic Checks:

  1. Power Supply: Ensure the power adapter is connected properly and the power outlet is working. Try using a different power adapter if possible.
  2. Battery: Remove the battery and try booting the laptop with just the power adapter connected. A faulty battery can sometimes prevent booting.
  3. Reset the Power Manager Unit (PMU):
    • Unplug the power adapter.
    • Remove the battery.
    • Hold down the power button for 10 seconds.
    • Reconnect the power adapter and battery, then try to boot the laptop.

Initial Boot Process:

  1. Power Button: Press the power button and listen for any sounds (like the fan or hard drive spinning). Note any blinking lights or beeps.
  2. Screen Activity: Observe if the screen shows any signs of activity, even a flicker.

PRAM and NVRAM Reset:

  1. Reset PRAM/NVRAM:
    • Press and hold the Command (⌘), Option, P, and R keys immediately after turning on the laptop.
      • Keep holding these keys until the laptop restarts and you hear the startup sound for the second time, then release the keys.

Safe Mode:

  1. Boot into Safe Mode:
    • Press and hold the Shift key immediately after turning on the laptop.
      • Release the Shift key when you see the login window.

Hardware Checks:

  1. Remove RAM Modules: Try booting with one RAM module at a time if you have more than one installed. A faulty RAM module can prevent booting.
  2. Hard Drive: Listen for any unusual noises from the hard drive. If possible, remove the hard drive and try booting from an external bootable drive or CD.

Further Diagnostics:

  1. Boot from Installation Media: Try booting from a Mac OS installation CD/DVD.
    • Insert the installation CD/DVD.
      • Hold down the "C" key while powering on to boot from the CD/DVD.
  2. Use Apple Hardware Test: If you have the original install discs, you might find the Apple Hardware Test.
    • Insert the disc labeled "Apple Hardware Test".
    • Hold down the "D" key while powering on to boot into the hardware test.

Additional Steps:

  1. Inspect the Logic Board: If you're comfortable with opening your laptop, check for any obvious signs of damage on the logic board (burn marks, swollen capacitors, etc.).
  2. External Monitor: Connect an external monitor to rule out a display issue.

If All Else Fails:

  1. Professional Help: If none of the above steps work, consider taking the laptop to a professional technician who has experience with vintage Apple hardware.

By following these steps, you can identify whether the issue is with the power supply, RAM, hard drive, or another component. Let me know if you need detailed instructions for any of these steps or if you encounter specific issues during the troubleshooting process.

Update (06/08/24)

The firmware versions for the PowerBook G3 "Pismo" (introduced in 2000) include updates that address various hardware compatibility and performance issues. Firmware in the context of the PowerBook G3 "Pismo" is essential for ensuring the laptop's hardware works correctly with the operating system and applications. Let's discuss the primary differences and purposes of these firmware updates:

Key Firmware Versions:

  1. Original Firmware (version 1.0):
    • This is the firmware that shipped with the initial release of the PowerBook G3 "Pismo."
    • It provided the basic functionality required for the laptop to operate with the pre-installed Mac OS 9.
  2. Firmware Update 4.1.8:
    • Improvements:
      • Enhanced support for Mac OS X.
      • Improved compatibility with certain peripherals and hardware components.
      • Fixed issues related to sleep and wake functions.
      • Improved battery management and charging behavior.
    • Requirements:
      • This update was necessary for users who wanted to upgrade to Mac OS X, particularly versions 10.2 Jaguar and later.
      • Provided better stability and performance for users running newer operating systems.

Update (06/08/24)

Why Update Firmware?

  • Operating System Compatibility: Firmware updates often include necessary changes for newer versions of Mac OS to function correctly on the hardware.
  • Hardware Support: Updates can fix bugs related to various hardware components such as RAM, hard drives, and peripheral devices.
  • Performance Enhancements: Firmware updates can improve the overall performance of the laptop, including better battery life and more reliable sleep/wake cycles.
  • Bug Fixes: Address known issues that might cause the system to crash or behave unpredictably.

How to Check and Update Firmware:

  1. Check Firmware Version:
    • Restart your PowerBook G3 "Pismo."
    • Hold down the Command (⌘) and Option (⌥) keys while selecting "Apple System Profiler" from the Apple menu.
    • In the System Profiler, look for the Boot ROM version to determine the current firmware version.
  2. Update Firmware:
    • Ensure you have a stable power source; firmware updates should not be interrupted.
    • Download the firmware update from Apple's official support site if available.
    • Follow the provided instructions carefully to apply the update.
    • Typically, you will need to run the firmware update application, which will guide you through the process, including restarting the machine and pressing specific key combinations.

By keeping the firmware updated on your PowerBook G3 "Pismo," you can ensure better compatibility with newer software, improved hardware performance, and overall system stability.

Update (06/08/24)

Updating the firmware on a PowerBook G3 "Pismo" involves a few important steps to ensure the process completes successfully. Here's the official process for updating the firmware:

Step-by-Step Guide to Updating Firmware on a PowerBook G3 "Pismo":

1. Preparation

  • Backup Your Data: Ensure that you back up any important data before proceeding, as firmware updates can sometimes lead to data loss if something goes wrong.
  • Power Supply: Connect your PowerBook to a reliable power source. A power failure during the update can render your laptop inoperable.
  • Battery Charge: Make sure the battery is sufficiently charged (at least 50%) to avoid any interruptions during the update.

2. Check Current Firmware Version

  • Restart your PowerBook and hold down the Command (⌘) and Option (⌥) keys while selecting "Apple System Profiler" from the Apple menu.
  • System Profiler: Look for the Boot ROM version to determine your current firmware version.

3. Download the Firmware Update

  • Visit the Apple Support Site: Go to Apple's official support website and search for the PowerBook G3 "Pismo" firmware update. The most notable update for this model is version 4.1.8.
  • Download the Update: Save the firmware update file to your desktop or a location you can easily access.

4. Install the Firmware Update

  • Locate the Update File: Find the downloaded firmware update file (usually a disk image file) and double-click to mount it.
  • Read the Instructions: Open any accompanying ReadMe or instructions file provided with the update and read it carefully.
  • Run the Firmware Update Utility: Double-click the firmware update utility to start the process. Follow the on-screen instructions.

5. Perform the Firmware Update

  • Restart Your PowerBook: You will be prompted to restart your computer to begin the firmware update process.
  • Hold Down Key Combinations: As the machine restarts, you might be prompted to hold down a specific key combination. For the Pismo, typically you need to hold down the programmer's button (a small recessed button usually next to the reset button) until the sleep LED starts flashing.
  • Wait for Completion: The update process will take a few minutes. Do not interrupt the process. The computer might restart multiple times during the update.

6. Verify the Update

  • Check Firmware Version Again: After the update completes, restart your PowerBook and use the Apple System Profiler to check the Boot ROM version. It should now reflect the updated version (e.g., 4.1.8).

Troubleshooting Tips

  • Failed Update: If the firmware update fails, try repeating the process from the beginning. Ensure you follow each step correctly and do not interrupt the power supply during the update.
  • Support: If you encounter persistent issues, consult Apple's support documentation or contact Apple Support for further assistance.

By following these steps, you should be able to successfully update the firmware on your PowerBook G3 "Pismo," ensuring improved performance and compatibility with newer software.

Update (06/08/24)

Apple revoked the PowerBook G3 firmware update 4.1.8f5 due to issues reported by users that arose after the update was applied. Specifically, the problems encountered included:

  1. Battery Life Issues: Users reported significant reductions in battery life after applying the update. This was particularly problematic for a portable device where battery performance is crucial.
  2. Sleep/Wake Functionality: Some users experienced issues with the sleep and wake functionality, where the laptop either failed to enter sleep mode properly or had difficulty waking from sleep.
  3. Peripheral Compatibility: There were reports of decreased compatibility with certain peripherals and expansion devices. This includes issues with USB devices and PCMCIA cards, which were essential for users relying on external accessories.
  4. General Stability: Some users experienced overall system instability and performance degradation. This included system crashes, freezes, and other erratic behaviors not present before the update.

Official Response

Apple's response to these issues involved revoking the problematic firmware update and advising users to revert to the previous stable firmware version. Apple may have also provided guidance on how to perform this reversion safely to avoid further complications.

Lessons Learned

Firmware updates are critical as they control the basic functions of the hardware, and any issues with these updates can have significant impacts on the usability of the device. The revocation of firmware update 4.1.8f5 for the PowerBook G3 Pismo serves as an example of the importance of rigorous testing and user feedback in the deployment of firmware updates.

Current Status

If you're seeking to update your PowerBook G3 "Pismo," it's advisable to ensure you are using a stable, officially supported firmware version. Users should check the latest official resources or support documentation from Apple for the most current and stable firmware updates available for their device.

Update (06/08/24)

Flashing firmware on a PowerBook G3 "Pismo" using Open Firmware can be a complex process, especially since the device cannot boot up normally. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you through this process:

Preliminary Steps:

  1. Backup Data: If possible, ensure you have a backup of any important data. This might be challenging if the machine doesn't boot, but it's crucial if you can access the hard drive via another computer or an external enclosure.
  2. Prepare Firmware Update File: Obtain the correct firmware update file (not the problematic 4.1.8f5) from Apple's official support site. You will need the 4.1.8 firmware update.

Tools Needed:

  • A bootable Mac OS CD (like the original OS 9 CD).
  • Access to another Mac with a CD burner or USB drive (if needed to prepare the firmware file).

Steps to Flash Firmware Using Open Firmware:

  1. Access Open Firmware:
    • Power on the PowerBook G3 and immediately press and hold the Command (⌘), Option (⌥), O, and F keys. This will boot the machine into Open Firmware.
  2. Insert Bootable Mac OS CD:
    • Insert a bootable Mac OS CD (like an OS 9 installation CD). This is essential as it allows you to bypass the internal hard drive and load necessary tools from the CD.
  3. Boot from CD:
    • In the Open Firmware prompt, type:
boot cd:,\\:tbxi

        Press Enter. This command attempts to boot from the CD.

    If CD Boot Fails:
        If the CD does not boot, ensure that the CD is clean and properly inserted. You may also try a different CD if you have one.

    Load the Firmware Update Utility:
        If you successfully boot from the CD, you should be able to access the desktop environment of Mac OS. From here, you need to run the firmware update utility.
        Typically, the update utility is a standalone application on the CD or can be copied to the desktop.

    Follow On-Screen Instructions:
        Run the firmware update utility from the CD. Follow the on-screen instructions carefully to apply the firmware update.

Using Open Firmware to Directly Interact with Firmware:

If you cannot boot from a CD or run the utility directly, you may need a more complex setup involving another Mac:

    Create a Bootable USB with Firmware Update:
        On another Mac, create a bootable USB with the correct firmware update.

    Load Firmware File into Open Firmware:
        With the USB prepared, plug it into the PowerBook G3.
        Access Open Firmware again by pressing Command (⌘), Option (⌥), O, and F.
        Identify the USB device by typing:


    dev / ls

    Locate the path to the USB drive. This can vary but might be something like usb0/disk.

Load and Execute Firmware from USB:

    Load the firmware file from the USB by typing a command similar to:


        load hd:,\\:tbxi

        Replace hd with the correct path identified earlier.

    Execute Firmware Update:
        Once loaded, follow the specific instructions to execute the firmware update.

Final Steps:

    Restart the Machine:
        After successfully updating the firmware, restart the PowerBook G3.
        You should now have the corrected firmware, which should resolve the boot issues caused by the 4.1.8f5 version.

    Verify Firmware Version:
        Boot into the system and check the firmware version using the System Profiler to ensure it reflects the updated version.


    If the process is too complex or risky, consider seeking professional assistance.
    Ensure you are using the correct firmware version to avoid further issues.

By following these steps, you should be able to update the firmware on your PowerBook G3 "Pismo" using Open Firmware.
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The PowerBook G3 "Pismo" is a notable model in Apple's lineup of portable computers, released in February 2000. It is recognized for its role in the evolution of Apple's laptop designs and its notable features for the time. Here are some key aspects of the PowerBook G3 "Pismo":

Design and Build:

  • Form Factor: The Pismo was part of the PowerBook G3 series and was designed with a durable, professional look.
  • Material: It featured a polycarbonate body, which was robust and provided a sleek, black finish.
  • Portability: The laptop weighed approximately 5.9 pounds (2.7 kg), making it relatively portable for its time.


  • Processor: The Pismo was powered by a PowerPC G3 processor, with speeds of 400 MHz or 500 MHz.
  • Memory: It came with 64 MB or 128 MB of RAM, expandable up to 1 GB.
  • Storage: Standard storage options included 6 GB or 12 GB hard drives, with the capability to upgrade to larger drives.
  • Display: It featured a 14.1-inch TFT active-matrix display with a resolution of 1024x768 pixels.
  • Graphics: The laptop was equipped with an ATI Rage Mobility 128 graphics card with 8 MB of VRAM.


  • Modularity: One of the standout features was its modular bay system, allowing users to swap out the optical drive for other devices like a second battery or a Zip drive.
  • Connectivity: The Pismo included two USB 1.1 ports, a FireWire 400 port, VGA out, S-video out, and PCMCIA card slots.
  • Battery Life: It offered impressive battery life for its time, especially when using two batteries simultaneously.

Operating System:

  • Mac OS: The Pismo originally shipped with Mac OS 9.0.2 and was capable of running Mac OS X, up to version 10.4.11 (Tiger).


  • Reputation: The Pismo is fondly remembered by Apple enthusiasts for its robustness, upgradeability, and the significant improvements it made over previous models.
  • Collectibility: Due to its historical importance and solid design, the Pismo is a sought-after model among collectors and vintage tech enthusiasts.


  • Successors: It was succeeded by the PowerBook G4 series, which introduced the titanium and later aluminum designs, marking a new era in Apple's portable computer lineup.

Overall, the PowerBook G3 "Pismo" represents a key moment in the development of Apple laptops, balancing performance, expandability, and design in a way that made it a favorite for many users during its time.

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