AAM: Powerbook 165c to iMac G5

by Aaron Wright Jan 29, 2007

This week we’ve got a question that only a true Mac know-it-all could possibly answer. Back in December of last year, Daevrojn asked Apple Matters readers how he could get information from his aging Powerbook 165c to his more up-to-date iMac G5. The options he’s tried so far include using a floppy disk and transferring files to a more modern PC, only to find that the PC formats the disk, and the possibility of ripping out the hard drive and doing something with that, although at this moment in time I can’t think of what.

One thing Daevrojn did mention is that his Powerbook 165c does have a SCSI and a Parallel port which may be of some use. I tried my best at the time to help Daevrojn out but my technical skills with a Macintosh only go so far, so when new user Tendim popped up to say hello and offer his advice, you can only imagine how happy Daevrojn and I were.

Tendim has listed a number of suggestions to transfer files from the Powerbook to the iMac and this includes getting a USB-to-SCSI adapter. Read on to find out more.

Question of the Week

Powerbook 165c and an iMac G5

Question by: Daevrojn

About a year and a half before I bought my current iMac G5 for school, my uncle gave me his old, old, laptop that he used to use in his teaching days. The laptop was the groundbreaking Powerbook 165c: the first portable Mac with a color screen, if I’m not mistaken. Anyway, I used that obsolete laptop occasionally for school projects and other word document projects; there was little more I could do, really. The screen is slowly dying and the trackball is half-shot.

Is there any possible way to connect my iMac to the Powerbook to transfer files?

I’ve tried putting my files on a floppy to go through a more modern PC, but it always formats the disc. The laptop has no USB ports, only SCSI and parallel ports and an extremely weird port I’ve never seen before that resembles a square with a grid pattern.

Short of tearing open the laptop and pulling out the hard drive, which I might end up doing, is there any way to transfer files off the small 80MB HD?

Thanks in advance,


Answer by: Tendim

There are a few ways to do this.

- You can find a SCSI Ethernet card.  These plug into the SCSI port, and then you can transfer the files via AppleTalk to the G5. I’ve done the same with a Mac Plus and it works fine. If you do this you’ll also need the PowerBook SCSI cable; that big “grid” port is actually SCSI. The adapter plugs one end into there, and then has a regular 25-Pin DSUB style SCSI connector on the other (which is what most other Macs had). What you think is a parallel port is likely the monitor port.

- You can purchase a USB to Serial adapter, and either build or find a Macintosh Serial Port to Serial adapter. You’ll need ZTerm on both systems, and then you use ZModem or YModem to transfer the files. I’ve done the same moving files from my 8500 to a Commodore machine (without using ZTerm on the Commodore of course).

- Purchase an external SCSI HD (cheap nowadays) and either a FireWire to SCSI or USB to SCSI adapter. Copy the files from the 165C to the SCSI HD, then walk the SCSI HD over to the G5 and away you go.

- Purchase a box of floppies and a USB Floppy for your G5. Most (if not all) USB floppies only support HD disks, but IIRC the 165C also uses HD disks.

Moving files between distant generations of computers is possible, it just takes time to source the right tools to do it.

Good luck.

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