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John T. Folden

Dell Optiplex GX280

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I've had this computer for a while but had put off installing OS X on it as there are no simple, clear cut directions for 10.6 that I could readily find. I finally took the plunge, found it rather simple, and thought I would toss out how I succeeded here...


I have a Dell Optiplex GX280 Desktop. There are also mini-tower and SFF versions but I think they are similar in technology.


My particular GX280 has a Pentium 4 2.8Ghz CPU, 1GB RAM and a 640GB SATA HD. I, also, changed out the DVD-ROM drive for an LG PATA Super-Multi drive. I'm, also, using a D-Link network card as the onboard ethernet does not work under OS X 10.6.


Certain BIOS settings on the GX280 seem important: "SATA Operation" should be set to "Combination". Also, oddly, if I turned OFF PS/2 support then the install would fail.


These directions, also, assume you have access to a working OS X system. I'm not sure you can even "restore" the OS X disk image under Windows, let alone run the MOD USB package (though, I believe nawcom has directions for Linux).


What I used for the install:

*8GB or larger flash drive (I assume an external hard drive would work just as well)

*Nawcom's "ModUSB" package ( http://blog.nawcom.com/?p=569 )

*Disk image of Mac OS X 10.6.3 retail DVD

*Audio Kext = AppleAC97Audio.kext.zip

*Video Kext = AppleIntelIntegratedFramebuffer.kext.zip

*Video Kext = ElliottAppleIntelGMA950LegacyEnabler.kext.zip

*Kext Utility = Kext_Utility.zip




1. Using Disk Utility, "restore" the Mac OS X 10.6.3 Retail DVD image to the flash drive


2. Run the installer for nawcom's ModUSB package. Choose the FLASH drive as the target.


3. When the above is complete, create a folder on the flash drive (I called it Kexts) and copy Kext Utility plus the 3 kexts above into this folder.


4. Eject



You should now be ready for the installation!



To Install:


1. Insert the flash drive into one of the USB ports on your GX280 and select it for boot (either by setting boot order in the Bios or by quickly hitting F12 during startup to access boot options).


2. Once the installer has booted, choose Disk Utility and partition the Dell's internal hard drive. I created one partition and used a GUID boot table. Once the partitioning has finished, exit Disk Utility and continue with the installation.


3. The install, as modified by Nawcom, seems to choose most of the right settings. However, you'll need to choose "Custom" when you see the option and, also, choose to install the "Elliot Force Legacy RTC" kext. If you don't, OS X will keep reseting the BIOS every time you boot - to rather disastrous results.


4. Once the install has finished and you are booted into your dekstop, move the three kexts and Kext Utility to your desktop. Unzip them all, if you haven't already. Then drag the three kexts onto the Kext Utility app. It will install them, rebuild the kext boot cache, etc... When that has finished, reboot and the audio and video (with QE/CI support!) should both be working.




NOTE: If you plan on accessing the internet/network with this system, you'll need to install a PCI network card supported by OS X. I happened to have an old D-Link card laying around and lucked out that there was a kext for it.




The system should be completely usable at this point but you'll probably want to install the latest update for OS X. DO NOT USE SOFTWARE UPDATE!



Updating to 10.6.8:


*Download the OS X 10.6.8 Update Combo = http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1399

*Download nawcom's 10.6.8 custom legacy kernel = http://blog.nawcom.com/?p=791


1. Install the OS X 10.6.8 Update Combo. DO NOT RESTART


2. Install the nawcom legacy kernal. DO NOT RESTART


3. Re-install the AppleIntelIntegratedFramebuffer.kext using the Kext Utility.


4. Finally, you can restart the system. :P


Once the system has rebooted, you can use the normal Software Update system in OS X to update the rest of your applications (iTunes, Safari, etc...). Just don't auto-update OS X itself, should Apple ever release another update for 10.6, and you'll be fine.



Final thoughts:


My system has been running for nearly a week now and performs about as expected for this old of a machine. System Profiler identifies it as a Mac mini with a Core Solo CPU and that's probably about right, more or less. GeekBench gave it a score of around 1520 compared to the 2280 on my mac mini Core Duo 1.6. I expect to get 18-24 months use out of this as one of my office systems and it should do fine.



Lingering oddity:


"About This Mac" will crash the desktop all the way back down to a blue screen (though OS X will recover). There is an smbiosefi.kext floating around that will fix this crash, however, it also changes how the system is identified - it becomes a Mac Pro. I don't like this change. 3rd party software may see that identifier and think this machine capable of more than it is. :wacko: Unless I find a more suitable fix, I'll leave it be and simply not click "About This Mac". System Profiler works fine so there's really nothing to miss.

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