iMovie '09 on a PowerBook G4

By Michael Fitzgerald
September 15, 2009

A few days ago, I bought iLife '09 at a university bookstore (Apple, by the way, has the most liberal academic pricing I know of—I got the academic discount because my daughter is a student at the university) and attempted to install it. There are no system requirements on the packaging, so I did not know that, by default, iMovie '09 would not install on my aging PowerBook G4 (a 1.67 GHz running Leopard). Everything else—iPhoto '09, GarageBand '09, and iWeb '09—all installed without a hitch. But the main reason I bought iLife '09 was to take advantage of the significant upgrade to iMovie HD, so what do ya do?

I didn't do my homework on the hardware requirements, so I had a tense moment or two.

Then I thought, "No! There's got to be a hack out there." I searched for "imovie 09 g4" and found this hack at the numero uno spot in the Google results. (Actually, go to the bottom of that page to find IvanQ's non-hex editing hack, posted August 23, 2009, which is the one I used.)

Let me tell you, roughly, what I did. It will probably work for you if a new MacBook is not in your budget this month (but no guarantees).

  1. I spun up the iLife '09 DVD.
  2. I right clicked on the icon for iLife '09 metapackage (iLife '09.mpkg), copied it and pasted it to my desktop. Note: This took awhile because the mpkg is big (4.41 gigabytes). But you have to do it in order to add a line to a file.
  3. Go eat a fresh peach. That's what I just did (my fifth one today). We have three boxes of them.
  4. Once copied over, I opened the mpkg file with a right click and Show Package Contents, and then opened the file Distribution.dist under the Contents directory with TextMate.
  5. I found the line function hasSufficientHardwareForiMovie() (line 399) in that file, and immediately after that line (well, after the opening {) wrote return true;.
  6. Next, I saved the file and exited.
  7. Then I double-clicked on the iLife '09 icon on my desktop and installed iLife again. With the little hack from IvanQ, iMovie was installed without any barking from the installer. Hurray.
  8. Finally, I entered this line at a command prompt: defaults write NSGlobalDomain allowG4Launch -bool YES followed by return.
  9. iMovie '09 now works on my G4, thanks to the aforementioned IvanQ.

iMovie '09 runs a little slow on Motorola architecture, but hey, for the feature improvements over iMovie HD, I'll take the hacked version any day. I have to occasionally restart the app, more than if it was running on supported hardware, but I'm okay with it.

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