I have some disc images that run only on PowerPC. I've heard a lot about PowerPC being popular back in the day, especially being used with older Apple computers. I don't hear much about them anymore, yet they are used in game consoles such as the Wii and Wii U.

Are PowerPC processors still used in desktop/home computers, or has Intel processors taken over? If I wanted to get a PowerPC computer, is there a place I can still get them? Or is the only option to use QEMU emulation?

  • 3
    What exactly are these "disk images" for. Just because two families of computers used them same family of processors doesn't mean they are compatible. – Peter Green Jun 9 '16 at 21:05
  • 1
    For example, I have PPC Debian images that I would like to boot and install just for experimental purposes. – Retro Gamer Jun 9 '16 at 21:06
  • Ask NASA :) qz.com/317406/… – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Apr 22 at 10:46

PowerPC CPUs are still produced, mainly for embedded applications, e.g. the Qorivva MPC55xx MCUs.

As far as I'm aware, the only currently-produced (for some value of "produced") desktop computers using PowerPC processors are Amiga replacements: ACube Systems' AmigaOne 500 and A-EON Technology's AmigaOne X5000. Nowadays on the desktop it's pretty much all Intel/AMD, with a sprinkling of ARM.

The Power architecture lives on in IBM's POWER CPUs, the current iteration of which is the POWER9; but they're only available in (expensive, but very, very fast) servers and workstations (such as the Talos II and, of course, a number of IBM servers).

You should be able to find lots of PowerPC-based Apple computers second-hand, capable of running your discs (assuming the operating system is compatible).

If your disc images are for Macintosh-style computers, you could try running them with QEMU's PowerPC emulator. For more direct Mac OS on PowerPC emulation, you could also try PearPC or SheepShaver.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    The last Apples are the G5 series. Still powerful machines, but support is fading fast. – JTP - Apologise to Monica Jun 9 '16 at 21:03
  • Fading very fast, @JoeTaxpayer. Unless you need very specific PPC applications, a Raspberry Pi 3B+ might typically be faster than all except the last model G5 Quad. They're also very power-hungry, so cost quite a bit to run. – scruss Jan 26 '19 at 14:59
  • @scruss - I will admit to you, the last time I booted my G5 was probably when I wrote this comment. I have a small box of remaining VHS tape‘s. And my digitizer will only work on that computer. When those tapes are gone, it will probably be the end of the tape players as well as the computer. I have a room that looks like a shrine two apple computers going back almost 2 decades – JTP - Apologise to Monica Jan 26 '19 at 15:10
  • Raptor sells Linux POWER9 desktops – raptorcs.com/content/BK1SD1/intro.html – expensive at USD 2850 (or more for the higher-end models), and you will get a much better x86 machine for the same amount of money – but for someone who really wants a PPC desktop it is an available option. – Simon Kissane Apr 17 at 20:31
  • @Simon indeed, and I was talking about those with colleagues just the other day — I’d forgotten this question! – Stephen Kitt Apr 17 at 20:56

Not a desktop PC, but the Nintendo Wii U is still manufactured and contains a Power PC processor.

Also the recently discontinued Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 consoles ran on Power PC too.

If you wanted to get a Power PC computer to run Linux on, you could potentially find an older generation Playstation 3 with older firmware on eBay, and use the OtherOS functionality which was removed in subsequent firmware updates.

| improve this answer | |
  • I had already mentioned in my question that they are being used in game consoles such as Wii and the Wii U. Sounds like a lot of trouble to buy a game console just to run linux on it. Personally I would just stick with QEMU. – Retro Gamer Jun 9 '16 at 22:40
  • Retro Gamer : it was very viable to buy a large box of PS, run Linux and make them part of a beowulf type cluster. It would still be useful if not for the face that getting 200 PS2 which works and is dependable is.... – Stefan Skoglund Apr 19 at 2:12

There are single board computers ("SBCs") available with Power architecture processors that could possibly double as desktop machines, e.g. this one has USB and can apparently be configured with a PCI Express port, which could be used to run a graphics card (although I suspect you'll need a PCI Express 1x graphics card to make it work -- I'm aware that Matrox make one of those; not sure if anyone else does). Price could be an issue too, as the primary customer of such things is apparently military/aerospace. But perhaps if you shop around you can find something a little more reasonably priced that can do it as well?

| improve this answer | |
  • Every PCIe-x16 graphics card I've tried in a PCIe-x1 slot has worked well. You just don't get the maximum bandwidth (well, obviously) – pipe Jun 9 '16 at 23:02

You can run Rosetta (Apples PowerPC support on Intel platforms) on a Intel mac running Snow Leopard. You can now run Snow Leopard in a VM. That's a lot of hoops to run through, but might be worth it.

There is also http://sheepshaver.cebix.net/ but I have no idea how well it works.

The short answer is that your either going to have to find an old mac or emulate.

| improve this answer | |
  • Isn't running Snow Leopard on a VM frowned upon? – Retro Gamer Jun 9 '16 at 21:08
  • 1
    My reading of the license is that you may run one copy on an Apple labeled (or Apple branded) computer. It doesn't mention VMs, but in my opinion an operating system running in a VM on an Apple labeled computer is running on an Apple labeled computer. An OS running in a VM on an HP computer is not running on an Apple labeled computer. – gnasher729 Jun 9 '16 at 23:11
  • 1
    @RetroGamer Apple relaxed their licence to allow one client install of SnowLepord on a VM as long as your running it on a mac. discussions.apple.com/thread/4415010?tstart=0 – coteyr Jun 10 '16 at 0:30

Are PowerPC processors still used in desktop/home computers, or has Intel processors taken over? If I wanted to get a PowerPC computer, is there a place I can still get them?

They have pretty much disappeared from personal computers. Due to the low production volume they can't compete with x86 or ARM CPUs. As a result nowadays they generally only exist in places where price is not an important factor like servers or workstations

If you're an enthusiast you can also buy development boards or separate CPUs/MCUs easily, although not as cheap as ARM boards

That said you might be able to buy a PowerPC laptop in the future since the Power Progress Community is building a GNU/Linux PowerPC notebook. If you want you can also contribute to their project

Disclaimer: I'm not affiliated with any of the above companies/groups

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.