iMac boots to question mark-now what?!?!? And bootable drive question...

in Genius Bar
I'm getting the flashing question mark folder on startup, which apparently means the internal SSD is dead. Or at least not found. 

So here's where it gets tricky. I *thought* my backup drives were bootable, but apparently not. Or, they are not found either. OR they are not bootable on this machine. Now this machine (late 2006 white plastic) is running 10.6.8 IIRC, because the hardware would not update after that. If there ever were install discs, they are long gone and they wouldn't be for 10.6.8 anyway. 

So how can I make a bootable 10.6.8 drive or USB? 10.6.8 is not easily available methinks. And methinks that a bootable USB or whatever with a newer system won't work on this machine bacause the hardware is so old.
AND, is it even worth all that trouble?
Because I'm not using this machine. So option B to open the machine, stick in some super cheap 320GB or whatever, junk the SSD, and give the machine to my brother-in-law for casual use.  

Meanwhile, I think to make a bootable USB, I download the latest OS installer and install to the USB?
How can I make my external drives bootable? Hopefully without erasing all the stuff on them that is. I don't see any "system" folder on them so dummy me, need to fix this oversight...


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