Latest News: 22-May-2013: Apparently I am a workaholic. I still poke my head in here occasionally! haha 7-Feb-2013: Hi to all the ZDNet readers! 3-Jan-2013: Posted this guide. Table of Contents: 1. Quick introduction 2. What is Hackintosh? 3. Legality 4. Why build one? 5. Pros and Cons 6. Things to be aware of 7. Recommendations 8. Additional notes 1. Quick Introduction: This is a general discussion thread for Hackintosh. The previous threads are available here and here. This first post is an informational "Hackintosh 101" guide for learning the big picture of Hackintoshing. All of my notes are being compiled into my wiki (link TBA). I also post occasional updates to my blog. mosslack's (fellow forum member) Hackintosh resources are available on his Google Groups site. 2. What is Hackintosh? Apple has a UNIX-based competitor to the Windows and Linux operating systems called OS X (pronounced "OS Ten"), which is currently on release 10.8 "Mountain Lion". Apple builds hardware specifically to match their software ("Mac" computers) and has no authorized third-party ("Mac clones") systems available, meaning you can't just take any off-the-shelf computer parts and build your own Mac system. However, that all changed a few years ago. For a long time, Apple used Motorola PowerPC processors, but those hit a performance limit and Apple chose to migrate to Intel processors. This opened the door for hackers to put Apple's operating system on run-of-the-mill Windows computers. While it's not without faults, people were now able to build a regular computer and load OSX on it (which involves circumventing Apple's security measures to prevent people from doing so). This was dubbed the OSx86 project, also affectionately called Hackintosh (in reference to Macintosh). The story gets more interesting because of OSX's history. OSX is based on UNIX (and has full Terminal capabilities, as well as a large array of ported software), and specifically BSD. The foundation of OSX is Darwin, which you can read more about on Wikipedia. Because OSX's roots are in BSD, Apple is required to release a free version of the software per the GPL. This makes it very difficult for Apple to stop people from figuring out how to load OSX onto PC hardware, since they themselves have an open-source webpage of their software. 3. Legality: Strictly speaking, building a Hackintosh violates the Apple EULA (end-user license agreement). Apple's EULA states that you can only use Apple software on Apple hardware. To date, however, Apple has only prosecuted people who try to sell Hackintosh systems and have not gone after individuals who do it for their own benefit. There is a really good article over on Lockergnome about the legal questions surrounding Hackintosh if you're interested in further reading. A number of online forums prohibit the discussion of Hackintosh due to the fact that it violate's Apple's EULA, although the Anandtech forums have chosen to permit discussion of the project. For some quick history, Psystar made the first commercially-available Hackintosh PC's available a few years ago. Apple took them to court on the grounds that they had illegally circumvented Apple's OS protection systems. Ultimately, Psystar agreed to pay $2.7 million to Apple and was ordered to stop manufacturing Hackintosh computers. However, another company produced a USB chip called EFI-X, which enabled users to install OSX on a compatible PC system. They did not, however, sell OSX pre-loaded onto a computer system, and to date, Apple has not sued them. So based on history, Apple is only going after people looking to profit from selling Mac Clones. So, be aware of both the history and the legalities surround Hackintosh. The bottom line is that it does violate the Apple EULA (which is not law, but can be used in a court of law), but Apple has not yet chosen to go after individuals in the hobby field. Consider yourself warned! 4. Why build one? There are a number of good reasons to build a Hackintosh. To begin with, Apple themselves is the only manufacturer of computers authorized to run OSX. Thus, whatever they decide to build is all you get. If you have a want or need different than what they sell - too bad. For example, the new iMac all-in-one computers no longer ship with an optical drive - you must use an external disc drive if you want to read a CD, DVD, or Bluray disc. Or if you want to upgrade the RAM in a 21.5" iMac, you have to unglue the screen, which is extremely difficult. Or if you buy a new 15" Retina Macbook Pro, the RAM is soldered to the motherboard, so you can never upgrade! So if you have custom needs or wants, or enjoy tinkering and upgrading with your own computer, you are extremely limited on many Apple models. This makes building your own "Mac" extremely appealing. There is also the question of cost. The least-expensive new Mac is $600 (the Mac Mini), and the least-expensive Apple laptop is $1,000 (the 11" Macbook Air). In the PC world, you can buy a basic 10" netbook for $199, which is a third the price of even the cheapest Apple desktop model. So it's typically very expensive to get into the Mac world. The professional tower, the Mac Pro, starts at $2,500 and can easily exceed $10,000 with configuration changes - and that's the only model available that supports internal expansion cards for things like internal RAID cards or dual video cards. A PC builder can build a much more customized computer for much cheaper due to the variety of hardware available. The operating system, of course, is the big driver in building a Hackintosh. Because OSX is basically UNIX with a pretty interface, you get a lot of of the stability and security that goes along with that. You have access to Terminal commands, Mac ports of BSD software, the ability to dual-boot your computer to a different operating system (as well as run virtual machines, of course), and all kinds of great Mac-only software. The interface is different than Windows and Linux and it's just generally pretty cool all around! Then there's the reason of just doing it for the fun of it. The reason I got into Macs initially (via a used G4 Cube from eBay) was because I was bored with Windows computers and wanted to try something new and different. I got hooked and started buying more Mac computers and doing upgrades, and eventually started building Hackintoshes because I couldn't afford the $15,000 Mac Pro that I really wanted, which didn't really have all the equipment I wanted anyway. 5. Pros and Cons: So now you can build a cheap, customized Mac. What could be better? Well, that's not the whole story - Hackintoshes aren't without their warts. For starters, there is very little organization in the Hackintosh world, so information is spread out across the vast universe of the Internet. InsanelyMac is one of the primary resources for Hackintosh information, and lately Tonymacx86 has become the go-to place for the latest & greatest Hackintosh information and tools. For most people, however, there is a huge learning curve, and you have to be willing to do a lot of reading & tinkering to get the results you want. Hackintoshes can be very stable, but they can also be very buggy. Not all hardware is supported, and sometimes a piece of hardware will never get OSX support. Building a good Hackintosh requires a lot of research into both selecting the right parts and learning how to properly install OSX and the required software to get it on PC hardware. And even then, sometimes there's quirks. So be aware that building a Hackintosh is not at all like buying a specifically-made, ready-to-run out-of-the-box Mac computer. It's a science experiment! With that said, I've build tons of Hackintoshes and they have gotten to the point where, with proper software and hardware, they can run forever in a stable manner. I leave mine running 24/7 and it typically only crashes due to either hardware failure, or some kind of end-user application conflict that even real Macs would crash on. My uptime is typically measured in months! We've already discussed the legal aspect, so there's that, but there's also a total lack of support. You can't call Apple and ask for help on a Hackintosh. The best you can do is plead for help on an Internet forum, hoping that someone, someday, will come to your rescue, or do a heck of a lot of googling. So be aware of that - no one owes you any help, and you will generally get looked down on or ignored if you come across as a whining, demanding jerk (which a lot of people do, and is a big reason I stopped writing guides for a long time and turned this into a general discussion thread!). If you consider your Hackintosh a research project, you'll have a much better approach to the whole thing. If you want to go about it the smart way, find a thread or guide where someone has already purchased, successfully set up, and shared the installation procedure for the hardware you want. That will guarantee you good results more than anything else! Another big gotcha is updates. Hackintosh is sort of built on a house of cards, and sometimes updates can bring it all crashing down. I typically disable OSX updates and only do them manually after the latest version patch has been successfully tested. For example, onboard audio is a big headache area for updates - the soundcards integrated into motherboards typically require a software patch that gets overwritten when OSX gets updated, and has to be re-patched to get working again. Sometimes they go smoothly, sometimes they don't. Will Apple ever release a patch that completely kills the Hackintosh project? Hard to say, for a number of reasons. For starters, they haven't done it already, which is a good sign. Second, per the GPL, they have to release an open-source version of their operating system (Darwin), which makes it really difficult to prevent creative programmers from getting into the system (think of it as Coke or Pepsi releasing the recipes for their sodes). Third, really creative people will figure out a way to get in eventually anyway. The Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and Nintendo Wii U have all been hacked, and some of those (particularly the PS3) have extremely strong security systems in them. So the current situation is "build Hackintoshes, but don't sell Hackintoshes". Apple seems to have no interest in releasing a mid-range, user-upgradable tower, and it sort of feels like this is their way of allowing the more technical users (i.e. us geeks) to play in the Apple sandbox without actually having to make anything. 6. Things to be aware of: Number one: Learn how to ask for help. There are a lot of knowledgable, friendly people floating around these boards, but you can turn them off from helping you by your attitude. First, don't be a jerk about things and demand free help and answers, and second, do your homework - no one wants to help someone who wants to be spoon-fed and isn't willing to lift a finger researching or tinkering with their own system. In fact, if you want to get really good at this, read through the excellent article "How to ask questions the smart way". I knew nothing about Hackintoshing when I first came onboard with the OSx86 project back in 2007 or so, but I did a lot of reading and messing around and shared what I learned and it grew from there. So basically, don't be an idiot, be a human being. Thanks. Number two: Some equipment is more compatible than others. I would recommend avoiding AMD processors - it's possible to get them working, but patching can be a headache. If you're really determined, then go for it, but you'll have a much easier time with Intel chips. I'd have to say that video cards are probably the most annoying area in Hackintosh hardware. Do your research and make sure that you get one that is supported - the exact make, model, and memory size, in fact. I've even had issues between video card revisions (although that's gotten a lot better with the newer software). Going on with compatibility, motherboards are probably the next biggest hassle after video cards. Most of the time, you'll want to stay pretty close to what Apple offers, such as getting an LGA 1155 Sandy/Ivy Bridge system. Make sure that the onboard audio & Ethernet ports are supported (unless you're using third-party cards or USB adapters, which usually makes running updates easier!). Tonymacx86 is one of the best sources of informaton on this. Also, laptops are typically huge headaches and have a lot of unsupported features. There are a few exceptions, such as the HP ProBook 4530s, and I've had some success with stuff like Sager laptops that lean more towards using desktop parts. Number three: Hackintosh is not a product. There is no support team. There is no telephone number from help. The best you get is the warranty on the hardware you purchased, and maybe some free online help on forums or IRC (although Tonymac does offer some paid assistance). You're on your own! A lot of people have given up in frustration and gone back to Windows or Linux. Number four: Organization is poor in the Hackintosh world. I've touched on this before, but there can be some really big hurdles to overcome when learning and researching the OSx86 project. Sites like InsanelyMac have a wealth of information, but it's not organized in an easy-to-read wiki or textbook-style format that you can sit down and dig your teeth into. And I don't think that problem will ever go away due to the sheer amount of available hardware and developers working on the project. For example, if you own an MSI X58 Pro-E motherboard, start a development thread, and work through the issues and get it up and running, are you going to write a guide for it? When the patches and next version of the operating system comes out, are you going to update your guide or thread? Wikis exist and informational threads exist, but keeping everything up-to-date is a really difficult thing to do. 7. Recommendations: So what would I recommend? First, buy Intel processors and not AMD chips. Second, buy a system as close to what Apple offers as possible (modern CPU's, LGA 1155 chipset, etc.). Third, find someone who has published a guide online and has had successful results with a particular motherboard or video card. Fourth, don't buy a laptop for Hackintosh. A lot of people already have an investment into their hardware and want to try to put OSX on it, so by all means, go ahead! Just remember that it may not work and you may have to do a ton of research and really play with the system a lot to get it up & running. I've put OSX on everything from an Atom-based netbook to an i7-based rig with 24 gigs of RAM. There are lots of possibilities out there, it's just that some paths are easier than others. You have to ask yourself how much of a headache you are willing to deal with - both now, while building it, and down the road, when updating it. Would buying a real Mac be better for you? Would building it be better? Would following a guide be the best route, or does forging your own path look more fun? My other recommendation is to read up on the Tonymacx86 website. Tonymac and Macman run the site and provide an incredible amount of up-to-date information and a friendly environment to discuss projects in. Tonymac also posts CustoMac recommendations, which are usually highly compatible with Hackintosh. Another good resource is InsanelyMac, which is a bit more on the technical/developmental side of the Hackintosh world. 8. Additional notes: I started this thread to foster a discussion of modern Hackintoshing. I'm busy revamping my old Wiki right now and will be adding some detailed guides in coming months for the specific motherboards that I have; I'll post the latest news at the top of this thread for quick reference. Our fellow forum member mosslack also has a stellar Google Group called Hackintosh Questions - Answers that you can dig through. So, welcome!