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Thinking of building a Hackintosh? You can make a Mac Pro for half the price of the real thing. But throwing together a custom-built Hackintosh requires a very narrow range of hardware — most computer parts won’t work with Apple’s extremely picky OS X operating system. Minimizing troubleshooting requires carefully choosing your parts. But how do you know what to use? Fortunately, there are lots of internet resources that can help. And for those of you who don’t know what a Hackintosh is.

I put together a custom Hackintosh using information gleaned from several Hackintosh enthusiast sites. Even with such help, picking each part required a great deal of work. Here’s how you can learn from my mistakes: Before running out and buying parts, make sure you know the optimum components for compatibility. It will save you time and money.

There are two build paths: First, you can individually select compatible components from lists of parts (not a complete list) or you can use part lists provided by Hackintosh enthusiasts, such as Tonymacx86. These lists make the build process infinitely easier; although you will pay slightly more than if you selected individual parts.

Option #1: Prepared Builds

Out of the prepared Hackintosh builds, my two favorites were from Tonymacx86 and Kakewalk.

Tonymacx86: Tonymacx86 did a write-up of a large number of potential Hackintosh builds, as well as creating software to aid in the installation and configuration process. He currently offers part manifests for five different kinds of “CustoMacs”:

  • CustoMac Mini: A low-end, mini-ITX build.
  • CustoMac Mini Deluxe: A midrange mini-ITX build.
  • CustoMac Budget: A lower end ATX build.
  • CustoMac Pro: A higher end machine, similar in specifications to a Mac Pro.
  • CustoMac Socket 2011: This approximates the dual Xeon Mac Pro using an E-ATX board.

Tony also suggests installing an SSD, which Mac Pros didn’t include until the 2013 “trash can” Mac released. An SSD would make the custom build feel much faster, for everyday use, than even the 2012 Mac Pro.

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Kakewalk: The Kakewalk software requires that you build a computer from their list of specially chosen hardware (you can just pick the motherboard, though). There are three basic full ATX builds:

  • A low-end, Core i3 build for $600.
  • A medium range Core i5 build for $700.
  • A high-end Core i7 build for over $900.

Alternatively, you can save a hundred dollars or so by choosing each component yourself. However, be aware that all Hackintoshes require a great deal of prep software to get working it right.

Option #2: Build Your Own Hackintosh

Building your own Hackintosh requires getting a CPU, motherboard, RAM (memory), hard drive, power supply and a case. Optionally, you can also include a graphics processor, an important part for gaming or rendering.

Step 1: Pick a CPU

Because no official build of Macintosh includes an AMD CPU, the vast majority of AMD CPUs lack any kind of support. Therefore, for ease of configuration, you should purchase an Intel CPU. This is unfortunate because the AMD FX series offers excellent performance-per-dollar in multithreaded applications, such as Adobe Premiere CS 6.

Out of all modern CPUs What Does "Dual Core" & "Quad Core" Mean? [MakeUseOf Explains] What Does "Dual Core" & "Quad Core" Mean? [MakeUseOf Explains] At one point, our computers had a central processing unit (CPU) with a single core. These days, most CPUs you'll come across are dual core, quad core, or even octo core. We'll explain exactly what... Read More , there are three ideal lines of processor for a Hackintosh: The Intel Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7.

CPU

Step 2: Pick a Motherboard

Hackintosh builds in general suffer from compatibility issues with motherboards. Tonymacx86 suggests Gigabyte boards in particular, as they tend to have the greatest degree of compatibility with OS X.

The compatibility issues most frequently arise from driver issues related to onboard components, such as sound, integrated graphics and other highly complex subsystems. The motherboard is easily the most driver-intensive component of a computer. To solve this issue, a software called Multibeast can install the corrected drivers from configuration information contained within DSDT files. James explained how to use DSDTs How To Install Mountain Lion On A PC [Hackintosh] How To Install Mountain Lion On A PC [Hackintosh] Are you not looking forward to Windows 8? Perhaps you're jaded by Microsoft’s decision to kill of Windows Home Server? Are you maybe tired of Windows Media Center being treated like a second class citizen?... Read More .

motherboard2

Therefore, if you do not use a motherboard with a history of Hackintosh usage, you do so at your own risk. It’s almost guaranteed that if you take a random motherboard, there will be at least some issues – diagnosing and troubleshooting such problems just isn’t worth your time.

motherboard

Step 3: Picking RAM

RAM is the easiest part to pick. For the most part you will choose from among DDR3 components and the speed and timings are largely irrelevant unless you want to overclock. However, you do not really gain that much performance by overclocking RAM.

ram

Step 4: Picking a Hard Drive

Tonymacx86 suggests using a solid state drive, in addition to a conventional drive for storage. I noticed that Tonymacx86 uses only the SanDisk Extreme SSD. On the other hand, most SSDs appear to work on in OS X, regardless of the manufacturer. Intel SSDs, unfortunately, are reported to have compatibility issues.

Because TRIM function, which keeps SSDs in peak condition, isn’t turned on by default in OS X, you must manually install TRIM enabling software.

SSD

Step 5: Pick a Graphics Processing Unit (Optional)

For rendering and gaming, the GPU is the central component of your build. For the most part, NVidia remains the most popular GPU manufacturer for Hackintosh builds. NVidia’s CUDA core technology will help quite a bit with rendering.

Wattage and size compatibility can present an issue for builders. GPUs generally consume a great deal of power and take up a lot of space. Make sure you calculate wattage and take accurate measurements of the space available in the case.

GPU

Step 6: Pick a Power Supply

The second easiest part to pick for a Hackintosh is the power supply. Because they don’t require any specific drivers, you only need to look at four basic features:

  • Dimensions: The most important consideration is the depth, or length, of your power supply. If it’s too long, it won’t fit in your case. Generally speaking, 140 mm is the right size for most small form factor cases.
  • Wattage: Some sites can help determine your required power supply wattage. Be sure to read the instructions (dual core systems are NOT the same as dual CPU systems).
  • Connectors: Most importantly, make sure it has the right number of pins for the CPU connector. There are both four and eight-pin connectors (eight-pin connectors work with four-pin ports). Another important issue is making sure you have the required number of SATA power connectors.
  • Quality: Buying a terrible power supply can actually damage your computer. A commonly heard horror story among PC building enthusiasts is the guy who literally fried his computer using a defective power supply. Read the reviews before you buy.

power supply

Step 7: Pick a Case

Your computer case needs to look good. But more importantly, it should fit all the components that you are purchasing, primarily the motherboard. If you’re using full-sized ATX case (among the largest computer sizes), any motherboard will fit. The other two common small form factors cases are mini-ITX (abbreviated as mITX) and MicroATX (abbreviated as mATX). Some small form factor cases may require small form factor power supplies, either TFX, SFX or FlexATX. I recommend staying away from small form factor power supplies.

When choosing a case, make sure that you also choose the right sized power supply and motherboard. Each case will specifically state in its product description what form factor components it requires.

Step 8: Get Installation and Configuration Software

There’s a variety of installation options available to anyone seeking to roll their own Hackintosh. While a complete tutorial on installing the software exceeds the scope of this guide, three key software exist that you should be aware of:

  1. Unibeast: The Unibeast installer allows you to convert a legitimately purchased copy of OS X. Unibeast works like this: It copies a modified, bootable, version of OS X onto a flash drive or bootable disk. Unibeast will then copy the bootable files to whatever hard drive you select.
  2. Multibeast: Once you’ve installed OS X, you can then move onto installing the requisite drivers.
  3. Chameleon Preference Pane: This software allows you to edit the bootloader. Editing the bootloader will make it possible to start unbootable systems.

When you finally assemble your machine, be sure to check out a tutorial on the subject.

2013-07-30_20h25_24

While building my Hackintosh, I faced some issues. For example, the graphics card’s audio didn’t work out of the box, which required that I install additional drivers to get working properly. Also, become familiar with boot flags. Boot flags alter the way your machine starts up. Once booted, you can then begin troubleshooting components that don’t work.

Conclusion

Finding optimal parts to use in a Hackintosh requires that you build using OS X proven components. Not doing so will cause you a great deal of stress and suffering. I highly recommend using a build guide, Tonymacx86 or Kakewalk.

Has anyone else built a Hackintosh? Any regrets or did you love it?

This review contains affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

Image Credits: Hackintosh Via Flickr

  1. Martin F
    August 15, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    I too have built one or two hackintosh systems. The best/easiest was to take a Dell Latitude Laptop and convert it into a mac (check out http://www.osxlatitude.com)

    They all worked (kinda) with quirks here and there. But, I finally bought a real Mac; and I have to say that the real thing is so much better than the fake.

    Go ahead and build a hackintosh, but if you plan to use it seriously then I suggest buying one.

    • Justin Pot
      August 15, 2013 at 3:55 pm

      Yeah, the Hackintosh is more for the experience of getting it to work than anything practical in most cases. Still: it's a good experience.

  2. Milos D
    August 15, 2013 at 8:45 am

    Nice article, but if you want OSX then buy a MAC!

    • Sezer
      February 4, 2016 at 12:00 pm

      Apple offers really bad hardware except Mac Pro but it's very expensive and not worth the price.

  3. Mark Crummett
    August 15, 2013 at 12:22 am

    I tried to make a Hackintosh once, and sort of succeeded. It was an interesting technical exercise, but too fiddly. I would never deploy one to do real work. You may save some money on hardware, but you'll loose it fiddling with software to make it work. If you want to use a Mac, get a real Macintosh.

    • Carl
      August 15, 2013 at 2:56 am

      You can gain it back by just tightening fiddling with software. Works pretty ok!

  4. Barry S
    August 14, 2013 at 11:58 pm

    I have one and love it using it for music I am running a 6 core processor on an lga 2011 board

  5. likefunbutnot
    August 14, 2013 at 7:05 pm

    OSX systems aren't all that exciting. You leave the world of dealing with malware-of-the-week, but you enter a world that really doesn't have a broad culture of free software and really has some lame, arbitrary limitations, like not having the ability to play back Blu-Ray discs or write to NTFS-formatted external drives.

    Honestly, if I were interested specifically in ditching the security issues on Windows for a feature complete, usable desktop OS, I'd point someone to OpenSUSE or perhaps Linux Mint instead.

    • Barry S
      August 15, 2013 at 12:00 am

      there is software to let you write to NTFS drives and i can play blu ray with an external blu ray player

      • likefunbutnot
        August 15, 2013 at 12:14 am

        Right, and that NTFS-writing software is commercial software, something obvious - and of obvious utility - that you have to buy. The regular turn off of "Oh, this thing that I want to do that's completely free on Windows and Linux but costs $50 to do on OS X" is a souring experience, especially for a hardware enthusiast who wants to try OS X but doesn't want to blow $2000 on an Apple machine.

    • me
      November 19, 2013 at 1:08 pm

      @likefunbutnot:
      you don't need to buy tuxera. It's free via torrent. And yes, NTFS read-write is supposed to work on any OS and not something i would pay for. I have pirated Tuxera on my macbook, too. I paid €€€€€€€ for the macbook so I expect such an elementary feature to work. No way I'm paying for this.

    • Jake Singer
      January 4, 2014 at 5:37 pm

      Lot of great software and a high development community on OS X. You'll notice freeware on OS X is typically higher quality than Windows. No doubt, iOS has brought many more active developers to the OS X ecosystem. Highly recommended. And, in any case, these machines are dual bootable and VMable...

  6. Milinda L
    August 14, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    awesome powerful machine......!

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