Hackintosh: pros and cons

Apple wants to make the Mac Pro modular again, but the new machine won’t be released until 2018 and it’s completely uncertain what Apple means by modular. Whether you can really get all your desired components into the build-to-order process and still add things yourself? Or will there be some restrictions again? The solution is called Hackintosh and is only half legal because Apple does not release its macOS for computers other than its own. The bigger hurdle is probably to find and install the right components, as well as to install the software and make it work. Hackintoshes are rather hobbyist projects and therefore no commercial danger for Apple – probably the reason why this kind of self-built computers are at least tolerated by Cupertino.

Our two Macworld colleagues Rob Griffiths and Kirk McElhearn have many years of experience with the topic and have already built many hackintoshes. Two detailed build guides have emerged:

Both guides are worth reading, but very complex and full of details that we won’t go into here. However, Rob Griffiths was kind enough to summarize the essentials, mention the advantages and disadvantages of hackintoshes, and give the hobbyists addressed a few tips on how to approach their project. Here are his findings:

Why you should make a mincintosh

There are many reasons to build a Hackintosh. These are the most important ones:

Free choice: You can build exactly what you need and don’t have to get what Apple wants you to have. Free choice: A portable the size of a pint glass or a high-end tower. Integrated graphics or dedicated from the high end. Any size of hard disk (or SSD), speed, number and capacity of RAM, and much more. You build exactly what you want and what your budget allows for.

Cost: If you choose the components yourself and assemble them, you can save a lot of money. The compact computer built by Kirk McElhearn cost him $464 [plus labor, note. the Red.], in performance it beats the Mac Mini, which Apple sells for $999. In my case, the comparison is a bit more difficult, since the iMac comes with a 5K display. However, if you count a display from LG for 1.300 US dollars at the component cost of 1.567 US dollars. you are still 500 US dollars below the price of the current high-end iMac. And my machine will put the iMac to shame in terms of gaming performance and will be at least equal if not better in terms of CPU performance.

Upgradeability: Build your own Mac, you can replace individual components with newer or better ones from time to time. If you’re not sure if you really need a high-end graphics card for $500, buy a simpler one for $100 and see if you can handle it. If not, just sell it again and get the expensive one. This is basically true for any component.

Off-the-shelf Hackintosh

Off-the-shelf: Assembling a Hackintosh from (almost) freely chosen components isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and it’s especially time-consuming. It’s easier with preconfigured PCs, on which macOS can be installed with a little less effort. The Mac Observer has named four such models, including a laptop .

But a PC only becomes a Hackintosh, if you install macOS on this machine. This works differently for each model; the HP Z800, HP Z620, Dell Optiplex 780 and ASUS ROG G73JH computer recommendations each come with a specific guide.

However, macOS can also be brought to the PC as part of a virtual machine, here we show how to do that . As a rule, however, such a VM is not as powerful as a "real" one Hackintosh.

Why you shouldn’t build a Hackintosh

On the con side, here are some arguments that might kill your project before you start it.

No all-encompassing warranty : While each of the components will (have to) come with a warranty and guarantee, there is no guarantee for the machine as a whole. When the CPU breaks, you have to deal with its manufacturer or vendor. If the GPU is defective, you may have to go to another manufacturer or vendor.

Craft in demand: If you’ve never built a computer yourself, it can be a confusing experience when there are many boxes of parts around you and you don’t quite know where or how to start. At least there are thousands of manuals out there and it’s not too complicated after all.

Instabilities: Usually it’s not the hardware that’s the problem, but the software. Every time Apple releases an update for macOS, it’s not sure if your Hackintosh will survive its installation. [Never upgrade, but it’s also not an option, because of possible security holes or useful new features, Anm. d. Red.] Before you apply a (maintenance) update to your Hackintosh, you should first carefully search the Internet for experiences of other users.

For geeks: Most likely you will have to spend a lot of time with the terminal of macOS. If you don’t feel like it, don’t build a hackintosh.

It’s not a Mac until you make it one : This is the most critical point of all and for most the highest hurdle. In our articles, we’ve described how it took multiple installations to get our machines up and running. In between the reinstallations, there was a lot of research that took a lot of time to do. I sat on my project for a total of about 30 hours. In the end, even that may be futile because you won’t get a machine that works to your standards.

Tips for building a hackintosh

If the arguments in favor of a hackintosh have convinced you more than those against, we have a few time-saving tips:

Use the buying guide on tonymacx86.com and buy only components listed in it that are known to work in hackintoshes. Outside this list you risk only your money and time.

It is better to buy all components from a dealer to get the same warranty conditions as far as possible. Besides Amazon, NewEgg is also a good candidate. This makes it easier to handle hardware problems.

First read all the instructions, then assemble and install components. Finally, you don’t want to get to step seven to find that you are missing something.

Go slowly and in small steps. After you’re done building, the first thing you do is install macOS and get it working. Only then you can worry about adding graphics support, audio, network and the like, little by little.

Conclusion

Should you or should you not? There is no simple yes/no answer to this, but let’s try it. I say yes, If you like to tinker with hardware and the terminal and like to build things. I also say "yes, unless you plan to make your Hackintosh your main computer, on which everything Apple has designed should simply work. A "Yes" means you could lose that in the money and get a machine that doesn’t run to your liking.

Beyond that I would say "no say. And this is probably why Apple simply leaves this market segment alone. There’s no danger that hobbyists would disrupt Apple’s business model with their DIY Macs. On the contrary, it might even make more users buy a real Mac from Apple, because they are tired of having to start over with every update and everything just doesn’t work as it should. Will I build one again? Do not know yet, between the first and the second passed nine years. So ask me about it again in 2026.

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