What is a hackintosh and how do you build one??

Date: 02.06.2020 | Articles, Hardware, Software

What is a hackintosh and how do you build one??

While a Mac is the dream come true of every cutter and designer, the initial cost often exceeds the available budget. Many users therefore resort to an alternative in the form of a Windows PC, which is available at a much lower price for the same performance. But what many do not know: A MacOS can also be installed on a homemade computer with a little dexterity. How you can build such a "Hackintosh" yourself, we show you in this article. You can also find out what you need to consider when choosing components and what advantages and disadvantages the replica has compared to a conventional Mac.

A Hackintosh scores in terms of price, but the performance and system stability are not comparable to a "real" Mac. In addition, the computer may refuse to work after a system update. For this reason, a Hackintosh is generally not suitable for productive use.

While you can use Migration Assistant to set up a new Mac, you may have to copy your folders and programs from the source computer via an external medium when using Hackmac. You do everything else using iCloud, iTunes and App Store syncs (via Apple ID).

According to its license agreement, Apple only allows the use of OS X on its own computers. However, there is no known case of the company taking action against private persons who did not comply with this regulation.

1. What is a Hackintosh?

Desktop PC with editing software

A Hackintosh is basically nothing more than a computer with standard PC hardware running MacOS instead of Windows.

A Hackintosh or Hackmac is a computer with standard PC hardware, which is not distributed by Apple, but still runs MacOS. In this way, you can decide for yourself which components you want to use and at what budget.

2. Which components are suitable for a Hackmac?

MacOS does not support AMD processors by default, so it is mandatory to use an Intel CPU for your Hackintosh project. It is possible to get AMD processors to work with MacOS, but this requires extensive changes to the operating system. With an Intel CPU, on the other hand, it also works smoothly without adjustments.

A bit more difficult is the choice of the right motherboard. Generally, the Gigabyte models work quite well, since they are also used in the "real" Macs. In addition, many boards that support AHCI are also suitable. You don’t have to worry about the case, the power supply, the RAM, the graphics card and the hard disks – these are completely irrelevant for the operation of the Hackintosh. In addition, these components can of course also be upgraded afterwards without any problems.

Good to know: On the Internet you can find a number of lists that give an overview of the hardware that can be used with a Hackmac. These are updated at regular intervals and are usually sorted according to the different configuration levels, so that you can choose every conceivable device as a base from the entry-level computer to the high-end system like the MacBook Pro.

3. Assembling a Hackintosh

After selecting the hardware, the first thing you need to do is assemble it into a computer. The assembly works analogous to that of any other self-configured PC, so you can easily refer to one of the numerous manuals on the internet here. When installing the components, always make sure that you mount them the right way round, to guarantee optimal ventilation and access to the connectors.

When you have finished assembling your computer, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty – i.e. installing the operating system. The bootloader of a "normal" PC differs significantly from that of a Mac. For this reason, you cannot easily run the installation media of Mac OS X on your Hackintosh, but have to rely on third-party software.

3.1. Install MacOS

On the Hackmac portal tonymacx86 the free tool Unibeast is available for free download (after prior registration). This allows you to create a bootable USB boot medium for installation on a standard PC based on the original version of your OS X Mavericks, Sierra or Catalina purchased from the Apple Store. This also contains numerous drivers, e.g.B. for various graphic cards and USB ports.

Good to know: To use Unibeast, English must be enabled as the system language of macOS and the installation version of macOS 10.13 from the Mac App Store must be completely available on the system. In addition, the USB stick used must have at least 8 GB of storage capacity.

After starting the program you will get a short description in English and have to accept the license conditions. In the next step, you specify the target medium and select your OS X version. Finally, Unibeast asks whether it is a UEFI or legacy bootstick and displays a summary of your selected configuration. A click on "Continue" with subsequent entry of the admin password finally starts the installation.

Good to know: If the installation process aborts, your system is most likely not compatible with the selected OS X version. However, if only some components (e.g.B. If the bootstick does not support graphics, network or sound, you can install them with the driver package "Multibeast". Please note that not all PC components can be used with MacOS.

4. Hackintosh notebooks

Opened laptop

Laptops can be turned into a Hackintosh as well, but due to the limited space, the implementation is much more complicated than on a desktop PC.

In principle, notebooks can also be realized with Hackintosh, However, the implementation is much more difficult compared to the desktop. This is mainly due to the limited space available, which makes it difficult or even impossible to install the appropriate hardware.

Among the laptop models that are suitable for use as a Hackintosh are the HP ProBook 4540s and the Lenovo Ideapad U310. However, you need to swap the WiFi card on both devices before installation, as it can’t run OS X.

Tip: Under How to build a do-it-yourself Mac Mini you find for example a detailed instruction for the building of a DIY Mac Mini. Another good place to start is also the Hackintosh forum.

5. An overview of the pros and cons of a Hackmac

There are a number of reasons to build a Hackintosh. One of the most convincing arguments is certainly that you have a free choice of hardware (with restrictions). Thus you can build from a portable PC up to a high-end computer exactly what you need, without being dependent on Apple in any way.

Woman with mini-PC

Whether high-end system or portable mini-PC: Thanks to the free choice of hardware, almost everything is possible with the Hackintosh.

At the same time, this also has a positive effect on the costs. A Hackintosh complete computer including display usually costs only a fraction of a Mac with comparable performance. Another advantage: If the performance of your Hackintosh no longer meets your requirements over time, you can easily replace individual components with newer ones.

5.1. A Hackintosh does not only have advantages

As with all projects, however, there are some arguments on the con side of the Hackintosh as well. These include, for example, the non-existent, all-encompassing warranty. Although the individual components each come with their own guarantee and warranty, this does not exist for the system as a whole. Ergo, the corresponding support is only available from the individual manufacturers.

In addition, you should of course have a certain level of manual skill. If you’ve never assembled a PC yourself, you’ll probably be overwhelmed by the project. Besides the assembly, the configuration is also a challenge for many users. For example, audio over HDMI requires special settings, and poor WiFi reception may need to be improved with alternative antennas.

Hackintosh update on a notebook

Updates are not as easy to do on a Hackintosh as on a "real" one Mac and sometimes your computer even quits completely afterwards.

One of the biggest problems, however, is the instability that occurs. The reason for this is not the hardware, but the software itself. Updates are not as easy to do on a Hackintosh as on a "real" Mac and it can even happen that your computer doesn’t work at all afterwards. However, you can’t do without it completely because of potential security holes or new features. In addition, FaceTime, iMessage and the Messages app may not work as desired on the reverse-engineered system.

And last but not least, time is of course a factor that should not be underestimated. Some users report that many hours of work on the macOS terminal and sometimes even several installations were required to successfully get the Hackmac up and running. If you don’t want to do that from the beginning, you should rather leave it alone.

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