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Hackintosh netbooks
October 24, 2009 8:23 AM   Subscribe

I am thinking of hackintoshing a netbook and would like some guidance from those with some experience in this area. I have several questions:

1.) Probably the most crucial question is: How difficult is this really? Some things I've read make it sound like a walk in the park and others like a huge pain in the ass that can only be accomplished by the elite. I would rank my experience/skill level somewhere between rank noob and poweruser probably falling closer to noob on that spectrum. I have only had a computer full time for the last five years or so and have no formal training. However, I am intelligent, I read tech stuff voraciously, and have been able to teach myself how to do everything I've wanted to do with a computer thus far. I don't have any experience doing stuff on the command line or running scripts but am willing and eager to learn (just haven't found a reason to yet.) I don't mind usually enjoy digging through forums and help pages to find the solution to problems and love the thrill of victory when I successfully make it work. I just don't want to spend a lot of money on hardware for a project that would be beyond me.

2.) What netbook would you recommend I start with? I have read that the Dell Mini 9 is an ideal candidate and even though it is no longer being produced I have seen several new-unused on eBay that are within my budget. I have also heard that the MSI Wind is a good choice, is one preferable to the other? What are the minimum specs I should be looking for?

3.) Besides the netbook itself what else am I going to need to pull this off?

4.) Once OSX is up and running how much tinkering is required to keep it running? I will not be the primary user of this machine and the person who will be using it daily does not get the same buzz that I do from fiddling with stuff.

5.) What web resources have you found most helpful for this project? I have done some Googling and read past questions but nothing has really stood out as the definitive guide yet.

Thanks in advance for the help and I will monitor this question in case any additional input is needed.
posted by Bango Skank to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
1) Not, depending on the model you hackintosh, basically you just need to get a couple of kext's in the install image and turn some stuff off in the install.

2) Dell Mini 9 seems popular and works well, I have an EEE 1000HE that was almost no trouble at all, other popular ones are the 1008HA. There's a table out there that gives you the details.

3) A way to manipulate the install image, usually you restore the install image to a 16GB usb drive, the easiest way to do this is with another Mac.

4) None, updates apply fine thus far for me.The trackpad is a little touchy, but I just need to hack apart the drivers for it a bit. The mini 9 should work fine out of the box if I understand other folks experience.

5) The googles, they know everything.
posted by iamabot at 8:44 AM on October 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

My brother recently made a Dell Mini 9 Hackintosh, and while the machine works perfectly on it's hacked version of 10.5.5, he wishes he had used a Dell Mini 10 instead, mainly due to the smaller keyboard size of the 9.

Anyway, I got to spend a little time with it, and it was a nice little machine. Everything worked. Based on my experience with his machine, I'd definitely recommend the SSD option, as it increases the speed of the machine dramatically.
posted by mosk at 9:50 AM on October 24, 2009

Oh, and he said it was very easy: all of the necessary files were available as a single package, and no actual hacking was involved. The most difficult part seemed to be ordering the Mini 9 from the Dell web site.
posted by mosk at 10:03 AM on October 24, 2009

People are hard at work getting the new HP Mini 311 working as a Hackintosh netbook. It looks like they almost have everything figured out. They may have a successful how-to guide sometime in the next month.

I had a Hackintoshed MSI Wind in the past, which I sold because I wasn't thrilled with the screen or the cramped keyboard. I'm considering the HP Mini 311 because of its high-res 11.6" screen, improved graphics capabilities, and non-cramped keyboard. I'll probably dual boot Win7 and Snow Leopard.
posted by adamk at 10:35 AM on October 24, 2009

I'm a 20+ year Mac user and capable enough Windows and Unix guy. I did this about six weeks ago on a whim after being encouraged by another MeFite in another AskMe. It's great fun, and the resulting toy is hilariously cool. People are confused when they see MacOSX running. I like it because if I drop it or break it or it dies in six months, who cares. Cheap, disposable Mac for less than the cost of an OLPC, even.

1.) The reason you are finding all kinds of contradictory advice is that for the first people who figured this out a year ago, it was really really hard. But for those of us coming late to the party and just following their advice, it's a walk in the park.

2.) This list is the definitive chart of how-compatible each netbook model is. I went for the HP1000 because I happened to find it on a ridiculous, and it's worked great, but I would have taken the Dell9 if I had seen that. But the HP keyboard is very nice, and the hardware overall is good. It ain't Mac quality, and it looks like a kid's toy next to my real MacBook, but dammit: it works!

3.) You will need a working Mac or PC to start from. And you will need either a USB DVD drive to boot from, or at least one and preferably two 8Gb or larger USB keys or SD cards: one to make a MacOS Installer disk with (if you are not using a DVD), and the other to move stuff around. I used two 8Gb SD cards from my camera.

4.) It took me three or four tries (a complete Sunday afternoon) to get a "good" installation that worked exactly the way I wanted, mainly because I suck at following instructions, and many of the web instructions are... not great. The next time I did it (a second netbook), I followed my careful notes from the first time and the whole process was about 50mins. Unlike iamabot, I never could get the 10.5.8 updates to work (I end up with a brick) but it runs like a charm with 10.5.7, and really... what's the difference? No maintenance since: six weeks of behaving like a "just works" Mac. Quite shocking and nifty. The only apps that don't like it are ones that demand a bigger screen, like games.

5.) I made my own hacked together recipe from a few web pages and corrected/adjusted it for what I learned along the way. I can e-mail you this if you end up with an HP; it's not on the web and the steps would be different for other netbooks. But there's not much that can go wrong, so go ahead and follow the first "step by step" you find. If it does not work out, try another.

(PS Mosk: I don't think the Dell 10 works with OSX. It's not the same as the 9 at all.)
posted by rokusan at 10:37 AM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Dell Mini 9 is practically effortless to Hackintosh. For what it is--a very cheap, tiny, no-frills computer--it's a fantastic little machine. But I will echo mosk's comment about the keyboard being way too small for "real" typing. I have small hands, and it's still a pain to type in long passwords and whatnot (I find that I can type faster on my iPhone than on the Mini 9, amazingly enough). In addition to it being too small, the keyboard layout is non-standard, especially on the right-hand side. The double-quote key is where the alt/option key would normally be on a real Mac, for example. Same with the underscore key. It's a terrible computer to use if you're a coder, because these oft used keys are in completely wacky places on the Mini 9.

In addition, the trackpad and buttons on the Mini 9 are pretty crappy, compared to a Macbook/Powerbook. The mouse buttons have way too much springiness, and if you press too hard on the trackpad, you'll have problems with making fine cursor movement. I've gotten used to these shortcomings, but a friend of mine, whom I built a Mini 9 Hacktintosh for, has constant problems moving the mouse pointer around the screen, because he normally presses down on laptop trackpads as if he's pleasuring a woman's naughty parts. YMMV, of course.

The Dell Mini 10v is just as easy as the Mini 9, as far as getting OSX to run on it (you can't use the standard Mini 10, since the internal components don't have available OS X drivers for them), however, it's an absolute nightmare to upgrade the RAM and harddrive/SSD in it, compared to the dead-easy Mini 9. But it might be worth the trouble, if only to enjoy the 10v's significantly superior keyboard.

The main problem you'll run into when running OSX on netbooks is that many apps are designed with the assumption that they'll be displayed on at least a 13" display. So you'll sometimes find that windows end up not fitting on the screen. There is a way--via a simple terminal command--to force certain apps to startup at a reduced resolution so you can fit the entire window to the netbook screen. Also, if you search the forums (the only site you need to know about if you're hacking Dell Mini's), a few people have created semi-userfriendly GUI applets that can resize app windows as well.

If you're going to build a Hackintosh system for a non-geek friend, the first thing you should do is disable Software Update checking. On the Mini 9, it's been generally smooth sailing as far as OS updates are concerned (I've incrementally upgraded my initial 10.5.6 install to 10.5.7 & 10.5.8 with no issues), but if the receipient of the machine is not a "tinkerer", then they don't need to be on the cutting edge of any potential Software Updates which may adversely affect the system in the future. Better safe than sorry.
posted by melorama at 10:55 AM on October 24, 2009

Dell Mini 10v How To
posted by sharkfu at 12:29 PM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Most guides are fairly straightforward, but you will pretty much always have issues with later revisions and/or updates. If you don't mind staying with your current version and either sticking it out or waiting for updated guides (and possibly wiping/reinstalling), go for it.

FWIW, I have a Mini 9 and its not 100% under Snow Leopard like it is under Leopard.
posted by wongcorgi at 12:53 PM on October 24, 2009

The folks over at Lifehacker JUST posted this. "How To: Hackintosh a Dell Mini 10v Into the Ultimate Snow Leopard Netbook"

I am in no way affiliated with Lifehacker, but after reading it I really want to do it!
posted by xotis at 12:58 PM on October 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

Dammit, sharkfu and xotis, I have a 15" MBP that works great, but that article made me really, really, really want to pick up a 10v and create a small Hackintosh. The 10v + Snow Leopard looks like a much better platform than the Mini 9 + Leopard.

Can't justify but still want, grumble grumble grumble...
posted by mosk at 2:07 PM on October 24, 2009

I have a Dell Mini 9 Hackintosh. Took an afternoon to setup, and that was before the new even easier to use tools came out.

You will likely want to have a flash drive of sufficient size (~ 8GB) to hold an OS X install image. These are pretty darn cheap now.

Very little tinkering required to keep it running. A software update once broke WiFi for me, which was easily fixed with a patch from mydellmini. If your primary user refrains from installing updates without your OK, there should really be no problems.

I agree with the thoughts above on the mini 9 vs the 10v. The mini 9 keyboard is tiny! I did this before the 10/10v came out, but if I were doing this again, I would go for the 10v.
posted by zachlipton at 3:57 PM on October 24, 2009

wongcorgi: "FWIW, I have a Mini 9 and its not 100% under Snow Leopard like it is under Leopard."

Not sure what kind of problems you're having, but My Mini 9 *is* working "100%" under Snow Leopard (10.6.1 with all updates installed).
posted by melorama at 4:41 PM on October 24, 2009

Late to the party, but want to suggest to those with a Dell Mini 10v: the two-finger scroll works best when the pointer finger sits still on the trackpad and the middle finger does the scrolling. That's not how you scroll on a Mac trackpad.
posted by Napoleonic Terrier at 10:05 PM on October 24, 2009

I did this to my MSI Wind U100. It wasn't exactly hard but it was time consuming to get all the right packages and decipher various posts on web forums. Getting exactly the right hardware was the hard part: The U100's wifi card did not have the right drivers so I decided to replace it with a card I bought on eBay. That took more time, more money, and more effort. It was a fun project but ultimately I blew the install away and went with Ubuntu/Windows 7 dual boot: They support everything on the box and handled the goofy 600 pixel high screen much better than OSX did.

Also, the trackpad is so small and crummy it kind of ruins the portable experience.
posted by chairface at 8:35 PM on October 25, 2009

Thanks for all the great suggestions. On the strength of the article linked to above I think I am going to go with the Dell mini 10v. I'll come back and let everyone know how it went after it is complete.
posted by Bango Skank at 11:48 AM on October 28, 2009

Shopper's tip: Dell runs a couple of online stores where you can get equipment at discount.

The Dell Outlet sells refurbs, returns, scratch'n'dent, and equipment that was configured to a specification but not delivered. (The other is Dell Financial Services' direct sales store, which only sells older business equipment, and won't have Minis for a long time, if ever but might not be a bad place to cadge a monitor for cheap.)

Mini 10v refurbs cost $20-25 less than identical models from the aboveground Dell store. Scratch'n'dents cost considerably less, but harder to come by and more of a risk. Previously Ordered New units seem to cost as much or more than similar aboveground Dell store units, but many of the P.O.N. systems I saw earlier this week had specs that weren't available in the aboveground store: for example, wireless network cards that included 802.11(n) (and which might or might not be supported by Mac OS X, so that's not the incentive it sounds like). There frequently are additional deals, such as free ground shipping.

The main downside to the Outlet is that your build-to-order options are nil; you can't configure what they offer.

And relevant to the Mini 10v itself: If you buy the 6-cell battery for extra run time, the laptop will have a cylindrical blob affixed under the base, near the display hinge, for the extra battery cells that couldn't fit in the case. And it won't fit in most laptop sleeves sized for netbooks without removing the battery. I'm sure this has been noted elsewhere, but Dell's website doesn't make prominent mention of it.
posted by ardgedee at 8:50 PM on October 30, 2009

And finally: If you would rather have a Mini 9, those are still available from the Dell Outlet.
posted by ardgedee at 8:51 PM on October 30, 2009

And One More Thing before I leave this topic alone: Buying a refurb means you're buying an older model, which may have an older BIOS, sparing you the need to downgrade it. (Mine arrived today with the hackintosh-compatible A05 rather than the current A06.)
posted by ardgedee at 9:02 PM on October 30, 2009

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