Can I get a Mac Pro Junior rather than a Frankenstein?
March 14, 2010 9:06 AM   Subscribe

How can I build a Hackintosh with the minium amount of fuss?

I’m thinking about building a Hackintosh. I’ve never built a computer before, having been a Mac user since way back when, but the physical installation part of the process doesn’t seem to me to be the hard part. What I most definitely want to avoid is constant headaches of manually installing kernel extensions, having to hold down buttons and that sort of stupidity. I know the short answer to this particular dilemma is ‘just buy a Mac from Apple!’, but I already have one of those. I mostly want to do this for the curiosity factor, as well as the attraction of having something comparable to a Mac Pro in terms of computing power.

I don’t really know where to start. I’ve tried to peruse a few forums for advice, but all I see is a hodgepodge of unmaintained wikis and forum threads three dozen pages long. What I’m looking for is recommendations for which parts I should choose in order to minimise or eliminate hassle when using the resulting computer. For instance, does it matter what processor I use, so long as it’s an Intel one? Should I be picking from a certain family of graphics cards? Etc etc.

Here’s the list of things I’d like from whatever I end up building;

• an Intel i7 processor
• a good graphics card, but nothing obscene (enough to play HD video comfortably and maybe a few games?)
• USB and FireWire ports
• a couple of hard drive bays
• gigabit ethernet

I’m happy to compromise on any of these if it’ll make things easier. Essentially, I want to be able to go from a fully assembled computer to running Snow Leopard in as few steps as possible. Is this achievable, and if it is, how much is it likely to cost? I’m in the UK, but feel free to use U.S. pricing and I can guesstimate.
posted by jaffacakerhubarb to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Lifehacker has some goods instructions and links on this topic.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 9:14 AM on March 14, 2010

For your first Hackintosh, consider buying an already-configured system. Best bets are those available on eBay and a ready-to-go system like the Dell Mini 10v. Advantage is that you can dip your toes in the Hackintosh world for under $300, including your Snow Leopard DVD purchase. The build it yourself is best for your second or later Hackintosh, once you've immersed yourself into the community.
posted by moof at 9:21 AM on March 14, 2010

Having owned a Dell Mini 10v, I'll just let you know it's not the same experience. OSX is software plus hardware. Hackintosh feels wrong. But check out the lifehacker guides if you are still interested. Way helpful.
posted by lakerk at 9:31 AM on March 14, 2010

Typing this on a Dell Mini 10v hackintosh: For $279 I have a "Mac" that's faster than my old G4. Definitely worth it!
posted by mixer at 10:26 AM on March 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm typing this from the Hackintosh I built 3 days ago, and I'll second the recommendation of the Lifehacker guides. There's also the Kakewalk installer, which supports a bunch of common motherboards. The motherboard, btw, is pretty much the most important piece of hardware you'll have to choose. You need to find one as compatible as possible. I'd take a look on the InsanelyMac forums or their wiki to find one that suits your needs.

Another thing you might want to do is go on NewEgg and search the public wish lists for other Hackintosh builds using a Core i7 CPU. Just make sure you double check to make sure that person actually picked compatible hardware.
posted by Venadium at 10:45 AM on March 14, 2010

I'll also second what lakerk said, which is why I went and bought an Apple keyboard and Magic Mouse to use with my Hackintosh. I already had a 24" Cinema Display too, so if you didn't take a look under my desk you'd never know it wasn't actually a Mac. This is all a matter of personal taste, of course, and might not matter to you at all.
posted by Venadium at 10:48 AM on March 14, 2010

Best answer: MeFi Projects link on building a hackintosh netbook.
posted by needled at 10:53 AM on March 14, 2010

Best answer: What I’m looking for is recommendations for which parts I should choose in order to minimise or eliminate hassle when using the resulting computer. For instance, does it matter what processor I use, so long as it’s an Intel one?

On the Hackintosh site click "Compatible Systems" and you should see a nice list of links for exactly what you're doing.

Since you are building it from scratch, I really recommend going to InsanelyMac's database. This is a bit more difficult if you're working on existing hardware, but since you're not this should be easier.

For a Hackintosh the driving factors are the motherboard and the graphics card, if you can hit those two you should be good to go. Putting together a computer is really like a Lego set, everything sort of snaps together now.
posted by geoff. at 12:13 PM on March 14, 2010

Nothing to add for the OP, but unfortunately InsanelyMac has been extremely difficult for me to follow. It seems like they want to have a wiki for installation on various devices, but it's really (or at least was the last time I checked) just links to huge forum threads. I spent the longest time trying to find straightforward instructions for an install on my X61 tablet and never found any.
posted by monkeymadness at 12:22 PM on March 14, 2010

Best answer: Even if you do build one (and, depending on the hardware you pick, it is not all that difficult), do you think you can really trust the 'other' software that you're installing? You're basically installing software that makes it nearly impossible to detect whether there's any sort of trojans or other tampering. When you install device drivers for your non-supported hardware, or when you install another kernel, how do you know that it isn't going to have a keylogger? Just food for thought.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 1:39 PM on March 14, 2010

I think you're being a bit paranoid, but you could avoid having to worry about 'other' software by using hardware that doesn't require any.
posted by Venadium at 6:53 PM on March 14, 2010

Best answer: I find some of the highly trafficked threads in the Tutorial section of the Insanely Mac site to be useful. I have a Q6600 with a Gigabyte motherboard and used this thread to get a vanilla, perfectly working 10.6 install going. For an i7 setup, this thread looks like the one you want, but I have no personal experience with that one.

Definitely research the graphics card. To save a lot of hassle, you'll want to find one that's supported by either the PC-EFI or Chameleon bootloaders' built-in graphics enabler. For those cards, all you literally have to do get the card working is add a "GraphicsEnabled=Y" string to a certain config file. Other cards (typically the newer ATi cards) require a lot of tinkering to get them to work. My crappy nVidia 9400 works perfectly well with this option; I'm not sure which card now is the best deal which works with the graphics enabler.

Also, sticking to USB keyboards/mice and SATA drives makes things easier.

I'm more than happy with my hackintosh set-up. If anything, I seem to be having a much better Mac experience than what most people with real Macs are having. Aperture 3 works pretty sweet on my set-up, while I've read on some forums people with new MBPs complaining about SBODs and crashes.
posted by alidarbac at 8:56 PM on March 14, 2010

Best answer: Venadium, the primary way to get OSX to boot on non-apple systems is to use some sort of EFI bios emulation in conjunction with a kext that defeats the encryption in the kernel, or something along those lines. I have never seen source code for either the EFI emulation, nor for the kext that defeats the encryption (dsmos.kext). Don't even get me started with the plethora of third-party kernels that make the rounds.

There is absolutely no way to run OSX on non-apple systems without these two things. Without peer-reviewed source code, I don't think it's safe to put your bank information in.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 11:44 AM on March 15, 2010

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