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Building my $1,200 Hackintosh (medium.com)
117 points by flyosity on July 3, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 85 comments

The i7-6700k is an utter waste of money, just get the non-K version. There is so little to be gained by overclocking a Skylake CPU, there's just no point. Overclocking Sandy Bridge CPUs made sense, the i7 2600k went from 3.4GHz to 5GHz often, 5.1GHz wasn't unheard of -- 50% gain in CPU frequency does translate to measurable and feelable (is that a word?) gain. But the i7-6700k can go to about 4.8GHz -- 20% tops but of course the CPU can turbo itself to 4.2GHz in many tasks so 14% typically. Now you are entering pointless territory, your real world gains will be vanishingly small.

An all-in-one liquid cooler will always be noisier than quality air cooling, for example the Noctua NH-D14. Especially in a great case like that. You'd need to build a very costly loop to have a quiet one and these days CPUs have dropped their TDP so much that there's absolutely no reason to liquid cool them. When you CrossFire/SLI and especially triple CF/SLI top video cards only then you need to begin to think because there's so little space between the cards for air to move. EKWB have special parts to help with watercooling such setups.

The base and turbo frequency is different as well. Seems to amount to about a 10% difference in most CPU benchmarks, prior to overclocking.

> feelable (is that a word?)


I think "perceptible" would be closer to the desired meaning.


You should check the differences between K / non-K versions when it comes to virtualisation technologies. My i7-4790K supports more stuff than the non-K version (No idea how it looks in the 6000 series)

See http://ark.intel.com/compare/88196,88195 for yourself. There is no important difference besides what's necessary for overclocking.

Ironically in the i7-2600 days only the non-K supported VT-d.

I've got a i7-2600K that's overclocked to 4.8GHz with liquid cooling. It's been running on that clockrate for about 3 years now with no issues, with stable temperatures.

Personally, I've never seen the appeal of Hackintoshes.

The primary reason for using a Mac is that you get a unix-like environment, which works without having to piss around with drivers and compatibility. Macbooks also have the advantage of having very nice design and battery life.

A hackintosh takes away the only advantage macOS has over Linux, in my opinion. You now have the same OS, which is more closed and harder to change to suit your needs than Linux, and you will have the same driver problems that Linux users face.

I built one in 2009 and I used it for about 4 years. My primary reason was: I wanted an OS with an "unix-like environment", but I also wanted to be able to run the Adobe Creative Suite natively (and fully color managed). Last but not least I needed a powerful machine with a dedicated GPU.

The alternative to a hack was a pimped out Mac Pro for about thrice the price. I figured it wasn't worth it, and I was right.

At work I was running a Mac Pro, at home I was running the hack. I had zero problems with the hack, but every point upgrade naturally meant a moment of prayer. I always did a full mirror of the system disk with dd before upgrading, but never had a problem.

I'd say your primary reason for using a Mac is actually a smaller minority than you think.

I think the primary appeal of Hackintoshes these days is that you can literally build systems for half the price that perform twice as well as what Apple is offering these days (this is true of the lower end Mac Minis and the high end Mac Pros).

The biggest market I've seen recently is probably for indie pros that don't want to change their media workflow (video, graphics etc) but need more price/performance, or increasingly just straight performance than Apple offers. Honestly, the Mac Pro's ancient E5 CPUs and D300 GPUs are sort of pathetic.

Yeah, but if you're a pro, the unpredictable half day or more you'll probably have to invest several times a year to keep your Hackintosh running through OS updates totally negates the upfront cost savings.

It's also nerdery of a very unrewarding kind (follow some instructions on a forum, which take ages and involve endless reboots, repeat with random other forum instructions when you find they don't work, and so on).

I ran an Asus eeePC HackBook a few years ago before concluding it was a mug's game. In a world where software updates were unimportant or infrequent, things might be different. This is not that world.

>Yeah, but if you're a pro, the unpredictable half day or more you'll probably have to invest several times a year to keep your Hackintosh running through OS updates totally negates the upfront cost savings.

If, as claimed in the article, a high-end hackintosh can be $7000 cheaper than the equivalent apple hardware, that outweighs a lot of "half days" for a lot of professionals. How many professionals earn less than $7000 per month? I would guess many.

I would gladly pay a 50% price premium on a skylake i7 Mac with a high end discreet gpu if Apple sold one.

Unfortunately they do not (I ended up getting a broadwell i7 iMac but would have preferred a discreet GPU if given the choice). It's really not about the apple tax but about current macs being out of date.

Having done a hackintosh myself, I'll chime in and say the cost of upkeep wasn't worth it in the long run. Not being able to do patch updates was fine, but XCode and a number of software always needed the latest OS. This meant doing several days of research / debugging, getting all the right software to update versus clicking one button and knowing it'll work. The second and probably most frustrating them about the hackintosh was when it spontaneously stopped working. I would reboot the computer and it would get stuck on the bootloader. After fiddling around for 5 minutes (if I'm lucky) to an average of 30 minutes, by trying to boot into recovery mode / different configurations, I'd be able to get back into the OS. It was definitely fun as a pet project, but I've learned my lesson. The time to tinker around with it just wasn't worth it for me.

As the author stated, a lot of functionality doesn't work out of the box. iMessage being the largest one. Onboard wifi / bluetooth might not work either, you'll probably need a third party adapter. Audio is a bit finicky, it'll go in and out. Even with video drivers, it might glitch up every once in a while.

The nerd in me wants to build my own Hackintosh.

But I know I can't waste the time with an unpredictable OS when there is no large ROI. Especially when there is a predictable OS is available...albeit at a premium.

I built a couple of different Hackintosh setups when I wanted to experiment with developing for iOS; a netbook specced similarly to the original Air, and a desktop roughly specced like a high end Mac Pro of the time with a 290 GPU. I have no desire to own a Mac, and don't like macOS, but it's the only way to develop for iOS. I also built a macOS VM in Virtualbox about a year ago to see if our server products were workable on macOS (they had been in the past, but a lot has changed, and none of us have Macs to test with).

It was never my primary environment and I eventually gave up on the projects. I generally find macOS unpleasant and incompatible with the way I think.

So, yeah, the appeal is that if you need to develop for macOS or iOS, and a Mac would be a ridiculous waste of money for someone like me (I don't want the OS, and while the hardware is pretty good, it has a very high Apple tax attached to it, and some other vendors make very good hardware these days). It's also kinda fun to thinker with weird stuff.

Audio engineers use a lot of proprietary software that isn't available on Linux. Windows has no true real-time scheduling[1], so has to be carefully tuned to handle low-latency audio processing without playback glitches. Mac OS will run all the proprietary software we need and has superb real-time scheduling for audio, but the choice of hardware is very limited.

Mac Pros are scandalously expensive and aren't passively cooled. iMacs and Mac Minis are very noisy under high CPU load because of the small blower fans. Hackintoshes provide the best of both worlds - you can build a reasonably priced computer with no moving parts[2] and run an OS that is optimised for real-time audio applications.

Drivers aren't really an issue if you choose components from an approved list - either It Just Works or it doesn't.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deferred_Procedure_Call

[2] https://www.quietpc.com/sys-a470s

Recently built a Hackintosh. Unless you go out of your way to use non-recommended hardware you won't have driver issues. Been using it for 6 months, faster than my iMac and easily upgradable when I want to.

Unlike a lot of people I actually like MacOS. I just wish it wasn't tied down to apple hardware.

> A hackintosh takes away the only advantage macOS has over Linux, in my opinion.

I'm a massive Linux user (it's on everything, I don't own a Mac) but you can't run Creative Suite on Linux you can on a Hackintosh as well as all the other Mac native applications.

It's easy to fall into the trap that "my use case is the only use case" and that's not true. If I was a .Net developer I'd be on Windows, if I was an iOS developer I'd be on a Mac.

For me and you (presuming you're a software dev too) this is correct. However a friend of mine just built a Hackintosh and his justification was pretty simple - he had thousands of dollars worth of audio engineering software + libraries only usable on OS X. When it came to replacing his current Macbook Pro with a desktop Mac, and the iMac and Mac Pro are so out of date and expensive it's laughable.

> and the iMac and Mac Pro are so out of date and expensive it's laughable

The 27" iMac uses a modern Skylake chipset and has an excellent 5K monitor. It's definitely not out of date, but it might be too expensive for your friend though.

A unix-like environment is great but Linux isn't very good when it comes to screencast recording software and general audio/video/image editing.

So as a developer who also dabbles in the above you have 3 options:

1) Hackintosh

2) Pay double/triple the cost for a real Mac with worse hardware

3) Run Windows with a "seamless" Linux based VM and spend 99% of your time in the VM (this is what I do but honestly, it's not ideal because despite having a fast machine it doesn't have that "liquid smooth" feel to it even tho it's fast)

If you happen to enjoy games too then generally #3 is your best bet. Btw driver support for Linux isn't that bad anymore. I picked out standard parts (similar to what OP did in his blog post, but not his parts) and everything worked out of the box with Linux.

3) when you want the liquid smooth feel for your 99% time, why don't you boot Linux and run an MSWin in the VM?

It's not so much it being slow due to the VM, but the distro of Linux I use (xubuntu) just doesn't have a liquid smooth feel to it.

Windows and OSX both have an extra layer of superb smoothness added to them.

Real time audio processing and screencast recording doesn't lend itself too well to being ran in a VM. Neither do games.

Dual booting is also the worst experience ever, even with an SSD. You completely lose your focus and open work, it's the ultimate context switch.

You can't (easily) compile for iOS outside of OS X / Xcode. That's the only reason I have a Mac.

OS X is so much more stable than any other Linux desktop I've ever used. Also, apps are much better. Then there's the better design, proper QA, etc.

If you're lucky you won't have driver problems so that might not be an issue for you.

Odd, I've had the opposite experience. In fact, so much that if I'm forced to work on OS X, I reach for Virtualbox and Vmware and choose to take the performance hit to just get my Linux desktop.

I cannot quite put my finger on why Linux feels so much better. Everything just tends to work and is more straightforward and simple. Perhaps it's just about being used to the environment.

I usually use Arch Linux and i3, sometimes changing to Gnome. I guess OS X has nothing comparable.

> OS X is so much more stable than any other Linux desktop I've ever used

> I agree that OS X is way more stable than Ubuntu, Fedora and any of their derivatives

You guys are doing something seriously wrong. I've been using Debian, Ubuntu CentOS and Fedora for years with no issue whatsoever, from puny Celeron-based laptops to multi-socket Xeon boxes.

I love my Macs, but to say they are in any way more stable than the Linux machines is indicative of something odd. To me, the biggest advantage of the Mac is being able to run iTunes and sync my phone.

To be fair, I've used both w/ very little unexpected (cough, Linux) issues.

On OSX, practically no issues. A few system crashes in 10 years, and some very rare issues w/ keyboard/input (I think it's my company's mandatory security software...) The GUI more than makes up for any perceived cost issue (as much as I'd like them 500-1000 cheaper) and the available apps are generally 2x better than Windows and 10x better than Linux.

On Linux GUI, there are a lot of expected problems w/ drivers and such which you can work around with research, but you still end up occasionally having odd audio/graphics issues. X windows is antiquated and holds back the. Gnome/Tk are mediocre replacements, and the other options more so. Some people like twiddling/fighting to get their system setup properly, but I left those feelings 16 years ago.

On Linux server, practically no issues, effectively 100% reliable under most conditions.

OTOH, I know plenty of people who have recurring issues with their Macs, but I attribute it to them not really knowing what they are doing (this includes my wife on our shared MBP)

On headless servers, yeah Linux is king. From our helpdesk stats at $work, OS X is stabler than Linux for (developer) laptops/desktops. The graphics drivers, while better than they used to be still suck. Apt-get still breaks stuff.

Taking into account the larger number of tickets from Linux machines plus not having a single vendor for hardware + software means it can actually be cheaper to support Apple MacBooks vs. Thinkpads + RHEL (not to mention that most of the devs don't want to use RHEL).

I really don't know what you are doing, but I can tell you apt hasn't broken anything here since the mid-2000's and all machines in my office are multi-headed and all of them use their GPUs. Even the laptops connect to big monitors when used on the desk.

Graphics card drivers are reasonable these days, even though manufacturers still tend to drag their feet. You have to understand these are computers, not gaming consoles. If I wanted to play games, I'd buy a Playstation.

Few developers want to use RHEL as their desktops, but that's what VMs and containers are for. My Mac development relies on VMs running Linux.

I suspect it's highly hardware dependant. Most of the time laptops are made to run Windows or Mac OS, and Linux is an afterthought. So to me it's a miracle that it even works.

But quite frankly, half of the problem is people telling others that it's somehow their fault when it doesn't work. It's not, e.g. NVIDIA Optimus [0] [1]. There are even jokes about ACPI support on Linux [2]. It only takes a few bad experiences for people to shy away from a platform, which is a shame.

[0] http://www.thelinuxrain.com/articles/the-state-of-nvidia-opt... [1] https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/NVIDIA_Optimus [2] https://twitter.com/sadserver/status/721134795938357248

> OS X is so much more stable than any other Linux desktop I've ever used

I guess you never used Slackware. ;)

I agree that OS X is way more stable than Ubuntu, Fedora and any of their derivatives.

"Personally, I've never seen the appeal of Hackintoshes."


Q: "Why did he risk his life to climb that mountain?"

A: "Because it was there"


"Every frozen corpse on the Himalayas was once a highly motivated person"

s/Himalayas/El Capitan/g

Because he can

I ran a hackintosh for a few years - a Dell Mini 9. At the time, it was the most compatible mini laptop that would run OS X, and still maybe is one of the best of all time.

It was great, I loved it and used it every single day for years.

That being said, the longer I owned it, the more I realized it's shortcomings. Sometimes it wouldn't wake from sleep. It's trackpad was crap. The keyboard keys had a crappy feel. I couldn't update OS X. Ironically a friend tripped over the power cord, pulling it onto concrete and smashing the screen - if I had a real Apple laptop the magsafe connector would have saved it. (though I replaced it for $35)

After years of use, that hackintosh taught me one thing - I really wanted a genuine Apple laptop, so I went and bought my first one - a 2012 MBA, which I'm using right now.

Hacktoshes are close, but not the real thing.

This ain't a laptop though and the shortcomings you're talking about aren't apparent in usage of a desktop (except the update which author referred to).

Stating your hackintosh and this hackintosh as the same isn't fair.

Actually, I think it's an excellent comparison.

The part that makes OSX and Apple in general so good is that it just works. It really does. It never crashes, never locks up and works year after year.

A hackintosh does not do that, and is only a close second.

> By the way, Apple charges $1,200 to configure a Mac Pro with 64GB of RAM, and those are slower DDR3 sticks. That’s almost as much as this entire system.

This should be somewhere near the top of the article.

While I respect Apple for their stance on privacy, this side disgusts me. I understand profits, but this is pure greed.

Yea, Apple memory is often overpriced. Today, you can buy 128GB based on quad rank 32GB DDR3 RDIMMs from for example OWC for a similar price for example. And the Mac Pro is now outdated too (Xeon E5 v2) which is why it is using DDR3.

The driver installation & building these now is infinitely easier since Clover became the default method of installation. When I built mine a year ago, I wouldnt have recommended it. BTW, I got iMessage working, and the process wasn't too shady :). Great tutorial! Also, think about switching to Clover ASAP, updates from the App Store work flawlessly.

I've been considering building a hackintosh again given the anemic status of Apple's desktops (the current Mini is lousy value for money). Only thing really stopping me is the rather bulky form factor (my current mini fits snugly under the shelf that holds my monitors).

All in all, things are vastly improved these days. Apple tends to use more off-the-shelf hardware, which means there's a lot less hacking going on if you hand-pick components (like a few others here, I ran OS X on a Dell Mini 9, but I also did that on Toshiba laptops, Dell desktops and a number of 'near-Macs' which had compatible motherboards and video cards). You can keep such a machine stable for years if you know what you're doing, but yes, things can go spectacularly wrong.

Then again, considering that I mostly did nuke & pave upgrades of most of my Linux machines due to accumulation of various kinds of cruft, a couple of those hacks were probably easier to maintain.

> Only thing really stopping me is the rather bulky form factor (my current mini fits snugly under the shelf that holds my monitors).

Problem solved...


Yeah, well, no. My friends sent me that very same link (and the YouTube video of the build), but that box doesn't fit under the shelf by an inch.

Have you considered adjusting the height of the shelf? It seems like a curious thing to optimize for when deciding which computer to use.

I use an IKEA wall shelf to lift my monitors off my desk. The thing has just enough clearance to have the Mini under it and an inch and a half clear above it for airflow, and was a pain to place at the right height at the time (concrete walls).

Maybe you could use something like the rail-and-cantilever shelving scheme you find in a lot of stores. That way, you only have to install it once and the height is easy to adjust thereafter.

There are several Mini ITX cases with VESA mount brackets, so the computer can be bolted to the back of your monitor.


I appreciate the pointers, but neither of my monitors has enough room behind it.

My 2600k died recently after 5 years @ 5 GHz.

I think Intel desktop CPUs are overpriced and do not offer some important features (ECC). Haswell Xeons are pretty cheap, only downside is lack of NVMe and higher electricity bill.

I will probably go with this:

- 2 x 12 core Xeon based on Haswell

- dual CPU motherboard


Some desktop CPU's do support ECC http://ark.intel.com/search/advanced?ECCMemory=true&MarketSe... But good luck finding a motherboard for that socket that supports ECC memory.

That said entry level Xeons are not that expensive an E3-1220 v5 costs 200$...

But if you are going for your machine it doesn't look like money is an issue. But that said if you need that much computing power why even bother building a machine? You can get used rackmount servers on the cheap these days, and if you live near a place that does foreclosure auctions you can get them ridiculously cheaply even if they are new in box.

Here is a server with 2 x 8 core CPU's and 192GB RAM for 1200$ and with B/O you can probably get it closer to 1000.... http://www.ebay.com/itm/Supermicro-2-x-E5-2670-CPU-192GB-RAM...

If you don't want to stick it in a closet then a 10-15U rack is also 100-150$.

And just remote to the server from anywhere you want....

I already have an old rack server. It is very noisy, heavy and does not fit some graphic cards. I need normal desktop with quiet fans, multiple displays. Mainly for programming but I might play some game as well.

What programming do you do that you need 256GB? There are plenty of server that fit GPU's get a 4U server and it's fine.

The fans can easily be sorted out either replaced or undervolted....


Is that a typo? Did you mean DDR4?

Yes, DDR4

It seems to be mostly focused on building a desktop or buying a ready-made laptop. What I'm actually hoping for is the ability to upgrade my old 2011 Macbook Pro. I don't think Apple is ever going to make a Macbook that good, but I'd really like some more memory and a more powerful processor. I suspect that means a new motherboard.

Is there such a thing as a mobile, macbook-compatible motherboard that you can buy? Or is that a really ridiculous thing to ask? I rather suspect the latter actually.

I can imagine the thrill of building the coolest Hackintosh ever, with, say, a quad E7 and a terabyte of ram attached to a quad 5K screen arrangement, but it quickly loses appeal when you need a Mac to actually get things done.

Let's say having the ability to run Mac software enables you to increase your monthly revenue by $5K (and that is a very generous overestimation), how much of your time is worth assembling and fixing your own versus buying a reasonable iMac or a MacPro?

Unless you're building apps for iOS or designing things in Photoshop/Illustrator, any form of computer running Linux will do. Bash on Windows might also become a thing once it gets stable, at which point you can choose any form of hardware you want because Windows supports literally everything.

I'm curious why you need a Mac to get things done? Unless your work involves iOS development or a lot of Photoshopping, a standard Ubuntu Desktop installation should do just fine.

"Bash on Windows might also become a thing" - I've been dreaming about this for months. It really looks like a huge threat to Apple: Creative Cloud, BASH, and I don't have to piss around with Bootcamp when I want to play that game.

Cygwin has been there since ever (since, at least, Windows 2000) and it provides a very reasonable unix-like environment on top of Windows. This Ubuntu on Windows play may be faster and more efficient (and, with apt, more convenient) but that's it. It doesn't make possible something that wasn't before.

I really wish Apple would relax the restrictions on where you can install macOS. I understand that they don't want to commit the resources to support running macOS on any arbitrary number of hardware combinations out there today for physical machines, but as far as I can tell, there doesn't seem to be any technical grounds for restricting its use in VMs outside of macOS hosts (please correct me if I'm mistaken).

The only actual restriction they have is DSMOS. Other than that, the rest of restrictions are just because of their own implementation of things like EFI, etc

Just by using the Clover bootloader + FakeSMC.kext (to bypass DSMOS) you can boot... if your system is supported. You can't blame them for not making drivers for everything, taking into account they control the hardware they sell.

If apple would allow hackintosh, then they would probably face competition from companies producing hackintosh laptops. It would be like rolex started allowing fake watches.

We do have a precedent https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macintosh_clone Radius machines were great!

And tha clones almost killed Apple, which is why it was the first thing Steve Jobs killed after his return to Apple.

Clones weren't the ones that almost killed Apple. Apple was the one that almost killed Apple. Ran itself into a ground by a guy whose previous experience was selling flavoured sugar water.

I was specifically referring to installation in VMs, not physical machines.

The Apple business model is based on marketing a carefully crafted user-experience founded on the tight integration of hardware and software. They are primarily a hardware company. Allowing their operating systems to run on arbitrary devices could result in less Apple hardware being sold.

They learned the lesson from how IBM failed to maintain its 'walled garden' around the original IBM PC by neglecting to take ownership of DOS, which allowed their market to be swamped by PC clones, usually technically superior, all running DOS.

I would more prefer they get more reasonable with their desktop offerings with regards to features and pricing. their SSD upgrades are still ridiculous and having to buy the top model just to have a video card choice is by itself not a choice

There is the business side, it would be stupid for Apple to allow VM's on hardware that is not from Apple or installing OS X on other hardware because it would drive sales of Macs down.

Why buy an Apple computer if I can develop for iOS in my X86 machine?

I didn't have the right hardware for a Hacintosh but I needed to do some testing. I followed these instructions to run El Capitan on Virtualbox. By giving it 4 cpus, I was able to get reasonable performance.


I wonder how/if usb 3.x works and if has thunderbolt?

Fuggin eh.

This is 'king maker' stuff.

Love it.

You do realize that you are breaking the license terms of Apple by installing OS X on non-Apple hardware, right? What the author did is a nice read and a cool tech gig, but it's illegal.

I have thought about building a Hackintosh multiple times over, but the continuity (I'm not referring to the marketing term of one specific feature) is something that most Hackintosh builds lack. In the end I realized that if I want a Hackintosh, I want it to be the same as a real Mac. If not, I can just stick with Linux and not be constrained in any way.

edit: I am being downvoted for pointing out a blatant license terms violation? Really?

It's an excellent point, but people don't tend to care about pirating software (and writing articles admitting to such) or license terms, except when it's a company like BMW distributing GPL software... then the pitchforks come out.

I'm actually curious what the minimum viable Apple hardware one needs to legitimately follow Apple's license. Is it the motherboard? The case? A few custom chips? What if you could purchase just thoes parts (eg: as repair parts) in order to be fully license compliant, then build your Mac up around those? You would get to be legit and you're also able to customize all the license agnostic parts to obtain whatever specs you're after.

It really depends on your jurisdiction. In some countries the clause is void.

breaking EULA does not necessarily mean illegal.

Not making a judgement in this case, but just being clear.

> What the author did is a nice read and a cool tech gig, but it's illegal.

Lighten up. It's not like manufacturing hackintoshes and selling them.

I don't know what country you are from, but in America people who follow all the rules, no matter how petty and arbitrary, and like to call out people who don't are considered to be boring busy bodies and not at all someone you'd like to spend time with.

> I want it to be the same as a real Mac

Then I present to you the Quicksilver: http://imgur.com/w1mLAm0&CMjGhkA

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