It may seem strange to write about building a custom hardware macintosh AKA “hacintosh” on a site about regaining traditional skills. I don’t see this mission as solely about learning these types of traditional skills. It is more about regaining a do-it-yourself mindset. That being said, I am also a cheap-wad 😀
You will read many forums “don’t build a hacintosh to save money…” They say this so that you can be more mindful of the level of technical expertise it requires to do a build, however I don’t think it is out of the grasp of the common person to undertake building a hackintosh for just this purpose (saving money). The hardest part of the entire process is putting together the hardware, as long as you read your instructions fully and review some online tutorials I am confident you can do it.
How did all this start? A friend of mine approached me and wanted advice on purchasing a new macintosh. I did some research and per usual was put off by the extremely high prices. My friend makes a modest living and only needs to run one program for his T-Shirt printing business. The software upgrade he required was no longer supported by the Power PC macintosh he had. He needed to get a new Mac with an Intel processor to run the software.
My second thought was to look for a used Mac Mini on eBay. Even here I was looking at around $600. It was then I decided to order the parts and build him a Hacintosh. My budget? $300. I decided if it didn’t work out I would accept the liability for the parts.
There are many valid ways to build a Hackintosh. In fact after having gone through this process I would say that I found a few ways that are easier than the path I chose and I might try those next time.
First of all I was inspired by this post on lifehacker:
My main issue is I didn’t want to spend $1000 dollars. I wanted to spend $300 dollars (A difference for $700 for the mathematically challenged :D)
I first started this project by researching the parts on http://wiki.osx86project.org/wiki/index.php/Main_Page and selected some parts that would fit in my budget. If I had to do this over I would have probably used on of the 2 following methods, rather than the method I ended up using:
- I would have researched selecting parts from this list: Kakewalk Compatibility and using Kakewalk software to create a bootable installation image from Lion.
- I would have assembled a CustoMac build. CustoMacs are hardware builds you can follow. If you follow them exactly you can use the preconfigured software from TonyMac’s blog to install osX very easily. They have a CustoMac Mini with similar specs to the PC I assembled. Don’t bee fooled by the price tag he lists… my build is pretty much the same price as he lists the DVD burner, hard drive, and OS as “Other Components” in order to achieve the cheap price he lists.
Ok, having said all of that, the method I chose to use was the one outlined on the LifeHacker page. The first time I had the wrong DSDT file loaded for my motherboard until I figured out you had to flash the bios. This basically screwed up the video drivers to the point where I only had a black screen. I was forced to start over. What the??? Read on and you just might know what I am talking about by the end.
What follows is the guide I wish I had when I started this 5+ hour learning process of installing Mac OSX on my hardware.
Here are the parts I used:
- Graphics Card
EVGA GeForce 210 Passive 512 MB DDR3 PCI Express 2.0 DVI/HDMI/VGA Graphics Card, 512-P3-1311-KR
- Power Supply
Logisys 550W ATX Power Supply
- Mother Board
GIGABYTE GA-H55M-UD2H LGA 1156 Intel H55 HDMI Micro ATX Intel Motherboard
- CPU (Processor)
Intel Core i3 Processor i3-540 3.06GHz 4MB LGA1156 CPU BX80616I3540 Make sure to get the retail box and not OEM as OEM will not come with a heat sync installed.
Corsair XMS3 4 GB 1333MHz PC3-10666 240-pin DDR3 Memory Kit for Intel Core i3 i5 i7 and AMD CMX4GX3M1A1333C9
- ATX case – scavenged from an old PC. This one would work: APEX PC-389-C Black Case
- SATA Hard drive – I scavenged a 250gb sata hard drive, however you could put in a solid state drive for a performance boost or put in a newer 1TB drive if that pleases you. This hard-drive would work fine: 1 TB Sata Drive
- CD/DVD writer (optical) drive. I scavenged mine however this one would do fine: Liteon DVD Burner
Cost break down
$325 (didn’t quite hit my budget…)
$290 … oops! Math fail! Added the video card twice in the original post
Now to air an pet peeve… don’t you hate it when you see a headline for a DIY project how to build X for $(cheap price) but when you click through to read it you find out that the reason it is cheap is they just happened to find an arc welder in a dumpster or some other nonsense… In otherwords you realize they did it for cheap due to luck or other factors. In the spirit of that let us continue:
|Hard Drive||$50 (depending on drive)|
|OS DVD||$10 on ebay… or $30 for lion download (can’t use my method)|
Total cost if you use all brand new parts:
Now having said that you should do whatever you can to scavenge parts. I would recommend using a new hard drive. My spare hard-drive was a new one which was not being used for any other projects. You can actually save a bit of money by buying a case that comes with a power supply HOWEVER working in the computer industry this is the main part I see failing on computers and I would advise you to buy a decent power supply even though it will cost you more
You will also need a USB thumb drive and an existing Windows PC to download some files. You will need windows to extract some files from a .exe file for the motherboard.
Now I had a copy of the 10.6 Snow Leopard Retail Upgrade DVD so this is what I used. It is possible to upgrade to lion, however since I already owned this software this guide uses that. It is possible to purchase the upgrade to Lion from the app store once you get your mac setup for $30. The process for upgrading to Lion is covered in more detail here: How to upgrade to Lion. Or you can use another method such as CustoMac or KakeWalk as I mentioned above (with different hardware)
- Snow Leapord Upgrade DVD.. around $10 on eBay
- 10.6.8 Combo Update
- F11 Bios for GA-H55M-UD2H
- IBoot (for Retail DVD 10.6x)
- MultiBeast 3.9.0 Snow Leopard Edition
- Realtek Driver Installer Package
- Azalia Audio Driver Installer (Requires free registration to download)
- DSDT File for motherboard (preconfigured settings for this motherboard)
- Gigabyte > Socket 1156 > h55 > ud2h > f11 Direct Link
- Assemble Your PC
- Download the F11 bios from the link above and extract it (by running the .exe file) onto the USB flash drive. Place the USB flash drive into your new PC
- Boot the computer and press the DEL key to enter your BIOS Settings
- In the bios settings there is an option to update the BIOS. Select that and select “from disc” and it should show your USB flash drive. Select the BIOs update file and apply it. Wait for your computer to reboot. This will not work from a burnt DVD or CD.. I tried it. You must use a USB flash drive
- Burn the iBoot ISO to a DVD or CD using software such as IMG Burn (this is what I used). Do not simply burn the file to a data disc. You need a program capable of creating a DVD/CD from a disc image. You need to “burn the image” (google it)
- Copy the remaining downloadable items to the USB flash drive
- Boot the computer and press the DEL key to enter your BIOS settings
- Select the option to load the “optimized” defaults
- Advanced Bios Features > Set first boot device to “CDROM”
- Advanced Bios Features > Set second boot device to “Hard Disk”
- Integrated Peripherals > SATA AHCI mode to “AHCI”
- Power Management Setup > ACPI Suspend Type “S3(STR)
- Power Management Setup > HPET Support “Enabled”
- Power Management Setup > HPET Mode “64-bit mode”
- Insert your iBoot CD into your PC
- Save your Bios settings and allow your computer to reboot from the iBoot CD
- When iBoot loads eject iBoot and insert the Snow Leopard DVD. Wait for the DVD Drive light to stop blinking and then press F5
- At this point Snow Leopard will display an installation screen. At the top there is a Utilities menu.
- Select “Disk Utility”
- Select your hard-drive and format it to Mac OS Extended (Journaled)
- Name your hard-drive whatever pleases you. I called mine “hackintosh”
- Proceed with the snow leopard installation as normal
- At the end of the setup you will get a success screen. (YAY!!) Remove the Snow Leopard DVD and insert iBoot. Now reboot the computer
- Once iBoot loads you will see your new installation as an option to start on the bootup screen. Select it
- You will be forced to watch some fancy “welcome to your mac” video. Sit back and enjoy it.
- Insert your USB flash drive
- Double Click the 10.6.8 Combo update to run it. At the end it will ask you to reboot DO NOT REBOOT!
- Copy the GA-H55M-UD2H F11.aml to your mac desktop and rename it to DSDT.aml
- Run MultiBeast by double clicking on it
- Select UserDSDT
- Select System Utilities
- Expand System Utilities and de-select advanced permissions
- Run MultiBeast (will take 1 or 2 minutes to run)
- Install the realtek drivers by double clicking on them
- Install the sound drivers by double clicking on them
- Remove iBoot from drive and reboot your new Hackintosh
- At this point you should be up and running, and if you are not… umm…. start reading forum posts at tonymac’s site and the good people there will help you 😉 http://www.tonymacx86.com/index.php
Edit: it’s worth pointing out that you will need a USB mouse, USB Keyboard, and VGA or DVI monitor