How To Build A Hackintosh With Snow Leopard, Start To Finish

Two years ago, I detailed how to build a Hackintosh for under $US800—then covered how to do the same with less hacking. Now that Snow Leopard's out, we're revisiting the Hackintosh, building a Hack Pro from scratch for roughly $US900.

For folks eager to try a Mac but never wanted to plunk down the high price tag to get it, the Hackintosh—that is, a regular PC tweaked to run OS X—has always been an attractive option. That said, it's not something you should take on lightly unless you're willing—even enthusiastic—to build and maintain a PC entirely from scratch. I can't guarantee it'll be easy, but if you follow this guide step-for-step (it's exhaustive) and stick with the same (or at least roughly the same) hardware as I am, I can vouch for a rock solid system that also happens to cost a good deal less than you'd pay for a comparable Mac.

Price Comparisons

Most Hackintosh enthusiasts will say you shouldn't build a Hackintosh primarily to save money, as it's more than just an insert-disc-and-click install. Still, I always enjoy looking at the price differences between my Hackintosh and Apple's current offerings. At the moment, the cheapest Mac in the Apple store is a Mac mini sporting a 2.0GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 1GB of RAM, and a 120GB hard drive. For $US300 more, I'm running a 3.0GHz Quad-Core processor, 8GB of RAM, a 1TB hard drive and a damn saucy video card. I could have made this build much cheaper by skimping on hardware and still ended up with a great little machine, but I liked aiming for around the $US800 price point from my last build—plus I really wanted to make it fly.

The most expensive iMac, by comparison, has only a 3.06GHz Core 2 Duo with 4GB of memory for $US2200 ($US1300 more than my build, but it is built into a monitor), while the cheapest Mac Pro has a single 2.66GHz Quad-Core processor, 3GB of RAM, and a 640GB hard drive—and it costs $US2500 ($US1600 more than mine, though it's a different and better processor and DDR3 rather than DDR2 RAM). In short, my $US900 "Hack Pro" sports nearly as good or better hardware than any Mac that Apple sells short of the $US3300 8-Core Mac Pro (which can, incidentally, get more expensive, but it won't get much better).

The Hardware

You can find plenty of hardware capable of supporting OS X on a Hackintosh—there's no definitive build—but we're not going to go into that here. I've put together a list of hardware that I'm using and that I can guarantee will (or at least has) run Snow Leopard like a dream.

The Build

Rather than detail every step necessary to put the actual pieces of your new computer together (this guide already reads like the Bible as is), I'm just going to point you to our first-timer's guide to building a PC from scratch. Do your building, make sure everything's booting up as it should be (i.e. you can boot the computer to the point where it does nothing, because you have nothing installed on it), then let's move on.

What Else You'll Need

Assuming you've purchased all the necessary parts for your build (linked above), you'll still need a few other things before you get started:

  • A USB thumb drive that's at least 8GB in size (I'm using this 16GB Corsair drive, but obviously any sufficiently sized thumb drive should do just fine.)
  • A copy of the Mac Box Set—though, honestly, Apple's practically made it hard *not* to buy the fully functional install disc.
  • Another Mac to do some Terminal work on. (You'll only need this other Mac for a few steps. I used my MacBook Pro, but you could also borrow a friends for an hour or so, too.)

Step One: Prepare Your Thumb Drive

We're going to be installing Snow Leopard to your Hackintosh from your thumb drive rather than from the Snow Leopard install DVD, since in order to run the installer on your PC to begin with, you'll need to slightly customise the way the installer is loaded. (More specifically, we'll be loading a custom bootloader onto the thumb drive that will make booting into the install work like a charm.*)

So first things first: You need to format your thumb drive and then turn your Snow Leopard install disc into a disk image on your desktop. Here's how to do it:

  1. Launch the Disk Utility application on your borrowed Mac (located at /Applications/Utilities/Disk Utility)
  2. Format and partition your thumb drive: Insert your thumb drive; after a second, it should show up in the Disk Utility Sidebar. When it does, (1) click on it, then (2) click on Partition. (3) Choose 1 Partition from the Volume Scheme, (4) give it a name (I called my HackintoshInstall) and select Mac OS Extended (Case-sensitive, Journaled) from the Format drop-down. Now—and this is important—(5) hit the Options button and make sure GUID Partition Table is selected as the partition scheme. Once you've made sure to set all the appropriate settings, just (6) click Apply and Disk Utility will get to partitioning your thumb drive.

  3. Copy the Snow Leopard Install DVD image to your hard drive: In the following step we'll be turning your thumb drive into a Snow Leopard Install drive, but before we do that, we need to get the installer off your DVD and onto your hard drive. To achieve this, insert the Snow Leopard DVD. When it shows up in the Disk Utility sidebar, (1) click on it, then (2) click New Image in the Disk Utility toolbar. Choose where you want to save it (for the sake of convenience, I put it on my Desktop), then click the Save button. Now go grab yourself a cold drink. This will take some time. When it finishes, move on to the next step.

  4. Restore the Snow Leopard Install disk image to your thumb drive: Now, in Disk Utility, (1) click on HackintoshInstall (or whatever you called your partitioned thumb drive) and (2) click on Restore. (3) Drag and drop Mac OS X Install DVD.dmg from the sidebar to the Source field, then (4) drag and drop your thumb drive from the sidebar to the Destination field. Now simply (5) click on Restore and enter your password when prompted. Disk Utility will take everything on the Snow Leopard Install DVD and restore that image to your thumb drive—since, like I said above, we'll be installing Snow Leopard from our thumb drive instead of the DVD. Again, go grab yourself another drink; this will take a few minutes. When it finishes, your thumb drive has basically been turned into a Snow Leopard installation drive.

As I said earlier, the thumb drive needs a little finesse before you can boot the Snow Leopard installer on your PC hardware; let's apply that finesse now.

Warning: Semi-heavy Terminal work ahead. It's not that difficult, and I've gone into a lot of detail to make it as easy to follow along as possible, but if you're not at least a little comfortable with the command line, it may make you pretty uncomfortable. Beg or borrow a command line geek for an afternoon, if needed.

  1. Make sure your thumb drive is still plugged in, open Terminal (/Applications/Utilities/Terminal) and type in: diskutil list

    We're interested in two pieces of information here. The first is the root identifier for your thumb drive (mine looks like disk2, as you can see in the screenshot). The second is the specific identifier for the portion of the thumb drive that contains the Snow Leopard installer. (Again, see the screenshot.) In my case, the first is disk2 and the second is disk2s2. Yours may vary depending on how many disks are on your system. Copy your identifiers down somewhere. We'll need them later.

  2. Head to the Chameleon homepage, find the Latest Releases section of the site's sidebar, and download the latest version of Chameleon. (As of this writing, it's Chameleon-2.0-RC2-r640.) Uncompress the download and move the Chameleon folder to someplace that's easy to access. I'm putting it on my Desktop.
  3. Now, in Terminal, cd to the i386 folder of the Chameleon folder. On my Mac, the command looks like this:

    (1)

    cd /Users/adam/Desktop/Chameleon-2.0-RC2-r640-bin/i386/

    Yours should look similar if the Chameleon folder is on your Desktop, except your username should replace mine. (Quick shortcut: In Terminal, type cd , then drag and drop i386 folder inside Chameleon-2.0-RC2-r640 to Terminal.) Hit Enter.

  4. You're going to be running a couple of Terminal commands that will use Chameleon to make your thumb drive friendly to booting up the OS X installer. They are, as follows:

    (2)

    sudo fdisk -f boot0 -u -y /dev/rdisk2

    IMPORTANT: On your computer, replace rdisk2 with whatever you copied down above. In my case, the thumb drive's root identifier was disk2, so /dev/rdisk2 is as it should be.

    After you type in that command and hit Enter, you'll need to enter your user password to execute it. Do so, then execute the following command, again paying special attention to the disk identifier we took note of above:

    (3)

    sudo dd if=boot1h of=/dev/rdisk2s2

    IMPORTANT: As I noted, my Snow Leopard partition was disk2s2, so that command is right for me. You should replace the disk2s2 portion of the command with whatever you noted as the portion of your thumb drive that contains the Snow Leopard installer.

  5. Now we're going to place an awesome, custom EFI bootloader on your thumb drive that lets us load into the installer (and into Snow Leopard in general). So first, head over to netkas.org and download the bootloader from the bootloader link. Make sure you download it somewhere convenient. (Again, I've just downloaded it to my Desktop.) Now head back into Terminal, where we're going to copy the boot file to your thumb drive. (One might think that you could just do this using Finder via drag-and-drop, but in this case, doing it via Terminal is necessary.) So, in Terminal, your command should look similar to this:

    sudo cp /Users/adam/Desktop/boot /Volumes/HackintoshInstall

    The easiest way to do this is simply type in sudo cp , (1) drag and drop the boot file into Terminal, then (2) drag and drop your mounted thumb drive from the desktop into Terminal. (The drag-and-drop method is a quick Terminal trick that pastes the full path to each file or directory.) After that, simply hit Enter. (Enter your password if necessary.)

  6. I know it seems like we've already run a marathon, but you've got one last step and then it's relatively smooth sailing from here on. Download Extra.zip, unzip the file, and then drag and drop the Extra folder into your thumb drive. Nothing fancy, a simple drag and drop with your trusty old mouse will do. Once you've done that, open up your thumb drive and verify that it looks something like the screenshot below. (Notice the Extra folder, the boot file, and the OS X installer.)

Take a deep breath. By this time, you've completed all the hard work. Now it's time to boot up your machine, tweak your BIOS settings so they're ready for your OS X install, and then it's smooth sailing.

Step 2: Set Your BIOS

Before you can boot into or install OS X on your Hackintosh, you've got to make some small adjustments to your BIOS. Rather than taking you step by step through every change you need to make, I've simply snapped a picture of the relevant BIOS screens and added some notes. Just click through these images and make sure your BIOS settings match up.

MB Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T) Page One

MB Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T) Page 2

MB Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T) Page 3

Standard CMOS Settings Don't think there's anything all that special here.

Advanced BIOS Features The first entry—Hard Disk Boot Priority—is where you set your thumb drive as the first drive to boot when you're running the installer.

Set Your Hard Disk Boot Priority This is a particularly important setting—when you're booting into the Snow Leopard installer on your thumb drive, make sure that your thumb drive (which should be inserted) is set as the top boot disk. If you decide to add the EFI bootloader to your hard drive after you complete the install, you'll want to set that hard drive as first in the boot priority.

Integrated Peripherals The AHCI setting is particularly important, but make sure the rest match up. The last two not pictured are also set to Enabled.

Power Management Setup S3 is especially important if you want Sleep to work on your Hack.

Step 3: Install Snow Leopard

If you've made it this far, the hard part is over. Now it's time to install Snow Leopard, which—unlike what we've done so far—is extremely easy.

Make sure you've set the boot priority in your BIOS to boot from your thumb drive (you can see how in this pic), then simply plug your prepared thumb drive into your Hackintosh and power it up. Since screenshots aren't really an option—and since it's a fairly easy process—my install instructions come in video format:

The quick version goes like this: Boot into the Snow Leopard installer, format the hard drive you want to install Snow Leopard to (go to Utilities -> Disk Utility, then click on the drive, select 1 Partition, Mac OS X Journaled (Case-Sensitive), give it a name, and make sure GUID Partition Table is set in the Options. After you Apply the new partition, go back to the installer and install like normal to that drive. When you reboot after the install completes, press the arrow keys at the graphical boot menu and select the drive you just installed Snow Leopard to.

A Few Final Tweaks

You'll notice that, the first time Snow Leopard boots up, you're not enjoying any sound along with that snazzy intro video. We've got one small, but very simple tweak to make to get sound up and running. Here's how it works:

  1. Download the Kext Utility, then download this audio kext (a kext is kind of the Mac equivalent of a driver) and unzip it to your Desktop. Once you've got both in front of you, drag and drop the ALC889.Fix.kext file onto the Kext Utility. You'll be prompted to enter your password, so go ahead and do that when you're prompted.

  2. Once the Kext Utility finishes running, open up Disk Utility (/Applications/Utilities/Disk Utility.app). Once it loads up, (1) click on your Snow Leopard drive (mine's called Hack Leopard), then (2) click Repair Disk Permissions.
  3. Once Disk Utility finishes repairing your disk permissions, just restart. After your computer reboots, your audio should be working like a charm. (If not, open up Sound in your System Preferences and try changing the Output device.)

As things stand on your system right now, you need to have your thumb drive plugged in every time you reboot in order to load the bootloader that allows your Hackintosh to load OS X. There are certain benefits to this (for example, right now you could quite likely unplug this hard drive from your Hackintosh, plug it into a Mac Pro, and it would work just fine), but it can also be a bit of a hassle. At this point, though, you can load the bootloader and other necessary components onto the Snow Leopard hard drive and change that drive to your primary boot drive in your BIOS. All you've got to do is head back to the step-by-step bootloader guide above and repeat every step, except this time you're applying each step to your hard drive rather than your thumb drive.

Congratulations! You've Got a Fully Functional Hackintosh

"But for realz," you ask, "does it actually work well?"

I've been using one or another Hackintosh as my main computer for two years now, and while I've run into the occasional bump in the road, they've generally run extremely well. In fact, things just seem to keep on getting better and better and the current build I'm running (the one I walked you through above) feels like the fastest, most stable build to date.

That's not to say that you won't experience an occasional kernel panic—you may very well. But I get crashes on my MacBook Pro, too, and I've never felt that my current Hack Pro has any more problems than any other proper Mac I've used on a regular basis. That may seem a bit crazy, but it's true.

As for upgrading—often, you'll be able to upgrade your Hack Pro without any problems. That said, it's something you normally need to check on beforehand and you should take all of the upgrade precautions before giving it a go.

I'm planning on letting readers know how my Hack Pro handles various 10.6.x updates shortly after they happen, though, and if it requires a little extra work, I'll show you how to handle it.

Let's hear your thoughts—whether you've dabbled in the world of Hackintosh, are interested in doing so, or just think it's plain crazy—in the comments.

Adam Pash is the editor of Lifehacker; he loves a good hack, cherishes his Macintosh, and craves a Mac Pro, so building a Hack Pro was a perfect fit.

* OS X boots in a different way than, say, Windows, using a boot tool called EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface). On store-bought Macs, EFI is loaded on the hardware by default (in fact, in place of the standard BIOS most of us are used to). In order to boot OS X on our non-factory Macs, we need to create our own custom path to EFI.

Huge thanks to stellarola, Lorne, and wiredbynature for all their help in getting me up to speed on installing Snow Leopard on a Hackintosh PC. The Hackintosh community is large and active, and they are awesome.


Comments

    Looks like the extra.zip doesn't exist anymore. Can you point me to another one please?

      yep no extra.zip can we please get another link?

    this is a pretty straight forward, if lengthy guide.

    but I'm stuck for want of another Mac, and can't conveniently borrow one. is there a way to do this all from one Windows/Linux PC to another new PC ?!?

    I expect the overwhelming majority of people going through this are people switching from Windows, rather than old Mac users upgrading.

      What I did (and it's annoying) is find a solid distribution of Leopard (iatkos v7, ipc, ideneb, kalyway, etc...)

      Get that working to the basic level and do what you need for the snow leo install. Then you can either install to a separate drive and have the Leopard install as a fallback since it does come in handy in a pinch, or you can partition the drive and install snow leopard that way.

      Again, it's not optimal, but if you don't have a mac to work from why not make one :) The distribuitions of leopard for osx86 are plentiful and simple to get up and running with basic functionality.

    I got the error :
    "fdisk: could not read MBR code: Is a directory" after the first sudo terminal command. Is this perhaps because the machine I'm on trying to ru these commands is already running snow leopard ?

    I got my Snow Leopard USB Booting up, but got an error in Verbose mode:

    Sound assertion "0 != result" failed in "/SourceCache/AppleHDA/AppleHDA-172.1.9/AppleHDA/AppleHDAWidget.cpp" at line 3206 goto handler

    I got about 10 of these errors at the same time, and it still went on but wouldn't boot.

    Any solutions?
    Thanks

    I am now getting the same error as Jordan.

    Really? Is there any solution to this? Sounds to me the audio files are dodgy, but thats my thought

    Ok, on the Installation Disk, find AppleHDA.pkg (think off the top of my head) and delete it. It worked for me, however now I'm getting some CST error...

    Thanks for the simplified instructions. Will this simple method also work on an AMD processor? In particular I am hoping to us the Phenom II. If yes, can you recommend a compatible Motherboard and the Ram please.

    Great work,CV

      Followed everything in the guide, but when trying to boot from the flash drive to install snow leopard, all i get is a blinking cursor in the top left corner of the screen.

      I've tried removing all drives and only booting from the flash drive but no luck.

      Any ideas?

    Followed everything in the guide, but when trying to boot from the flash drive to install snow leopard, all i get is a blinking cursor in the top left corner of the screen.

    I’ve tried removing all drives and only booting from the flash drive but no luck.

    Any ideas?

      I used this document in conjunction with the one that followed it, 'No Hacking Required'. It works flawlessly for me, on my third attempt. The first two tries failed because the article didn't state, and it didn't dawn on me to use USB keyboard and mouse. As soon as I replaced the PS/2 keyboard/mouse with USB versions, I got past the spinning pinwheel in the upper left corner. I also substituted a PNY 9800GT dual video card for what the author used (this one uses 30% less power and didn't require separate power to the card). I now have two display on a Hackintosh ... simply awesome.

      I had the same problem. Did everything above including trying both GUID and MBR. The solution for both was to use fdisk to set the install disk partition as active.

      Don't know why that was left out, it's mandatory for me and I've seen other tutorials that include this step.

    Great tutorial. It works perfect for me, but only with 64-bit kernel.

    I assume at least one of the kexts in Extra.zip is 64-bit only?

    When I boot 32-bit kernel, it hangs right before loading the GUI. Or sometimes, it goes into GUI and leaves a gray screen with beachball of death.

    Any ideas what this is? Any ideas which kexts are needed to do this with 32-bit kernel?

    The reason I need 32-bit is for VMware Fusion. Please help!

    I am trying to do this on Lenovo T400. It starts the installation (i have to use external keyboard and mouse :-( ) but does not find any drive to install. Drive is missing even in Diskutility. Any Idea how to fix it ?

      try changing the native sata and AHCI/etc modes around a bit. on my desktop AHCI and native sata mode on worked but my laptop had that issue until i turned AHCI mode back to ide emulation.

      Any chance you can tell me what you changed in the BIOS?! I've been trying to do this on a T400, but it crashes before I get to the Language screen for install.

      Feel free to email me at kumiholuna[AT]aim.com.

    i cant get it to work, i follow all the steps, at part 5:sudo cp /Users/adam/Desktop/boot /Volumes/HackintoshInstall

    This doesnt work, i require
    sudo cp /Users/adam/Desktop/boot /Volumes/HackintoshInstall/1

    Then the boot file appears on the USB.

    I am doing this all in a Virtual Machine.

    I cant get the completed USB to boot, from a Cold boot of my PC or by booting a Virtual Machine.!

    Anyone know whats wrong?

    How can i boot in 32bit-mode?
    Please help.

    Did you not need to generate EFI strings for your 9800 GTX? After reading this, I built my own system. In "About this Mac", it lists the videocard as a "NVIDIA Graphics Engine". Not sure if it's beneficial to do something to explicitly define the 9800.

    @harri: if it still matters for you: it is possible that you have accidentally downloaded the source instead of the binaries, check the dirs name for it, it must be Chameleon-2.0-RC3-r658-bin, not Chameleon-2.0-RC3-r658-src.

    Adam, you are a genius! First time out - bam! It worked perfect. Then I decided to push my luck and mod it to work without the USB flash drive and boot directly from the hard drive. Again, worked perfect! In 3 hours I went from the iDeneb Hackintosh that breaks after each upgrade to a Snow Leopard installation that boots and runs perfect.

    I was just wondering if anyone could please alter the dmg file the way it says to on this page and make a torrent for it AFTER it has been altered to run on a PC, as I don’t own a mac, and the macs that they have at my library run XP only. It would be MUCH appreciated, as there is no way I could do so myself. Oh, and then could you post a link on this page to that torrent. Thanks.

    This all went fine for me, until it came to booting from the USB drive. I get the Apple Logo, and then it kernel panics. Not sure what to do now? :/

      Geoff,
      I had the same problem. I then switched my Init Display First to PEG2 and it worked just fine. However, your problem may be something different. I found out about my problem by verbose booting with Chameleon. Try verbose booting to see what your problem is.

    i followed this build except i used an evga 9400gt and a linksys 100tx ethernet board i had lying around. the video board worked like a champ w/ no trbl whatsoever, but the ethernet board is not recognised.

    any help would be appreciated. i did order the ethernet board and am waiting for it to arrive to finish the build, but am wondering why the substitute was not recognised.

    Major cpu panic using the following MB and CPU:
    Message: Unsupported CPU.

    Asus P5E-VM HDMI with an Intel Core 2 Duo E4500.

    Bump!

    Jordan did you ever get past that CST error?

    help...

    Can't even get past the first line... :(

    I enter in:

    sudo fdisk -f boot0 -u -y /dev/rdisk2

    and get the error

    fdisk: could not open MBR file boot0: No such file or directory
    Pixeleen:Chameleon-2.0-RC3-r658-bin sKurt$ sudo fdisk -f boot0 -u -y /dev/rdisk2

    Then I enter in:

    sudo dd if=boot1h of=/dev/rdisk2s2

    and get the error:

    Pixeleen:Chameleon-2.0-RC3-r658-bin sKurt$ sudo dd if=boot1h of=/dev/rdisk2s2
    dd: boot1h: No such file or directory
    Pixeleen:Chameleon-2.0-RC3-r658-bin sKurt$

    With the table of:
    /dev/disk2
    #: TYPE NAME SIZE IDENTIFIER
    0: GUID_partition_scheme *8.0 GB disk2
    1: EFI 209.7 MB disk2s1
    2: Apple_HFS Hackinstall 7.7 GB disk2s2

    (probably way wrong with formatting)

    any thoughts?

    I get this error after Verifying Pool Data:
    boot0: GPT
    boot0: testing
    boot0:testing
    boot0: error

    and stays stuck. I have to boot always with the USB stick.
    I did install the package on the hard drive, yes.

    @George Anton You need to make sure that the partition you created on your boot disk was formatted as MBR

    Thanks for the guide, worked perfectly for me on my P35-DQ6 (even using the P45 install)
    Only thing to work on now is my WPN311 WiFi card. Updated to 10.6.2 no problems

    This might be a dumb question though, I can put OSX to sleep, but how do I wake it up?
    Tried pushing every key, even pressed the power button, am I missing something?

    Cheers

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now