Building a Hackintosh from scratch—that is, installing Mac OS X on non-Mac hardware—has never been easier, and the final product has never performed better. Here's how it works.
Note: This is our third and most recent Hackintosh build (here are the now-outdated first and second). This time, to make things really easy on you, we put together a video walkthrough of the entire process. You can watch the video in its entirety below, but we've also broken up the video next to the accompanying text in each step below.
The Full Step By Step In Video Form
NOTE: YouTube's being finicky about the privacy of these videos (they're public for some regions, still private for others), so our apologies if you can't see the video yet. You should be able to soon.
Background music by Pex "Mahoney" Tufvession.
What You'll Need
Before you get started building your Hackintosh, you will, of course, need a few supplies.
There's no such thing as a definitive Hackintosh build, and you can find plenty of hardware that will run OS X using this or a similar method, but we're not going to dive into every possible option here. Instead, I've put together a list of the hardware I'm using and that I can guarantee runs like a dream (or at least it does for me). Also, the installation process below is tailored to this hardware; you can still build a Hackintosh using other hardware, but this installation process may not work 100%.
Here's all the hardware I bought off Newegg for this Hackintosh build:
- Antec Sonata III Case with 500W Power Supply
- ASUS P7P55D-E Pro ATX Intel Motherboard
- EVGA GeForce 9500 GT 01G-P3-N959-TR Video Card
- Intel Core i7-860 2.8GHz LGA 1156 95W Quad-Core Processor
- G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory x 2 (for a total of 8GB); the amount of RAM you choose is optional.
- OCZ Vertex Series OCZSSD2-1VTX120G 2.5" MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD): This SSD isn't necessary, but in our opinion, SSDs are one of the best upgrades you can make.
- Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1.5TB 3.5" SATA 3.0Gb/s Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
- LITE-ON DVD Writer - Bulk - Black SATA Model iHAS224-06 LightScribe Support
In all, the subtotal on Newegg for all that hardware is $US1,123.92; skip the SSD and the second set of RAM, and you've still got a solid machine for an even more reasonable $US828.92.
Once you've got all your hardware, you'll need to assemble your computer. Putting together the hardware for your Hackintosh is just like building any other computer from scratch. You mount the motherboard to your case, install your CPU, RAM, graphics card, storage and optical drive, and plug in all the necessary cables. It's always a good idea to read over your motherboard's instruction manual, but if you want a little more help, hit up our first-timer's guide to building a computer from scratch.
The only thing you need to know is that you shouldn't plug your SATA drives into the off-white SATA ports at the bottom of the board. All the rest should work fine.
On the software end of the spectrum, you'll need a few things. Apart from the obvious (the Snow Leopard install DVD), you'll need to download somes files that'll contain the tools that let you install OS X on your machine. The method I'm using to install OS X on our Hackintosh this time around is a new one by a guy called tonymacx86, and it's really great. I've added direct links to the downloads below, but all credit goes to tonymac for the dead-simple tools.
- A Mac OS X 10.6 Install DVD (which you can buy from Apple)
- MacOSXUpdateCombo10.6.4 package (free from Apple)
- iBoot (from tonymacx86)
- MultiBeast (from tonymacx86)
- Other post-installation files
To make things really easy, you can download the whole shebang (minus the OS X combo update) via BitTorrent here.
I'd suggest downloading everything you need now, and putting MultiBeast, the Mac OS X Combo update, and the post-installation files on a thumb drive.
Install OS X On Your Hackintosh
At this point you should have assembled your PC, and have all the software you'll need install OS X on your Hackintosh. Now it's time for the fun—and easy—part. The process this time around is surprisingly simple, but I'll still walk you through the process step by step.
Step One: Burn iBoot to a Disc
Above I told you to download iBoot from tonymacx86. If you haven't already, unzip iBoot.zip and extract iBoot.iso. Now it's time to burn the file to a CD or DVD. (It's a small bootloader, so a CD will work just fine.)
In Windows: Insert a blank disc, right-click iBoot.iso, and click Burn disc image. Select your disc burner in the next Windows prompt, and hit Burn.
On OS X: Insert a blank disc, right-click iBoot.iso, and click Burn "iBoot.iso" to Disc.
Burning the disc shouldn't take more than a minute or so, and iBoot should be ready to go.
Step Two: Adjust Your BIOS
Now that you've got the iBoot disc ready, it's time to turn on your soon-to-be-Hackintosh and adjust the BIOS so your computer's OS X-friendly. So make sure you've plugged in a keyboard, monitor, and power, and fire it up.
Note: At the time of this guide, I'm using the latest BIOS for this motherboard: P7P55D-E-PRO-ASUS-1002.ROM.
When you get to the first boot screen, press the Delete key to open up your BIOS. Once inside, you'll need to make a few adjustments.
- On the first BIOS screen, arrow down to the entry labelled Storage Configuration, hit Enter, and change "Configure SATA as" to AHCI. Press Escape once.
- Next, arrow over to the Advanced tab, then arrow down to the section labelled Onboard Devices Configuration. Hit Enter, find the Marvell 9123 SATA Controller entry, and set it to AHCI. Press Escape.
- Now arrow over to the Power section and set Suspend Mode to S3 only.
- Finally, arrow over to the Boot tab, hit Enter on Boot Device Priority, and set your first boot device to boot first from your DVD drive, then set your second boot device as your primary hard drive.
Hit F10 to save your changes and exit the BIOS.
Step Three: Boot from iBoot into the Snow Leopard Install DVD
When your system restarts, put the iBoot disc you burned above into the DVD drive. Assuming you set everything correctly in your BIOS, iBoot should boot into the screen below.
When you get to this screen, eject your iBoot disc, insert the Snow Leopard install DVD, and press F5 on your keyboard. In few seconds, the iBoot disc in the centre should be replaced by a new disc labelled Mac OS X Install DVD. (If it doesn't right away, wait a few seconds and hit F5 again.) Once it does, hit Enter, and your computer will boot into the Snow Leopard installation wizard.
Step Four: Format Your Disk And Install OS X
After a minute or two of loading up, you should be looking at the Snow Leopard installation wizard. Select your language and continue. Before you get started with the installation, however, you'll need to format your hard drive so you can install OS X. So, from the file menu at the top of the screen, select Utilities -> Disk Utility.
Once Disk Utility loads, click on your hard drive in the sidebar and select the tab labelled Partition. Set the Volume Scheme drop-down to 1 Partition (unless you have a reason for wanting otherwise), name the volume whatever name you want, and set the Format to Mac OS Extended (Journaled). Now click the Options button and ensure that GUID Partition Table is selected as the partition scheme.
Now that everything's set, hit Apply. When you're prompted for confirmation, click Partition.
In twenty seconds or so, your drive should be formatted and you'll be ready to install OS X. Quit Disk Utility, and continue with the installer.
The installation is completely straightforward, so just follow along with the default settings. When the installation finishes (the time will vary—it always claims it'll take 30+ minutes, but is normally done in 10 to 20), you'll most likely see the Install Failed screen pictured below.
Don't panic! This is all part of the process. Just click restart, put iBoot back in the drive, and this time, when your computer restarts, iBoot's Chameleon bootloader will give you the option to boot into your new installation. Select it and hit Enter.
Step Five: Update But Don't Restart
The first time OS X loads, you'll see Snow Leopard's fancy welcome video. Once that's done, OS X will walk you through the setup wizard, during which you'll enter in your username, location, etc. Just follow along.
Once you're finished with the setup, you're finally at your new Hackintosh desktop. Since you probably want to use the most up-to-date release, you'll want to update your Hackintosh before adding the finishing touches.
At the time of this writing, 10.6.4 is the most current release, so if you didn't already download the update package above, grab the MacOSXUpdateCombo10.6.4 package from Apple, double-click on the DMG, and run the installer.
When the combo update finishes, you'll be prompted to reboot. Don't reboot your computer—at least not yet. You've got one thing you need to do first.
Step Six: Run the MultiBeast Package
So plug your thumb drive into your Hackintosh (or just re-download the files if you need to) and open MultiBeast. This tool will allow you to boot from your hard drive going forward, so you don't need to use iBoot every time you want to boot up OS X. On the Install MultiBeast screen, tick the checkboxes next to EasyBeast and System Utilities, then click Continue.
When the EasyBeast installation completes, eject the iBoot disc and restart your computer. Once you've rebooted, you've got one more step to go.
Step Seven: Copy Custom Kexts to Extra Folder, Manually Add Sound and Ethernet Kexts Using Kext Utility
Now it's time to use those other post-installation files you downloaded earlier. So dive into the folder named Post Install and open the folder named Extra/Extensions. In a separate Finder window, navigate to the /Extra/Extensions folder at the root of your drive (in Finder, you can just type Cmd+Shift+G, type /Extra/Extensions, and press Enter).
Now drag all the files from your thumb drive's Extra/Extensions folder into your hard drive's Extra/Extensions folder. Enter your password when prompted, and let Finder replace any files that already exist.
Finally, navigate back to the Post Install folder on your thumb drive. Inside you'll see three files: An app named Kext Utility and two kext files named VoodooHDA.kext and RealtekR1000SL.kext. Drag and drop VoodooHDA.kext onto Kext Utility (enter your password when prompted), and you'll see a window like the one above. Once it says Done, you can quit Kext Utility (click Cancel), and then this time drag and drop Realtek R1000SL.kext onto Kext Utility. (Basically this installs custom audio and ethernet extensions to your system so they work as you'd expect.)
Step Eight: Restart And Enjoy!
Now that you've updated and installed a few extensions customised to your hardware, you're ready to restart your computer, boot directly from your hard drive, and enjoy your new Hackintosh.
A Note On Performance And Other Loose Ends
I've been using this system for a couple of weeks now, and in all my testing, everything's been working like a charm. If you're interested in benchmarking, here's how my build fared on Xbench (spoiler: the total score was 303.38).
As I mentioned above, you don't need to buy a someone pricey SSD (a regular hard drive will work fine), but the system with the SSD is fast, especially on startup. I've added a handful of startup applications to my login items, including apps like Chrome. When my system boots, all of my startup applications are running before my desktop fades in from blue—it feels more like resuming from sleep than rebooting.
Another thing to note: About this Mac identifies the processor as i5, but it's a superficial issue. You could manually edit the text file that populates those fields, but I won't go into that here.
Finally, keep your iBoot disc handy, or bookmark tonymac's iBoot + MultiBeast post. In the event something does go flaky, you'll likely want that iBoot disc on hand for troubleshooting.
Huge thanks go out to my Hackintosh-helping pals Onetrack, stellorama, and Davide, to tonymacx86 for his great tools and work, to videographer extraordinaire Adam Dachis, and to the Hackintosh community.