Build a Hackintosh

Category: Apple-Mac

What’s a Hackintosh? Some call it the Frankenstein of the computer world. In short, it means installing and running Mac OS X Leopard on an Intel-based PC built with off-the-shelf parts. Since Apple started creating OS X to run on Intel-based computers, some in the tech world have been building custom PCs and installing Mac OS X on them. Here's the why, and the how of building a Hackintosh PC...

Build a Hackintosh

What's a Hackintosh, and Why Build One?

Why would anyone do it? Well, reasons vary. Some do it to save a buck, (Apple hardware being notoriously more costly), some enjoy stickin' it to The Man, while others do it just for sheer techie cred.

The easier part of embarking on such a task is probably the build-your-own PC part. PC parts and kits to build your own are available at several online stores and can be purchased on the cheap at eBay. Essentials required are a chassis (to house the innards) an Intel motherboard, a hard drive, memory (RAM), a video adapter and a DVD drive. Once you have everything properly connected and seated, the PC should boot up into BIOS. In BIOS, you can set the DVD as the primary boot drive.

Next comes the trickier part, getting Mac OS X Leopard installed on the machine. A “patched” Leopard install DVD is needed. With the patched version one can install Leopard straight to a PC with the help of a text editor to run commands. Once the patch is installed, the OS can be installed from the DVD. The install will begin by loading the Disk Utility, which will let you format the disk so that Leopard can be loaded. After this disk format, the installation of the OS is just a series of clicks in a graphical interface. Once installed, there is a post install patch that has to be applied.

Adam Pash, a senior editor for Lifehacker, has step-by-step instructions for building a Hackintosh. Pash claims that if you can snap Legos together, you can do build a hotrod PC running Leopard for under $800. I looked at the Apple Store, and a similarly equipped iMac goes for $2200. That includes a 20-inch LCD monitor, which is not included in Pash’s configuration. So even if we generously add $400 for a spiffy flat-panel monitor, the Hackintosh comes in at about $1000 cheaper.

Is It Safe and Legal?

Sounds great, right? Well there are a couple of issues with Hackintosh machines, as evidenced by various message boards and tech forums. One issue is the debate about the motherboard. Some Hackintoshers claim they built their machines using standard Intel motherboards. Others swear by an ASUS board. There also seems to be a problem with drivers not loading or being recognized which means there is a chance that some peripherals will not work correctly.

The biggest issue is the ongoing debate of the legality of embarking on such a task. Apple’s End User License Agreement states that Apple software is to be run on Apple hardware. Although there is no record of the company seeking prosecution against Hackintosh builders, the ethics of building one is questionable. I doubt that Apple would send goons in dark glasses to your door for building one, but if you started a business of selling custom-built Hackintosh computers, all bets are off.

Building a Frankenstein-esque machine can always lead to potential problems and nightmares with troubleshooting. Whatever you do, don’t bring your Hackintosh to the Apple store and ask the guys at the Genius Bar for tech support. Have you built a Hackintosh, or do you have plans to do so? Post your comments below…

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Most recent comments on "Build a Hackintosh"

Posted by:

31 Jan 2008

The legality (and ethics) of violating the EULA depends on the legality (and ethics) of the EULA. Perhaps someone can explain why the EULA isn't an unlawful tying arrangement in violation of the antitrust laws. It seems to me that Apple is using its perfectly legal monopoly over the OS to compel end users to buy its hardware too.

It's been over 25 years since I practiced antitrust law, so I don't know the answer myself. Maybe one of your readers is more current on the subject.

If the EULA is illegal, it can be ignored. Of course, if you are wrong in thinking that the EULA is invalid and you get Apple pissed off enough to sue, you can find yourself paying Apple a lot of money.

Posted by:

16 Mar 2008

That sounds like a fun project, I'll try it!

I already have an intel mb(e-monster p3). I should be able to just aquire the dvd and install right? anyway i'll post later.

-after i've thrown it out the window. lol :)

Posted by:

14 Apr 2008

If it can't run Final Cut Suite, I've got zero use for it. Looks like this basically exists to prove it can be done. Hopefully, though, it wakes Apple up to the demand for its fans for a line expansion: hell, not like we WOULDN'T buy them!

Posted by:

29 Apr 2008

Does the Hackintosh have to be an Intel Based Machine or can I use an AMD64 Quad Core CPU???

EDITOR'S NOTE: I poked around a bit and saw some people who are running AMD-based Hackintosh machines.

Posted by:

01 May 2008

I am running an AMD dual core based hackintosh machine, and I am running Final Cut perfectly. My only problem was that I had to go back to a AGP video card but I got a nice ATI 2600HD and it is running smooth. I am using an ASUS motherboard.

Posted by:

09 May 2008

"The legality (and ethics) of violating the EULA depends on the legality (and ethics) of the EULA." @Ken

Excellent point! If I ever decide to use OS X (Linux is so excellent that I don't feel the need), I will want one I put together myself. Apple's attitude about hardware is almost as bad as Microsoft's attitude about software. Thanks for the article, Bob.

Posted by:

Robbie Schonfeld
08 Jul 2008

I have a torion 64 dual core Satellite and need to know how to get Leopard on to it. I dont know how to get the iso, so if anyone has any ideas i would like to know pleas.

Posted by:

john bennett
12 Dec 2008

The dubious ethics here lie with Apple, not the consumer who buys its product. Though it seems to have become all the rage to sell software that will function only on specific hardware or via specific other software, I do not think a legal or ethical argument can be made to support the notion that a licensor can dictate the licensee's (legal) end use of the product. If Apple can limit use of it's OS to Apple hardware, can we then expect at some point to see DVDs of movies bearing labels indicating that they may be played only on a Sony player or viewed only on an LG television? Or perhaps hotdog weiners sold on the stipulation that they only be placed in a specific bakery's buns?

To take a real example from an entirely other sphere, one may not sell real estate with conditions as to its use or future sale. And, to anticipate someone's objection, when leasing a property the lessor may dictate the general use for which the property is made available (i.e.residential, commercial etc) but may not tell the lessee what brand of refrigerator they must use or what kind of books they are allowed to read while on that property.

I truly wish Appple would take action against a Hackintosh owner. Their defeat (by any rational court) might be a good first step in a return to sanity in the area of intellectual property.

Posted by:

18 Jan 2009

Wait, wouldn't the legality of "monopolizing mac software/hardware combo" be the same as "Windows bundles with IE" didn't Microsoft get sued for that? it's probably a completely different thing, but it just reminded me of that. Building my Hackintosh as we speak!

Posted by:

05 Mar 2009

Maybe this is wrong, but isn't it rather like gasoline and an internal combustion engine? The OS is the gas, and the CPU is the engine. Any gas, any car for the most part. So why not any OS on any CPU?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Sure, why not? Ask Apple.

Posted by:

Natural Justice
07 Mar 2009

Does this work the same on a hard drive that already has tiger installed?

Posted by:

18 Mar 2009

I have been playing around with this and have a working "hackintosh" the only thing I could not get going is the wireless. It is on a gateway laptop with AMD Turion 64, realtek wireless (no intel) I think I am going to abandon this project though I came, I saw, I still love linux

Posted by:

14 May 2009

Where is the best place to find a "patched" Leopard DVD for installation?

Posted by:

11 Jul 2009

frankly, you can do what you want with a product you buy. all they can do is void your warranty or what not. they have no power to change the law themselves, they can only say "we no longer provide you with customer support" or something

Posted by:

25 Oct 2009

try using the chameleon boot loader for better a better install environment experience ;)

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