Hackintosh, one year later

In late 2012 I built myself a new workstation.

My previous home PC was a build-to-order PC from a shop in Akihabara (which has since gone out of business), built back in 2008. I had been patient and waited for 4 years before considering an upgrade.

I really like being able to build my own computer — it is a better value per dollar (or yen, in my case). It is also fun — yes, I am guilty of enjoying the process of choosing parts and weighing the costs and features of various video cards and motherboards.

However, in 2012 I really wanted a Macintosh at home. Windows is tired and generally crappy, and while OSX is far from perfect, it is leaps and bounds ahead of Microsoft. I just want something that works so I can get on with my life. However, Macs are not really compatible with building your own computer.

Enter tonymacx86.com.

The Hardware

These guys have done a real service. If you stick to the hardware they recommend, things are pretty smooth. Just don’t let yourself get sidetracked.

I initially got sidetracked with the idea that I could build a tiny Mini-ITX sized hackintosh. At the time, the recommended motherboard vendor Gigabyte did not have any supported Mini-ITX motherboards out there — I foolishly tried it with a Zotac board. It is possible, but it required hacking kexts — kernel extension files. And really — is this something you want to be doing, when you have better things to do?┬áNo.

So, I gave up on the mini-ITX and followed the hardware recommendations for one of the Golden Builds (I picked Slugnet’s Video Editor build). I got a nice big quiet case, a Fractal Design Define R4. Gigabyte motherboard, Ivy Bridge CPU, NVidia Video Card. And two SSDs, one for Mac and one for Windows.

Being able to follow the discussion around the golden build and see that lots of other people used the same hardware and techniques gave me a lot of confidence in my build. Follow the trailerblazers, I say.

Installing Mac OSX

Installing via the instructions and software on tonymacx86 was pretty straightforward and worked well. I set up some backups (manual) and felt pretty good.

I was also able to get Windows 7 to dual boot pretty easily. For games, of course.

Upgrades

The thing about a hackintosh though is upgrades. When Apple puts out a OSX upgrade you want to be careful and do it manually, rather than doing the automatic upgrade via the App Store.

When I had installed, I had created a custom DSDT and so was loathe to upgrade and hav to do that work again. So I skipped upgrading for a long time.

Upgrade to Mavericks

However Mavericks came out and I decided to give it a try. I waited until the first update to Mavericks, 10.9.1. But first I wanted to do a backup of my current boot drive, as all the guides recommended.

My boot drive was corrupted and failed.

I ran into a problem — somewhere along the line my Mac startup disk got corrupted. It was working fine but I was not able to back it up prior to the upgrade to Mavericks. Even worse, when running Disk Utility from a USB stick, Disk Utility tried to repair the disk, and failing to do so, rendered the start up disk useless. So I was unable to boot into the Mac.

However, I was lucky in two ways.

  1. I could still boot into Windows, so the computer was not completely useless.
  2. Losing the start up disk was not a big deal. Because I was using SSDs, I was not keeping data on the startup disk, using it only for the OS, configs, and applications. I would have to download and re-install all my apps. But my data was on other drives. And in the past, when I would have worried about all my emails, etc, now all that stuff lives in the cloud. Hurray for the cloud.

I did also have a backup of the start up disk, which unfortunately was rather old. (Note to self — manual backups are only as reliable as the guy who does them…). However it did have some vital configs backed up, and was useful as a list of what apps I needed to reinstall.

Installing Mavericks, from scratch

I decided I would just wipe my boot drive and install Mavericks from scratch.

  1. Use Unibeast to prepare a USB stick that can boot and install with Mavericks (on non-Apple hardware).
  2. Do the Mavericks install.
  3. Before rebooting, run Multibeast to run post-install configuration for my hardware setup.

It couldn’t be simpler, and I was done start-to-finish in just a couple hours. And it was easier than my previous (Mountain Lion) install. No custom DSDT, and now it is possible to save your Multibeast config for future reference.

My machine can’t compare to Apple’s new MacPro’s — but I have a fast, stable, flexible workstation that works really well, outperforms any Mac that was available in late 2012 (geek bench is around ~14,300), and cost less than $1000 to build.

Advice

If you are in the mood for building a workstation, and want to run Mac OSX, I think the recommendations at tonymacx86.com are great. Just stick to the common hardware configurations and you’ll be fine. Obviously, the aesthetics are not as nice as real Apple hardware, but the appeal for me was the fun of putting a machine together and in the exact configuration I wanted.