Last post, I described the rationale for building a Hackintosh: price. But what I hope was also conveyed (albeit implicitly) was the fact that my cheaper Hackintosh had many of the same specifications as Apple’s Mac Pro, which is a pretty high-end machine. So to underscore just how capable of a system my Hackintosh is, let me give you a quick run-through of the parts I used for my Hackintosh.
The processor is an intel Core 2 series Q6600, a 65nm quad-core processor with a stock clockspeed of 2.4 GHz. The Q6600 is legendary among PC enthusiasts for its ability to sustain high overclocks while still maintaining stability. As such, I was able to overclock the processor to 2.88 GHz with only a modest increase in core temperature (barely above 50ºC when at 100% utilization). This allows me to extract as much performance as a more expensive Q9550 (about 50% more expensive than a Q6600 for only a 400 MHz increase).
The motherboard is a Gigabyte P35 motherboard. The “P35” simply indicates the chipset version from Intel. P35 is the mainstream chipset for when the Core and Core 2 series of processors were released. The P45 followed recently after (that’s the chipset in my Server), which is currently being replaced by the Nehalem chipset for Intel’s new line of Core i7 processors. This motherboard is essentially what restrained all the rest of my choices, as it is a popular motherboard for use in Hackintoshes (Mac OS X supports all the devices on this motherboard).
The RAM is two 2 GB sticks of RAM, for a total of 4 GB of dual-channel memory. There are 4 total slots available on this particular motherboard, so I could always add two additional 2 GB sticks of RAM to max out the motherboard at 8 GB of RAM. Since Mac OS 10.5 is a 64-bit OS, it can utilize all 8 GB of RAM.
The graphics card is an 8800 GT 512 OC edition. This is pretty much overkill for a Hackintosh that wasn’t designed with game-playing in mind. But since it was already in my previous computer, it was available for use. I had to use an nVidia graphics card as opposed to an AMD card, as the nVidia cards are the only graphics cards supported by Apple currently. So while not really crucial to my Hackintosh, it will be very nice to have when StarCraft II is finally released.
The DVD drive is a dual-layer burning SATA drive that has performed wonderfully. The system hard drive is a 250 GB Seagate drive. I also have a 250 GB drive for Time Machine backups, as well as a third 250 GB drive for storing installers. The power supply is a 500 W power supply (I can’t even remember the brand), which is more than enough to run all of the devices in the machine. The case is an Antec 300 case, the same as what houses my Sever. The Ethernet port didn’t work for some reason (probably just a problem with the OS install, as it worked when I had Windows XP installed on it for a weekend), so I had to add in a spare gigabit card I had lying around. The onboard sound works well, with the noted (and apparently well-known) problem of an occasional popping sound.
So, certainly not a shabby configuration. In fact, it is pretty much on par with my Server in terms of components and performance. But building a PC is sooo passé. The real challenge was to turn a run-of-the-mill desktop PC into a Hackintosh. To accomplish this task, I had to install Mac OS X on this computer.
It might help to have a little background on the Mac operating system to understand why installing it on a PC is so difficult. Apple makes its money by selling hardware, not the operating system. So to avoid losing money from simply licensing its operating system to other hardware manufacturers, as Microsoft does, Apple ties Mac OS X to special firmware that is built-in to every Apple Mac.
In order to install Mac OS X on a non-Apple computer (such as the computer I built), you have to trick the Mac OS X installer into thinking it is running on an Apple Mac. There are many ways to do this, but the method I followed involved installing a “bootloader” – kinda like a pre-operating system – that interfaces with the Mac OS X installer just like the firmware that Apple puts in all its Macs. Once the illusion is setup, the Mac OS X install process proceeds identically to that on an Apple Mac.
Once I installed OS X on my custom-built computer, there were a few patches to ensure compatibility with the graphics card, audio, and ethernet. Aside from that, though, I had a working Hackintosh in little over an hour of work! I’ve since updated the OS to 10.5.6 (the latest version), and with the exception of a quirk with a Quicktime security update, there have been no problems with the system!
Next post, I’ll get to the best part of all: the multitasking advantages, multimedia/creative endeavors, and increased productivity I’ve enjoyed since putting this Hackintosh together.