Friday, August 9, 2013

The Hackintosh a PC able to run Apple's OS-X

A hackintosh, in general, is a PC which is able to run Apple's OS-X. The hardware for such a PC is absolutely crucial, since the Intel based Macintosh computers are very specific. Of course, those PCs may equally run MS Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, OpenIndiana, Solaris x86, etc. Some of the OS' I just mentioned are equally critical in terms of the hardware that can be used for such a computer.
All in all, this post focuses on OS-X.

To the time I started playing with OS-X, all the information I used was coming from InsanelyMac. Lists of compatible hardware, user compatibility reports, recipes how to put things together and a lot more. Still today, this site is very useful!


The early stages

I happen to live relatively close to a huge electronics retail store. So I took my printed compatibility list and went shopping along the shelves.

The PC I decided to buy was a no-name with the following components.
Motherboard: foxconn G31MX
CPU: Core 2 quad Q6600 2.4GHz
RAM: 1x takeMS 2GB DDR2 800MHz
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce 8400
HDD: Samsung 320GB SATA (HD322HJ)
WLAN: sitecom WL-169 v1 001 (MacOS 10.5 driver available from sitecom)
Keyboard: standard USB
Mouse: standard USB

This PC came with a MS Windows Vista license. It was used with many different OS' with good results. In the course of time, the graphics card was replaces for a passively cooled "Asus EN8400GS silent". The 320GB HDD made place for a 750GB Western Digital (WD7500AAVS).


The first purpose built Hackintosh

resulted in a recipe. I believe it was publish by someone from berlios.de, but I am not sure about... it has been a while, as you will see on the hardware.

The second system was based built as a hackintosh, following one of the early build guides.
Motherboard: P5K-VM
CPU: Core 2 duo E4600 2.4GHz
RAM: 2x Kingston 2GB DDR2 800MHz
Graphics: PCI NVIDIA GeForce 8400 256MB
HDD: Seagate 250GB SATA (HD250HJ)
WLAN: Sweex USB Wireless LAN adapter LW053 (Ralink RT2671)
Case: Antec NSK1380 Cube Case (includes 350W PSU)
Keyboad & Mouse: Logitech S530 MAC

This thing was upgraded to OS-X 10.6.8 Snow Leopard w/o any problems.
In the mean time, I upgraded the system with a new HDD (WDC WD5000AAKS-00A7B0) and a new Graphics adapter (MSI GT-210 silent with 1024MB).


Genuine Modern Hackintosh

We are now looking at the more recent developments, i.e. like half a year ago. This build was inspired by one of tonymacx86's build guides and focused on Intel's Ivy Bridge processor. Said web-site also provides a guide for installing 10.6. Snow Leopard from the original install DVD (which I happened to have bought for €29.- at the time), search for "iBoot Ivy".

The hardware followed a "buyer's guide" of the site mentioned above.
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-Z77N-WiFi (mITX)
CPU: Core i5-3570K quad core (best bang for the buck)
CPU cooler: Antec K├╝hler H2O 620
RAM: 2x Corsair Vengeance 4GB DDR3 1600MB
Graphics: Intel HD4000 (integrated)
HDD: Seagate Barracuda 1TB SATA3 (ST1000DM003)
WLAN: TP-Link Wireless N PCIe card (TL-WDN4800)
Bluetooth: Intel Centrino Wireless-N 2230 (provided with the mobo)
Optical drive: SamsungSH-224BB (SATA)
USB-hub: Sitecom CN-050 v1 002
Case: Bitefenix Prodigy polar white
PSU: Antec VP350P
Keyboard: Apple wired A1234
Mouse: Logitech M100

Everything was running spot on. However, I decided to use an additional graphics card, in place of the HD4000, hence, I needed the sole PCIs slot. The graphics card I am using in this system is an fanless ASUS GT-610 2GB (GT610-SL-2GD3-L), which has genuine support in OS-X 10.8.3.
However, now I lack WiFi. The GA-Z77N-WiFi comes with an Intel WiFi/Bluetooth combi half mini PCIe card. Only the Bluetooth part of this device is supported by OS-X. Hence, I swapped said card with an Atheros AR5BHB92 (very cheap on ebay presently), which works like a charm! For Bluetooth, I took a random old thumb-drive (Sitecom CN-500).

At some stage, I decided a second internal HDD would do the system good, in particular when used for automated backups. The local electronics store had external USB3 disk drive on sale, I can't recall what the brand was. At home, the thing was dismantled, the drive inside was a Toshiba MQ01ABD100 (2.5in 1TB), which now lives happily in my Bitfenix Prodigy, wired to a SATA2 header.

Note, this particular combination of mobo and CPU allows for overclocking to spectacular specs, mind your cooling!

I believe that this PC comes closest to an iMac13,2 ... however, could also be an iMac13,1 ... not sure. Personally, I run this Hackintosh as an iMac13,2 w/o any issues.


Low power Hackintosh on a budget

For a system on a budget, again, we are looking at Ivy Bridge setups, as proposed by tonymacx86.
Motherboard: GigabyteGA-H77N-WiFi
CPU: Core i3-3225 dual core
RAM: 2x Crucial Ballistix Elite 4GB 1600MHz
HDD:  Seagate Barracuda 1TB SATA3 (ST1000DM003)
Graphics: HD4000 (integrated)
Optical drive: SamsungSH-224BB (SATA)
Case: Spire PowerCube 210 (includes a 300W PSU)
WiFi: Broadcom BCM94322HML (replacing the onboard Intel card)
Bluetooth: Sitecom CN-516
Keyboard & Mouse: Logitech K400r

This particular CPU was/is actually used in one of the latest iMacs. The definition of this particular PC comes closest to the iMac13,1. However, it seems as a Hackintosh, this computer may be closer to an iMac13,2.


Sounds gooood

For the perfect sound you might consider using really good speakers. Although it may seem a little overdone, I went for USB studio monitors and other USB studio equipment.

For audio I/O I am using a Behringer's PODCASTUDIO consisting of a UCA222 USB sound interface, HPM1000 broadcast headphones, a xenyx 502 audio mixer, an ultravoice XM8500 microphone and all required cables. The possibilities with this setup are endless. I used it for skype and surprised my contacts with ultra crisp audio.

The experience with the SAMSON StudioDock 3i monitors is great! They have a iPod dock not only to play music from but also to connect the iPod to iTunes (when installed on the PC). The SAMSON monitor's sound-interface can also be used as an AUDIO IN.
One feature of the StudioDock monitors is annoying, the power-switch is of the back of the right speaker.
Another thing which is a little odd. Active studio monitors draw a lot of power, that's known. So, when putting the PC to sleep, one might also like to switch off the monitors. However, in this particular order, the PC goes to sleep and when switching off the monitors, a USB event is created waking the PC up. Hence, always switch the monitors off first! On the positive, it is sufficient to switch on the monitors in order to wake up the PC... yep, that really works!

As an alternative to the SAMSON StudioDock monitor, I also used ALESIS M1Active 320USB monitors. Those are a little bit smaller and have grills over all speakers, which is great for portable action. The power-switch is incorporated with the volume potentiometer at the front of the right box, which is great! The sound is less "studio", i.e. linear, to me. This will actually make those active USB monitors more popular for media consumption, mind you, studio monitor are designed to be unforgiving, so that the producer can easily spot imperfection in the audio production.


Webcams

This is a non-trivial topic.

Previously, i.e. years ago, the only camera of choice for me was Microsoft's Xbox Live Vision. The manual focus CCD (!) webcam does the job, however develops quite some heat.

Lately I obtained a Logitech HD Webcam C615. This little beast not only has got autofocus, Logitech provides a tool for OS-X which enable full manual control over the camera settings. The C615 stays at relatively low temperatures.




General comments

Some of the builds above are very cramped in space. Cable management is essential under such condition.

The off-the-shelf foxconn box came with really nicely managed cables, nothing had to be done. OK, I replaced the SATA cable with one that had a 90 degree connector, but that was all I did cable-wise.

The Bitfenix Prodigy allows for hiding cables in places where there is no airflow, brilliant case.

The two other builds are quite a different story. Both cases are really small. The provided PSU are purpose build to fit the case, leaving very little space to play with.
In the of the budget hackintosh, I decided to mount the HDD vertically on the side in order to improve the air-flow about all components.
In order to optimize your cabling and air-flow, try to minimize a) air-flow resistance b) air-flow short-cuts and c) hot air loops.

You may have noticed that I mentioned the "Mac type" or identifier a couple of times. Here a the web-page that will help you out finding the type you will need for your build:
http://www.everymac.com/systems/by_processor/




5 comments:

  1. Wel eens aan miniPC's gedacht zoals de Rasberry Pi of deze:

    http://www.conrad.nl/ce/nl/product/095078?WT.mc_id=Mail&insert=NB

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ik ben best zeker dat er geen OS-X op gaat draaien ;-)
    Je bent niet de eenige die me op rPi probeerd te brengen. Voor kleine dingen blijf ik gewoon bij Mircochip Pic.

    ReplyDelete
  3. hi...Im student from Informatics engineering nice article,
    thanks for sharing :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. thanks, very much appreciated feedback!

    ReplyDelete