Hackintosh

Our Experiences with the System

By Hitzestau - 25.05.2018

Part of a serie

Table of Contents

After we discussed the installation in detail in the previous article, we want to talk about our experiences with the Mäcki-system now.

This text was translated with the help of DeepL.

What were our goals?

We started our project reporting on Mäcki with the words "We wanted to have something new to tinker with for some time...". And in retrospect that was not so wrongly said, as we will see in the next chapter. We’ve wanted to write about Hackintosh for a long time, and it all came together in the planning of the project: We wanted to implement a new PC project with a good-looking watercooling loop and mainly use hardware components that we already had. The system should run on two separate SSDs with the two operating systems macOS and Windows 10. For the macOS part we had planned to have a system that works with the functionalities of a modern Mac – features like iMessage, iCloud, Handoff and Continuity.

Successfully tinkered

Of course, the assembly of the hardware had something to do with handicraft work. We already had most of the components; they had already been used in a previous project. We bought the Watercool Heatkiller Tube 200 DDC and the Fractal Design Define S Window, because in the previous project the chassis was not so ideal and the radiator surface too small.

Our goal was to install everything in the chassis, i.e. not to use an external radiator, and the reservoir should also be integrated inside the chassis. One of the challenges was the installation of the aquaero 6 board, because we wanted to use the front of the chassis in the complete height for a radiator. In addition, it does not offer an explicit 5.25″ mounting bay.

Open image in new tab (1920×1280)
Open image in new tab (1920×1280)

Right at the beginning of the project we did an installation test and decided to install the aquaero in the top of the chassis and to place the antennas for WLAN and Bluetooth on the back. We commissioned the production of the plate and the drilling of the holes from the same metal workshop with which we had previously worked. We then sprayed the plate in a colour matching the case.

Backside of the chassis with drilled holes and mounted antennas. Quelle:

Even after several months of active operation, we still enjoy looking at the system. The Fractal Design Define S Window was a good choice for the chassis. It is quite compact, but has enough space for our hardware. The WLAN card also works perfectly, but the additional fixing with hotmelt has quickly come loose again, but this is not relevant.

WLAN- / bluetooth card freshly mounted onto the motherboard. Quelle:
Open image in new tab (1920×1280)
Open image in new tab (1920×1280)

Watercooling loop

At first glance, Mac and watercooling don’t go together – but they do in a Hackintosh. Therefore we want to describe here how we designed our watercooling setup. We documented the preparation and assembly in detail in last year’s contributions.

The fans and the pump in our watercooling loop are controlled by an aquaero 6 XT from Aquacomputer, from which we removed the display. However, the corresponding Aquasuite software is only available for Windows, which is why the aquaero runs independently with fixed settings. We get by without temperature-dependent regulation of fans and pump.

aquaero 6 XT mounted on top of the custom-made metal plate. Quelle:
aquaero 6 XT inside the chassis. Quelle:

The DDC pump is connected directly to the aquaero and controlled by it. The starting current is set to 100 percent and after that it is regulated down to about 70 percent and is almost noiseless. The speed of the fans is also reduced by around a third after starting with 100 percent.

Of course, it was already clear to us when we planned the system that we could not control the pump and fan depending on temperature. However, it does not represent a great disadvantage for us. Also with earlier watercooled systems, which ran with Windows, we mostly worked with fixed fan and pump settings. To configure and monitor the aquaero, we use a virtual machine with Windows 10 under macOS or the Windows 10 on the second SSD. The aquaero saves all settings internally. We can also only access the measured values of the mps flow meter (flow rate and water temperature) via Aquasuite under Windows 10.

To ensure easy monitoring in everyday operation even under macOS, we use the tool iStat Menus. It accesses the hardware temperature sensors and shows us the temperatures of the CPU and GPU. These are normally 30-40 degrees (idle / load) for the processor and 25-35 degrees (idle / load) for the GPU. Thus everything is alright with the temperatures, even if they are also dependent on the surrounding temperature.

Example from iStat Menus. Quelle: bjango.com

Since the first putting into service, we have of course already cleaned the radiators and fans several times. We used the compressor and a brush, but fortunately the dust is only loosely between the lamellas.

The transparent tubes have interacted with the liquid and discolored milky, making the liquid in them appear slightly lighter and pink. In the borosilicate glass reservoir however, you can see that the colour has not changed. In addition, only minimal sediments can be detected on the inside of the glass.

In conclusion, the system works perfectly and – apart from the discoloured tubes – still looks very attractive.

Our experiences

In the next two chapters we both have our say. First Archangel from the user’s perspective, then Monk-Trader as the system administrator will talk about updates among other things.

Regarding the last article on installation, we can only say that the installation of macOS itself had not been very difficult. It were the finishing touches with all the settings that took the most time. We started Mäcki with macOS 10.12.5 Sierra. For the upgrade to 10.13.1 High Sierra, which was also connected with the change to the new Apple file system (APFS), we have done out a complete re-installation.

Experience from Archangel

I would like to contribute my experience from the user perspective: I have been using the Mäcki system every day since it went live, the following text focuses on my experiences with macOS.

With Windows it is – if the updates are all through then – mostly a strategy game like Anno or Age of Empires. Under Windows I also use a different keyboard than under Mac, as well as a mouse.

This is also the moment to say that the Mäcki is not the first hack I use. In the first year of our blog I also worked with a hack. So, before we continue with my experiences with the Mäcki hack, let us first take a look back.

And this takes us back to 2010, when my situation was as follows: I had been using a MacBook Pro for about two years and I was very satisfied with the device and the operating system. Unfortunately, the DVD drive of the notebook had to be changed several times. Due to problems with the NVIDIA GPU, the entire logic board even had to be replaced as well.

Source: Shutterstock

The repair work was always carried out at the local Apple retailer and entailed costs for a temporary replacement device in addition to all the effort for resetting and re-installation. Even though my notebook was completely replaced by a new one within the scope of the Protection Plan, I started looking for alternatives: I wanted to stay with Mac OS X, but I was not to excited about an all-in-one computer.

Monk-Trader had been experimenting with Hackintosh for quite some time at that time – which offered me a serious alternative. That’s how I came to my first hack, which was installed on completely newly purchased hardware.

Two years later there was another change: at that time I couldn’t really get used to the newly released Mac OS X Lion 10.7, I didn’t like the new operating concept at all. Furthermore we had internal difficulties in the network, because the new watercooled PC from Monk-Trader ran with Windows 7. But also my hack created more problems after I switched to Lion, there were problems with iMessage and power management. As a result, the effort for ongoing support became too great at some point. In addition, Windows 8, which was newly launched by Microsoft in the same year, made a very attractive and fresh impression on the operating concept and seemed to spread some spirit of optimism.

All these factors combined resulted in my hack being dissolved and I switched to Windows 8. In my opinion, Windows had developed very well at that time, because my last experiences were based on XP. The way I thought about the change from Apple back to Windows at that time, you can also read in my former blog post From Windows to Mac and back: An unexpected journey (in German).

That’s all for now as far as my past experiences with a hackintosh go. Last year’s MacBook Pro reviews for our blog brought macOS back to me – and that brings us back to our current Mäcki system. I use the computer for my daily work on our blog. Even if it is a hackintosh, I use an original Apple keyboard and the Magic Trackpad 2, so I have the Apple-typical fluid work with macOS as I already knew and appreciate it from our MacBook Pro reviews. I can also benefit from the macOS features such as easy organization with multiple desktops and wipe gestures. More productivity results for me from the interaction with the iPad and the synchronization via iCloud.

Unlocking the system with Apple Watch Series 3 has also always been very fast since we made the update to macOS High Sierra. Meanwhile I have a setup with two monitors, which makes working even more productive but also more pleasant.

When we put the Mäcki system into operation, there was a requirement that had to be fulfilled: I use Adobe Lightroom to manage the images, and since its catalogs are not network-compatible, we had set up a well-functioning solution under Windows 10 to manage it anyway. We have found a new solution for macOS to maintain the same workflow. We will discuss this topic again later in a separate article.

But the switch to macOS also enabled me to use another software solution for the daily writing of our blog posts. After years with Microsoft Word I found a much better solution with the text editor Ulysses. There will also be a separate contribution to this later. Ulysses is an application that is explicitly only available for the Apple platforms macOS and iOS.

Summing up, I am very satisfied with the entire system, the machine and macOS are reliable, stable and fast. As a user, I don’t really notice – apart from the case next to my desk – that I am not working with original Apple hardware.

However, when updates are displayed, I am never quite sure what I can and cannot do immediately as a user. And this now leads us to the experiences of Monk-Trader.

Experience from Monk-Trader

I would like to contribute my experience from the perspective of a system administrator.

As Archangel has already written, the Mäcki is not our first hack. I made my very first experiences in the years 2009 / 2010 and used hacks until 2012. After that, as Archangel has already told you, it came to a pause. Like with Archangel, it were our MacBook Pro reviews that brought me back in touch with macOS devices.

My Hackintosh experiences from that time helped me to find my way around the topic again. In addition, I was able to assess what we would get involved in the Mäcki project. But what is as true today as it was then: you do not only learn a lot about the topic of hackintosh, but also about the links between hardware and software. The knowledge about macOS itself is of course also useful when working with real Macs.

It was exciting to learn the ropes again, although many things have become easier at the end of the day. In my opinion, getting macOS to run on non-Apple hardware has never been easier. This is partly due to the Clover bootloader. Then as now, however, the most important work is the fine-tuning after the installation.

Installing updates – Archangel has already mentioned it – can still be quite an Achilles heel for a hackintosh, I can understand his uncertainty. But that is not a bad thing, we have a clear division of tasks. One of my tasks is to keep the entire system up to date, i.e. to update the bootloader and drivers and to install the macOS updates from Apple. Of course, this presupposes that I myself always keep up to date.

By: nevodka
Source: Shutterstock

When the App Store indicates a new macOS update, I do the following: I don’t install a new update right away, but wait a few days and follow the coverage. This gives me the time to wait for the NVIDIA web drivers to be updated. I also check if there are updates for the bootloader Clover and the drivers. Settings may have to be adjusted due to the macOS update.

Here is my step-by-step procedure when a macOS update is due:

  1. Wait 3-5 days and watch coverage, wait for NVIDIA Webdriver
  2. Triggering and creating an uptodate TimeMachine backup
  3. Update Bootloader Clover and drivers
  4. Restart computer to check if everything still works
  5. Shutting down the system
  6. Restart and go directly to UEFI to define Intel-GPU, which is otherwise disabled, as GPU for the start.
  7. Restart
  8. Trigger macOS update, keep fingers crossed :)
  9. Restart the computer and check whether the update has been carried out.
  10. Download and install NVIDIA drivers, then restart
  11. Customize AppleGraphicsDevicePolicy.kext (info.plist) and rebuild kernel cache and restart
  12. Observing whether adjustments are effective
  13. Restart and go directly to UEFI, deactivate Intel-GPU again and switch graphics card back from internal to PCIe. Save settings.
  14. Restart the device and enjoy an updated hack :)

The back and forth between the Intel and the dedicated graphics card is a peculiarity of our Mäcki system with its unique combination of hardware components. This additionally increases the maintenance effort. The rest corresponds to the average procedure for installing updates on a hack.

The reason for this somewhat cumbersome procedure is also the interlocking of hardware and drivers, as we described in the previous chapter. Another possibility would be to patch the DSDT file accordingly. This would make the conversion of the graphics card described above unnecessary. The code of the DSDT file from the motherboard is very confusing and I haven’t found the time to deal with it yet. A third option would be to use certain drivers and third-party apps. However, it is possible that these will not work during the next update. They also do not access the recovery partition, leaving the files there unchanged.

Source: Shutterstock

But no matter what method you choose, you should never forgo installing macOS updates and security updates, because you are afraid that the hack installation will not work afterwards. Those with an unpatched device are always a danger to themselves and others. Updates of installed applications can be done at any time.

In the previous article, we described what is adapted to make macOS work on the third-party hardware. My guiding principle had always been to use as few drivers (Kext) as possible.In my experience, it also makes sense not to have all adjustments done by tools, but to make them yourself. This makes it easier to understand exactly what is happening in the system, and it is easier to identify or exclude possible sources of error. The more adjustments you make in the system, the greater the probability that abnormal behavior can occur.

Outlook

But without provided Kexts or tools like the bootloader Clover it does not work of course. These are provided by the community – and therefore we will discuss various aspects of the community in more detail in the next article. We will also talk about security and the criticism of Apple’s current hardware portfolio.