What is a Hackintosh?

By Hitzestau - 14.05.2018

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Table of Contents

As of today, reporting on Project Mäcki will continue – so welcome back everyone!

The first part of the project had been the assembly of the hardware and the watercooling rig. Now in the second part – as already announced – our experience with the system as a Hackintosh will be at the center of attention.

Therefore, this article takes a look back at our hardware project and explains the term Hackintosh. Before we deal with the installation, we will first examine the strengths of the macOS operating system. We then describe in detail our experiences as everyday-users and weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the original Mac and Hackintosh against each other on the basis of various aspects.

This text was translated with the help of DeepL.

A look back

Let’s take a look back first, since some time has passed since the last post.

Over a period of several weeks, most of the existing hardware had been used to assemble a new watercooled system. The last update in the project coverage had been the final photos of the system.

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

As announced at the time, we installed two operating systems on the two SSDs in the system – Window 10 and macOS.  These are intentionally not on one SSD with different partitions, but on two separate disks. Otherwise there is a risk that if one partition fails, the other will also be affected.

But first let’s see what happened after the photo shoot. We transported the computer back home and put it into operation. In the watercooling loop we refilled some liquid when the air bubbles had all vanished.

After the first switch-on there were a few anxious hours. The whole system was extremely sluggish. As we had already reported before, we installed a different WLAN card in the Mini-PCI slot of the motherboard than the one included in the delivery. According to the installation instructions, the data transfer runs through a USB cable, so we had wired it accordingly.

However, this was not necessary at all, as the USB data is also transferred from Bluetooth via the Mini-PCI interface. Thus, the USB cable caused an internal conflict that slowed down the entire system. When we removed the cable, everything worked exactly as it should. An additional difficulty was to get the appropriate Windows 10 drivers for the card.

The first system tests to check whether the hardware worked properly were done under Windows 10. Then we prepared everything to install macOS. And this will be the focus of our attention for this and all following articles.

We took a few months to write about it, because about seven months have passed since the system went into operation in September last year. But this has also given us more than enough opportunity to gain experience.

And also on the Apple side a lot has happened in this time: We did the original installation with macOS Sierra (10.12.5) and later made the update to 10.12.6. We waited for the upgrade to the successor macOS High Sierra (10.13), until the first major update (10.13.1). Meanwhile, several updates have also been released for High Sierra.

And now, at the end of the first article we want to explain what a "Hackintosh" actually is.

What is a Hackintosh anyway?

The installation of the macOS operating system on non-Apple original hardware is generally referred to as "Hackintosh". Commercially available desktop hardware is used, exactly as we have used it in our project.

It is about native installing macOS – formerly Mac OS X – on an x86 architecture, not in a virtual machine or an emulation.

Source: Shutterstock

The idea is not new. However, it had taken on a completely different dimension when Apple changed its processor architecture in 2005 and began to install Intel processors from then on. Until then Apple had relied on the so-called Power-PC architecture, which had been developed together with IBM and Motorola. However, it had reached a point where it could no longer be developed any further in a way that made sense. It was above all the ratio of computing power to power consumption that tipped the scales in Intel’s favor.

The switch to the x86 architecture made it easier to perform a hackintosh installation. Previously, the "PearPC" power PC emulator was needed to run Mac OS X – as macOS was then called – on commercially available PC hardware. For older versions of Mac OS there were different emulators like "SheepShaver" or "Basilisk II".

On the other hand, the switch to Intel also opened the door to running a native installation of Windows on Apple hardware. Today this function is known as "Bootcamp". If you wanted to work with Windows on your Power Mac, you had to use a virtual machine like "Virtual PC".

Of course Apple does not support or endorse a hackintosh installation in any way and you are not entitled to support if something does not work. From the licensing terms of macOS (EULA, End User License Agreement) it is even explicitly forbidden to install the operating system on non-Apple hardware or to allow third parties to do so (Click on the text to enlarge it).

Screenshot apple.com. Source: Apple

Apple has taken legal action against commercial hackintosh computer vendors in the past. In 2009 for example, a court in Florida banned a company named Psystar Corporation from selling computers running Mac OS X.

But it is also a fact that even large online media are not afraid of the topic and write about it as they would on any other topic. And there is an active community with numerous websites that can be found normally via Google. There you will find forums, tools, instructions and help for the compilation of suitable hardware. We will come back to that later.


In the next articles, we will try to find out what makes macOS so attractive as an operating system and then deal with the topic of installing a Hackintosh.