For winter break my freshman year, I decided to build a new desktop. I had previously built a desktop my sophmore year of high school, and figured this would be a good time for an upgrade. I had just gotten my laptop the summer before, so I had been reading up a lot on Windows and Mac, and came across several “Hackintosh” articles. Of particular interest was a Lifehacker article about how to build a Hackintosh for less than $800 [link]. The hardware seemed powerful enough for what I would be using it for (mostly engineering homework/internet, with the occasional game here and there), and the overall idea seemed great; build a new computer, which in itself was fun, and learn a little bit of hacking in the process. So I figured out what parts exactly, and ordered them from my favorite online reseller, Newegg.
The parts list came out to be:
Motherboard: Asus P5W-DH
Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E6550, 2.33 GHz
RAM: G.SKILL 4 GB (2 x 2 GB) DDR2-800
Hard Drive: Western Digital 500 GB (7200 RPM) x 2 [1 TB total]
Graphics Card: Diamond 2600XT 256 MB
Optical Drive: Asus DVD+R Burner
Card Reader: Sabrent 68-in-1
Power Supply: Thermaltake Purepower 600 W
Case: Rosewill ATX Mid Tower
After finishing the build, I set out with a guide in hand to set up a tri-boot install of Leopard, Windows XP x64, and Ubuntu. As of now, I can’t relocate the article, but I believe the install order was Windows, Ubuntu, Leopard. Either way, I quickly ran into problems with my set up. For some reason Windows XP kept giving me blue screens. I’m still unsure of whether this was from the hardware setup, or maybe it was a bad copy, as I had to burn it myeslf with an .iso image from the MSDN Alliance through Binghamton (legal copy, don’t worry). After several attempts to fix it, the computer seemed to become more stable, so I moved on to Leopard. At the time, every tutorial talked about using the BrazilMac method with the Asus P5W-DH, so that seemed the logical route to go. After getting the image set up, and then burnt, I couldn’t boot into the system. I finally ended up installing the iDeneb copy of 10.4.8, which ran nicely, except for the occasional crash (I know, real macs aren’t supposed to do that). Finally, I got Ubuntu installed, and set up GRUB with the chain0 method to boot all 3 operating systems. All of the operating systems ran, but overall, the computer didn’t feel like it was operating the way it should, given the hardware in it.
Eventually, I ended up wiping the hard drive and installing only Vista Business x86 (again, through the MSDN Alliance), and the computer seemed more stable. In retrospect, the Windows XP issues probably had to due to the SATA connections, and the BIOS changes that had to be done for OS X. I let the computer run with only Vista on it for several months (alright, probably closer to a year in reality). This past spring break, I decided to finish the project I initially set out to do; set up a tri/quad-boot system (wasn’t sure if I should include the Windows 7 Beta at first, I ended up installing it) that ran as close a retail install of Leopard as possible.
I found a new guide off of the OSx86 Project website that outlined the necessary steps to do set up a quad boot system with 2 versions of Windows, Leopard, and a Linux distro. Although the guide was originally designed for Windows XP and Vista, and OS X Tiger 10.4.8, I figured it would hold true for the newer versions of each OS. So, following the guide, I partitioned my system as I wanted it to be, and began by installing Vista Business x64, followed by Windows 7 Beta x64. After both of these were up and running, it was time to figure out the best way to install Leopard. By now, Gizmodo had published their article on how to install Leopard on a Dell Mini 9, and they had mentioned something referred to as the “Boot-132 Method.” After some searching, I found out what that meant exactly; Boot-132 loaded the necessary .kext (kernel extension) files so that the Leopard install would have as few changes to it as possible, in essence makng it appear as a “real” Mac to the Apple servers. Bingo, just what I needed. After tracking down what appeared to be several Boot 132 iso images for my motherboard, none of them would allow me to load the Leopard install dvd. I went back to google to find an alternative method. After some more reading, I came across an already hacked distribution known as iPC. iPC came pre-packaged at Leopard version 10.5.6, and, although I haven’t tried yet, supposedly is a retail install that allows for Apple updates. After several attempts at iPC with various install customizations, I was finally able to boot to a clean Leopard desktop.
Roughly 3 months after I originally installed iPC, I religiously use my Hackintosh as my main computer. In fact, I haven’t even booted into Vista or Windows 7 since I installed Leopard. I’m debating deleting the Windows 7 partition and expanding Leopard into, especially because the Windows 7 Beta expired last month.
But we all know that good things come in pairs. As such, building one Hackintosh didn’t fulfill my craving to “play,” so I ended up building a second one for my uncle at the beginning of this summer. Since the hacking community is always coming up with new ways to run Leopard on x86 hardware, I had a few options when picking out the parts. Overall, there were two roads to choose between, use a “nettop,” such as the MSI Wind, or do a complete build. My uncle was concerned that the nettop would not provide enough power to properly handle virtualizations, which he needed for some of his work, so I had to find a motherboard capable of running Leopard with few limitations. Again, I went with an Asus board, this time the P5N-7A. It supports Pentium Dual Core/Core 2 processors, and up to 16 GB of ram. Also, it is completely Leopard compatible.
The computer ended up with these parts:
Motherboard: ASUS P5N7A-VM
CPU: Intel Pentium Dual Core E5200, 2.5 GHz
Hard Drive: Hitachi Deskstar 500 GB 7200 RPM
RAM: OCZ Reaper 4 GB (2 x 2GB)
Optical Drive: LG DVD Writer
Case: Apex Slim Case with 275W Power Supply
After assembling the hardware, it was time to install Leopard. As with my last Hackintosh, I started poking around google for the pioneers of this board who could offer some guidance. I found two tutorials, one from by Cave Man from Plex Forums and another by Ufdah from Insanely Mac, and used them simultaneously to install Leopard. I think it ended up taking roughly 6 installs to get it all up and running, but most of that was my eagerness to turn the thing on, and I would forget a step here or there. When I booted up the final install for the first time, and came to the desktop, everything but the graphics card and sound were working. The graphics card was to be expected; I hadn’t installed the driver yet. Sound, however, should have been working since the .kext had been installed already. To fix the audio issue, I ended up using kexthelper7 to add the AppleAC97Audio.kext to the system, which fixed both front and rear audio I/O. The graphics card (an integrated nVidia 9300) was fixed using the NVkushInstaller.
The system was originally installed with a 10.5.4 DVD through the Universal Installer app from PCWiz, then updated to 10.5.5, and finally to 10.5.6, then placed into the system. So the true test would be if it can download updates from Apple’s server, and still reboot without any problems. The update to 10.5.7 resulted in only the audio not working, and was again solved the same way as when it failed to work in 10.5.6. I then proceeded to install as many apps as possible, waiting to see if there were any negative effects of the install method. No errors came up, and everything ran amazingly fast. There was no stuttering to open an application, and everything was responsive. My uncle has since been using this Hackintosh as his main work computer for 3 weeks, and has only one complaint: the computer fails to wake up when it goes to sleep.
Overall, I love the idea of a Hackintosh. I think it’s great that a computer costing hundreds, even thousands, less than a “true” Mac can run at the same level, or better in some cases. I’ll definitely be looking at Hackintosh compatibility for my next computer, whether it be a netbook, notebook or desktop. I’ll hopefully get a guide up, at least for the Asus P5N-7A, so check back, and leave comments if you have any questions.