Hackintosh thoughts

File this under the the First-World-Problems Dept.

I have owned and used Apple computers since 1996. Here is the list:

  1. 1996: The first was shared with my brother, an Apple Performa 6400.
  2. 2002: iBook G3 600 MHz
  3. 2007:  15-inch MacBook Pro, Core 2 Duo (Santa Rosa)
  4. 2009: Late-2008, 15-inch MacBook Pro, Unibody

I’m generally happy with my experience, although it hasn’t been a smooth ride…the iBook G3 had a smelly keyboard and a DVD drive that wouldn’t stay closed.  My MacBook Pro Santa Rosa need a power-inverter replacement, fan replacement and the firewire port didn’t work–it was a lemon that Apple graciously replaced with a late-2008 MacBook Pro whose network port failed the first time I plugged it in at Kobo.

Aside: I think it was the network there…from what I know, at least two other late-2008 MacBook Pros were affected.

I still use my MacBook Pro (with upgraded 8GB ram, 256 GB SSD with a 2nd hard drive in the original combo drive slot). I’m amazed that I’ve been able to keep it running this long.

This doesn’t include the slew of work computers that I have had (MacBook Pros, MacBook Airs, etc.).  Two of which exhibited overheating, but I digress–this wasn’t suppose to be a post about my poor experience with Apple Hardware.  I love the stuff.  Nothing, next to Lenovo ThinkPads, come close to the build quality that Apple puts out (but the ThinkPads are butt ugly).

The reason why I am writing this is that I have an itch again to build a new computer.  In Mid-2013, I built an ESXI Whitebox to experiment in some hardware virtualization. I recently pulled that box out of the basement and handed it to my brother because I wasn’t using it.  Recently, I’ve been looking at my Hackintosh and when I do that, I often think of my long history with Apple hardware and software  and the underlying motivation I have to build them rather than just buying a real mac.

In 2009, I convinced Jen that I could build a Mac myself using some Hackintosh guides.  I built a nice Quad Core Q9550 machine.  Three years later, I upgraded my Hackintosh build based on an i5 5370K.  I still use this today in my office as my photo workstation.

Running a Hackintosh is not without its faults.  My video card will freeze and lock up the computer.1  I’ve never bothered to get sleep working (although I know it can work).

It’s more cost effective than buying an iMac if you already have a good monitor, keyboard, etc, but generally more of a pain in the ass to maintain.

After briefly flirting with ESXI on an AMD 8350 build, I’m itching to build another Hackintosh again.  The biggest change in the “scene” is the emergence of Clover EFI Bootloader. Other than that, I see the same issues that I’ve dealt with for the past 6 years:

  • Sound doesn’t work (get a USB sound card…)
  • It won’t boot (check your hardware configuration, boot flags, .kext files)
  • Power management doesn’t work
  • System updates borked the install
  • Facetime and iMessage doesn’t work

All things that are easily troubleshooted–much easier if you use a vanilla-based install from a legitimate Mac.

I don’t think cost is much of a driver anymore in the Hackintosh scene.  Six years ago, Mac hardware was at a significant premium, but the gap has mostly narrowed.  It really comes down to the folks who want a Mac that is more powerful than the Mac Mini, but not tied to a built-in monitor that the iMac has.  Count me as one of those users.

However, it’s 2015 now and even the top-of-the-line Retina iMac is only ~13% faster than the comparable Retina MacBook Pro.  That’s barely above the threshold of noticeability.  In some cases, the iMac performs better than the Mac Pro.

This is in stark contrast to the newest Mac Mini with its max CTO configuration (a dual-core i7) performing at 50% that of the iMac2.  My current Hackintosh, when over-clocked, is only 15% slower in comparison to the latest and greatest.  Not bad for a 3-year old computer.

Mind you, the Hackintosh scene is pretty small (I would say that we’re talking about thousands of people…) and I doubt that Apple will ever do anything to stop people from building them, but you got to wonder if this is even worth it anymore?

Based on what I’m seeing, the only real spot where I see Hackintoshes being relevant is if you do audio engineering or movie editing and you need to supply your own hardware.  There are some use cases for 3d rendering, more so if you are willing to spend for a workstation graphics card.  Alternatively, if you want to explore the platform, but don’t have access to Apple hardware, a Hackintosh is a good option to explore.

I can’t even recommend the dual-boot option.  It’s easier to get separate Windows computer if you want to do some gaming.

Will I build another?  Doubtful. I think I’m past that phase of my life. Should I retire my Hackintosh…maybe. Hard to say whether I go with a Retina MacBook Pro or the new 5K iMac.


  1. I have since rectified this by installing another video card. 
  2. In multi-core benchmarking.  Single core performance difference is negligible. To be honest, I’m kind of disappointed.