OS X is out there. You’ve seen it in coffee shops, on TV, in the laps of hipsters at the local taqueria. There‘s no shame in wondering what all the fuss is about. Hell, it’s healthy to mix it up a little bit. If only the idea of sending Steve Jobs and the rest of Apple, Inc. thousands of your hard-earned dollars didn’t send you into a cold sweat that only a game of Left4Dead can cure. Still, OS X is the subject of many glowing reviews. Even hardcore PC users are singing its praises. If you have the itch to try out OS X, but you’re not down with shelling out the cash for a new Mac, we have one word for you: Hackintosh.
When Apple announced the move to Intel processors for its computer lineup, the search was on for a practical way to install OS X on non-Apple hardware. Over the years, the best way to achieve this feat was to patch a retail version of the OS X install from Apple. Users would scour the Internet for the patches—always hoping that what they downloaded was indeed the correct patch, and not some virus or trojan horse ready to wreck havoc on their PCs.
But these days the quest for OS X needn’t be so perilous. Read on to see how an inventive little USB device can let you easily dual boot OS X on non-Apple hardware, using a legitimate copy of OS X.
The EFI-X dongle ($235, http://efixna.com ) is the Hackintosh builder’s dream. The device, which plugs into a motherboard’s USB port, works by creating a full EFI environment inside a tiny USB microcomputer. EFI, or Extensible Firmware Interface, was created by Intel to replace the aging BIOS on PCs. Apple’s Unix-based Macs use EFI instead of BIOS. The EFI-X gives users the ability to run EFI-based and BIOS-based operating systems on one machine.
The module contains the hardware drivers of all the equipment on its hardware list. The EFI-X bootloader screen gives you the option to pick which operating system you would like to load at startup. Once you have OS X installed on your machine, the EFI-X must be connected to your machine at all times. If you want to build two Hackintosh systems, you need to purchase two EFI-X dongles.
The EFI-X isn’t without its drawbacks. You can’t just throw any hardware in a tower and start playing with iChat and Final Cut Pro. You need to be sure you use only hardware that has pre-installed drivers on the EFI-X. EFI-X has a complete list of compatible hardware on its site; below we tell you the parts we chose.
Like the current Macs on the market, the EFI-X works with Intel Core 2 processors. AMD fanboys can complain about Intel’s market share, its lack of innovation, and aggressive plots to remove all its competitors until the cows come home—it’s not going to change the fact that you can’t build a Hackintosh with an AMD CPU. In our machine we used a 2.67GHz Intel Core 2 Duo.
Because the EFI-X comes with pre-installed drivers for hardware, the list of compatible motherboards is necessarily limited. EFI-X supports Gigabyte P35, P45, and X48 chipset boards, with support for Gigabyte X58 boards reportedly coming soon. Or you can choose from one of two DFI P45 chipset motherboards. We went with DFI’s LanParty DK P45-T2RS Plus ($160 street, www.dfi.com.tw ).
To help you see all your beautiful OS X goodness on screen, ATI and Nvidia cards are supported by the EFI-X. While EFI-X supports the ATI Radeon HD 3870 and Radeon HD 2600 XT cards, ATI knows that Apple is best buds with Nvidia and cautions that ongoing support of these cards is uncertain. Compatible Nvidia cards include the 7000, 8800, and 9800 series graphic cards. We went with a two-year-old PNY XLR8 GeForce 9800 GTX ($140 street, www.nvidia.com ) because it’s cheap and readily available.
We initially started our project with a SATA hard drive and an IDE optical drive. The EFI-X kept hanging on the OS X install disc, so we switched over to a SATA optical drive and that solved the problem. In order to build a multi-OS machine you’ll need a SATA HDD for each OS. We installed OS X Leopard on a 1.5TB drive and Windows Vista on a 1.5TB drive. If we plan on adding another OS, we’ll have to throw another SATA drive in our rig. Partitions and Apple’s Boot Camp don’t work with the EFI-X device.
Your Hackintosh will be a dual-boot machine, meaning it will run both Windows and OS X. We recommend installing whatever flavor of Windows you prefer before beginning your journey into the world of Mac. We attempted several OS install scenarios and found the path of “regular Windows install, followed by Hackintosh” yielded the best results. We installed Windows Vista in our machine, against the warning of Justin Long.
Now, even if you hate Apple, Inc. with all your heart and soul, you need to purchase a retail copy of OS X ($130, www.apple.com ) for every machine you install it on. If you plan on making Macs and/or Hackintoshes a family affair, you can purchase a family pack for $200 for use on five machines. Apple doesn’t require validation codes or a call in to their HQ for verification. Please don’t abuse Apple’s trusting nature.
Before we begin, we need to chat about the law and EULAs. Installing OS X on non-Apple hardware, while probably not technically illegal, does violate Apple’s End User License Agreement (EULA). Will Apple hunt you down and kidnap your pets until you remove OS X from your Hackintosh? It’s unlikely.
Apple isn’t too concerned with the little guy tinkering with his computer, and will have a pretty challenging time tracking you down if you go out and purchase a legal copy of OS X for your project. On the other hand, if you want to base a business around building Hackintoshes, expect a visit from Apple’s crack team of lawyers.
With that out of the way, let’s start building. We’ll give you specific instructions for the DFI board we used; if you’re using a different (but compatible) motherboard, you’ll need to adapt our instructions for your hardware.
The EFI-X dongle is the secret sauce that makes OS X think your awesome PC is a craptacular, but Apple-approved Mac. Think of the EFI-X module as Clark Kent’s glasses—when they’re on, no one has a clue that he’s Superman. Installation is simple, you just need to plug the EFI-X into a vacant USB header on your motherboard. The dongle comes with an extension cable if you have trouble squeezing the device in between the other components on your rig. Make sure to avoid plugging the dongle into the FireWire header—that would torch your $250 device.
Next up, we need to adjust BIOS settings to work with the EFI-X device and the OS X installer. Rather than list a series of options and the correct settings, we’re going to just show the appropriate BIOS screens, with everything set to the correct settings, and we’ll note anything you need to tweak on sub-screens. But, before you can do that, you’ll need to enter the BIOS by mashing the Del key as your PC boots.
Enter the Standard CMOS Features screen. Navigate to Halt On, press Enter, and select All, But Keyboard. Press Enter to accept your bold new setting and then Esc to return to the Main BIOS screen.
Navigate to the Integrated Peripherals option, and then to the OnChip IDE Device screen. For SATA Mode, choose IDE. The EFI-X doesn’t support RAID. AHCI should be turned off during the install process. You can turn it back on after you’ve finished the install. Press Enter to save your settings.
Next, navigate to LEGACY Mode Support, select Enabled and press Enter to save your setting. For the Onboard JMB363 option, select Native IDE and press Enter.
Press Esc to return to the Integrated Peripherals main screen.
While still in the Integrated Peripherals screen, navigate to the USB Device Setting page and hit Enter. Make sure the controllers and functions are all enabled. Navigate to USB Mass Storage Device Boot Settings.
You should see the EFiX Booting Device 1.0 option. Select it and press Enter. Select the HDD Mode option and press Enter to save your setting.
From the main BIOS screen navigate to the Advanced BIOS Settings option and press Enter. Select Hard Disk Boot Priority. Move the USB-HDD0 : EFiX Booting Device to the top of the list by selecting it and pressing the plus (+) button until it’s on the top of the heap. Smack Esc to return to the Advanced BIOS Settings main screen.
Navigate to the First Boot Device. Select CDROM from the list of boot devices. Press Enter to save your setting. Change the Second Boot Device to Hard Disk using the same method. Press Esc to return to the glory of the main BIOS screen.
Navigate to the Power Management Setup screen. Go to ACPI Function, select Enabled and press Enter to save your choice.
Navigate to ACPI Suspend Type, Select S3(STR), and press Enter. Press Esc to return to the main BIOS screen.
Navigate to Save & Exit Setup and press Enter. The machine will now reboot with all your new BIOS settings. It’s almost go-time with your Hackintosh.
When your machine reboots, you should see “EFIX V1 Loading Please Wait” on the screen. If you don’t see this text on your screen, you’ve totally screwed up. Don’t go blaming us—just reboot, begin mashing the Del key to enter the BIOS, and double-check your settings.
If you do see the “EFIX V1 Loading…” text, way to go. The EFI-X Bootloader screen will appear. You will be presented with what looks like trash cans from the future. Don’t be alarmed if the trash cans have an X or Window icon on them. Even if you haven’t installed an OS on your drives yet, the EFI-X recognizes the format of the SATA drives attached to the rig. You may see two Windows choices; don’t worry. Once you reformat one of the drives to Mac OS Extended (Journaled), it’ll have X on it. For now, just ignore those glowing trash cans with company logos and choose the trash can with DVD on it to access your OS X install disc. Press Enter.
If all goes to plan, you should see a startup screen. It’s different from the usual OS X startup screen. Don’t worry, that’s the EFI-X startup screen. As long as it doesn’t hang, you’re doing fine. While installing, if your SATA drive is formatted FAT, you’re going to have to reformat it to Mac OS Extended (Journaled). Don’t worry, the OS X installer is pretty much idiot-proof; it will warn you if the drive is formatted incorrectly. If it is formatted FAT, select Options, and a drop-down menu will appear with Mac OS Extended (Journaled) already selected. Click Erase. Be careful not to nuke your Windows.
You’ll get a green arrow on your hard drive signifying it’s ready for OS X. You will also be warned that your data will be erased on that drive. Make sure you don’t have anything on that drive you’ll need later, like your vast database of Caprica Six images or your banking information. Click Continue.
Now take a deep breath. You’re about to do something that’s a little crazy. Click Install on the next screen, and away we go. You have about 30 to 45 minutes while the installer does its magic, so go grab a bite to eat or wash your hands to get all that icky OS X install pixie dust off of them.
After you’ve installed OS X, you have to fill out the Apple setup/registration form. Whatever name you choose at this point will be the name of your user account on your Mac. Entering “Amanda Huginkis” will definitely come back to haunt you here. You’ll also be prompted for a password and information regarding your network. OS X takes all the information you enter to configure your computer’s settings. Even the registration page information will be used to identify you in the OS X Address Book app. Just do what Mac users have been doing forever: once the setup asks for you to actually register, choose the Register Later option. Steve already knows too much about us.
Your desktop will now shine brightly with the glimmer of the Leopard desktop image. Take it in. It’s OK, no one is going to hurt you. Leopard is your friend.
Now, the moment of truth—updating OS X on your Hackintosh. Remember, Hackintoshes with patched kernels are unable to be updated. It’s their Kryptonite. But the EFI-X allows you to update your Hackintosh because it’s fooling OS X into believing it’s a legit Mac. We recommend applying all the updates available, as there are some significant fixes between 10.5 and 10.5.6. You can apply updates by choosing the Apple Menu in the upper-left corner of the menu bar. Choose Software Update. A window will pop up with the available updates Apple thinks you need. Click Install.
OS X Leopard downloads updates and then asks to be restarted so it can install updates without interruption from applications and processes. When you click Restart, the computer will display a light-blue screen and will begin the installation process. Don’t worry, this is normal. The machine will restart once it’s finished installing. You may have to do this a few times to get all the updates available.
Now that your Hackintosh is updated to the most recent Apple goodness, it’s time to check out the specs of your new machine. Go to the Apple in the top-left of the menu bar and select About This Mac in the drop-down. You’ll see the processor and the amount of RAM in your rig. For even more information, click More Info.... The System Profiler will give you all the information you need about your machine. If your machine is giving you any problems, this is a good place to see which startup items are causing issues or to make sure your USB Device Tree is recognizing a device. Most peripherals are plug-and-play with OS X, but not all. A quick Internet search will usually find the drivers you need. Just like with a PC, but with an added touch of smugness.
Many applications are just drag-and-drop. Yes, it sounds crazy, but all you have to do is drop the app into the Applications folder and, bam, it’s installed.
If you’re using a Windows keyboard with OS X, you’ll use the Windows key (the one with the Windows logo) instead of the Ctrl key as the basis for your keyboard shortcuts. For example, Windows+S to save. All the most common functions such as copy, cut, paste, new, print, etc., use the same letter as in Windows (C, X, V, N, P, respectively). If you have a Mac keyboard lying around, you’ll be using the Cmd key for keyboard shortcuts.