Archive | March, 2013

Building a Hackintosh, part 2: The Build

Chris' iHack

Welcome to the second part of a three part series about building a Hackintosh. In the first part we discussed what goes into a Hackintosh, and why I decided to build one, as opposed to buying a Mac directly from Apple. In this part we’ll go over the actual build process and the installation of Mac OS X on the system.

Assembling the Components

The assembly of the components is no different for a Hackintosh than any other standard PC build, if you’ve ever done one before. It had been a while since I’ve done a PC build, so I was a little rusty. That said, it still only took me an hour to an hour an a half to actually do the assembly.

First, take the motherboard out of the box and out of it’s static wrap. Place the wrap on your work surface, and then place the motherboard on top of it. If you have an anti-static strap now would be a good time to put it on and attach it to something metal. If you don’t have one, be extra cautious when touching the static sensitive components of your build (ie- all of the components). Touching a bare piece of metal frequently during your build to discharge yourself is a good idea, and a step that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Mobo in CaseWith the motherboard on the table (on the static wrap) carefully unbox your processor. It’s way easier to install it on the board outside of the case, so that’s what we’ll be doing now. Attach the processor as per your motherboard and processors instructions. It’s usually as simple as dropping it on the pins (carefully) in the appropriate direction and then pulling down the arms to hold it in place. Afterward attach your CPU cooler of choice following the directions that came with your cooler. For me, I used the stock Intel cooler, so it was a matter of lining up the pins with the receptacles on my motherboard, and then pressing down firmly.

Next up is the memory (RAM). Again, it’s easier to do this outside of the case. Open up your memory and put it in the slots. If your motherboard has color coded slots (two of one color, two of another) put your RAM in the same colored slots. If it’s they’re not color coded check with your motherboard’s manual to see if your board supports dual channel memory, and if so install your memory according to the instructions to achieve the best performance.

It’s now time to start working on the case. The first thing we need to do is install the power supply. Open up the case and remove the power supply. Install the power supply in the appropriate location and use the included screws to attach it to the case. Follow the instruction manuals for your case and power supply for more details.

Now we’re ready to drop the motherboard, with the attached CPU and RAM into the case. Assemble the motherboard stands (if necessary) in the appropriate formation to hold your motherboard. Next, attach the IO plate that came with your board to the opening at the back of the case. Once snapped in, carefully place your motherboard on the stands and attach your board with the included screws. Make sure the IO plate is lined up correctly before screwing everything down.

Case BackOnce the motherboard is installed we need to hook up the power. There should be two connectors on your motherboard for power. One big one and one small one. There should also be corresponding cables from your power supply. Take each cable and carefully plug it into the appropriate spot on your board.

Now comes the most tedious part of the install, snaking all the case wires to the pins on the motherboard. Locate the bundle of wires coming out of your case somewhere. There should be about 6 or 8 little wires that are labeled like “SW RESET”, “PWR+”, “PWR-“, “HDD”, etc. You should see a similarly labeled group of pins on your motherboard. Plug each of those wires into the appropriate place. Look at your motherboard’s instruction manual for greater detail.

If you have a separate graphics card or any expansion cards, now’s the time to install those. For the graphics card, you typically want to use the fastest PCI slot on your board. For me, that was the top slot, so I removed the corresponding plate(s) from the back of the case, and gently pushed in my GPU. Once properly seated I screwed it into the case using the included thumb screw. I installed my firewire card in the same manner.

Last, but not least, comes the installation of your storage media. I have 3 hard drives (two regular one, one solid state) and a DVD writer/reader. I mounted the DVD drive in the top most 5.25″ bay, and then each of my HDDs in the appropriate spots in my case. I plugged in my SSD into a 6 GB/s SATAIII port on my motherboard, and the other 3 drives into the 3 3 GB/s SATAII ports.

The Moment of Truth

It’s time to close up your case, and hook it up to some power. Plug in the cable from the wall in to your power supply and hook up your monitor, keyboard and mouse. If you have a graphics card, some suggest to use the on board video for the installation of Mac OS X. I didn’t, and I didn’t have a problem.

Once you have everything connected, press the power button, and with any luck you should see (and hear) your new toy turn on. Sit back and marvel at your handiwork and your geek prowess for a second.

The BIOS

When you’re finished marveling, reboot the machine and head right into the BIOS. In your BIOS you’ll need to configure a few parameters before you can start installing Mac OS X. If you chose a Gigabyte motherboard as I did, here’s a handy guide to configuring the BIOS for Mac OS X.

AHCI

Locate the HDD or storage area of your BIOS and look for HDD or SATA mode. You will be prompted with several options, like RAID, IDE and one of those options will be AHCI. Select AHCI.

Boot Order

You’ll need to select the drive that you intend to install Mac OS X on. For me, it was the SSD, so that is the drive I selected to boot first.

Installing Mac OS X

There are many different methods to install Mac OS X on a PC. I chose to use tonymacx86’s UniBeast method as I believe it is the easiest, and most widely used method. The only problem with this method is you must already have a working Mac to build the UniBeast USB drive. I have a MacBook, so this wasn’t a problem for me.

To install, register at tonymacx86.com and download UniBeast and MultiBeast. Run the UniBeast installer on your preexisting Mac, and select the Mac OS X Mountain Lion installer (that you legally obtained from the Mac App Store). The USB creation will take about 30 or 40 minutes to complete.

Once the USB drive is ready plug it in to your new Hackintosh and power it up. Press the correct function key on your keyboard to enter the boot order (F12 for Gigabyte boards), and select “USB-HDD” to boot from the USB drive.

You should eventually see a multi-language welcome screen, which is the installer for Mac OS X.

From there, follow tonymacx86’s guide for getting Mac OS X installed. When the installation is finished, come back here for the next steps.

Configuring MultiBeast

Like UniBeast, MultiBeast is a tonymacx86 special. It makes selecting the appropriate drivers for your hardware a breeze. If you have a second USB drive, copy the MultiBeast installer to it from your other working Mac, then copy it to your freshly installed Hackintosh. Once copied to your Hackintosh, run it and select the appropriate options for your hardware.

If you have the same hardware as I do, here’s what you’d select:

NOTE: If you don’t have a dedicated nVidia graphics card, be sure uncheck the box that says “GraphicsEnabler=No”.

As far as System Definitions go, you can choose whatever you’d like here, but I went for “iMac13,1”, which is the equivalent of a Late 2012 iMac with an i7 processor. The reason I chose this definition is because it was the closest match to the hardware I have (notably the i7 processor), and because it offers the best compromise of performance and features (such as AirPlay Mirroring).

Once your MultiBeast settings are configured, remove any USB drives and reboot. In a few seconds (or minutes if you don’t have a SSD) you should see your Mac OS X desktop! Congratulations! You successfully built a working Hackintosh!

Troubleshooting

It’s not uncommon to run into a few issues when attempting to do a Hackintosh build or installation. Fortunately, I only ran into one, and it was an easy fix. I was getting a “boot0” error when attempting to boot from my hard disk, and luckily it was a very common problem. Check out this guide for help resolving it, if you run into it.

For other problems, I wholeheartedly recommend you join the tonymacx86 forums. There are a bunch of other like-minded folks doing the same thing you are and can help you solve any problems or provide guidance. If I hadn’t done my research on these forums prior to doing my build and installation I don’t think I would have had as much success as I did.

Final Thoughts

That wraps up this second part in my three part series on building a Hackintosh. So far, I couldn’t be happier with my decision to go down this path, and my system is performing wonderfully. I’ll report back in a month or so with the third and final installment in this series. For now, here’s a time lapse of the build:

[Part 3: The Aftermath]

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