Welcome to the long overdue third part of the Building a Hackintosh series. In the first part we went over the parts and other essentials to build a hackintosh. In the second part we discussed the actual build. In this final part I’ll tell you how life has been the past 5 months using the hackintosh as my primary workstation. I’ll break it down for you as The Good, The Bad and The Ugly to keep things as simple and as clean as possible.
The main reason this third part has taken me so long to write is because the system works so well it’s almost hard to find something wrong with it. There are so many good things about it that it’s hard to narrow it down to a key few, however here’s what I have as the good (or probably the “best”):
It’s fast. With the SSD and 16GB of RAM this thing flies. It boots up in a mere 45 seconds and applications launch in less than 5 seconds. Photoshop CC and Lightroom 5 run perfectly and have handled everything I’ve thrown at them with ease (panoramas, HDR, so on and so forth) and barely put a dent in the CPU and memory utilization.
It’s cheap. Before considering a hackintosh I was looking at the 27″ iMac. With a comparable processor, memory and storage configuration it would have easily cost me double what I paid for all the parts to get this running myself as a hackintosh. So what did this thing cost me? Less than $1,000 USD. $881 USD to be exact (before taxes and shipping). Once I learned it would cost over $2,000 USD for the same thing from Apple the choice was easy.
There’s really not much to complain about, however when running a hackintosh there are a couple of thing that I would consider “bad”:
It isn’t a real Mac. That should go without saying, but I have to keep reminding myself of that when it comes time to install new hardware. Case in point- I have a Logitech Performance MX mouse that comes bundled with special software to customize some buttons on the mouse. Once I installed the software my hackintosh became extremely unstable (kernel panics, random reboots, freezes, the whole 9). Once it was removed, voilà, everything was back to normal.
Upgrades can be tricky. Adding components to the system can be a bit tedious. It is very important to make absolutely sure the component you want to install is 100% supported natively (or with a kext) in Mac OS X. For example, on my previous PC (which was running Windows 7) I had my Drobo hooked up via USB. This configuration was very flaky, so when I decided to move to Mac I knew I wanted to move the Drobo to Firewire. I did copious amounts of research to make sure the Firewire PCI card I chose was supported (and natively at that). It was a bit of a gamble, as the card I chose apparently has two different versions with the same model #, but I lucked out and it worked perfectly out of the box.
There is one piece of the hackintosh puzzle that is downright ugly. I think a lot of people would agree that this is the biggest problem with running a hackintosh these days. Granted, it’s gotten a lot better, and easier, but the ugliest part of running a hackintosh is:
Updates. Plain and simple updates suck. Every time a OS X Update is released I go through a mini ritual that consists of cloning my boot hard disk to a partition on my scratch volume, downloading the combo updater directly from apple (which means not updating using the App Store), installing the update, running Multibeast, praying and then rebooting. I fudged something up only once (so far), but boy was it nerve wracking trying to get things back in order. Luckily I was able to without having to do a fresh install, but it was a very big lesson in how volatile this whole thing really is.
One thing I learned while sourcing parts for my hackintosh was that it is extremely hard to find a comprehensive list of compatible hardware. That led me to create HackintoshStore.com, which is an online storefront that lists only hackintosh compatible parts and accessories. I personally scour the various hackintosh community websites to find the compatible components and get them listed all in one place. Hopefully it is something the community appreciates.
So, where does that leave us? Am I happy that I went down this path? Absolutely! Is it for everyone? Sadly, no. It is much easier now than it was a few years ago. I have many, many years of building PCs under my belt and I knew what I was getting myself into and I was comfortable with everything that needed to be done. If you choose to take the plunge be warned, it’s frustrating and awesome all at the same time. What do you think? Have you built a hackintosh? Will you?