Image: Wesson Wang/Unsplash
Windows fans can build their own computers when they can’t find one in stores to match their needs, but custom-made Macs are much harder to put together, as Apple doesn’t like having its software and hardware separated. But if you’ve got the time, and really need your beefy computer running macOS, than you should build up your own hackintosh — that’s what people call custom build macOS machines.
Installing macOS on non-Apple-branded equipment violates its EULA. So you really do have to hack a little to get everything running smoothly. This also means that right out of the gate you won’t have any technical support from Apple or any recourse if it starts blocking your system from its cloud services.
That said, many an enterprising system builder has put together a hackintosh, and it’s not that hard to build if you’ve got a free afternoon. First you’ll need the software: A working copy of macOS. You can’t just walk into an Apple Store and buy the operating system, and even if you could it wouldn’t work out of the box on your new computer.
Instead you’ll want to get access to a Mac machine somehow, use the App Store to download the current OS, and then get it on a USB stick with Unibeast, a software tool used to created a bootable macOS install on non-Apple machines.
Second of all, getting the right components together is also important if you don’t want to be met with a wave of insurmountable bugs and issues — macOS doesn’t like dealing with a lot of hardware it doesn’t recognise — but online resources like TonyMacx86 can help here. You can either build a machine yourself or pick a pre-built desktop or laptop that’s known to work well with macOS.
If that all seems daunting don’t let it be! Building a hackintosh is much easier than you might suspect. And there are plenty of great reasons to give it a go. Below are five good reasons to invest the time and effort in building a hackintosh, together with some pointers for getting started.
1) You can control the spec
Perhaps the number one reason why anyone builds their own computer (macOS, Windows or otherwise): The spec is all down to you. People usually think about processor speed and extra hard drives, but it covers stuff like ports and peripherals as well — if the new MacBook just doesn’t have enough ports for you, put together a hackintosh machine that does.
From the internal graphics cards to the screen display size, it’s all up to you (within reason — as we’ve said, macOS won’t play happily with every hardware component out there). Then there’s the upgrading aspect to consider, because you can configure your system to be much easier to add to in the future than something bought from Apple.
Video card too slow? With a hackintosh you can just order a new card online and install it the next day.
2) Apple’s slow update cycle
Apple is hardly making it easy for power users to get their hands on some high-end Mac kit right now. Recent MacBook Pros are a little on the gimmicky side, the latest and greatest iMac Pro won’t be here until December at the earliest, and as for the long-awaited successor to the trash can-shaped Mac Pro, you’re going to be waiting even longer for that.
On the back of that state of affairs, why not get together your own super-powered, high-spec Mac machine? As we mentioned above, you get your own choice of features and components (within reason), and if you don’t agree with Apple’s choices that’s fine. You can be running macOS at top speed long before any iMac Pro or Mac Pro owners are.
3) Your current Mac machine is flagging
This is tied to the previous point, but as good as Macs are in the longevity stakes, they will eventually start showing their age — and at that point you might start checking out some of the prices for new machines, which tend to err on the premium side. Building a Hackintosh could be a way of treating yourself to a new system without spending quite so much cash.
Having an existing macOS machine up and running makes it easier for you to get hold of the software and the tools you need to create you hackintosh anyways. It also means you’ve got an older system to fall back on if something should go wrong with your new build.
4) You can build a system for a purpose
We’ve mentioned about creating a custom spec for your machine, but another related reason to build a hackintosh is that you can escape the standard designs and form factors put forward by Apple. Whether you want macOS running on a small media center, or as part of a smart home system, or even working in your car, a hackintosh makes it possible.
You suddenly have the same flexibility that Windows users have always had, thanks to the plethora of device options out there. Maybe you even want to try getting macOS up and running on a 2-in-1 tablet, rather than buying an iPad Pro. The freedom of choice you get with a hackintosh applies as much to the type of device as its internal components.
5) You might learn something along the way
Putting together a hackintosh isn’t as difficult as it used to be, but it’s not exactly easy: You’re still going to have to get your hands dirty with software downloads and BIOS updates and system building (if you choose a fully customised rig). Chances are you’re going to hit a few roadblocks along the way as you try and get everything working.
That said though, as anyone who’s built a Windows system knows, you’re going to learn a lot more about the inner workings of your new laptop or desktop than you would if you’d just gone out and bought something already finished. It may take longer to get up and running with your hackintosh but in hindsight the journey will be well worth the time.
If you want to learn more about build up your own Mac than there is one excellent resources you’ll want at your disposal: TonyMacx86. This website has how to guides, component guides, and tons of other hackers building their own devices who can provide you with tons of support and guidance as you create your own new machine. It’s easily the best hackintosh resource available on the internet, and the next place you should head on your journey.