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What is a Hackintosh Computer? A Definitive Guide

What is a Hackintosh

Are you a computer-whiz that wants to try something different? How about a Hackintosh computer?

A Hackintosh isn’t for everyone, so you might decide that it’s not an option for you. But if you’re a person who loves computing but hates being stuck with a Mac that has everything predesigned for you, then you may just like this concept.

What is a Hackintosh Computer?

Hackintosh breaks away from the Mac  and allows you to build your own computer and install macOS on it. Windows users know that they can go on Amazon, buy all of the hardware that they want for their PC, and then install Windows.

There are no restrictions aside from system requirements.

But with MacOS, you’ll be stuck. Apple doesn’t allow you to purchase just the operating system and install it on a system of your choosing.

Hackintosh computer

Brief History of Macintosh

Apple, a company you’re likely familiar with, started to sell Macintosh computers in 1984. Running the Macintosh System Software as the operating system, the company rebranded their operating system in 1996 to just MAC OS.

And then we saw MAC OS X and then OS X. Finally, we’re back to macOS.

Through 2006, Apple didn’t want consumers to even have the option of installing their operating system on non-official hardware. The company has been adamant on forcing consumers to use just Apple products, and this was done through requiring the computer to run on PowerPC processors.

Linux and PC were using Intel and AMD chipsets at the time, and they still do to this day.

Apple transitioned to their first Intel-based computers in 2006, a year after Steve Jobs announced that the company would introduce the MacBook Pro and iMac on the Intel Core Duo platform.

PowerPC microprocessors were holding the company back, and by 2009, the company stopped using the processor entirely.

Apple’s persistence would endure, and they would force the user to only use their hardware. They refused to support other hardware, although the hardware was just as good if not better.

Hackintosh was born out of this concept because consumers believe that they have a right to use hardware that isn’t made by Apple.

Intel Chipset CPU

What are the Benefits of a Hackintosh?

Now, why would anyone really want a Hackintosh? Apple’s operating system is speedy, secure and preferred by a lot of people. Others just want to give Mac a try, but they’re not willing to pay the outrageous prices that Apple charges.

Advantages of a Hackintosh

  • You have the freedom to upgrade or replace parts as needed. Want to install more RAM? Do it. Want to replace a hard drive? No problem. Want to do any of this with a Mac? You can’t without jumping through hoops in the process.
  • Hackintosh computers perform better in benchmark tests. You’ll enjoy faster speeds and rendering times versus a Mac. High-end graphics cards can also be installed, alleviating much of the processing demands of the CPU and making the rig faster and more efficient as a result.
  • Hackintosh computers are significantly cheaper to make. You’ll spend thousands of dollars less on your own Hackintosh than you would buying a Mac.
  • Customize your system from the ground up. This allows you to pick everything, from the case to the motherboard, power supply and even the monitor that you’ll be using.

So, from a consumer standpoint, it’s much easier and cheaper just to create your own Hackintosh computer. It’s fun to get your rig up and running, but keep in mind that there is also a learning curve.

If you’ve built your own PC from the ground up before, you will find that a Hackintosh isn’t much different.

Benefits of hackintosh

Disadvantages of a Hackintosh

Hackintosh computers are great, but you’re also “hacking” your way to macOS. There will be aa few drawbacks as a result. The main issue is that you won’t be able to receive the same support that Apple offers.

You’re technically using the operating system in a way that it wasn’t designed to work.

Since you’re “hacking” the system, you’re completely on your own. All of the issues that can go wrong with the hacked version will be 100% your responsibility.

The good news is that Hackintosh’s community is vast.

You’ll be able to find guides, videos and forums where you can ask questions and get help when setting up your rig.

A few other disadvantages include:

  • Some parts simply won’t work. You will find that there are specific parts that will and will not work, so you can’t just repurpose any computer that you own and make it into a Hackintosh.
  • While I would love to tell you that everything will be up and running shortly after your install, not everyone is so lucky. Some people will come across issues, often having to doing with the hardware that they have chosen, that will require digging into forums and communities to find a fix.
  • Upgrades are possible, but you’ll likely run into issues. The upgrades are by no means streamlined, so the process will be more tedious than a Mac. You’ll also find that some things tend to break during an upgrade to the operating system, so you’ll have to rely on the community to help you fix everything.

There is always going to be the question of legality, too.

Disadvantages of Hackintosh

Is Hackintosh Legal?

According to tonymacx86.com (the largest community on all things hackintosh)”Building a hackintosh is not illegal as long as you have legally acquired macOS. However by installing macOS on non-Apple hardware is a violation of the EULA. In most countries, violating the terms of the EULA is not illegal as it is a contract. You are advised to consult your local laws before continuing.

Apple claims that all of their operating systems are merely licensed, so you will be breaching their EULA (which is not illegal in most countries) if you’re not following the terms of the license.

Apple has stayed away from the OSx86 community, which has existed for years and helps people create their own Hackintosh.

We do know of one story where Psystar Corporation started selling Hackintosh computers to the public. Ultimately, Apple sued the company and won the case in court after it was found that Psystar violated DMCA rights.

But Psystar was selling their computers to consumers, so the practice did directly impact Apple’s sales.

For the average user, the one installing macOS on their own computer, I can’t find any lawsuits.

Note: Psystar used the coding that a lot of people use, OSx86. This is very important because after Psystar decided that they were going to sell their machines and were sued, OSx86 changed their terms to forbid any commercial use of their code.

Custom Built Computer

How to Build a Hackintosh

Building a Hackintosh is a lot of work, and there are a few main methods of doing this. These methods include:

1. Build a Fully Customized Rig for Your Hackintosh

If you’re computer-savvy and want to have your own macOS on a fully customized rig, you can. This is a great option for anyone that has a particular setup that they’re considering. But keep in mind that this is a tedious option that will require you to:

  • Choose the right case
  • Purchase a CPU
  • Choose a ‘hackintosh motherboard
  • Install a hard drive
  • Install a graphics card
  • Install RAM
  • Choose and install a power supply

You might also need some form of DVD player (tak a look at our best external DVD drive list) or USB flash drive to install Mac OS. The unit will need a monitor, keyboard, mouse and any other components that you want.

Related: Best thin bezel monitor guide

And you’ll need to make sure everything is compatible. You can save a lot of money by customizing your own Hackintosh, but it is a lengthy process that is 100% possible if you’re willing to watch a few videos and take your time.

The main benefit here is that you have complete control over how you design your rig.

2. Use an Existing Laptop  or PC

I highly recommend checking out some of our compatibility guides and rigs. Our guides will help ensure that you use a laptop or PC that you know is going to work for your Hackintosh. There are a lot of benefits to this method, and they include:

  • You have a PC or laptop that is already working and fully compatible with the hardware that’s installed. This makes it easier to get everything up and running, and you don’t need to sit down and make sure that a certain motherboard will work with your CPU or RAM.
  • If your system is older and is compatible, you’re essentially just repurposing it, so it’s a good way to make use of a laptop or PC that you don’t use anymore.
  • You can purchase a rig that you know will have the least amount of problems.

While this method may offer less customization, it’s a good, affordable method that a lot of people have used. You’ll be able to get your Hackintosh up and running faster, and there will be no need to go in and start messing with the computer’s hardware.

Keep in mind that you might be formatting your drive when installing macOS, so this will cause you to lose any pre-installed software on your laptop or desktop. While most people understand this when they build a Hackintosh, others will be upset when they lose everything: data, pictures, software and the like.

Dual Boot

3. Using a Virtual Machine for Your Hackintosh

If you’re not willing to dedicate your PC to macOS and want to still try out the operating system, you do have the option of setting up a virtual machine. This is a bit complicated, but what it will allow you to do is keep all of your files and content on your PC.

There is no formatting involved or worries of losing all of your important data.

But you’ll be reducing your PC’s overall performance because you’ll be using resources to run the virtual machine. If you have a high-end build, this shouldn’t be much of a concern because your computer will have excess resources available.

I recommend this option for anyone who wants to give a Hackintosh a try.

You’ll be able to play around with your operating system and see how it runs before committing to a customized build.

Whenever you plan on building your own Hackintosh, you’ll also need to have access to the operating system. OSx86 is the go-to option, but we’re also seeing a lot of guides directing users to other operating system options. One option, for anyone that has access to the App Store, is to download a legitimate version of macOS.

Even AMD users have been able to hack their way to success by using forums and working together to work out all of the bugs they come across.

However, another option is to dual boot Windows and Mac OS. This allows you to choose between using Mac and Windows whenever you please.

Hackintosh Compatibility Checker

CompatibileHackintosh computers are, well, hacked together. Since you’re running macOS on a platform it wasn’t designed to run on, you’ll need to check to make sure that everything will run properly. Compatibility checking is a must, and this means making sure that you find the best:

If you’re trying to use components that aren’t compatible, you’ll run into issues when making your Hackintosh.