Hackintosh are reliable over time

Hackintosh: pros and cons

Rob Griffiths, Peter Müller

Assemble a computer yourself from freely chosen components and install macOS on it? Difficult but not impossible.

Apple wants to make the Mac Pro modular again, but the new machine won't be released before 2018 and it is completely uncertain what Apple means by modular. Can you really get all of your desired components in the build-to-order process and build things yourself? Or will there be certain restrictions again? The solution for this is called Hackintosh and is only half legal because Apple does not release its macOS for computers other than its own. The bigger hurdle, however, is probably finding and installing the right components, as well as installing the software and getting it up and running. Hackintoshs are more of a hobbyist's projects and therefore not a commercial threat to Apple - probably the reason why these types of self-made computers are at least tolerated by Cupertino.

Our two Macworld colleagues Rob Griffiths and Kirk McElhearn have many years of experience with the subject and have built many Hackintoshs. This resulted in two detailed building instructions:

Both instructions are worth reading, but very complex and full of details that we do not want to go into here. Rob Griffiths was kind enough to summarize the essentials, to name the advantages and disadvantages of Hackintoshs, and to give the hobbyists addressed a few tips on how to approach their project. Here are his findings:

Why you should build a Hackintosh

There are many reasons for building a Hackintosh. These are the most important:

  1. Free choice: You can build exactly what you need and don't have to get what Apple wants you to have. The choice is yours: a portable one the size of a beer glass or a high-end tower. Integrated graphics or dedicated ones from the high-end. Any size of hard drive (or SSD), speed, number and capacity of RAM and much more. You build exactly what you want and what your budget allows.

  2. Costs: If you choose the components yourself and assemble them, you can save a lot of money. The compact computer built by Kirk McElhearn cost him US $ 464 [plus labor, editor's note], and in terms of performance it beats the Mac Mini, which Apple sells for US $ 999. In my case, the comparison is a bit more difficult because the iMac has a 5K display. However, if you add a $ 1,300 display from LG to the $ 1,567 component cost. you are still around $ 500 below the price of the current high-end iMac. And my machine will shame the iMac in terms of gaming performance and be at least on par, if not better, in terms of CPU performance.

  3. Upgradeability: If you are building your own Mac, from time to time you can replace individual components with newer or better ones. For example, if you're not sure if you really need a high-end graphics card for $ 500, why not buy a simpler one for $ 100 first and see if you can handle it. If not, just sell them again and buy the expensive one. In principle, this applies to every component.

Hackintosh off the shelf

Off the shelf: assembling a Hackintosh from (almost) freely chosen components is not for everyone and, above all, quite time-consuming. It is easier with pre-configured PCs on which macOS can be installed with a little less effort. The Mac Observer has named four such models, including a laptop.

A PC only becomes a Hackintosh if you install macOS on this machine. This is different for each model, the computer recommendations HP Z800, HP Z620, Dell Optiplex 780 and ASUS ROG G73JH each come with specific instructions.

However, macOS can also be brought to the PC as part of a virtual machine, here we show how it works. As a rule, however, such a VM is not as powerful as a "real" Hackintosh.

Why you shouldn't build a Hackintosh

On the downside, there are a few arguments that could end your project before you begin.

  1. No all-inclusive guarantee : Although each of the components will (have to) come with a guarantee and warranty, there is no guarantee for the machine as a whole. If the CPU breaks, you will have to deal with its manufacturer or seller. If the GPU is defective, you may need to contact another manufacturer or seller.

  2. Craft in demand: If you've never built a computer yourself, it can be a confusing experience when you are surrounded by boxes of components and you are unsure where and how to start. After all, there are thousands of instructions out there and it's not that complicated.

  3. Instabilities: As a rule, the problem is not the hardware, but the software. Every time Apple releases an update for macOS, it's not sure if your Hackintosh will survive the installation. [Never updating is not an alternative either, because of possible security gaps or useful new functions, Note d. Red.] Before installing a (maintenance) update on your Hackintosh, you should first carefully search the Internet for the experiences of other users.

  4. For geeks: Most likely, you will have to spend a lot of time with the macOS terminal. If you don't feel like doing this, then you shouldn't build a Hackintosh.

  5. It's not a Mac until you make it one : That is the most critical point of all and for most the highest hurdle. In our articles, we have described that multiple installations were required to get our machines up and running. There was a lot of research that took a lot of time between reinstallations. I spent around 30 hours working on my project. In the end, even that may be in vain because you don't get a machine that works by your standards.

Tips for Building a Hackintosh

If the arguments in favor of a Hackintosh have convinced you more than the arguments against, we have a few time-saving tips:

  1. Use the buying guide on tonymacx86.com and only buy components listed therein that are known to work in Hackintoshes. Outside of this list, you are only risking your money and time.

  2. It is better to buy all components from a dealer in order to get the same guarantee conditions as possible. In addition to Amazon, NewEgg is also a good candidate. This makes handling hardware problems easier.

  3. Read all instructions first, then assemble and install components. After all, you don't want to get to step seven to find that you are missing something.

  4. Go slowly and in small steps. After you've finished building, the first thing to do is to install macOS and get it working. Only then can you take care of adding graphics support, audio, networking and the like, little by little.

Conclusion

Should you or shouldn't you? There is no simple yes / no answer to that, but let's try. I say "yes" if you like to tinker with hardware and in the terminal and if you like to build something. I also say "yes" if you don't plan on making your Hackintosh your main computer, which should work with everything Apple intended. A "yes" means you could lose that in the money and get a machine that doesn't run the way you want.

In addition, I would say "no". And that is probably the reason why Apple simply leaves this market segment alone. There is no danger that the hobbyists would disrupt Apple's business model with their self-made Macs. On the contrary, it could even make more users buy a real Mac from Apple because they are tired of having to start over with every update and everything just doesn't go as it should. Will I build one again? I don't know yet, nine years passed between the first and the second. So ask me about it again in 2026.