Back in 2016, I was frustrated that Apple had not updated it Mac Mini, iMac or Mac Pro computers for at least one year. The company pumped out new iPhones, iPads, AirPods and MacBooks at a steady pace, and I had at least one of each. The desktop Macs did not get the same attention.
I wanted a cheap multifunction machine I could rely on for work and play for years to come. But if I picked down the $ 499 starting price Apple wanted for its Mac Mini computers at the time, I would pay the full amount for a machine with the inside was more than two years old. Not ok.
So I decided to do one of the nerdiest things a technical Apple user can do: Me.
I bought all the parts I needed, including storage drive, system memory and. Then I put them together in a rather generic case. Then I tricked Apple’s MacOS software into running it.
The project took about $ 800, many nights of snooping on computer code, and a few frustrated bangs on my keyboard, but in the end I managed it.
I had turned my DIY computer into a Hackintosh.
This is not something Apple supports, and there may be a breach of the MacOS Software License Terms. (Apple declined to comment on this article.) But the end result was that I had a Mac desktop on my terms. I had fought the control away from Apple.
Besides, I felt like a winner. During the day I will move between MacBook Air and Hackintosh to work, using all the specialized Mac software I have set myself to track my to-do lists, manage my calendars and find smart GIFs that I can use in inactive banter. .
At night, I switched Hackintosh to Microsoft’s Windows, which runs more than 73% of the world’s computers. It’s one of the only ways to play well respectedgames like Valve’s sci-fi shooter Half-Life: Alyx, which CNET’s sister site GameSpot just named Game of the Year for 2020.
And if some component, like the video card, does not do enough, I can upgrade the machine without any problems. Nerdeparadis.
Unfortunately, everything changed this summer when Apple CEO Tim Cook entered the company’s virtual, livestreamed scene and said. Their microprocessor brain, formerly made by chipmaker Intel, was instead replaced with Apple’s specially designed M1 chips. Apple said they did this because the technology behind iPhones and iPads is better suited for Macs than Intel processors Apple has used to power Macs since 2006.
“Progress of this magnitude comes only from making bold changes,” Cook said at the time.
The first M1 Macs were the MacBook Air, a 13-inch MacBook Pro and a Mac Mini, each of which received good reviews from reviewers. CNET reviewer Dan Ackerman says that they perform much better than their predecessors, and even the best Intel-based Macs that were released earlier in 2020.
Unfortunately for me and many other Hackintoshers, you can not buy Apple M1 chips alone. Which means I can not load them into my computer and trick Apple’s MacOS software into running it.
Apple said the transition from Intel will take about two years. A few years later, the company is expected to stop upgrading software for Intel-powered Macs.
At that point, my Hackintosh dream will be officially over.
Apple’s notorious for how much control it exercises over its devices. You can not download apps for iPhone or iPad unless you go through Apple’s App Store, where each application is reviewed by the company before it is posted for download.
It is no surprise that Apple will also take an even tighter grip on its computers. But I’m still sad to see Hackintoshes go.
So I decided to build one last hurray. The shiny fake apple I could muster.
A hobby and a workhorse
It has become much easier to assemble a Hackintosh in recent years. This is mainly thanks to better hacking tools and active communities filled with people who love to help. Some of them even write step-by-step guides with lists of what parts you can buy, how to set them up and what to do when they don’t work.
One of the people whose posts I have come to trust is Mykola Grymalyuk, a 20 year old college student studying computer science (what else?) In Canada. He had entered Hackintoshing through his stepfather, who had one of his own. At one point, Grymalyuk found himself recovering from a medical episode, with a lot of time on his hands.
“I was constantly in a hospital bed, I could not really walk much, could not really do much, and I felt a little worthless,” said Grymalyuk. “But the Hackintosh community gave me something to do.”
He noticed that there were not many updated or comprehensive guides to help people build Hackintoshes, so he decided to write some of his own. First, he created a list of video cards that worked best with Apple’s software. Then he wrote about how to customize pieces of your computer to make everything work better. And most useful to me, he created detailed guides to understand the apps and processes you need to follow to get started setting up a Hackintosh.
“It just spirals from there,” he said.
Earlier this year, he turned his work into a website he co-founded with the name Dortania. It is named after a flower so obscure that he hoped it would mean that the site could easily shoot to the top link on Google (it did). The site has no ads and he is not asking for any money. He encourages people to donate to Crohn’s and Colitis Canada.
As much as Grymalyuk likes to connect to his Hackintosh instruction manuals, he knows that Apple’s M1 chips mean it will all end in five years or so. Then he expects that all Macs and Mac apps will have switched to Apple chips. At that point, Apple is likely to start phasing out software updates for Intel-based computers, as it will no longer sell them anyway.
As a self-proclaimed fan of Apple products, Grymalyuk said he recently got people running older Mac software on new computers, and helping others run new Apple software on older Macs.
His dream is to channel all this knowledge to write documentation for other technical products. He wants to help people understand the details of what makes their computers cross, whether they are made by Apple or not.
“I want to teach, not just get to the end result,” he said. “I want people to maintain their machines. When you know what’s broken, how it breaks and what to fix, you feel like ‘Wow, I can maintain this machine all by myself. I do not need external help. “
My latest Hackintosh
I was inspired to build my latest Hackintosh because of M1 Macs. I decided to make a machine with the latest microprocessor brains and more than twice as much storage space as 1I use today. I also chose a similar AMD graphics card as the latest Mac Pro computers, to make it work more easily with MacOS. I wanted to make sure that this machine will meet my needs for at least the next few years.
If I get stuck, I’m grateful to have the community of Hackintoshers help fix bugs I run into. Sites like Grymalyuk’s Dortania, Reddit’s Hackintosh community, and tonymacx86 are still popular. The same goes for YouTube channels like Snazzy Labs, which discuss Hackintoshes so often. Some of these communities even saw growing interest when Apple released its first M1 computers in November – in part because people are curious about how Hackintoshers are preparing when MacOS no longer works on Intel chips.
“It is still a thriving worldwide community of active hackers,” said Tonymacx86. The person behind the username and the website prefers to be anonymous to avoid overzealous fans and critics.
Tonymacx86 says that after Apple completely cuts Hackintoshes, websites and guides are likely to be transformed into tributes to more than a decade that people have spent building these Frankenstein machines. They’s also likely to be a support community for people who keep their computers up to date while they can get software updates from Apple.
I’ll probably finish Hackintoshing by then. I know that one day I will not be able to keep the computer I just built running MacOS smoothly. When that time comes, I will either have to rely more heavily on the Mac laptops I have, or buy a new desktop from Apple.
Hopefully, Apple’s computers will not be as disappointingly outdated as they were when I started.