The Hackintoshes over the years
Here we are again.. do I bother.. I guess I did
As much as I love a nice shiny laptop, i’ve been using a steadily evolving desktop machine for well over a decade. In fact I don’t think i’ve ever been without a workstation since I was first introduced to a computer:
- Amstrad CPC 464
- Amstrad 1512
- Intel DX4 (100Mhz)
- P200 (With MMX), had a snappy advert back in the day
- P3 came in a cool cartridge
- P4 something or other ..
- Intel core quad something
- i7 Haswell (todays machine)
In hindsight I realise that my current set up is actually pretty aged, but either I haven’t noticed or don’t care enough to upgrade. I also feel like i’ve been through a lot of Operating systems through my time:
- MS-DOS 2/3/6.22
- Gem.. not sure this counts
- Windows 3.11
- Windows 95 .. on 1,000,000 floppy disks
- Windows 98/ME, I don’t want to talk about it
- Windows 2000, the pinacle of Windows
- Windows XP
- BeOS, some random gave me a CD in a bookshop at UNI
- Slackware, such a miserable experience I still don’t run a Linux desktop
At some point at University I started a part time job as a Macintosh repair/support person, which I used to hold the belief was my worst work experience. However, this exposed me to the world of Apple hardware and the symbiotic operating system. Well.. System7, MacOS 8 and MacOS 9 were pretty grim but some of the hardware 🤩. I remember one day someone bringing in a 20th Anniversary Mac The product was a complete failure, but look at it !
The G5 tower, such a clean yet imposing piece of metal.. pop the side off and it looked like the inside of a Dyson vacuum cleaner. I also got to work with the Apple rack mount hardware too, arguably the last time there would be anything aesthetically pleasing in a data centre.
Anyway… I was lucky enough to be given a Powerbook G4, it had been repaired and after 6 months the person had never collected it or replied to calls/emails
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ and thus began my switch over to OSX (then MacOS X and now MacOS, clearly naming is hard).
With a shiny Powerbook in hand I proceeded to move all my daily content (music/photos) and social platform(s).. largely just last.fm, myspace and facebook at that point. My poor old workstation started to be turned on less and less as I started to find it slow and clunky when compared. In the mid 2000s Apple did the unthinkable (or maybe the thinkable, IBM were taking forever for a laptop G5 chip) and pivoted the Apple hardware away from PowerPC to Intel hardware, HOWEVER the OS whilst x86 is still tied to Apple specific hardware.
I honestly have no recollection where I found it (probably a dodgy torrent site), but I came across a OS X 10.4 DVD Image that was hacked to install on non Apple hardware and that was it!
Some looking around on archive.org has revealed that it was
JaS OS HackintoshOS images..
For the next couple of OS X releases all of the underlying work was largely taken care of and things “just worked”.. here I was with the Apple experience but without the additional cost!
Apple Airport on the shelf there, a fantastic Access point back in the day
The Hackintosh’s endured a lot of my terrible skillz at WoW
At some point the overhead of producing these packaged OS installers clearly wasn’t worth it (presumably Apple were making things additionally difficult) and suddenly a lot of the overhead was past down to the users. At this point Hackintosh users suddenly had to care about things like EFI/Bootloaders/Kexts and a raft of additional tooling 🤯.
To get a working system the following steps usually were required:
- Get a USB stick
- Create an EFI partition
- Install a bootloader (clover was the one, back in the day) and kexts for your system
- Get a MacOS X installer and write it to the USB stick
- Boot from the USB stick and find that (Display/USB/Network/Disk etc.. didn’t work) go back to step 3
- Install MacOS X to internal disk
- Boot from USB Stick into Mac OSX on internal disk
- Transfer working /EFI to internal disk and install any missing drivers/kernel modules
- Hope Apple didn’t release anything new for a while…
Additionally in the middle of all this Nvidia had a falling out with Apple, meaning that Apple switched to AMD and immediately stopped any new drivers for Nvidia cards :-(
This was pretty much par for the course until MacOS Big Sur was released at which point a new boot loader was required (for reasons I’m not bothered to understand at this point)… Whilst this new bootloader allowed for installing these new MacOS releases, it incurs a significant overhead.. largely the managing of a LOT of XML. If by some chance you manage to incant a working /EFI configuration then lucky you, but it’s a slow and steady process involving many many many reboots and kernel panics. Luckily there is a pretty good community (it’s always about a strong community) in the hackintosh space both on reddit and in other places such as TonyMacx86. The community is pretty helpful at inspecting peoples XML and pointing out irregularities and mistakes and getting people on their way.
With a working /EFI I managed to move to OpenCore and finally stand up BigSur and then later on Monteray!
So here we are.. to today (or the day I wrote this)..
Anyway, for “reasons” the /EFI partition is FAT (old Microsoft standard) which isn’t the most reliable during power loss… Inevitably I had a powercut a few days ago and my /EFI partition was wiped, which lost the entire contents of my finely tuned and artisanal XML config. At this point I couldn’t decide if I had the energy to go through this process again. But given the xmas break and prospect of having to speak with the in-laws I decided this might be an opportunity..
The process has improved since I followed the steps for BigSur, in fact the guide for OpenCore is fantastic and the additional drivers for USB/Audio just work™️ etc..
- Get the OpenCore bootloader
- Add in the ACPI tables for your architecture
- Add in drivers that are needed
- Fight with XML
- Fight with XML more
- Fight with XML even more
My trusty workstation is now back up and running on Ventura (although it doesn’t really seem like an OS for workstation use … )
The move to Intel allowed hackintosh’s to become a thing, however the recent move to ARM from Apple will probably be the final nail in the coffin in the community. It’s been a good run of running MacOS on my hardware, but it does leave me in a quandary of where to go next when I can no longer run a Hackintosh.