Building My Hackintosh

January 17, 2011

Not to be confused with last week’s “My Hackintosh Build” post which can be found here. That post details the exact hardware, the cost, and compares it against an iMac with similar hardware. This one is about the actual work of building it and getting it running.

Well, it wasn’t quite as easy as I would have hoped, but I’ve made it. I am typing this post on a brand new Core i5 computer running OS X. Most rewarding of all, I built it myself. Everything major works. Life is good. Some of you may be wondering: How’d you do it? What problems did you encounter? Was it worth it? This post will answer these questions. It will also serve as a bit of a jumping off point if someone is thinking about building one themselves. Hit the break for a detailed description, pictures and more.

Picking out the hardware

There are so many hardware choices when shopping for computer parts on NewEgg! Millions of harddrives, memory sticks, graphics cards, power supplies, motherboards, optical drives… every piece of hardware has a fairly overwhelming number of options. Fortunately, there is a great resource for picking out some of the trickier options.

For the processor, graphics card, motherboard and optical drive, head over to the TonyMacX wiki… here. This wiki has a list of things that are known to work. Before you buy a product, verify to see if it is listed in its respected category on that wiki. Picking out an incorrect motherboard or graphics card can cause some serious headaches.

As for the other stuff, pick out parts with good reviews that are for good prices on NewEgg. Watch prices on items you are interested in and see if they go on sale regularly, and grab them when they are on sale. The site has regular email promotions which highlight many of their best deals as well as “Shell Shockers” 3x a day that feature a certain product. Almost all of the products I bought were either from email promotions or Shell Shockers.

Once you get the hardware, it is time to start building.

Building

If there is one thing I am not, it is mechanically gifted. I am not a handy person by any means. With that in mind, I found building a computer to be pretty painless. Since I was using a case from an old computer, the first thing I did was take everything apart from that computer. This provided some valuable insight for me into the steps that would be required to build one. Once I had everything out of the case, I began to assemble.

The case, surrounded by all of its old insides.

The first thing I did was attach my motherboard, and insert the processor and the heat sink (the fan that sets on top of the processor). This was the most frightening part for me. The motherboard was easy to put in the case, but putting the processor in scared me a bit. There is a pretty high pressure latch which holds the processor in place and I was a little concerned at the amount of pressure I had to apply to get it in there. I don’t know if that’s normal or not, but that’s what I experienced (and my computer works now, so it must be ok).

First things first... the motherboard.


After that, I put the fan on top of the processor. This was also a bit traumatic. The install instructions provided by the motherboard asked me to apply thermal grease to the top of my processor, yet my processor came with no thermal grease. I did some research and found out that Intel ships their processors with some variety of thermal compound installed on the bottom of their fans (the part that touches the processor). So I just went with that, mainly because Best Buy was closed at the time I was working on this. The next day, however (before my computer was working properly), I got nervous, went to Best Buy to buy some thermal grease, and reinstalled the fan. I can sleep easier at night now.

The heart and soul of the computer

The Intel Core i5-760. I admit I was a little surprised at how small the most expensive part of my computer way.


Everything else was pretty much a piece of cake. The motherboard instructions did a very good job of directing me what to plug in where. I mounted everything in the case, I plugged it in, and the moment of truth… I pressed the power button. It turned on! A few lights came up. The fans started up. But the monitor didn’t power up. Oh bother.

It was pretty late at night at this point and I decided to call it a day. I went to bed and when I came back to work on it the next day, I discovered that my graphics card requires it’s own power. Feeling rather stupid, I plugged it in and then everything worked. I was relieved. My hardware was installed, with the exception of two things: My last stick of RAM and my 1 TB HDD. My software installation instructions recommended that I only have 4GB ram and 1 harddrive plugged in while installing OS X. So they sat unattached in the case while I worked out the next step…

It's alive

Once I had it properly running, I went out and bought a new 20" monitor. The 15" is still serving a secondary display, however.

Software

This is where things start to get tricky. Fortunately, there is a great Hackintosh support community that had already answered pretty much all of my questions. Rather than retype everything I did, I’ll just give the link for the instructions and software I used.

Click here for all that stuff.

(This section will only make sense if you glanced over the instructions at the above link)

Everything did not work out perfectly, however. Everything through OS X install went correctly. I had it up and running, but when I took out the iBoot CD after running Multibeast, I would restart my computer and the graphics card wouldn’t work. I played around with Multibeast options a few times and finally found my answer on the tonymacx86 forums here.

Following those steps, my computer was successfully booting without a boot CD… but the audio jacks didn’t work, the ethernet didn’t work and it wouldn’t wake up when it went to sleep. This was solved by doing some more forum hunting and eventually resulted in downloading the latest customized motherboard DSDT and some additional audio related .kext files from alternate sources. (These were all terms I was unfamiliar with prior to this process.) Eventually, all of my problems were knocked out one by one. This process took a long afternoon of work to figure out but ended up with a fully functioning computer. Once I was sure everything was working, I installed the additional RAM and the HDD with no problem at all.

Impressions so far

After about 24 hours with this computer, I can say that it is a joy to use. Solid State Drives are incredible. My 167 GB iTunes library loads and is completely functional in seconds. It doesn’t delay when I search, or switch songs or anything. This fills me with joy. Of course, before I was running it off of a USB 2.0 external drive so I expected a pretty large performance gain.

As far as objective results go, I downloaded a benchmarking program, XBench on both my 5 year old Mac Book Pro and my new build. The MacBook Pro scored a 58. This new guy landed a 293. This kicks the behind of almost all Macs being sold today except for Mac Pros which use server processors. In a bit I will be loading some actually taxing hardware on it and we’ll see how it takes it, but for now, I have no reason to believe that this thing won’t be able to handle anything I throw at it.

I am extremely happy with my new computer and am thrilled to have a machine I built running on my preferred operating system. I’m sure you’ll hear more about it in the future.

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