by Jim Lynch

Is it worth it to build a Hackintosh?

Jul 28, 2016
Consumer Electronics MacOS

A Hackintosh offers a possibly less expensive, and sometimes more powerful computer than a Mac from Apple. But are Hackintoshes really worth building?

There’s no doubt that Apple makes some of the finest and most popular computers in the world. The Mac has become an icon of stellar design and ease of use in the computing world.

But no company can please everybody all of the time. And some of Apple’s customers have taken to building their own computers and running macOS on them instead of on a Mac from Apple. These DIY computers are called Hackintoshes.

Why do people build Hackintosh computers?

Why would someone build a Hackintosh? Well if you’re a gamer or someone else who needs a top level video card, then a Hackintosh might fit the bill nicely. Or you might be someone who wants a cheaper computer built out of the parts that you prefer as opposed to the ones Apple selects for its Macintosh computers.

There was a discussion some months ago on the Hackintosh subreddit that explored why folks were building these computers, and some of the comments were quite interesting:

Superfrag: “I very much prefer OS X to Windows. It’s a YMMV thing. And so for me, building a powerful Hackintosh, and dual booting with Windows (for games only) was the obvious way to go.

And it’s a lot, lot cheaper and better than ponying up for an iMac.”

Sparesr4sissies: “I like to tinker.

I had been running Linux, but found myself needing Photoshop & Illustrator more and got tired of rebooting into Windows.

I started using Mac OS at work and it grew on me.

I can’t justify spending Apple’s prices on a computer for what you actually get.”

Traveosa: “Prefer OS X to any version of Windows – just more productive to me. Unfortunately, Apple charges INSANE prices for components ($500 for a 512gb SSD…$600 for 32gb RAM are you kidding me?). Development is also much more natural in a *nix environment vs Windows I think – I use Windows daily at work.

I used to use Debian, but since Hackintosh has become so much easier the past couple of years, I have switched over.”

Bebopblues: “I think for most of us, it is all about the tinkering aspect. You can say that a hackintosh is more expandable and cost less, but you can also justify buying a Mac despite those reasons. You can always add external drives for expansion, and you do get what you pay for in the built quality of an Apple product.”

VirtuaMcPolygon: “I needed a new Mac workstation an just thought it would be fun to build a hackintosh. One that on geek bench is faster than a new Mac Pro . Also it’s an excuse to have a new gaming PC that I haven’t had in years :-))

So just built it out of curiosity thou really . To see if I could.”

TomatoManTM: “Because a new Mac Pro outfitted they way I want would run me $4000.

For $1200 I built a PC with a quad-core i5, 32 gigs of RAM and a 970.

I just can’t justify the cost of Apple hardware anymore… and I’ve been using Apple computers for over 35 years. 🙁 For a while it seemed like they were more in line with the rest of the market, but the new Mac Pro’s price point is absurd.

(And my 2011 Macbook Pro is going to have to last as long as possible, because I’m never going to buy a laptop with RAM and storage soldered to the motherboard, and that’s all Apple makes now. Need more RAM? No problem, just throw your machine away and go buy a bigger one.)”

MarblesAreDelicious: “The reason I Hack these days is because I cannot purchase an equivalent of my system from Apple. I need the scalability and power of a PC, along with the simplicity and power of OS X.”

Jamiethemorris: “Because Apple didn’t have a product that met my requirements. I managed to build something with more internal storage and expandability than any Mac, with more cpu power than the 12 core Mac pro.

Besides, tinkering with things and making them do stuff they’re not supposed to do is fun.”

InOPWeTrust: “I have never owned a Mac, but the few times I’ve used them I’ve loved them. I decided to give it a go and failed. Came back a few months later and got it to work. I immediately fell in love with OS X- it works (almost) perfectly, and is smoother than butter.

The only thing I can’t do in OS X is tinker around on Autodesk Inventor, but I have another partition for that. I’ve used windows my whole life but I don’t think I’ll be staying Windows-exclusive any longer. I do plan on buying a MBPr for college.

All in all, I just can’t justify spending $1,500 on a nice MBP as a high schooler. There’s no…way.”

More at Reddit

Regardless of the reasons why someone would build a Hackintosh, they are clearly here to stay. More and more people seem to be interested in creating their own Hackintosh, and the Hackintosh community has become vibrant sub-niche of macOS users.

The pros and cons of building a Hackintosh

Hackintoshes, like anything else in life, have their good points and bad points. What follows are some of the pros and cons of building a Hackintosh.

The pros of building a Hackintosh:

1. Hackintoshes can be completely custom built from the parts chosen by the user.

2. Hackintoshes can be much less expensive than a regular Mac.

3. A Hackintosh can have a much more powerful video card than the ones included in Apple’s Macs, thus making Hackintoshes perfect for gamers.

4. Building a Hackintosh can teach users quite a lot about how their computers work.

The cons of building a Hackintosh:

1. macOS might be somewhat challenging to install and configure on some Hackintosh computers.

2. Drivers can be an issue for Hackintosh machines.

3. Updating macOS can sometimes also be a problem, depending on the Hackintosh computer you build.

Instructions on how to build a Hackintosh

Initially the idea of building a Hackintosh might seem somewhat overwhelming, but fortunately there are some good resources available if you decide to do so.

Here’s a list of sites and articles that are worth checking out if you want to build a Hackintosh:

The Hackintosh subreddit on Reddit

The tonymacx86 Forum

Hackintosh Zone

Tech Insider’s Hackintosh guide

9to5Mac: How to build a Hackintosh for the Oculus Rift

Part 1

Part 2

And here’s a video by a guy who built a Hackintosh, you can actually watch him put it together:

Why I decided not to build a Hackintosh

I must admit that I find the Hackintosh phenomenon quite interesting. I used to build my own computers years ago, but I’ve decided not to build a Hackintosh. The nerd in me wanted to in a big way, but ultimately I decided not to go ahead with building one.

Right now my 5K iMac does everything I need it to do quite well, so I can’t justify spending the money or time on another computer. If and when the time comes when my 5K iMac can’t get the job done, then I would certainly consider building my own Hackintosh.

But your mileage may vary, and after reading some of the articles and comments about Hackintoshes on various sites, I’m quite impressed with what some users have been able to achieve with these machines. So I can see that Hackintosh computers are well worth the money and time spent on them for some folks.

Hackintosh computers are a message for Apple

I think there’s an important takeaway from the whole Hackintosh phenomenon, and that is that Apple is not serving some of its customers well. The company is not providing computers with powerful enough graphics cards for gaming and other uses, and some users are resorting to Hackintoshes to fill that void.

Apple would do well to start paying attention to why people are resorting to building Hackintosh computers. The company isn’t offering a certain kind of product that there is clearly a market for, and that seems like a big mistake to me given the recent decline in Mac sales.

So is it worth it to build a Hackintosh? Yes, it clearly is or so many people wouldn’t spend the money or time to do it. And ultimately the blooming popularity of Hackintosh computers is Apple’s own fault.

I wonder if Tim Cook is paying attention?

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