Sunday, December 30, 2012

Project Blackintosh Stage 3: The Installation

Getting Mac OS X to run on a hackintosh seems simple enough. If you know how to read and can follow directions, you'll be able to do it. There are plenty of pitfalls along the way though, so it's important not to get frustrated or to lose heart. There's so much to do. The best advice I got from the tonymacx86 forum (which specializes in hackintoshing) was this: "If you want to eat an elephant, take one bite at a time." Wise words.

Everything I learned about hackintoshing, I learned here: tonymacx86. They're genius. Full credit to these guys. I'll be discussing the steps I took to make my hackintosh in very broad strokes, just so that interested people can get some idea if this is for them or not. The process is described in more detail if you follow my links.

Step 1: Get your BIOS ready
Like any computer build, the BIOS is your first stop. I followed these directions from tonymacx86. Sniff around in the forums for settings for your motherboard.

Step 2: Boot from Unibeast 
Unibeast is a little program that lets you install OS X Mountain Lion from a USB stick and onto your PC.

Download Mountain Lion and Unibeast. You can get Mountain Lion from the App Store. You can get Unibeast here, from tonymacx86. You'll need to register. You'll also need a USB stick that's at least 8GB.

And here's a walkthrough from tonymacx86 on how to get Unibeast going.

Step 3: Install Mountain Lion
After the OS X installation by Unibeast, you'll be able to boot into Mountain Lion through the USB. Finish the installation.

Easy part's over.

Step 4: Run Multibeast
Multibeast is a post-installation program that will help OS X recognize your hardware. Remember, your hardware is probably not the prescribed Apple hardware, so the operating system is understandably confused. Multibeast will help your system work with what it's got.

Head over to the downloads section of tonymacx86 to get Multibeast. Depending on your motherboard, you might need a DSDT. Get one specific to your motherboard in the same place.

I like to think of what Multibeast does as installing drivers. This isn't strictly true though. Often it's just a matter of fixing permissions or inserting a line or two of code here and there. But drivers makes sense to my brain.

Step 5: Run Multibeast again
After running Multibeast, you should have a PC that boots OS X from the hard drive. Every build is different, so it's a safe bet to say that some things in your hackintosh won't work. In my case, it was the integrated video, USB 3.0, my second LAN, and sleep capabilities. And a bunch of other small stuff.

You'll be going back to Multibeast multiple times to fix these things. This is the part that can drive you insane, so beware. I almost gave up myself. Here are some tips:
tonymacx86 forums will save you. Read, read, and read the posts. Take a look at the golden builds. Find out what they did with their Multibeast settings.
Backup! Backup to Time Machine the first chance you get. If something goes wrong, you can turn back the clock to your last stable build without installing again.
Backup! Before you change something in Multibeast, backup the kext or the preference pane or the plist or whatever Multibeast is changing. Read the descriptions. It will tell you what it's changing and where to find the files. This will save you from starting from the beginning. which I did a number of times.
Boot options! Sometimes Mountain Lion will refuse to load and just hang at the Apple screen. There are boot options that will tell you what is broken (verbose mode) as well as boot options that might help you get back into Mountain Lion. Here's a list. I wish I had known this from the beginning.
Change one thing at a time. That way you'll know what to undo or restore if it doesn't work.

Multibeast settings for my rig (Z77X-UD5H with Core i5 3570K, running on integrated graphics)

After a couple of days of troubleshooting, I had a system that was mostly working. And what didn't work didn't bother me. My blackintosh is impressively fast for my low standards, even on integrated graphics, chewing through photo editing without breaking a sweat as well as launching some older games. Ivy Bridge is awesome. The SSD loads Mountain Lion almost instantly. The case keeps everything cool. Good stuff. And the best part – the video card – is yet to come.

A hackintosh obviously isn't for everyone. The degree of difficulty is quite high. But you don't have to be a hacker or a programmer or a tech junkie. You just have to know how to read and follow directions and use Google.

As for me, I think the trouble was well worth it. I now have a powerful AND expandable system that will serve me for many years if I upgrade properly. The best part? It didn't cost much. With the upcoming video card and water cooler, the system will be a mid-level gaming rig and clock in at 50,000 bucks. My work here is done. Time to play.

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