[GUIDE] How to Build a Hackintosh???

In theory, the only way to get an OS X computer is to buy a Mac from Apple; however, in practice, it is possible to build a computer and hack OS X into running on it. There’s a small, but dedicated, community of people who build Hackintoshes. In this series of tutorials I will show you how to join them.
While it is true that Apple controls the hardware of the computers that run their operating system—unlike Microsoft—it is still, for the most part, the same stock, off the shelf components available to everyone.
Apple uses CPUs from Intel, hard drives from Samsung and video cards from NVIDIA. If you carefully select your parts then getting OS X to run on your computer is surprisingly achievable.
In this tutorial I’ll explain why you might want to build a Hackintosh, take you through what parts go in a modern computer, how to choose them and what choices I made. In the next tutorial I will show you how to physically assemble your computer and in the third, and final tutorial, I will take you through installing OS X 10.9 Mavericks.
Building a Hackintosh is a project. While it is surprisingly easy to do, it is not as easy as visiting an Apple store and buying an iMac. You’ll have to dedicate time to selecting parts, building the computer, setting up the software and trouble shooting the inevitable minor problems.
There are many great reasons to built a Hackintosh:

  • You develop a much better understanding of how computers work
  • You get more power for less cost
  • You have more choice with components
  • You can upgrade your computer as better parts are released
  • It’s fun!
For every good reason, however, there’s also a reason you shouldn’t:
  • You lose many of the advantages you get for buying a Mac—Apple’s support, guaranteed compatibility and a computer that just works
  • Your computer might have some quirks
  • HDMI Audio is almost impossible to get working
  • Your computer may crash more, especially when you are first configuring things
  • It’s more fun in hindsight!
Whether the pros outweigh the cons, or not, is a matter for you to decide. For me, the pros did, but that won’t be the case for everyone. One thing worth highlighting—when I was 13 my dad built a computer with me; it was an extremely fun (and frustrating) experience.
Importantly, it gave me a far deeper understanding of technology and is almost certainly the reason I am writing this tutorial today. If you are a parent, building a Hackintosh with your kids is a great way to educate them on technology and bond with them at the same time.
When you are building a Hackintosh you have far more control of parts. You don’t have to upgrade to the model with a faster CPU just to get more RAM. You can build the computer that you want to build.
I wanted a computer for editing photos and didn’t want to spend over €1000. Adobe Photoshop is, more than anything, a RAM intensive application, although it is also heavily CPU dependant. With this in mind, I knew I wanted at least 16GB of RAM, a decent, but not top of the line, processor and everything else was secondary.
Every computer has a few critical components: the CPU, motherboard, RAM, power supply and storage drives; and, typically, a few optional components like a video card, wireless card or DVD drive.
The motherboard is the most important component in a Hackintosh. If you’ve only bought prebuilt computers before this might surprise you—it’s rarely listed on spec sheets.
The motherboard links all the other components together. It has sockets for the CPU, RAM, video card and other extension cards. They also supply most of the ports you are familiar with—USB ports, ethernet ports, audio ports and, sometimes, HDMI ports.
The choice of motherboard determines many of the options you have for other choices—all the parts must be compatible with the motherboard.
Motherboards come in different form factors; the larger the motherboard the more internal expandability it will have, but also the bigger, and more power hungry, the resulting computer will be. The most common sizes are based on the ATX standard.
A regular ATX motherboard goes in a full size tower computer. A MicroATX motherboard is slightly smaller and goes in, what is often called, a mid-tower computer.
You can also get other sizes such as ExtendedATX motherboards or FlexATX motherboards which are useful for more powerful workstation computers and media centres respectively.
For Hackintoshes, many of the most popular, and recommended, choices come from Gigabyte’s 8 Series. Many of the 8 Series motherboards work with only a little tweaking.
Other motherboards often require complicated patching of the DSDT file which is, frankly, far more hassle than it’s worth. The range of supported Gigabyte motherboards covers most price and feature points so, unless you have an extremely compelling reason to use a different motherboard, I suggest you stick with a Gigabyte.
I chose the Gigabyte Z87MX-D3H. It is a MicroATX board that supports Intel’s latest CPUs, has plenty of USB ports, three PCIe x16 slots and a PCIe x4 slot for plenty of internal expandability and four RAM slots.
For this tutorial I’ll detail the exact process required to set up a Hackintosh with this motherboard. If you want to use a different motherboard I will flag the information you will need to find and what to do with it—however, the closer you stick to this guide, the better result I can guarantee you will have.
If you want to built something smaller—the equivalent of a Mac Mini say—the Gigabyte Z87N-WIFI is highly regarded and easy to configure. On the flip side, if you want to built something with even more power the Gigabyte LGA–1150-Z87 is a huge board with all the expandability you could want.

Gigabyte Motherboard
My motherboard selection.

The CPU—Central Processing Unit—is the brain of the computer. All the tasks from the operating system and the applications it is running are processed by the CPU. The faster the CPU is, the faster it can perform tasks and the faster the computer is.
The speed, or clock rate, of a CPU is measured in GigaHertz, abbreviated as GHz. All else being equal, a 3.3GHz CPU will be faster than a 2.8GHz CPU.
Many modern CPUs are multi-cored. Multi-cored CPUs are essentially multiple CPUs on a single chip. Some tasks the computer performs are capable of being performed in parallel—or example, cracking encryptions, or mining Bitcoin—and get a huge speed increase from a multi-cored CPU.
Other tasks need to be performed in sequence and so more CPUs don’t greatly increase the speed at which they’re done—a lot of programming and photo-editing falls into this category. Unless you know that you need your computer to perform fast parallel processing, there’s not much need to look beyond quad-core processors.
Since the mid–2000s, OS X has run on Intel processors. While there have been some  attempts to get OS X to work on other CPUs, it is not worth considering for your first Hackintosh. Regardless, the motherboards I recommend only support Intel chips. With the CPU choice you have a bit more freedom than with the motherboard.
Any current generation Intel Core chip should work without problems. If you’re on a budget, pick up an i3 or low end i5. If you need something with a bit more juice, go with a high end i5 or an i7. I went with the 3.4 GHz Intel Core i5–4670K Quad-Core.
As a bonus, Intel’s CPUs come with integrated graphics. This means that you don’t absolutely need a video card; although if you plan on doing any gaming or graphics intensive work it’s still a good idea.

Intel CPU
CPU selection.

After the CPU, the computer’s RAM—Random Access Memory—has the largest effect on its overall performance. When the computer is performing tasks, everything it needs for that task is pulled from the hard drive and stored in RAM.
It is far quicker for the CPU to access things that are stored in memory than on the storage hard drives. If the computer has sufficient RAM for the task it is performing, it will run smoothly, however, if it doesn’t have enough RAM it will have to resort to pulling things from disk and this slows it down.
To run a modern OS, like OS X, and regular applications like web browsers and word processors, you want at least 8GB of RAM. If you are going to be using professional applications like Photoshop or Final Cut Pro X, you should probably get at least 16GB.
RAM is one of the few things that Apple, in some cases, lets users change—any third-party RAM that is available for iMacs should work in a Hackintosh. I went with 16GB of Corsair Vengance DDR3 RAM. You can also get it in an 8GB pack if you want something smaller, or double up and go for the full 32GB.

My choice of RAM.

Hard drives are, for a change, one of the areas where you don’t have to be over careful with your selection. The way the drive is formatted, which you’ll take care of later on, is far more important than the drive itself.
To be on the safe side though, it is worth picking drives that are known to work in Hackintoshes. For most people, the best thing is to buy two drives—one a low capacity solid state drive, or SDD, for the operating system and applications, and the other a high capacity spinning disk HDD.
The cost of SSDs has come down a lot and the speed increase they give your computer means that they are well worth the additional cost.
I went with a 250GB Samsung 840 EVO for my SSD and a 2TB Seagate Barracuda for my storage drive, however, I would actually recommend a 240GB SanDisk Extreme SSD over my selection. On the day I bought it, rather than being approximately the same price as usual, the Samsung drive was more than 50% cheaper!

SSD Drive
My SSD selection.

All of the wonderful computer parts are only so much scrap silicone unless they have electricity running through them. For that you need a PSU. Every internal computer component has a Watt rating—the amount of power it requires to run.
The PSU also has a Watt rating, however that is how much power it provides. The equation is simple, make sure your PSU provides more power than your components use. The biggest power drains in most computers are video cards—hardcore gamers often use two, or more, linked together and this requires a huge amount of power.
The choice of PSU is not critical to a Hackintosh. There is no software component so any PSU that fits your case and motherboard, and provides enough power, will work. I like the Corsair CX Modular range.
As you will see later, keeping the wires inside a computer neat is a task for saints. With Corsair’s Modular PSUs you can add or remove power cables as you need them which helps keep things tidy. The range features 430, 500, 600 and 750 Watt models. I went with the 600 Watt model.

Power Supply Unit PSU
My PSU selection.

The video card is how you add a more powerful Graphics Processing Unit, GPU, to the computer. The GPU is responsible for the images that display on the monitor. The Intel chips I recommend all come with integrated graphics so a video card is not essential unless you want to play games, or run one or more large displays at a high frame rate.
Video cards are, unfortunately, one of the areas where you can’t just pick any old one. Some are compatible out of the box, some require patching drivers to enable full functionality and some are not supported at all.
The NVIDIA GeForce series of video cards is one of the most popular for Hackintoshes—there are fully compatible cards for most budgets. I didn’t need much GPU power so I went with the fairly low end 1GB ASUS GeForce GTX 650. If you want something with more power, the EVGA GeForce GTX 760 is a well regarded card.

Video Card
My choice of video card.

The majority of motherboards come with built in Ethernet ports; unless you are using a motherboard that also has built in Wi-Fi, like the Gigabyte Z87N-WIFI, you need a Wi-Fi card if you want to connect to wireless networks.
Some people build an exact replica of Apple’s Airport card using parts bought from Ebay, but a simpler solution is to use the TP-LINK TL-WDN4800 wireless card. It is one of the more expensive wireless cards on the market but is also one of the few known to work easily with Hackintoshes.
A wireless card is entirely optional. If you are building a desktop computer, because it shouldn’t be moving very often, it is worth connecting it physically to your network using Ethernet cables.
The computer case is another purely hardware choice. Different cases offer a mix of extra ports and cooling options. The most important thing is to make sure the chosen case supports the motherboard size you have selected. I chose this Fractal Design mid-tower because it was small enough to fit on my desk and worked with all my selected components.

Computer case
The case I chose.

In true Apple fashion, I built my Hackintosh without an optical drive. Realistically, you are unlikely to need one either. The majority of OS X apps are released for download with no physical product available. If you need an optical drive, this Optiarc drive apparently works without issue. Alternatively, you could pick up an Apple USB SuperDrive.
To complete your Hackintosh you also need some peripherals—at a bare minimum a keyboard, mouse and screen. As a general rule, if it works through USB, it will work with a Hackintosh.
Any USB keyboard and mouse will work fine, and are actually required for setting everything up. I like Apple’s Wireless Keyboard and Magic Trackpad so I used the IOGEAR USB Bluetooth adaptor to connect them to my Hackintosh.
The screen is a more complicated issue. VGA support on Hackintoshes is unreliable—for some set ups it will work where as for others it won’t. You are likely to need to use HDMI or DisplayPort out, depending on what your motherboard or video card supports.
Sound is similarly a slightly complex issue. The integrated sound on the motherboard you use is likely to work through the 3.5mm ports but not over HDMI. You are likely to need either desktop speakers or a pair of headphones if you want to have sound on your Hackintosh.
There are a number of forums dedicated to building Hackintoshes. People post builds that work, lists of compatible components, configuration settings and loads of other useful information. The easiest ways to work out whether a particular component will work in a Hackintosh is to search one of the forums and see what results other people have had with it.
My first port of call when I’m looking for Hackintosh information is the tonymacx86.com forums. They are one of the largest Hackintosh resources on the internet. Many users post completed builds to the forums along with the relevant configuration settings.
The site is responsible for the tools that you will use to install OS X on your Hackintosh in the third tutorial. They also publish a monthly buyers guide which lists loads of Hackintosh compatible parts.
The OSx86 project is a similarly useful source of Hackintosh information. Their InsanelyMac forums are another great source of user builds and their wiki also features lists of compatible parts.
PCPartPicker is the best way to buy computer parts. The site lets you configure a hypothetical computer and then it tells you where the cheapest place to buy those parts is. You can save your builds and the site will even track the price changes over time for you. PCPartPicker also tells you whether your PSU is sufficiently powerful and if there are any compatibility issues between your chosen parts.

In this series of tutorials, I am showing how to build a Hackintosh—a non-Apple computer that runs OS X. In the previous tutorial I showed how to pick OS X compatible parts and highlighted the components I had chosen.
In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to take the parts and assemble them into a functioning computer—albeit one without an operating system. If you buy different parts, this tutorial will still be extremely useful to you. You will just have to consider how what I describe applies to your components, rather than just follow them word for word.
When assembling a Hackintosh, it’s important to gather all your components together before you start assembling them. The components I have are:
If this is the first time you have assembled a computer, there are a few things to bear in mind.
Computers are held together with screws. You’ll need at least a small flathead screwdriver and a small Phillips head screwdriver. If you have a few sizes of both, it only makes it easier.
When attaching components with screws, work to opposite corners. If you add a screw in the top left, the next one should be added to the bottom right. This is the best way to make sure that the load is spread evenly across all the screws.
You can never have too many case screws; buy a pack of spares.
Computer components can be damaged by static electricity. When building a computer, it is a good idea to have, at the minimum, an antistatic wrist strap. Put the wrist strap on and connect the other end to the computer case, or to something that is metal and grounded like a radiator.
Even better is to use an antistatic mat as well, however, simply assembling the computer on something that is a poor conductor of electricity like a cardboard box, wooden table or the motherboard’s antistatic wrapper is generally sufficient.
Computer components are precision engineered. The tolerances on many of the parts are very small. Inserting some components can require a surprising amount of pressure.
You should never have to force components together, but don’t be alarmed if you do have to push down on something for it to close. If in doubt, remove the component, carefully realign it and push down again. As long as you are careful not to bend any pins by inserting things at the wrong angle, you are unlikely to damage your computer.
When you’re picking up components, do it by their edges. In particular, try not to touch pins that get inserted.
Keep a bowl on hand. Add every screw and connector that you remove to it so you don’t lose anything.
With a lot of things, the manual isn’t very useful. The motherboard is not one of them. Read the motherboard manual; it contains important schematics that show you where all the different components and wires connect into the motherboard. Building the computer will be simple if you spend the time to look at these schematics carefully—if you don’t, it will be a whole bag of hurt.
Motherboard manuals are almost always available online. Just google the name of your motherboard and manual. The manual for the board I am using is on the Gigabyte website.
Computer components are designed to be assembled. This may seem like a strange point but it’s important. You should handle all the components with care, but not to the extent that you never open their boxes for fear of damaging them.
Try not to drop things, pour water on them or do anything else ridiculous. Other of that, so long as you stick to the guidelines above, you’re unlikely to do any harm to the computer just by putting it together.
You didn’t get the computer from Ikea (I hope). It’s normal to have a load of leftover components. Keep them as spares, or for expanding the Hackintosh with more components in the future.
There is no right order in which to build a computer. It all depends on personal choice, and how much adding a component limits the ability to add other components. What follows is the order I built this particular computer in.
The case has two sliding panels, one on each side attached by two black screws on the back. Remove both panels. There is also a metal plate for mounting extra drives. It’s unnecessary for this build so remove it also.
The PSU sits above the motherboard in this case. It mounts on a slight lip, that when it is screwed in, provides all the support it needs. Slot it in ensuring that it is mounted in the correct direction. Attach it at the back with case screws.

The power supply mounted in the case
The PSU inserted into the case. A few standoff screws can be seen inserted below.

Some people like to install some of the other components into the motherboard before they add it to the case. For this build, however, the motherboard and case fit together very tightly. I inserted the motherboard first because I didn’t want to deal with any more bits pointing out at odd angles than I had to.
Before adding the motherboard, add the I/O (input/output) shield to the slot at the back of the case. Carefully look at which way the ports will face, once you have added the motherboard, and insert the shield accordingly. It snaps into place from the inside of the case.

The InputOuput or IO shield
The I/O shield.
With the case comes small brass standoff screws. These screw into the mounting points on the case and are what the motherboard is attached to. Screw the standoff screws into the mounting holes on the case.
This case supports different motherboard sizes so you won’t end up using all of the attachment points; however, I find it is better to be over-cautious and add all the standoff screws than to miss one and have to remove the motherboard to fix the mistake.
Insert the motherboard and align its screw holes to the standoff screws. Inserting the motherboard will require a few tries and approaches from different angles. Once it’s aligned with the sockets, add the screws that hold it in place.
Find and open the CPU socket on the motherboard. To open the socket, push the lever holding it closed to the side and then up. There will be a plastic shield to remove.
In one corner of the CPU there is a small gold arrow. On the socket you will find a matching arrow. Align the arrows and gently insert the CPU. Close the CPU socket—don’t force it but it will take a bit of pressure to fully close the lever.

Installing the CPU
The CPU socket with the CPU inserted. Note the gold arrow in the bottom right corner and the outline of the fan.
All non-Xeon Intel CPU’s come with a cooling fan. Align the fan to its outline on the motherboard. It goes directly over the CPU. To attach it, push down on the pins in the four corners.

The CPU fan
The CPU fan installed on top of the CPU.

Using the motherboard schematic, find the RAM sockets. Open the tabs on either end of the socket. Align the RAM and push down. The tabs will close by themselves when the RAM is fully inserted.

Installing RAM modules
The RAM is inserted above the CPU fan.

This build doesn’t use an optical drive so I used the bay where one would normally go for the hard drives. This bay is in the top right of the case, as you have it open in front of you.
In the bay is a metal mounting plate. Remove this. The mounting plate can hold two hard drives, one on either side.

Hard drive mounting plate
The drive bay where the drives will be mounted.
Using the right screws, attach the HDD to the top side and the SSD to underside. The drives are different sizes so will each use different mounting holes. Make sure to align both drive’s port sockets to the back so they can easily be connected to the motherboard.

Hard drives installed
Both drives attached to the mounting plate. The SSD is on the nearside and the HDD on the far side.
Stand the case up. When you add the drives, you will need to attach it on both sides. Insert the drive mounting plate with both drives attached back into the drive bay. Align it with the mounting holes on either side.
This will take some adjusting. With one hand hold the drive plate in place and with the other gently hand screw the mounting screws into place. Once the mounting plate is secured, tighten the screws with a screwdriver.
Attach a SATA lead to each hard drive. These are the L-shaped connectors. Attach the other end to the SATA slots on the motherboard. Use the schematic in the manual to find them.
It is now time to attach all the wires to the motherboard. The only easy way to do this is to work through the schematics in the motherboard manual attaching all the wires. If you don’t have the manual to hand, you can get the manual online.

Motherboard schematics
Motherboard schematic showing all the connections.
Start with the CPU fan. It attaches to a socket near where the fan is attached.

CPU fan electrical connection
Connected CPU fan.
The PSU connects to the motherboard in two places. One near the CPU, the ATX 12V 2X4 socket, and the other on the far edge of the motherboard near the SATA connectors, the ATX socket.

F_Panel schematic
The F_Panel schematic.
The majority of the wires connect the case to the motherboard. These wires control things like the front USB ports, the power button and the case speaker. Find the F_Panel schematic in the manual and work through attaching the wires.
For some of them, the polarity matters. There is a little arrow on the positive terminal. Match this arrow to the pin marked with a + in the schematics.

F_Panel connections
The F_Panel connections including the case speaker are on the left of this image. The hard drive's SATA connectors are at the bottom.
The F_Audio connection is a wire with two connections. You only need to attach one of them, the other is a legacy connector. Find the F_Audio socket and attach the connector that fits the socket.
Attach the USB wires. One of the front USB sockets is USB 3.0, the other is not. Make sure to attach the right wire to the right port.
Attach the case fan to one of the SYS_FAN ports.

Case fan connection
The attached case fan. Note the unused fourth pin.
Tip: Sometimes a wire will only connect to some of the pins in a socket, rather than all—this is the case with the case fan. The case fan socket has four pins but the case fan wire only has three connectors. This is because the fourth pin is responsible for manual fan speed control. This case fan doesn’t allow manual control and so there’s no connector.
I normally add the video card earlier in the build than this, however, when I did that, I had to remove it again to connect the case ports to the motherboard.
The video card goes in one of the PCI Express x16 slots, although because of its size, it blocks two. Unscrew two of the PCI shields from the case. Align the video card with one the slot. Be careful to clear the case wires so that they do not get caught under, or in, the video card.
Push down until the card is fully in the socket then screw it into the case using the screws that previously attached the PCI shields.

Installing the video card
Installing the video card.
Tip: This is the same procedure for installing any PCI cards. You can get expansion cards that add almost any functionality you can think of to a computer. Before just buying a random PCI card however, check the resources from the previous tutorial to see if they are compatible with OS X.
All that remains to be done is to connect the PSU to the video card and hard drives. The PSU is modular so find the wire that matches the power socket on the video card and connect it to both the PSU and video card.
The power cable for the hard drives has multiple connectors. Connect one cable to both hard drives—you’ll have to twist it to get it to attach to both. Attach the other end of the cable to the PSU.

Connecting the hard drives
Connecting the hard drives. The SSD is already connected to the PSU, the HDD is not yet.

Following these instructions means you’ll now have a working computer. Close the case, and attach the power cable to the back of the PSU. You should also connect the video card to a monitor using a HDMI cable.
Turn on the power supply and then press the case power button. The computer should boot to the BIOS, or Basic Input Output System.

The internal wiring of the Hackintosh
The (messily) wired internals of my Hackintosh.
If it doesn’t, then something is wrong—this is pretty normal. Disconnect the computer from the power cable, reopen the case and recheck all the connections. You will often find that the motherboard power cable isn’t fully inserted or something equally simple.
I had forgotten to attach the video card to the power and so the computer powered up but nothing came on screen. It took 30 seconds to correct my mistake!
While I wouldn’t advise doing it yet, once you have followed the steps in the final tutorial, installed OS X and made sure everything is working, it is a good idea to get a bag of cable ties, reopen the case (after disconnecting from the power cable of course), disconnect and then neatly reconnect all the wires, using the cable ties, to make sure everything stays tidy.
In this tutorial I’ve shown you how to physically assemble a Hackintosh. If you’ve followed along, either with these exact components or similar ones, you will now have a working computer. All that remains is to install an operating system. This can be Windows, Linux, or as I will show in the next tutorial, OS X.

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