Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Hackintosh, Anyone?

So I'm going to the dark side. After half a decade of service, my dual G5 died today. Regular readers of this blog know I already had problems with it earlier this year (conveniently, right as I was in the middle of working on an album), but overall, it served me well over the years - as has every other Mac I owned before this one (I've owned 6 Macs before this including laptops...)

Just to be clear, I find the whole platform war thing idiotic. Just use what you like. It's just a friggin' tool, people.

I happen to prefer the Mac OS. It's what I've used for years (as in, since 1985), and since I prefer Logic, it's frankly the only choice for me professionally. But, I also have an album coming out in the fall. I spent quite a bit on publicity photos, mastering, and most of all on merch. The obvious advantage is that I paid for all of these things out of pocket, so I am not in the hole to the record company, but it also means I am not in the spendiest of moods at the moment.

So, I've decided to go the Hackintosh route.

If you've never heard this term before, a Hackintosh is a custom-built PC with the BIOS tweaked to run the Mac OSX operating system. Not just any system will work this way (yet), so it requires some specific parts, but the end result is, as you might expect, quite a bit cheaper than an equivalent Mac.

I'm excited to have a new computer system coming my way, but I am also a little nervous since this is kind of 'edgy' technology. Anyone else out there go this route? What problems have you experienced, if any?


teodora said...

i'm not sure if you'll have any problems but I'd still buy a mac, a refurbished or used one.. It's a long-term decision, and you liked the G5. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. (OK, it's broke.. but I mean the brand...) :)

Will you have warranty? Updates?

Anonymous said...

Maybe this will help...


Anonymous said...

1. Is that legal?
2.man are you going to regret it when sometime down the track in the middle of your next project the whole thing will turn belly up on you
good luck
Mac OSX is made to work with Mac hardware period

nk:e said...

If you are talking a "hobby" computer, it would be fine.

If it's a machine for professional use i.e., making money and doing projects, it's a bit foolish IMHO. There are simply too many places where things can go wrong.

You can get used intel machines for little $. Even a 20" apple refurbed iMac would give you a huge boost of power compared to your G5 and cost you $999 ... Buy a second cheapie screen and some ram and you are done.

Nicholas said...

Mac OSX is made to work with Mac hardware period?

That has got to be the most idiotic statement I have ever read.

Anonymous said...

I think that you will need to fuck with it constantly to make it go. This sort of hack is great for computer geek kids to show the power of their kung fu. Not sure that it will be the best solution for the most audio tracks running with the most effects.

I would go with a 20 inch iMac as suggested above.

cl516 said...

hmm... the only 'hack' type thing i've ever done was when my old G4 wasn't fast enough - i put in a custom processor. but even that was extensively tested by the sellers.

the only reason i'd go hackintosh route (and i personally would NOT) is $$$ cost. the moment it even approaches the cost of a real mac, i'd bail. for me the whole point of using these macs is i don't have to worry about computers!

for my old G5, i regularly shut it down at night, weekly rebuilt the disk directory, etc. zero problems, still sold at $1k. my recent macbook fiasco was that damn hard drive failure.

Rob said...

I'm a long time PC user, but admit to being tempted to move to Mac in the past. I'm one of the burned PC Logic users that has since moved on. I built a Core i7 PC last year and the components I have (except the video card) lend themselves to being able to use it as a Hackintosh.

That said, it's been 9 months and I haven't done it yet. I've done some extensive research and followed some of the Hackintosh threads. I came to the conclusion that it is a hobbyist type of project. When you read some of the threads on Hackintosh you frequently see things like "almost got the audio working" or "graphics works, but only at lowest resolution". It IS a hack, and there is nothing to say the next time you do a service update that the whole thing stops working. I kind of came to the conclusion that the cash savings aren't worth the potential headaches, but it might be a fun experiment to try. In your case, Tom, I'd worry that the initial savings may end up costing more in the future.

The other thing to consider is that DAW users really torture systems, with expectations of low latency and interfaces working without glitches, etc. It's hard to say what adverse effects running a Hackintosh could add. I'd be interested to read accounts from any Logic users running on a Hackintosh and what their experiences are.

My advice as far as a new Mac Pro would be to stick with the single processor Core i7 system. My understanding, and correct me if I'm wrong, is Logic can't even use all 8 cores of a dual processor system effectively so the extra cash is possibly a waste there.

As for me? Well, Apple says I can't update my version of Logic on PC to Logic 9 and I've been using Cubase and getting used to that. It's been a while, I almost forget what using Logic was like. ;-)

Good luck on your decision Tom.

Anonymous said...

Based on my own personal experiences, I would never place a generic PC with generic cheap internal components, sitting on some random motherboard, with a combination of other random bits of hardware, in a professional music creation environment. Too many variables in the mix. And I used to build PCs. I would get a refurbished Mac or put the thing on a credit card if I don't have the cash... anything. More than any other bit of gear in my studio, my Mac Pro is the center of it all. I wouldn't trust any self-made alternative or a "name brand" such as Dell (that have a massive failure rate). But that's me. Sorry to hear about your computer, Tom. And best of luck with your decision! -k

Naim said...

I recently went through this same decision making process about 3 months ago. I ended up buying a proper Mac.

Ultimately the decision came down to the fact that I really need to be mobile for my purposes and so a MacBook Pro was really the only way to go.

However, believe me when I say that I understand the allure of running OS X on much higher performance hardware at the fraction of the price of a Mac Pro. The fact of the matter is that it isn't just that simple, unfortunately. I will echo the statements above that you can get pretty much everything *almost* working, but it won't be perfect. There will always be something that annoys you about the setup and if that gets fixed, another problem is likely to take its place. I say this as someone who has done it before.

A Hackintosh unfortunately is unlikely to ever be a satisfactory primary system for someone who needs to use OS X seriously, especially for music production purposes.

Bob's Country Bunker said...

i've built several for clients who wanted viable machines for PT8LE or L8. The last one was a 2.8GHz Quad, 4GB, 3.5TB for the price as a vanilla Apple (no extra memory or storage). i've done EFiX and 'normal' ones. i am ambivalent about EFiX because everyone who works there is a gaping bloody asshole and asking for help on their message boards generally gets you insulted, berated or banned. That said, it does work fine, as well. But you generally have to figure it out yourself and given that, why pay them?

as to legality: apple can't tell you what to do with an off-the-shelf copy of OS X. EULAs are not based on law, they are written by lawyers to scare you. ever seen a promo CD with a sticker that says you can't sell it? well, you can. that case went to court and the plaintiff (either UMG or SonyBMG) lost. that is why Apple has not pursued it -- they will likely loose and that will make it more popular.

back to the machines: if you do your research -- pick parts that are known to work first -- then everything goes very smoothly. i have a basic 2GB 2.4GHz quad that cost like $850 last year.

the first two machines i did were completely home built (including an AMD one). now, i usually have clients purchase machines from PCAudioLabs.com so i don't have to worry about billing for parts or handling deposits, etc. They do NOT sell hackintoshes; they sell great x86 computers, and i do the hacken for the clients (sic).

ps - what ever happened to the pystar shop in Pasadena?

Tom said...

Thanks for the feedback, everyone. After talking to a friend of mine who has one, I've decided to buy an actual Mac. I'm not super technical when it comes to computers and he said it's probably not a good idea unless you like to tinker. So by the end of the week I should have a new MacPro onhand.

Guess it's time to sell some stuff on ebay. Or win the lottery.

Bob's Country Bunker said...


John said...

Good move Tom, I've been running my MacPro for two years and it hasn't even crashed once - ever. In my book when doing pro work reliability is everything! The other advantage you will soon find is the Macpro's are super quiet, perfect for small studio's!

And I'm sure you'll recoup $$$ with the new cd if the demos are anything to go by! I can't wait...

line of control said...

... if the comp is used for "work"- in your case music, isn't it a 100% tax write off?

Anonymous said...

Congratz on the new Mac Pro, then! :) I'm sure you will not regret the purchase. And it is a write-off for you as well, like someone said. I have been super-happy with mine for years now. You'll be able to run Logic 9 and beyond being it's Intel, and the new version of OSX, and whatnot. What I, personally, feel is worth the price tag is that Apple has chosen the hardware components, paired those with a limited amount of built-to-order options, etc., thus reducing the amount of things that could go wrong. And that relates directly to how solidly OSX functions - the software guys know what the hardware is. And if anything ever does go wrong, the customer service is stellar compared to anything else I've ever encountered. Best of luck with the new machine! -k

Steve said...

Tom- BEFORE you go selling yourself...er..uh...stuff...Check your failed G5 for signs of a coolant leak. There's a fair number of G5 owners reporting failed units due to leaks or failed pumps. Many of these individuals are reporting that Apple has either done way out of waranty repairs or even way out of warrantee free upgrades to *new* Intel towers due to leaks.

Check out http://www.macintouch.com/readerreports/powermacg5/topic4243.html

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

As an experienced custom-built PC user, all I can say is - I really hope Logic is worth all that trouble ;)

Nothing against Mac - I'd get one, if I could afford one. And therein lies the game...(I'm essentially ghetto....)

Although if it's also a "familiarity" thing, such as in your case, I can understand it being difficult to break away...

(Unfortunately, so does Macinto$h...Those bastards and their smoothly running machines and software *shakes his fist in the air* )

- J

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

You've already made your decision, but I'll add my 2 cents anyway.

I have read a serious amount about this type of thing over the years, and on top of that...some very savvy friends of mine have made Hackintoshes.

Bottom line: It's not worth it for anything serious. It's fine for hobby stuff though.

(Multi-platform nerd)

Geoff said...

It's certainly something I built my custom i7 system with in mind earlier this year...and from what I've read it outperforms a Mac Pro by some way for a LOT less.

But the Hackintosh is not something I've had the time to do at the moment though, maybe once the next album is out of the way. For now it's running as a PC like a dream so just as well I'm a Cubase head. :)

Anonymous said...

To all you above who are scared of a hackintosh.. you *think* this, and you *think* that... you prob should stay away... you're idiots anyway! (You probably bring your car into the dealership to change a wiper blade).

A hackintosh is just as easy to build as any PC. My "builds" out perform the highest end dual CPU "nehalem" i7 mac.

(try running a stock mac at 4.0+ ghz on air cooling, with 1600Mhz DDR3 RAM, oh yeah, YOU CAN'T).

I manage a editing facility with over 20 macs, xserves, xraids.. all happy shiny mac hardware... The "hacks" render faster with Compressor, exports faster with FCP7... in fact, they're MORE stable than my legit 2x2.8 mac pros... we're ready to replace our rendering cluster with hackintosh's now.

The highest-end hackintosh can be built for about $1300... mid level for $900 -- compare that to your $7000 mac pro.

It can be run 100% "vanilla" meaning the OS is installed right off the retail DVD or image. No hacked kernels. There are 2 minor kexts to install to get it operational, a couple more for minor enhancements, depending on your hardware.

Patching the DSDT makes most everything run without custom kernel extensions now too and there's a great bootloader called Chameleon that will boot almost everything under the sun.

Everything can be scripted, and is very easy.

There's one of mine in a Nashville recording studio, and it's in use every day.

So, stop getting your panties in a wad, ladies. They're DEFINITELY not just for a hobby. READ UP!

Anonymous said...

oh btw... I'm posting this from a "hack" running 10.6.1 with all updates coming through the online software updater.

and @audiate
"Bottom line: It's not worth it for anything serious. It's fine for hobby stuff though."

You're an idiot.

Anonymous said...

I've built at the end of 2009 this DAW to run Cubase 5 on it (yes it works, the dongle also):
-MoBo: Asus p6t Deluxe v2
-Core: Intel i7 920 @ 2.66
-RAM: 6gb Corsair XMS3
-HDD1: 500gb WD Caviar Black (Mac Osx Snow Leopard 10.6.2)
-HDD2: 320gb Seagate Barracuda (Windows 7 Pro 64 bit...NEARLY NEVER USED)
-HDD3: 1TB Seagate Barracuda (Data & Samples)
-DVD: LG GH22 (Sata)
-Video: EN9400GT Silent/DI/512MD2
------------Audio Stuff------------
-Korg MicroKONTROL, TC Electronic Konnekt Live, Yamaha HS50m Monitors, Cubase 5.1.1 + CC121 Controller and Plugins, plugins and again, plugins :-)

IT WORKS PERFECTLY. Stable & fast...maybe faster than a mac, shurely cheaper for the same hardware...but with better power supply, fans, cooler, disks, silent case...'cause you can choose every single component inside it.
If something goes nuts inside your i7 iMac, try to put your hands in it...you must return it to Apple, if it does inside a custom built Hackintosh, you can fix it by yourself in less than a day.

And these are the benefits.

Now, just to be correct, the cons:

You must get informed about compatible hardware and mount it by yourself, install Win to see if your hardware is ok, then get a lot of infos and "community based" help to get started with the hack around OSX...a lot (and I mean A LOT) of geeky things to learn. An when it's time for an "Apple Update", wait a little and inform yourself if it's safe or if there is something that will broke your setup and/or if there is a fix. I updated Snow Leo from 10.6 to 10.6.1 than to 10.6.2 with no problems at all.
Than a single "audio upgrade" to MacPros from Apple...BANG! Broke my integrated mobo's sound device functionality, but in less than 24 hours people found a workaround to get it back working.
And development around the hacks never stops, I'm involved too in a forum about P6T Deluxe+OSX and visit or write in it once a day...so, my advice in few words is:

-If you just want to put your Mac in your studio to produce music...GO FOR A MAC and get all your work and fun be done.
-If you are a kind of geek and have work and fun not only by music but also from PC-building and "hacking around"...go for HACKINTOSH.
For me, building it, learning the various hacks and trying them, talking on forums, and the satisfaction of seeing it working stable, is as much fun as the music I make with it. And my job also is building computers...so...
You know where your work and fun come from: look into that direction and choose.