This article was first written in 2015, but many aspects still hold true. Still, in 2018, the fastest Macs are self-build
Apple's ARKit is on its way to become be top SDK for AR development. So Apple has to do something about the hardware. They are attempting to re-enter the market for professionals with iMac Pro, a modular Mac Pro has been promised.
Yet, the basic truth of this texts still remains. Apple still glues batteries into their laptops and solders RAM. Boo.
It's a disgrace.
The fastest Macs on the planet are not build by Apple.
They are homemade machines, painstakingly put together by enthusiasts who boldly drive the brand forward. By round pegs in square holes.
With Apple Inc. focusing, ever more strongly, on fashionistas, on consumers who truly consume, it's leaving behind the Pro users. The group of loyal fans who kept Apple afloat in the 90s is left in the dust in favor of disloyal consumers, who are simply too comfortable in their walled garden, to leave the ecosystem. Professionals, on the other hand, are not given the tools they need for their trade.
Was your building your own Mac, a so called Hackintosh, simply question of budget and geekery in the past, has it now become a need for those who require powerful machines (notice how iMacs and MacBook Pros are faster than MacPros) and expandability.
Apple is the old Microsoft
I could go on for hours how this tight control over platform and Hardware has it's merits from a profit and flexibility point of few. The less heterogeneous an ecosystem, the easier it's to "courageously advance" it. On the other hand, what happens when the smart device market becomes saturated? When the next big thing has to be found somewhere else? Do Apple's systems, for example, deliver enough power and the most attractive environment to be the drivers for Augmented Reality market application? I doubt it strongly. No gamer or 3D-Designer is currently using Macs. Yet technologies like AR/VR are hot topics for Gartner.
The party, which establishes it now as the ecosystem leader for business application of hyped tech will likely push the envelop in the coming years. At the moment this is Windows running Unity on powerful gaming hardware. Something Apple completely missed out on in the past years. Apple under the leadership of Tim Cook is Microsoft under Balmer's guidance.
With all this blabla out of the way:
Let's build your Mac
First off: This is not for those, who like to have things simply running. Plug and play. Fire and forget. No headache. Hackintosh's are a great great way to take control of Hard- and Software, truly learn how you machine ticks and make it your own. They are also perfectly fine for mission critical production work once set-up correctly. But until that stage: They are unstable, failing, sleepless nights inducing crybabies that will drive you mad. But that's all the fun. This reminds me that I need pay the monthly SM studio subscription.
l;dr: Hackintosh's are not newb friendly.
Installing MacOS and other Apple Software on non-Apple-branded machines is a violation of the Apple license agreement (see here for the license for MacOS Sierra):
Other Use Restrictions . The grants set forth in this License do not permit you to, and you agree not to, install, use or run the Apple Software on any non-Apple-branded computer, or to enable others to do so. Except as otherwise permitted by the terms of this License or otherwise licensed by Apple: (i) only one user may use the Apple Software at a time, and (ii) you may not make the Apple Software available over a network where it could be run or used by multiple computers at the same time. You may not rent, lease, lend, sell, redistribute or sublicense the Apple Software.
You are therefore on your own. It's your responsibility. The information in this post is purely for information, I don't take any responsibility for damages, legal or otherwise, that are incurred by following the information given. Whether this license agreement is legally binding, depends on the country you live in.
Chose your parts - For a Desktop
In order to get a Hack up and running, you cannot simply buy a machine off the shelf, you need to chose wisely. You need to chose depending on what you want to do and depending on your budget.
In general, building your Mac is much cheaper than buying a Mac with the same power. More often, it's way cheaper and yet more powerful. Nowadays it's easy to build Macs which are way faster than the fastest Macs money can buy. Imagine, your sub 1000 EUR build kicks the ass of a 3000+ Apple device. That is possible.
A simple way to chose can be found in tonymacx86's Buyer's guide. (Even though they have shitty admins and rules, the community is good)
Chose your Laptop
While building a Desktop Hackintosh is "easy" with the right Hardware, building a HackBook is much more complicated. There are so many variables to consider: Which SSD is build in, which Chipset is being used, can I access the UEFI shell, can I disable the discrete GPU. So much. Thus I chose a Laptop which is easy to Hack for it using Hardware close to Apple and with support by the community. If you go for cheap Laptops, AMD based Systems or exotic Manufacturers expect to never get it working right.
Building a Hack is not something you can do alone - unless you are a total whiz, but then you wouldn't be reading this anyway. There are many great OSX86 communities. Naturally, some hate each other.
Please don't post questions before reading on any of the following communities. No one likes a member who doesn't know how to search or read, but demands and asks.
tonymacx86 - Somehow not like buy some members of the community, but I like it there. I recommend you to ignore tony's all-in-one multibeast packages, but rather use the community to build a system yourself.
/r/hackintosh - It's a reddit community, of course it's brilliant :)
osxlatitude - Has some notable contributors and still worth to read
insanelymac - One of the most active communities and one of the earliest, too
Know we now that building a Hack Desktop requires a smart choice of parts, membership in community to brag, cry, ask and hopefully contribute. Now it's about installing the OS.
It's simplest if you:
- Start from scratch on a virgin SSD/HDD
- Have full control of your BIOS / Firmware
- Use smartly chosen Hardware - not bleeding edge, but supported and popular
- Have time and resilience to welcome failure. Fail fast, fail often. Agile and DevOps in real-life
- Enjoy learning
- Be aware that you are violating Apple's license - which could be a legal problem depending on your country
- Use Clover as a bootloader (most guides nowadays do this anyway)
- Don't use one-click packages like Unibeast, multibeast, Chameleon etc. - they will give headaches later on and not put you in the driver's seat
Platform specific guides
My personal HackBook Pro
I'd like to recommend one guide in particular, because building a great Hackintosh Notebooks has become more of a need than a geeky endeavor, like mentioned in the beginning. There are a couple of machines which are faster and nearly as sleek as original Apple Hardware, for example:
The insanely great 2015 DELL XPS 15 9550 - faster than any 2016 Mac. Yes. A year old decide kick the ass of 3200+ EUR MacBook Pro's introduced in October 2016. Apple, this is sad. Very sad. I'm throwing Dongle's at your head for this bad behavior. Sit down and rethink what you just did.
You can find a complete guide for 10.13 here. The guide is a combination of my extensive version and Christian Uhl's dedication to provide a one-stop shop for creating an install that is as Vanilla and modern as possible. This beast runs so perfectly well.
What to expect from a Hack?
In the past, a Hack was stable and reliable as long as you do not update the system. Like early Linux systems. Nowadays a properly set-up system will update just like a native Mac.
There are always exceptions, of course. For example, while writing this guide Nvidia's Pascal platform wasn't supported on OS X - which means that shiny new GTX 1060, 1070 and 1080 won't work in MacOS. This is bound to change, as Nvidia still updates their drivers for Pro users using their old MacPros.
Think of this: Nvidia and AMD are creating drivers for a 2010 Hardware platform, because it's still the most versatile Hardware for pro users since owners can upgrade its Hardware.
Yes. As long as you followed the advice above and have chosen Hardware which has been supported by Apple in the past three years, your system should be safe during its expected runtime of roughly 5 years for Desktops and 3 years for Notebooks.
If you took time to really build a good a Hackintosh with Clover, proper patching and avoided using dirty hacks or Voodoo extensions, upgrading MacOS should not pose problems. And if Apple ever decides to clamp down on the Hackintosh community, which they could any day, then it's back to the drawing board for everyone. But it seems to be a lot of work for Apple to lock out generic PC Hardware for good.
All the more reasons to build your own Mac - until Apple leaves the x86 platform and releases it's first ARM systems - then we'll all building Raspberry Pi based Hacks :)