State of the Hackintosh 2014: A peek into a shadowy subculture of Apple fans


Purple Mac Pro Hackintosh

Unlike Apple's newest Mac Pro, which looks like a trashcan, this replica 2013 Mac Pro is made out of an actual trash can. It even comes with a matching toilet brush.

Purple Mac Pro Hackintosh, back view

Made by hacker JuanLobo, the replica is quite capable, boasting outputs for HDMI (three), USB, Ethernet, DVI and digital audio.

Purple Mac Pro Hackintosh, the guts

It was hard work getting all the components to fit inside the trashcan. The fan cooling the graphics card had to removed and flipped over. Another challenge was squeezing in the special power supply.

Purple Mac Pro Hackintosh, custom 3D base

To make everything fit, JuanLobo created a 3D model of Mac Pro's base. "It provided another 30mm of space that was desperately needed," he wrote on the project description.

The actual trashcan

This is the $53 Lunar Waste Bin used to build the replica Mac Pro.

Water-cooled PowerMac G5

This is a water-cooled PowerMac G5. "I've always loved the style of the PowerMac G5 enclosure," wrote it's creator, MrAhlefeld.

The original PowerMac G5 case

"I've sourced a PowerMac G5 from a local MAC shop in my city," said MrAhlefeld. "It was dirt cheap, cause one of the handles on the to was bend out of shape."


PowerMac G5, filling the coolant

"I will be using some of my old parts as I love my Eheim 1048 pump, just can't beat it at those noise levels," explained MrAhlefeld.

PowerMac G5, the cooling system

The coolant loop includes three beefy fans to dissipate heat. The original G5 ran so hot it had nine fans.

The HackinBeast tower

In September 2012, the HackinBeast was one of the fastest Macs on the planet with a whopping GeekBench score of 36,918.

The HackinBeast

Based on a pair of Intel Xeon X5690 CPUs, the machine’s total cost was $4,500. That’s less than half of an equivalent 2012 Mac Pro, which would have cost more than $10,000 and topped out with a Geeekbench score of 25,000.

Cooling the HackinBeast

Here's the beast's crazy cooling system. It's loaded with LIQ-702 Liquid Coolant (UV Green).


The HackinBeast's logo. “It took me from January 2012 to Sept 2012 (a total of 9 months); the same amount of time it takes to have a child,” wrote its maker, PunkNugget.

Mini G5

This is a mini G5, approximately half the size of the original. It was hacked down to size by prolific hacker neilhart. "This has been four months of 'fun' and I end up with a high performance machine that runs with the best," he wrote.


Hackintosh mini server

This Mac mini case has been updated with up-to-date components.

G4 Stormtrooper

With a Star Wars aesthetic, the G4 Stormtrooper Haswell has been updated with a speedy 17 processor. Painting the case was a lot of work. "I sanded all the parts, applied a coat of primer, sanded down, applied a second coat, painted it in black and white (two layers), sanded with steel wool, and finally applied three layers of varnish," said its creator, antonvodenitcharov.

G4 Stormtrooper, open

The G4 Stormtrooper is made for audio work. " I decided to built my dream Hackintosh," said antonvodenitcharov.

iMac G4 Hackintosh

Another iconic Mac, the iMac G4, gets an update from an Intel NUC mini-PC. "The project turned out great, and works terrific in early testing," wrote its creator, ersterhernd.

Water-Cooled Cube

This is the world's first water-cooled Cube.

The Cube's tiny cooling loop

This is the cooling loop for the water-cooled Cube.

Powermac G4 Hackintosh_

"I got excited by the idea that i could have a crazy powerful machine in ANY case I wanted," wrote modder rayd. "So naturally I picked the best looking case ever to be made; the Powermac G4 MDD." The Powermac G4 MDD runs OS X 10.9 Mavericks. Not too shabby!


Brix Pro Hackintosh

"Extremely small form factor micro PC kits are gaining steam," writes Tony of TonyMacX86. "Since the Intel NUC (Next Unit of Computing) was launched, many users have started using them as HTPCs, and even full desktop replacements."

Brix Pro Hackintosh Mini PC

Tony built his tiny Hackintosh from a Gigabyte Brix Pro mini-PC.

Hackintosh in an Xbox

There's no accounting for some people's taste. This modified Xbox 360 is based on a low-power Celeron processor. It's no speed demon, but serves well as a Mac-based media PC. "The idea was to make a small, cheap but yet capable machine, mainly intended for usage under a TV set," said its creator dj_aris.

These are the computers Apple never built, and never will — a water-cooled Cube; a teeny-tiny G5; a faux Mac Pro in a trash can.

Oh wait. Apple did the trash can, but not a genuine rubbish bin with a matching toilet brush, like the purple beauty in the Hackintosh gallery above.

These homemade Macs, built from non-Apple hardware, come in a thousand different shapes and sizes, built by legions of dedicated, ingenious hackers. In the nine years since Apple switched to Intel processors, a DIY subculture dedicated to building alternative Mac hardware has steadily grown. It’s not a strictly legal endeavor — Apple’s EULA forbids OS X from running on non-Apple hardware — but Cupertino turns a blind eye to hobbyists.

“You know what? We’ve never gotten anything from Apple other than a few anonymous employees asking for help :),” said Tony, who runs Hackintosh website, in an email to Cult of Mac. “It’s clear that doesn’t sell hardware. I would think that they’d understand that we are promoting the purchase of OS X and Apple peripherals and laptops, and have zero tolerance for piracy.”

There could be up to 2 million active Hackintosh enthusiasts, according to John, owner of, one of the most popular Hackintosh forums. John, who asked to remain anonymous, based his estimate on the number of registered users on his forum and others like InsanelyMac,, Project OS X, OSXLatitude, myHack and Russian site AppleLife.

The scene depends on talented hackers who figured out how to get Apple’s operating system running on unsupported hardware. Even though the Hackintosh subculture is growing, John of says there’s been a lot of attrition. “Only those who are really OS X enthusiasts are still active in the Hackintosh scene today after almost nine years of Hackintoshing,” he said.

Recent developments like Clover, a bootloader that promises to make installation and upgrades much easier, may breathe new life into the hobby. But how does one venture into the Hackintosh world? Here are the latest entry point and trends in the world of DIY Mac hardware.

Installing OS X on a purchased PC

The easiest way to get your hands on a Hackintosh is to install OS X on a prebuilt computer from a manufacturer like Lenovo or Hewlett-Packard. Just run an installer tool like Unibeast, myHack or Kakewalk, add a few drivers, and it should be ready to go. Unibeast is the most popular, but Kakewalk makes things really easy if you have a highly compatible PC. You can get a machine that rivals a Mac for several hundred dollars less.

Note, installing OS X on a purchased PC is still a headache, and it’s not guaranteed the machine — especially if it’s a notebook — will work 100 percent. Some or many things may or may not work, depending on compatibility of the machine’s hardware. And, of course, you get none of Apple’s hardware finesse.

Desktop machines are generally easier, but lots of newer, Intel-based laptops are compatible with OS X. Hewlett-Packard’s ProBook notebooks are a popular choice, costing in the $400 — $600 range. MacBreaker has a good guide to newer laptops and OS X Mavericks. Some notes on laptop compatibility can be found here.

Netbooks used to be popular machines for hacking but seem to have fallen out of favor because of their limited functionality and general crappiness. MyMacNetbook has a fairly comprehensive compatibility chart of what works and what doesn’t.

Building a custom rig

The biggest problem building a custom machine is researching what hardware is compatible and then locating a simple, easy-to-use guide. It’s not the only place (there are lots of guides on the forums above), but TonyMacx86 has a good starter’s guide and publishes monthly Buyer’s Guides.

“It’s easier to start from a motherboard and work out from there,” said Tony. “We tend to keep it simple and make sure all of the stuff we recommend in our monthly Buyer’s Guide are the easiest and best supported options.”

A perennially popular project is to build a powerful substitute for the fastest Mac available, which right now is the Mac Pro. Earlier this month we featured a hot-rod Hackintosh that’s claimed to be as fast as a Mac Pro but costs about $1,500 less. It’s got a Geekbench score of 17,764, which is better than a similarly configured Mac Pro (but not as good as the really high-spec ones).

In September 2012, the HackinBeast was one of the fastest Macs on the planet with a GeekBench score of 36,918.

Based on a pair of Intel Xeon X5690 CPUs, the machine’s total cost was $4,500. That’s less than half the price tag for an equivalent 2012 Mac Pro, which would have cost more than $10,000 and topped out with a Geeekbench score of 25,000.

“It took me from January 2012 to Sept 2012 (a total of nine months); the same amount of time it takes to have a child,” wrote its maker, PunkNugget.

Some of the fastest machines are likely to be based on x79 boards with Ivy Bridge E or Sandy Bridge E chips (MacPro 2013-like CPUs) such as this Intel Core i7 Ivy Bridge machine and this one built into an old PowerMac G4 case.

Intel NUCs and tiny, prebuilt desktops

One of the latest trends is building a Hackintosh from a micro PC, a teeny-tiny Intel NUC not much bigger than an Apple TV. There are several on the market, sold as kits that include a motherboard, CPU, case and a small external power brick. Owners have to add a solid-state drive and RAM. Because the micro PCs are so small, they tend to be underpowered compared to bigger desktop machines. But what they lack in computing power, they save in electrical power: Most draw less than 100 watts.

“Extremely small form factor micro-PC kits are gaining steam,” said Tony, who built a Hackintosh from a Gigabyte BRIX Pro mini PC.

Adding AMD to the mix

AMD is Intel’s big rival in the chip business, but because OS X’s kernel (the heart of the operating system) is designed to run on Intel chips, AMD-based machines have largely been locked out. However, recently a handful of “great developers” have been bringing their attention to the issue, said’s John.

“There is great progress at the moment with AMD development,” said John. “AMD users are getting close to have an almost 100 percent working Hackintosh.”

It’s “a good thing,” he added. Here’s a video of Mavericks booting on AMD. “Fast booting (and) butter-smooth performance in Mavericks!!” wrote DeeKay Goswami on

Easier than ever with Clover bootloader

The Clover bootloader is another big development. A bootloader is a piece of software that loads the operating system. For Hackintoshes, a good bootloader to load OS X on a mishmash of non-Apple hardware has long been a Holy Grail. Clover is a new EFI-based bootloader that’s more comprehensive and easier to use than previous ones. With Clover, hackers can perform a system Software Update without worrying about overwriting custom drivers (impossible in the past), or use Apple’s unmodified installer because Clover can perform patches on the fly.

For example, to make custom hardware (such as a video card) work, the Device ID had to be added to a KEXT file (a kernel extension that basically acts as a driver for OS X). After a Software Update, the ID has to be added again if the update altered the kernel. But with Clover, the patching of the KEXT file can be done on the fly.

Open source and free, Clover “makes the final trick to have our Hackintoshes almost 100 percent equal to a real Mac,” John said.

Classic Mac conversions

By far the most popular Hackintosh project is updating a classic Apple machine — adding new guts to an older case. See the gallery for notable examples.

Apple’s design is often timeless, and users have upgraded every machine from late 1980s classic Macs to the latest Mac minis.

This is the world’s first water-cooled Cube — or so it’s claimed. Made by prolific modder, minihack, it’s based on the iconic PowerMac Cube, which has gone down in history as Apple’s hardware failure. Yet the Cube is still beloved by many. The hack required a ton of customizing, including the world’s shortest water-cooling loop, which is about an inch.

This is the world's first water-cooled Cube.
This is the world’s first water-cooled Cube.

Also popular are Apple’s towers with latched sides that open up the case for full access to the insides. Not only are the cases distinctive, the doors make customizing them very easy.

This is a water-cooled PowerMac G5. The coolant loop includes three beefy fans to dissipate heat. The original G5 ran so hot it had nine fans.

“I’ve always loved the style of the PowerMac G5 enclosure,” wrote it’s creator, MrAhlefeld.

  • Lucas Larini Kidricki

    tonycrap is nothing but a pathetic thief who never did any real contribution to the osx86 scene. sadly few people outside coders and enthusiasts know that.

    • Aannddyy

      Someone needs a nap.

      • John Pals

        He is absolutely right though…

      • Peter MacLeod

        Actually he’s wrong but w/e

    • nhanb

      Care to elaborate? (This is a sincere question. I’m not familiar with the hackintosh scene, but planning to build one)

  • old_school

    Been there done that, now i own two real Macs but i’d do it again, probably will! :-D

  • Darth Geekonius

    I just wished the various communities played nice together instead of the crap we have now.

  • firesign3000

    Apple actually made a liquid cooled G5 Pro. We had one here at work. One day (while it was still under AppleCare) the user powered the machine up and there was a funny smell and it shut down. I got the call for it and when I opened the case I discovered that the coolant had leaked all over the inside. I contacted Apple, and they replaced the machine with a then brand spanking new Intel based Pro. It was the first Intel based Mac we had here.

  • Brandon Butler

    One thing that nobody ever mentions is that HDCP does not work if you have a IvyBridge/Haswell CPU.

    This means that you cannot play movies purchased via iTunes on a IvyBridge/Haswell Hackintosh :(