How to build a gaming Hackintosh on the cheap: hardware

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More power, less money, runs OS X. Winning! Photo: Killian Bell
Want more power for your money? Build a Hackintosh. Photo: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

I recently decided it was time to get a proper desktop computer. I needed it predominantly for work, but I wanted it to be powerful enough to play the latest games in 1080p without worrying about stuttering or terrible frame rates.

The new Mac lineup didn’t offer a perfect fit — the Retina 5K iMac was too expensive, and the new Mac mini simply wasn’t powerful enough — so I set myself a goal: To build a gaming machine with a dedicated video card, capable of running OS X, for around the price of a Mac mini.

I set a budget of $650 for my build. That’s $150 more than the base model Mac mini, but $50 less than the midrange model. In this piece, I’ll take you through the components I purchased and why I chose them, and how I put them all together. Next week, I’ll show you how I installed OS X to turn my DIY gaming rig into a Hackintosh.

11 awesome reasons not to throw out that old Mac

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A really old Apple computer can fetch a fortune at an auction these days, but more recent models that you can easily pick up on eBay aren't going to make you a great deal of money -- especially if they no longer work. But instead of sticking them in your garage and leaving them to collect dust, why not turn them into something useful?

In this gallery, we'll show you 11 old Macs that have been given a new lease of life, like the Mac Pro that's now an aquarium, a group of Macintoshes turned into planters, and an old iMac G4 that's been transformed into a desk lamp.

Photo: theappleguru, eBay

This old Mac Pro G5 case has been transformed into a gorgeous aquarium that would look right at home in any Apple fan's living room. It's fully functional, and complete with lights and an air pump.

"In keeping to my fascination with reusing and recycling things to fulfill a new design and function, this fish tank built from a Apple G5 desktop seemed like an ideal way to give a new life to a dead machine," says creator Michael Garito.

Garito used acrylic to make the tank that lives inside the case, and its miniature air pump is concealed beneath it where the Mac Pro's power supply would have lived.

Garito is currently selling this particular tank, and you can contact him via his website below if you're interested.

Photo: Michael Garito, mgarito.com.

Another Michael Garito creation, this aquarium was made out of two old Apple monitors sandwiched together. Due to its strange shape, Garito had to build a custom filtration system for this tank.

"I built a filtration system that is submerged in the tank, hidden behind the central 'hide'," he explains. "I did not want the aesthetic of the tank diminished by air tubes running over the side so they, along with the filter's power cord, and the tank's drainage tube are all discreetly ran out of the bottom and through the monitor stand."

This tank seems a little trickier to build than the Mac Pro tank, but it looks pretty spectacular. Garito donated this one to an elementary school.

Photo: Michael Garito, mgarito.com

If you've got an old iMac G4 knocking around, turning it into a stunning desk lamp is actually easier than it looks. This particular model was sold on Etsy, but there are lots of guides to making your own.

Photo: SewWhatSherlock, Etsy

Perhaps the greatest way to breath new life into an old Mac is to turn it into a "Hackintosh." That's doing away with its old components, using its case to house a brand new PC, and then installing OS X on it.

Of course, Mac Pro cases won't just take any motherboard and components, so you'll have to make a few adjustments to make them fit. This particular Hack Pro was put together by "Commander Zero" over on the InsanelyMac forums who details each modification that was made in the thread below.

Photo: CommanderZero, InsanelyMac

If you're not up to building a Hackintosh, how about gutting that old Mac Pro case and using it as a cable tidy instead. No one likes the sight of messy cables, but this "Power Tower" from Kiwidee looks great when it's all closed up.

Tucked away inside it there's an integrated power surge, three AC circuits, and up to 30 plug sockets. There's even a handy socket on the front of the case.

Photo: Kiwidee

These Macintosh planters are the ideal garden accessory for any tech freak who likes getting their fingers green - and they couldn't be simpler to make. Simply gut your Macintosh, cut a hole in its top, and fill it with soil.

Photo: Superchou, Flickr

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Another simple hack, this one turns an old Mac Pro G4 case into a mailbox. All you need to do is gut your machine, cut a hole out of its front for your mail and install a door, then add some numbers.

Don't forget to make the case waterproof, though, because you could come home to soaking wet post after a rainy day.

Photo: Digitaldust, Flickr

When it's sunny outside, you don't want to be stuck in with your Mac. So how about turning it into a barbecue grill and taking it outside for some cooking. You can make your own by following the steps in this Imgur gallery.Photo: 100uf, Reddit

If you've got more than one Mac Pro case collecting dust, sticking a block of wood between them creates a beautiful bench like this one from Klaus Geiger.

Photo: Klaus Geiger

Another Klaus Geiger hack turns a couple of old Mac Pro cases into a set of drawers that even Jony Ive would be proud of. This one's a little harder to put together than the bench, but it's well worth the effort.

Photo: Klaus Geiger

This old Power Mac G4 Cube case makes for the fanciest tissue box you'll ever see. Creating this hack is as easy as swapping out the computer's old logic board, hard drives, and other components for a box of tissues. You can find step-by-step instructions via the link below.

Photo: Macgeek, Instructables

This Mac Pro-powered OK Go cart makes some awesome videos

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These wires and Mac Pro do some amazing work. Photo: Damian Kulash/Instagram
These wires and Mac Pro do some amazing work. Photo: Damian Kulash/Instagram

Just take a look at that beast above, posted by lead singer and guitarist for nerdtastic rock band OK Go, Damian Kulash. The Instagram photo, captioned “There is a machine that makes OK Go videos. This is that machine.”

Founded in 1998, OK Go consists of Damian Kulash (lead vocals, guitar), Tim Nordwind (bass guitar and vocals), Dan Konopka (drums and percussion) and Andy Ross (guitar, keyboards and vocals). They’re known for their extensive, quirky and technically complex music videos.

Here are a few of those awesome videos, made with the OK Go cart above.

New Mac Pro sits pretty in this custom desk

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apple-2013-mac-pro

Peek-a-Boo

Who are you calling trashy?

The Apple logo was left visible, for inspiration.

Ashtray or paperclip holder?

All photos: Takara Maru, used with permission.

Fitting right in

All photos: Takara Maru, used with permission.

Sitting pretty

All photos: Takara Maru, used with permission.

The new Mac Pro, with its sleek cylinder design, has gotten a bad rap. While it’s light-years from the bulky, ugly first-generation Mac Pro and “built for creativity on an epic scale,” this ingenious machine, which Apple sells for between $2,999 and $3,999, looks like a common waste receptacle.

The much-trashed design recently got some love from architect Takara Maru, who carved out a spot on this sleek walnut desk for it. Some might joke that it’s to shield users from the Mac Pro’s looks, but really the aim is to reduce clutter on the desk surface so Maru can focus on home design.

Apple finally finds way to lock down new Mac Pros

MacPro

Apple has launched a new $49 Mac Pro Security Lock Adapter in its online store, giving Mac Pro owners (and Apple Stores) an easy way to secure their machines with existing Kensington locks.

Apple’s lock adapter is a straightforward metal bracket that secures the Mac Pro’s lift-off cover to the machine’s base by way of a security cable, thereby barring access to the machine’s internals. The cable lock can then be secured to make it difficult for thieves to steal the $3,000-plus machine.