Have you ever built a computer? It’s pretty easy. You select the parts you want, do a little bit of homework to make sure they work together, purchase the parts, and then put them together. You put the processor in its slot, you put the GPU in that slot, and you put the RAM in those slots. Everything has a place where it fits. From there, you install Windows (also pretty easy) and you’re off to the races, free to do whatever it is people do with computers. Anyone with just a little technical aptitude and some attention to detail can figure out how to build a computer in an afternoon or so. Did you like building legos as a kid, especially those Technics kits with the gears that turned into cars with working steering columns or whatever? Then you can build a computer. It’s actually kind of fun and pretty satisfying.

Now. Have you ever tried building a Hackintosh?

That is an entirely different beast.

A “Hackintosh”, for those not in the know, is a PC built with off-the-shelf parts that runs MacOS.

With a normal PC, all you have to do is make sure your parts work together. There’s quite a lot of wiggle room. With a Hackintosh, you not only have to make sure your parts work together, but also that all your parts can be made to work with an OS that does not natively support them. But that’s not all! After putting it all together, you have to then trick the computer into thinking it’s a Mac running native, supported hardware. You’re right, that does sound hard!

Oh, wow, these Threadripper Hackintoshes look neat! Oh. No. Creative Cloud doesn’t work.

Maybe I’ll go x299 over z390 for the extra juice! Damn. Documentation is sparse.

Do I need to buy a new power supply? Seems like the draw math works, but you don’t really know until everything’s plugged in.

Is it time to replace my ancient Firewire 800 audio interface so I can remove the PCIe card I had to add to make it work? The less stuff plugged in, the less there is to troubleshoot.

Are there native drivers for my chosen GPU? Nope! Nvidia and Apple are in a fight, so AMD is the only choice.

Will the Samsung M.2 SSDs work? Nope! MacOS hates the chipset that runs them. Time to find some M.2 SSDs that don’t use that chipset.

Should I reuse the tower CPU cooler I already have? Maybe, but it’s pretty big and I have no idea if the new RAM will clear. But will MacOS drive the AIO watercooler I am looking at?

What settings do I need to include in my DSDT? My SSDT? ACPI? What kexts? How do I set up the bootloader? OpenCore or Clover? Which UEFI settings? There’s a forum guide for slightly different hardware for the previous OS, so maybe that will help?

And so on and so on and so on. The questions never end. It’s an absolute nightmare.

I bet you’re asking yourself the smart question “Why on Earth would anyone subject themselves to this torture?” Price. The price to build a machine is often just a fraction of what Apple would charge for something roughly equivalent. Of course, with Apple you’re getting reliability, a warranty, and some premium touches. We don’t need those!

However, Apple has a tendency to let hardware languish for years without a refresh. Look at the trashcan Mac Pro. They released it in 2013 and gave it a single, modest spec boost once before the new 2019 Mac Pro was released. One specification update in six years. No good. There was no way to update that little machine either. You were stuck with what you bought. You can update a Hackintosh (if you like opening the gates to Hell).

And I’ve done this before! Back in late 2013 I started down the Hackintosh road. In fact, the computer that resulted from that is the computer I am typing this on right now. I built it to replace an aging Mac Pro that could no longer handle the HD video footage I threw at it as part of my job. This machine, affectionately named “The Dark Tower”, has served me pretty well in that regard these last few years.

It has never worked perfectly, though. I suspect that a lot of that is to do with my inexperience putting it together seven years ago. Maybe I didn’t pick exactly the right parts. Maybe I skipped some crucial, but tiny, step in the install process. Maybe the hardware is slowly dying after all this time. Who knows! I’ve taken it apart, rebuilt it, and reinstalled both Windows and MacOS many times since then. I have learned a lot about what to do and what not to do.

It is also stuck on High Sierra because Nvidia is no longer producing MacOS drivers for the 980 Ti GPU I have. My High Sierra install is crunchy and unstable no matter how much I do to fix it. The Dark Tower has had it’s day and now its time to replace it. I have some potential video work coming up and this machine is not up to the task.

Now I have a few questions to answer.

  • Do I stick with the dual boot Windows/Hackintosh format?

  • Do I go Windows-only? Most of the software I run works on both platforms, though I still prefer the Mac for work.

  • Do I build a 12-core monster or an 8-core smaller-monster? We’re talking about maybe a $600 difference. Significant, but not game-changing.

  • If I go Windows-only, do I build an AMD Threadripper machine? Price is roughly the same as upgrading to the 8-core machine.

  • Do I just buy an actual Macintosh desktop computer?! This is by far the most expensive, but least stressful option.

So much to consider. Wish me luck. I’m diving in. Me and Colonel Panic are going to be getting real intimate.