My first tryst with Hackintosh happened way back in 2008. After a couple of sleepless nights, I managed to get OS X up and running on my new custom PC that was powered by Intel’s latest and great Core 2 Duo chip available that time.
Back then, I did it all for fun and for no specific purpose. However, I switched back to Windows within a couple of weeks due to stability and performance issues. My first experience with OS X greatly ended up influencing my thoughts about Windows though, which ultimately led me to buy a Mac Mini in 2011. For my usage, the Mini provided ample power, and since I had replaced its HDD with an SSD, the system was also very responsive.
Five years down the line, while my Mini still performed as it did on day one, its CPU power was simply not enough for the work I did. Trying to edit videos bought the whole system to a standstill. I started hunting for replacements from Apple, but I soon realised that there were none. Apple last updated its Mac Mini lineup in 2014 and ended up making things worse: no quad-core chips, soldered RAM, and no extra slot for a secondary HDD or SSD. The new 21.5-inch iMac was also not a viable option for me, since it featured a very slow traditional HDD and lacked a dedicated GPU.
Since I wanted to replace my Mac Mini as soon as possible, I started looking at other options. I was not keen on building a Windows based PC because I had grown used to the reliability and no-nonsense approach of OS X. After a lot of debate and suggestions, I decided to go the Hackintosh way. Before I could even begin though, I ran into an issue: there was still no proper support for Skylake chipsets in OS X and Hackintosh.
Being a geek, it was absolutely unfathomable for me to buy an ‘outdated’ CPU and motherboard combination — it did not matter that the difference would have been barely noticeable to me. The problem was that Skylake was still a new platform and Apple had only released one Skylake powered Mac yet: the 2015 iMac.
Scouting numerous threads in TonyMacx86 and InsanelyMac forums, I came across some people who had successfully managed to get Hackintosh up and running on a Skylake powered PC. In the end, I pulled the trigger on a configuration that matched closely with a handful of other people on TonyMacx86 and InsanelyMac forums. After a few sleepless nights, tweaking things around and a lot of help from cyberdevs, I managed to get OS X El Capitan up and running on the PC successfully as well.
I learnt a lot during the process, and if you are looking to build a Hackintosh, here are some things that you should keep in mind:
- Ironically, the first thing that you need to even get started with Hackintosh is a Mac. You will need to create a bootable USB installer of OS X and make some changes to it, which can only be done on OS X.
- If you are planning on building a Skylake based Hackintosh, buy a motherboard that is popular among forum members and for which the installation process is widely documented. I settled on the Gigabyte Z170A-Gaming 5, though plenty of support for Gaming 3 and Gaming 7 motherboards are available as well.
- Don’t expect everything to work. The USB 3.1 and USB Type-C ports on my Gigabyte motherboard don’t work under OS X. Additionally, the Sleep mode is broken also partially broken. Once the PC wakes up from sleep, it does not display anything until I reboot it.
- Buy a Nvidia GPU if you plan to use Hackintosh for general usage and Adobe’s suite of video editing apps. Nvidia releases its own web drivers for its GPU for OS X that makes them easier to set them up. However, if you plan to use Final Cut Pro X, buy an AMD GPU since they support OpenCL. The performance difference between an Nvidia and even a yesteryear AMD GPU in FCP X is huge.
- Support for the Intel HD530 GPU found on Skylake processors is almost non-existent right now.
- Any Core i5 or Core i7 Skylake CPU will work just fine. Most of the problem usually occurs with the motherboard so choose it wisely.
- Things will break from time to time. If stability is of prime importance to you, look elsewhere. For me, the issues have cropped up only once in a while, which is easily made up by the staggering performance of the PC.
- NVME based SSDs are incompatible as of now, so you will have to rely on SATA based SSDs for now.
- Don’t expect things to be easy. Just getting to boot to the OS X installer took me two days.
- I found Clover bootloader to be easier to get up and running on my PC than UniBeast.
Thanks to the likes of Clover, UniBeast and lots of documentation, getting OS X installed on a PC has become easier, provided the parts are supported by OS X. This does not mean that even a novice user can install OS X on their PC. You still need to be aware of some low level options and know your way around the BIOS of your motherboard. Most importantly, you should have a lot of free time, the will to get OS X up and running on your PC, and the ability to Google the error messages that you encounter during the process.
Oh, and if you are wondering the specs of my Hackintosh, here is it:
- Intel ‘Skylake’ Core i5 6500
- Gigabyte GA-Z170X-Gaming 5
- 8GB Corsair LPX DDR4 2400MHz RAM
- Sapphire AMD R9 270X Vapor-X
- Seasonic 620W PSU
- Samsung 850 EVO 250GB SSD
- 1TB Western Digital Green
If you are looking to know more about getting Hackintosh up and running on a Skylake based PC, check out these resources I found them very helpful:
- Clover installation guide
- Intel Skylake CPU and motherboard buying guide
- Installing El Capitan on Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5
Have you built a Hackintosh before? If yes, how was your experience? Drop in a comment and do share it with us. And if you are looking to built a Skylake based Hackintosh and have any doubts, feel free to drop in a comment below and I will help you out.