How the Hackintosh Suddenly Caught Fire

PVC by Mark Christiansen

Anarchy amid the abdication of Mac Pro

Yes, it literlly caught fire.

This is the story of one man’s experience assembling and running a Hackintosh. For anyone unaware of this illicit, but not yet forbidden alternative to the Mac Pro and altnerative systems from Apple, it is a custom-built computer - one which would straightforwardly run Windows or Linux - with an installation of a slightly modified (hacked) Mac OS that will boot on non-Apple hardware, in clear violation of the terms of the Mac OS.

Video professionals as a group have become much more curious, if also still wary, of this option given that It significantly outperforms Apple hardware at roughly half the cost of even the most basic new Mac Pro system. For their part, Apple has neither condoned this approach, nor have then implemented the types of technological barriers that would make it impossible to implement. Officially, it’s unsupported, legally, it’s a gray area, and in real-world terms, it involves more trade-offs and complications than just owning a Mac. This is one article about the benefits and trade-offs for a video professional.

So why do it? Late last year, I found myself in the perfect position to dip my toe into the world of Hackintosh (or, as it is sometimes spelled, Hacintosh). I had negotiated with a client to purchase a system specifically for use on a set of projects, and when I presented them with the cost of a new Mac Pro system, even with all possible extras purchased from third parties, the cost was several thousand dollars out of budget; at that time, over $7000 delivered, without the storage or memory needed. A prosumer iMac, which is all the rage in design firms these days, was not ideal due to the need for advanced graphics and the desire for built-in support for large storage, dual monitors, and full connectivity, not to mention enough brute-force processing needs to benefit from the 30-60% difference in performance. Even the current Apple Mac Pro offering outperforms the latest iMac by 30%, and for jobs that involve a good deal of rendering, even that difference adds up to days over a period of months.

A VFX supervisor friend in San Francisco had, years ago, pitched a side business he and a friend had to build Hackintosh render farms. We priced out a system that, even including the $500 assembly and installation feel, indeed came in at exactly half the equivalent cheapest Mac Pro system, and in computing terms was a full generation newer. All but two of the 23 components were available and/or least expensive from Amazon (one more case of getting value from a Prime account). read more...

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