Vote Charlie!

Built hackintosh, gained respect for Microsoft

Posted at age 27.
Edited .

Since I bought my first (Micron) computer when I was 10, I’ve had a thing for desktops and customizability. I did buy a giant Dell laptop in around 2003, but after that, I always built my own desktops.

Moving across the country in 2012, though, started convincing me to try to make a laptop work as a primary computer. I had to fit everything I owned in a small SUV, and desktops take up a lot of space! MacBook Pros around that time were starting to get sufficiently powerful to use with external monitors and play movies and everything else, so it seemed it was time to chuck the desktop. Also, all the travel I’ve done in the last two years was infinitely more feasible while using a laptop as a primary.

But now that I had to return the laptop I was using for the past year (a Mid-2014 13” MacBook Pro), I had to consider my options. I could have bought the newer version of that same computer, but supposedly an even newer model will be out soon. I figured spending $2500 on a laptop just before it “became old” would be silly. So I looked at the cheaper option, a $1000 2015 12” MacBook. It was certainly going to be less powerful than the MBP, but perhaps it would be powerful enough to suit my needs. The Apple promotional material wanted me to believe that. So I made the leap and bought a used one on Amazon. After finding out the seller couldn’t ship for a while, I opted instead to go buy a new one at Best Buy since they had a $300 discount.

I loved the size of the computer, and the thin keys were kind of nice, though the arrow key design was somewhat maddening. I tried not to complain too much about the lack of ports, because I did like the sleekness. Though, I did need to try two different USB/HDMI hubs before finding one that didn’t eject my external drive constantly. In my short time using it, a number of device issues made it clear the laptop wasn’t ready for prime time, much less to be used as my primary.


The 2015 MacBook has only one port for USB and power, so you need a special adapter. This one didn't work, though, even to connect to my SSD. The 36 inch cable caused too much power loss to keep the drive connected, and it didn't work at all with the power plugged in. I was only able to access data while using a six inch USB2.0 cable and no power. USB3.0 caused intermittent disconnects.

So once I got back to San Francisco, I decided to build a hackintosh.

I’ve eyed the hackintosh guides a bit over the years, not due to need for cheaper parts or more power, but mostly due to a desire to not give so much money to Apple. I’ve become frustrated with the absurdity of customers desperate to shell out large amounts of money for increasingly frequently released products that have fewer features, more problems and lately, worse and worse design. If you’re going to pay three times what you’d pay for a competitor’s product, it better be nearly perfect. I’ve had more and more issues with my MacBook Pros and OS X in general that I’ve started to feel buying more of the product would be an insult to myself, if not morally questionable, as I would be contributing to worse experiences for everyone by endorsing crappier and crappier products.

Now that I was in the market for a faster computer, and also needed to be somewhat frugal, it seemed the time might be right for the custom path. Reading the latest guides indicated a number of issues were resolved and streamlined, so maybe it would even be easy as building a Windows PC.

I reviewed the Lifehacker hackintosh article by tonymacx86 as an introduction, and then looked at some of the buyer’s guides on his website to decide on parts. I ended up settling on a USB 3.1 motherboard, which limited me to the ATX size. That dictated a larger case than I would have liked (in the past, I liked building micro ATX small towers), but I didn’t want to waste time with the setup since I was antsy to start being productive. I ordered the parts, and two days later I started building.

Unfortunately the process wasn’t as smooth as I hoped. Specific details of the system are in a separate post to better facilitate documentation to hopefully help others, but for the sake of this journal entry, I did eventually get the system running, and am typing on it now. My main issue after getting the display working properly was major inconsistencies with the USB ports, which had me questioning whether I was even going to be able to access my external drive with all my data. I still want to work out some of the issues, but at least I can use it now.

I must say the trial and error required to get the system running, including many shots in the dark regarding configuration file changes and more, has given me so much respect for Microsoft. When building a PC, all you need to do is make sure the parts are basically compatible. Usually you can find appropriate drivers for each part to get it all working fine in Windows. With OS X, though, Apple clearly took the route of supporting a very limited number of products with specific hacks to get each working. They certainly did not bother implementing any generally smart compatibility into the software. I can only imagine this allowed them to save effort 1000 fold, presumably allowing them to excel elsewhere. It’s a pity for Apple that innovation potential is now being squandered to such an extent I was driven to build a hackintosh.

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