What is a Hackintosh?

Lenovo Laptop Turned into a Hackintosh
Theis Kofoed Hjorth

When Apple announced their switch away from the PowerPC architecture to Intel's processors and chipsets, many were looking forward to having the ability to run Windows software on Apple hardware and Apple's operating systems on their non-Apple hardware. Apple was able to eventually build their Boot Camp feature in Mac OS X 10.5 and later allowing Windows to run on Apple hardware. Those hoping to easily run Mac OS X on a standard PC do not have it so easy.

What is Hackintosh?

Even though running Mac OS X on a generic PC is not supported by Apple, it is possible to accomplish given the right hardware and determination by users. Any system that is made to run the Apple operating system is referred to as Hackintosh. This term comes from the fact that the software needs to be hacked in order to properly run on the hardware. Of course some of the hardware needs to be tweaked in a few cases as well.

Replace The BIOS

The biggest obstacle to most generic computers from running Mac OS X on their hardware has to do with UEFI. This is a new system that was developed to replace the original BIOS systems that allowed computers to boot up. Apple has been using specific extensions to the UEFI that is not found in most PC hardware. Over the past couple of years, this has become less of an issue as most systems adopt the new boot mechanisms for the hardware. A good source for lists of known compatible computers and hardware components can be found on the OSx86 Project site.

Note that the lists are based upon the various versions of OS X because each version has a differing level of support for hardware, especially with older computer hardware not being able to run on the newer versions of OS X.

Lower The Costs

One of the primary reasons many people want to try and hack Mac OS X onto generic PC hardware has to do with costs.

Apple has generally been known for some very high prices for their hardware compared to equivalent Windows systems. Apple's prices have come down over the years to be closer to many comparable configured Windows systems but there are still many more affordable laptops and desktops. After all, Apple's least expensive laptop the MacBook Air 11 still has a price tag of $799 but at least the Mac Mini has a much more reasonable $499 starting price.

Most consumers though are probably less likely to consider hacking a computer system together to run the Mac OS X operation systems when there are many more affordable alternatives now that do many of the basic systems they are looking for. Chromebooks are an excellent example of this as most of these systems can be found for under $300.

It is important to note that generally building a hackintosh computer system will void any warranties with the hardware manufacturers and modifying the software to run on the hardware violates copyright laws for Apple's operating system. This is why no companies can legally sell Hackintosh systems.