Over the past couple of weeks, I dabbled in the dark art of Hackintosh, i.e. turning your average PC with off-the-shelf components into a working Mac. This was part of my efforts to convert my old Core 2 Quad Q9400 computer, recently retired from active duty, into a quasi-Mac mini, so that I can have the ideal setup of a desktop Mac at home and a MacBook on the go.
Hackintosh is explained in great and easy-to-understand detail at http://www.hackintosh.com, so as far as making preparations go there isn’t much room for confusion. Buying a legit copy of Mountain Lion from the App Store on my MacBook Pro, putting together the installation USB, and following the instructions until the Mac OS X screen is facing me was plain-sailing. As far as the eye can see, the Hackintosh was now in place and everything looked and moved like Mac OS X. It was only when I attempted to start using the Hackintosh as a proper Mac that I started hitting snags. I couldn’t log on to iCloud or the App Store with my ID and password, so had to trawl through Google to find a solution (it did end up working, however). Apps were very slow to open, and when I had a number of them open, the computer would just freeze up. The crashes were frequent enough to make me deem it not worth spending any more time or money on trying to get the Hackintosh to stabilise.
I hadn’t given up on this whole ‘PC-as-Mac’ dream, so next up was setting up a virtual machine on my recently upgraded, brand spanking new i5 3570K Windows machine. The cheapest option seemed to be using VirtualBox, which is a free virtualization software, and trying to install the Mac OS X on that in Windows. This guide was very clear and comprehensible, so again the installation part was a breeze. As with Hackintosh, however, it was when trying to navigate my way through the virtual Mac that I ran into problems. Things were much more functional with VirtualBox, but everything was utterly, terribly slow. The animation seemed to be in single-digit framerate, and the smoothness (or lack of it) was akin to a remote-connection app, such was the horrible level of screen tear.
At this point, I had to wonder whether there was another alternative. And there was: using VMware Workstation, a $250 app for Windows, you can install the Mac OS X with a software unlock, as explained here. So I tried that. At first it seemed to have the best of both worlds: a virtual OS that ran smooth. But, as I’d come to fear, once you start delving into it you run into issues: log-ins were not allowed, the animations weren’t perfect, you had to fiddle around with Terminal and various system files to get common functions like sound, network, etc. working. Plus, even if it had worked I would have been faced with a dilemma, because VMware Workstation I was using was a demo version, so after a few weeks I needed to pay the kind of money that was close to the price of a second hand 2009-era MacBook. I was spared this conundrum, though, because this third attempt at a Mac on a PC didn’t pan out to my liking.
So after 2 weeks I’m back where I started, wanting and being without a desktop Mac to complement my MacBook Pro. The conclusion I came to was this: just buy a real Mac. Any other way would have some issue that will cause you to lose time and effort unnecessarily. Had I just gone and ordered a Mac mini at the start of the month, all the trouble and aggravation would have been saved. I guess I now know how to set up the Hackintosh and stuff, but I’m not sure I’m glad at the knowledge earned.