Hackintosh not worth it

The Hackintosh is a pretty compelling way to get Mac Pro performance for the price of a Mac Mini. To achieve this, you build a custom Windows-style PC using components that are known to work with Apple’s Mac OS X, and then use low level software tricks to make OS X work on this non-Apple hardware. Technically it violates Apple’s license agreement (though some claim sticking an Apple label on the case is sufficient) but based on my experience detailed below, I don’t think Apple is too worried.

I use an aging MacBook Pro that’s on its last legs and I have several times considered building my own Hackintosh. Today, after another sickly cough from my computer, I decided to go for it. Then after spending >3 hours researching and shopping for all the components, I compared what I’d put together against what Apple offers and decided to wait for the next iMac.

The Hackintosh does have some things going for it…

Pros

  • Faster for cheaper (Quad system for ~$900 vs. $2000 from Apple)
  • Get PCI slots for cheap (slots from Apple require Mac Pro starting at $2500 )
  • Huge HD (though that’s easy to upgrade at OEM prices on any Mac, and external works fine)

But once I put the system together, I thought about some of the drawbacks.

Cons

  • Requires a bunch of work to build, install and iron out
  • May stop working when Apple chooses
  • Will always have all sorts of annoying quirks
  • No warranty if something breaks
  • Home built noisier than Apple hardware

Then I thought more about the economics. An iMac equivalent to the system I spec-ed would be $1900 (with my $100 student discount), and it would include a 2560×1440 monitor which is $1100 and up anywhere else. That’s effectively $800 for the hardware, meaning I’m not even saving money with the Hackintosh and all the cons above. Plus the iMac comes with the Magic Mouse ($70) and Wireless keyboard ($70), which while I wouldn’t pay that much for, further tip the scales.

If you don’t care about the 27″ monitor, the comparison is less clear. If you compare the Hackintosh to a Mac Mini at $800, it might be worth it to you to bump from the Intel Core 2 Duo up to a Core 2 Quad, get a bigger hard drive and better video. But you’d be trading that against your time, system stability, hardware warranty and clean design. So I plan to buy an iMac 27″, though I’ll probably wait until the next product release.

If you decide to go that route, here’s the system I spec-ed for $840 (plus tax, includes shipping).

Amazon shopping cart, $530.95, all free shipping Price: Qty:
Item added on April 11, 2010 TRENDnet Gigabit PCI Adapter Card TEG-PCITXR - TRENDnet

Condition: New

In Stock

Eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping

$14.99

You Save:

$15.00 (50%)

1
Item added on April 11, 2010 Western Digital 1 TB Caviar Blue SATA 7200 RPM 32 MB Cache Bulk/OEM Desktop Hard Drive WD10EALS - Western Digital

Condition: New

In Stock

Eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping

$89.99

You Save:

$10.00 (10%)

1
Item added on April 11, 2010 PNY Optima MD4096KD2-800 4GB 2x2GB Dual Channel Kit DDR2 800 MHz CL 5-5-5-15 PC2-6400 Desktop DIMM Memory Module - PNY

Condition: New

In Stock

Eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping

$99.99

You Save:

$24.00 (19%)

1
Item added on April 11, 2010 Intel Core 2 Quad Processor 2.66 GHz 1333 MHz 6 MB LGA775 EM64T CPU Q9400BOX - Intel

Condition: New

In Stock

Eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping

$189.99

You Save:

$22.00 (10%)

1
Item added on April 11, 2010 GIGABYTE GA-EP45-UD3P LGA 775 Intel P45 ATX Intel Motherboard - Gigabyte

Condition: New

In Stock

Shipped from: Buy.com

$135.99

You Save:

$16.00 (11%)

1

And from Newegg:

Qty. Product Description Savings Total Price
1

Pioneer CD/DVD Burner Black SATA Model DVR-218LBK LabelFlash Support – OEM

Item #: N82E16827129045

Return Policy: Standard Return Policy

$28.99
1

Antec Sonata III 500 Black 0.8mm cold rolled steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case 500W Power Supply – Retail

Item #: N82E16811129024

Return Policy: Limited Replacement Only Return Policy

-$30.00 Instant $149.99

$119.99

1

EVGA 512-P3-N871-AR GeForce 9800 GTX+ 512MB 256-bit DDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video Card – Retail

Item #: N82E16814130339

Return Policy: VGA Replacement Only Return Policy

$134.99
Subtotal: $283.97
Shipping: $20.88
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