Converting a non-Apple machine to run Max OS X takes quite a few steps. The benefits can be big: you can wind up with a Mac at a fraction of the cost. However, in doing so you take a walk on the dodgy side of legal, as well as potentially diminishing your OS X experience – this article will look at the pros and cons of considering converting your netbook to a ‘hackintosh’. It is not an article condoning the practice or indeed offering a guide of how to do so – simply an unbiased consideration of the factors you will need to think about and decide upon should you wish to proceed of your own volition.
Pro – it’s cheap. An entry-level Mac will set you back around £800, even with student discounts. What you get for that is a class machine – but a user might be tempted by opting for the same OS on similar specifications, without the added expense. You can pick up a netbook for sub-£200, with a distribution of Lion (the latest) costing only another £25. So, you save yourself a bundle of cash.
Con – it’s not what it’s designed for. OS X and the Mac build run hand-in-hand – Apple deeply believes that design is a process synonymous with functionality and experience. Of course, by shoving the OS on to your netbook you’re hardly facilitating that ideal. Bits of it probably won’t work – users frequently have difficulty using OS X’s coveted ‘Sleep’ function and there are often issues with the broadband ethernet or wireless connections. What’s more, aspects to Lion such as Mission Control and multiple desktops just won’t play too nice with your probably-not-multitouch keypad. Apple’s OS integration goes deeper than this, too – because their devices only run a very limited set of hardware, the operating system can be optimised to the max for those specific components. You probably won’t see the same performance from a ‘similar spec’ netbook as you would from a real-life Macbook Air.
Pro – You can choose from a wider range of hardware. Apple offers a graded set of hardware, but it’s got some notable exclusions – Blu-ray being one, USB 3 being another. Also, if your netbook has an optical drive, that’s something you’ll find lacking on Apple’s nearest equivalent, the Macbook Air. So, if you need access to particular hardware and don’t fancy buying Mac-compatible external peripherals, installing OS X on a netbook solves that.
Con – it’s a walk on the dubious side of legal. Apple expressly mentions in its user agreement that their OS should only be installed on Apple-branded machines. When you agree to this user agreement – which you have to on first install – you enter in to a legally binding contract to abide by it – one that you’ve already broken. So, if things do turn really unlucky and you wind up prosecuted, you haven’t really got a leg to stand on.
Pro – it doesn’t take as much effort as it used to. Back in the day, getting a hackintosh up and running used to be the earthly equivalent to hellish torture. Custom kexts, hundreds of bootloaders, DSDT patching – those things are gradually becoming a thing of the past. There are now several component-independent ways to speed the loading of Lion on to your netbook.
Con – it still takes effort. Don’t be fooled in to thinking that things have got easy – they haven’t. Easy is lifting your new Mac out of its custom-designed packaging, switching it on and being ready to go in 30 seconds. You will have to dedicate hours of your time to making your hardware work, and accept some limitations on what you’ll be able to achieve.
Making your netbook in to a hackintosh is going to involve a deal of your time, so you need to consider if the money you’re going to save will be worth the effort for the uncertain result you’ll get. There are websites that offer great guides, hand-holding you through every step which facilitate the transition. However, if you want to stay legal, optimised and enjoy the full OS X experience, you’ll have to forgo the project and stump up for the real deal.