My Hacintosh Experiment

Previous: Introduction...

Hardware Selection:

Selecting the hardware for my "hackintosh" was a fairly straightforward, if not quick, process:
  1. Get the specs for the "Mid-2010 Mac Mini"
  2. Identify which PC components considered "Hackintosh Compatible" are also available at Microcenter (preferably, on sale!)
  3. Review the user forums of Hackintosh sites for methods to install OS X on PC hardware and decide which  involve the least amount of effort for full OS functionality: Compare the hardware used for each chosen method to the available hardware from Step 2.
  4. Determine the combination(s) of motherboard, CPU, video card, memory, and hard drive that provide the "best" performance-to-cost relative to the Mac Mini; rank the combinations by preference (eg: for me, cost outweighed performance as long as performance exceeded the Mac Mini)
  5. Choose a computer case compatible with the preferred hardware.
  6. Select components needed to complete the PC build (ie: optical drive, expansion cards, fans, etc.). Make sure the components are compatible with the OS X.
  7. Estimate the power requirements of the PC, and select a power supply capable of supplying the needed power and compatible with the hardware. (eg: my power requirements ranged from 275W for the nominal hardware listed below to a maximum of 426W if all bays, expansion slots, and ports of the case are populated, everything is under full load, the computer is not overclocked, and power is drawn only from the power supply)
  8. Review the "final" configuration; repeat steps 3 thru 7 if necessary until happy.
Rather than boring you with the specific details on the process, here is my "Final" configuration:
Mac Mini Hackintosh: Hardware Configuration
GA-G41M-Combo, LGA 775 Intel G41 Micro ATX
Core 2 Quad Q9300, 2.50 GHz
2GB DDR3-1333MHz (PC-10600) CL9
Video Card:
GeForce 9500GT 512MB DDR2 PCIe 2.0 x16
Hard Drive:
Barracuda ST3250318AS 500GB 7200 RPM SATA
Optical Drive:
22x DVD±RW SATA, Dual / Double Layer Support, OEM
3-Port Firewire PCI Card SD-VIA-3F
Power Supply:
Cooler Master
RS-460-PMSR-A3, eXtreme Power Supply, 460W
TX366 MicroATX Case, bare
Front Fan:
Cooler Master
120mm Fan
OS 10.6 "Snow Leopard" (MC573Z/A)
Click thumbnail at right for larger photo of the hardware
Photo of listed components.

Total cost of the hardware and operating system, including tax, rebates, and a package of attractive "slot covers" (only a dollar...quite a deal)totalled $378.16: Almost half the retail price of a new Mid-2010 Mac Mini! A substantial cost savings, and I could have saved even more had I waited until the after-Christmas sales.

The retail package of OS X Snow Leopard Version 10.6.3 selected for this build was the Single-User Upgrade ($30, MC573Z/A) instead of the much-more-expensive but far-more-capable Single-User "Mac Box Set", which adds the iLife creativity software and iWork productivity software. According to the Geniuses at my local Apple Store, the upgrade version "...checks the computer for a valid EFI string..." and "...lacks any graphics drivers...", thus requiring an Intel-processor Mac with OS X 10.4 or later already installed, while the box set is a "...full installation package..." and only requires an Intel-processor Mac. For Hackintosh computers, EFI strings and graphics drivers are provided by the Hackintosh community, so the Upgrade version is sufficient and keeps the total cost down. Note that had I intended to install OS X on more than one computer I would have purchased the Family Pack.

Hardware Installation:

Between the instructions included with each component, and this helpful basic PC building guide by, I managed to attach all the components into the case and to each other without any major problems. During the assembly I collected these details and tips:
  • Front Fan: The TX366 Case's front panel accepts either a 90mm or 120mm fan. Installing the 120mm Cooler Master fan turned out to be an extremely tight fit.
  • CPU Heat Sink & Fan: Intel uses four 1/4-turn, spring-loaded, plastic screws to attach the Fan / Heatsink combination to corresponding holes in the motherboard. Apparently, this is supposed to be an easy task, but I found it very frustrating: After seemingly attaching one of the screws, attaching the next screw caused the previous one to pop out of its hole. For a few minutes there I believed I was playing a game of Whac-A-Mole™.
  • Drive Bays: The TX366 Case contains two external 5.25" drive bays, two external 3.5" drive bays, and four internal drive bays. The optical drive was installed in the top-most 5.25' drive bay. The hard drive was installed in the second of the four 3.5" drive bays, just behind the centerline of the front fan, allowing the fan to cool the drive's upper and lower surfaces.
  • Drive Cables: The Optical Drive's cable was installed on SATA2-0 and the Hard Drive's cable was installed on SATA2-2. Note: In the BIOS Setup, the Standard CMOS Features menu indicated optical drive on SATA2-0 as Ch.2 Master and HDD on SATA2-3 as Ch.3 Slave.
  • RAM: The single DDR3 RAM stick was installed in DDR3 bank 1. Note: The GA-G41M-Combo board supports either DDR2 or DDR3 memory, but not both.
  • Audio: The case's Front Panel audio conforms to the AC'97 spec, while the cable has both HD Audio and AC'97 connectors. I connected the cable's AC'97 connector to the motherboard's Front Panel Audio Header.
  • Power Switch: The case does not include a built-in speaker, so its' Front Panel  connector was installed on the lower pin set of the motherboard's Front Panel Header (ie: pins 1 thru 12, without speaker support)
Next: Software Installation...