January 25, 2012

Can I install OS X on my PC? Read this first.

LAST UPDATED: January 6, 2015

Having compatible hardware in a Hackintosh (a PC running Mac OS X) makes the difference between success and failure. If you're interested in installing Mac OS X on your PC, it's important to know what hardware is compatible and what isn't. Hackintosh compatibility varies, depending on whether your computer was self-built or prebuilt, and whether it's a desktop PC or a laptop. (If you don't know what hardware your current computer has, use a program like CPU-Z.)

This article will help you determine whether your current PC can run Mac OS X. However, if you're looking to build an entirely new computer for Hackintoshing, the easiest route is always to follow tonymacx86's CustoMac build recommendations, or our own list of cheap Hackintosh builds. If you don't want to build your own computer, check out our 2013-2014 laptop buying guide, or our overview of the Dell XPS 8500 (one of the only prebuilt desktop Hackintoshes that has been well-documented).

Self-Built Computers
Motherboard:If your computer's motherboard was designed for Intel processors, and was manufactured in 2010 or newer, there is a pretty good chance that it will work with Mac OS X. Motherboards made before 2010 are a lot trickier to work with, and may not be worth the effort.

In the past, motherboards from the brand Gigabyte were the best-supported, since they were the only boards that work by default with the CPU power management service built into Mac OS X. However, this is no longer the case.

These days, most "new" motherboards offer compatible CPU power management for Mac OS X. So if your computer's motherboard was released in 2014 or later (a.k.a. it was made for Intel Haswell processors), it will most likely work with OS X by default, although you'll probably have to update your motherboard's BIOS to the newest version first.

Of course, there are exceptions: some "new" Haswell motherboards still don't have compatible power management right now, causing Mac OS X to immediately reboot every time you try to start it. In the case of those motherboards, you'll have to manually patch the OS X kernel via Terminal. Check out the "How to patch your kernel" section of this tonymacx86 guide for more details.

Getting CPU power management to work on "old" motherboards made before Haswell can be trickier:
  • If you have a pre-2014 Gigabyte motherboard that uses UEFI instead of BIOS, you don't have to do anything extra.
  • If you have a pre-2014 Gigabyte motherboard that uses BIOS, you will need a DSDT file, which you can probably find in the DSDT section of tonymacx86. DSDT files are configuration files that make Mac OS X to work with your specific motherboard (the DSDT for one motherboard will not work with another motherboard).
  • If you have a pre-2014 non-Gigabyte motherboard that uses UEFI, it will need a patched BIOS file.
  • If you have a pre-2014 non-Gigabyte motherboard that uses BIOS, it will need a DSDT file. Check out tonymacx86's DSDT section to see if they have a DSDT for your motherboard. If tonymacx86 doesn't have the right DSDT file (the selection of non-Gigabyte DSDTs on there is very limited), you can also consider patching your own DSDT file with MaciASL.
Alternatively, you can also get CPU power management to work on virtually any of these "old" motherboards by using Multibeast to install either NullCPUPowerManagement or a patched version of AppleIntelCPUPowerManagement. However, these two methods are generally considered to be rather clumsy fixes, and both come with a few disadvantages. Also, neither method works with "new" motherboards.

Whether you have a Gigabyte motherboard or a non-Gigabyte motherboard, be sure to search Google for specific Hackintoshing instructions on your particular motherboard. For example, if you have a Asus P8Z68-V LX Motherboard, then search "P8Z68-V LX hackintosh" on Google. Besides Gigabyte, ASUS is the second most popular motherboard brand for Hackintoshes, so you can often find a lot of Hackintoshing guides about ASUS boards on Google. You might also find Hackintoshing guides on motherboards from other brands, but they are far less common than guides for Gigabyte and ASUS boards.

Graphics card: Besides the motherboard, this is probably the most important part of your build. Mac OS X often does not work with the built-in ("integrated") graphics on motherboards or CPUs; you can check the CPU section below for more info. In those cases, you will have to buy a separate graphics card for your computer.

Old graphics cards (like the NVIDIA 8800GT and AMD Radeon 5770) will often work with Mac OS X "out of the box", without the need for any extra drivers or modifications. Most cards in the AMD Radeon 6600 and 6800 series will work in Mac OS X out of the box, as well. Some cards in the NVIDIA 400 series also do this, but most of these cards require you to install OpenCL Enabler in Multibeast (for Lion and Mountain Lion), or the official NVIDIA drivers (for Snow Leopard).

As for newer NVIDIA cards, many cards from the NVIDIA 500 series work with Mac OS X Lion and newer, while many cards from the 600 series work with version 10.7.5 of Mac OS X Lion and newer. To enable graphics support for a 500-series card in Mac OS X Lion, you have to install OpenCL Enabler in Multibeast. In OS X Mountain Lion and Mavericks, however, these 500 and 600-series cards will often simply work out of the box. Many cards from the NVIDIA 700 series work out of the box as well, in version 10.8.4+ of Mountain Lion and Mavericks. For 600-series and 700-series cards, you have to use the boot flag "GraphicsEnabler=No" (without quotation marks) when booting Mac OS X. NVIDIA's newest 900-series cards will work in OS X Yosemite with extra drivers.

Regarding newer AMD Radeon cards, the AMD 6900 series isn't supported (and probably never will be). The AMD 7000 series received support in OS X Mountain Lion 10.8.3. However, the setup process for these cards is still harder than for the newest NVIDIA cards. The same thing goes for AMD's newest R9 200 series, which is largely just a rebranding of the 7000 series. Many of the mainstream desktop models work, but they won't necessarily work "out of the box" like comparable NVIDIA cards.

Additionally, ATI CrossfireX and NVIDIA SLI, which allow you to run two separate graphics cards as a single graphics card on Windows, do not work on a Hackintosh. Mac OS X will always recognize double-card setups as two separate graphics card.

Mac OS X can be very picky about graphics cards; the manufacturer of the card matters just as much as the card's model. For example, a Gigabyte Radeon 5770 graphics card might work differently from a Sapphire Radeon 5770 graphics card. In addition, when we say that a particular graphics card series is compatible, this doesn't necessarily apply to every single card in the series. Oftentimes, lower-end graphics cards and mobile graphics cards in these series don't actually work, for a variety of reasons.

Before buying a specific card, always check Google first; for example, if you want to check the compatibility of a Sapphire Radeon HD 6850, search "Sapphire 6850 hackintosh" on Google. It's easy and saves you a lot of trouble.

For more detailed information, check out our guide on Hackintosh graphics cards.

CPU: Almost any Intel CPU manufactured in 2010 or newer will work with Mac OS X. AMD CPUs are barely supported, and therefore not recommended. If your Intel CPU was manufactured before 2010, it may still be able to run Mac OS X Snow Leopard, but it probably won't work with Mac OS X Lion, Mountain Lion, or Mavericks. These are 64-bit operating systems (x86-64), so they're incompatible with the 32-bit architecture (x86) that older CPUs use. In this section, we will mostly focus on processors from Intel's mainstream "Core" processors.

The Sandy Bridge generation of Intel Core processors is supported by all recent versions of Mac OS X. Sandy Bridge processors are the processors with a model number in the 2000's, such as the Core i5-2500. They include built-in graphics cards that work with Lion, Mountain Lion, and Mavericks (but not Snow Leopard), and come in two versions: HD 2000 and HD 3000. Unfortunately, only HD 3000 graphics are officially supported. HD 2000 sort of works, but it doesn't have graphics acceleration, so it's not recommended.

The Ivy Bridge generation of Intel Core processors is supported by Mac OS X Lion 10.7.5 and all newer versions (Mountain Lion, Mavericks, and Yosemite). Ivy Bridge processors have a model number in the 3000's, such as the Core i5-3450. Ivy Bridge is not supported by Mac OS X Snow Leopard; while you can still technically install Snow Leopard, CPU power management does not work. They also include built-in graphics cards, which come in two versions: HD 2500 and HD 4000. HD 4000 graphics work with Mac OS X Lion 10.7.5 and newer. HD 2500 graphics work with OS X Mountain Lion, starting from version 10.8.3; however, it does not work in OS X Mavericks.

The Haswell generation of Intel Core processors is supported by OS X Mountain Lion 10.8.5 and all newer versions. As with Ivy Bridge, you can still install Mac OS X Snow Leopard on a Haswell computer by using iBoot Haswell, but sooner or later, you're going to have to update to something newer. Haswell processors have a model number in the 4000's, such as the Core i7-4770. They include built-in graphics cards, which come in two versions: HD 4600 and HD 4400. HD 4600 graphics work with OS X Mavericks and OS X Mountain Lion (version 10.8.5 and above). HD 4400 does not work in Mac OS X. There are also several specialty Haswell processors that use HD 5200 and HD 5000, which are essentially the same as the HD 4600, in terms of compatibility. These two integrated graphics cards are generally only included in prebuilt computers or laptops. They also work in Mavericks and version 10.8.5+ of Mountain Lion.

For more detailed information, check out our guide on Hackintosh CPUs.

And the rest: Most WiFi adapters and WiFi cards don't work with Mac OS X. Using a wired internet connection with a Ethernet cord is preferred. If you need WiFi, check out our list of compatible PCI-based WiFi adapters, or our compatibility guide for USB-based WiFi adapters.

While most Bluetooth adapters technically work with Mac OS X, a large majority will break sleep mode. If you want to use a wireless mouse that needs Bluetooth (such as the Apple Magic Mouse), but you also want to use sleep mode, check out our list of recommended Bluetooth adapters.

Most hard drives should work fine, though there are occasional exceptions. Hard drives with 4096 byte sectors (instead of normal 512 byte sectors) have problems booting Mac OS X, and need a rather complicated Terminal fix. This issue is most common in Western Digital Caviar Green hard drives. Seagate hard drives are generally problem-free in this regard.

Just about every solid state drive (SSD) will work with Mac OS X by default. However, some SSDs don't have built-in garbage collection services, so you'll need to enable TRIM in Mac OS X by yourself.

Additionally, some optical drives may prevent Mac OS X from sleeping. If you want a safe choice, buy a from a confirmed DVD drive series like Sony Optiarc. Hackintoshes can read and write Blu-ray discs with a Blu-ray drive, but you can't play Blu-ray movies because they don't support Mac OS X.

If a webcam claims to be compatible with Mac OS X, then it's likely that it will work for Hackintoshes too. (Note that most webcams will not need drivers to run on OS X.)

The same goes for any other peripherals, such as mice and keyboards: most of them work, but you can never know for sure until you've tried it.

To check the compatibility of specific peripherals, be sure to check with Google. For instance, if you want to know whether the D-Link DBT-120 is compatible with Mac OS X, search "DBT-120 hackintosh" on Google.

Pre-built desktop computers
Okay, so maybe building a new computer isn't an option for you. It's definitely possible to turn a normal pre-built computer into a Hackintosh. It's just not very likely. If you want to attempt an install of Mac OS X on a pre-built computer, you need to do your research beforehand.

The main problem with pre-built computers is that they have really weird motherboards. When building PCs, manufacturers tend to use their own proprietary motherboards that nobody has ever heard of, so nobody has ever had to chance to make them compatible with Mac OS X.

You will have to search Google for specific Hackintoshing instructions for your particular model of computer. For example, if you have a Dell Optiplex 745, search "Dell Optiplex 745 hackintosh" on Google.

If you can't find a Hackintoshing guide (or wiki entry) for your desktop computer model, then the Hackintoshing process becomes a bit of a crapshoot. If your computer is a relatively new model and uses an Intel processor, there's a chance that it can run Mac OS X reasonably well. You will generally have the best luck with gaming PCs from small "boutique" manufacturers (like iBuyPower or CyberPowerPC), since they tend to use publicly available motherboards. However, without the help of a guide, I can't make any guarantees.

When it comes to Mac OS X compatibility, laptops are even worse than pre-built desktop computers. As mentioned earlier, very few WiFi cards work with OS X, and if your trackpad turns out to be incompatible, you can't even get past the first page of the Mac OS X installer.

The same rules for pre-built desktops apply to laptops: search Google for specific Hackintoshing instructions for your laptop model.

And good luck Hackintoshing.