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The Hackintosh Process

THE MAC HACK

We show you how to install and run OS X Lion on your ordinary PC


Mac Hack 

There are a lot of things that Apple gets right, but pricing is not one of them. This is a company that’s made a fortune by defying conventional wisdom, so it’s hard not to admire it and its products despite their occasional quirks and shortcomings. Apple’s appeal has grown from a long history of understanding what users are really doing with their computers and devices, and knowing how to create things that people will desire. It’s all about the experience—their goal is to make you feel delight and wonderment from the time you walk into a shop till you take your new device out of its box and switch it on for the first time. Everything that Apple does, from the iron-clad secrecy it maintains around upcoming products to the theatricality of its unveilings, is designed to further that experience. Once the association with joy has been made in buyers’ minds, they’re hooked.

Mac OS X has a lot of appeal: the graphics are rich, security is higher than Windows, it’s generally easier for beginners to get used to, and there’s some excellent software available for creative professionals. For most people though, just the “coolness” factor and thrill of getting it working without spending money on Apple hardware are reason enough to try.

This is the “reality distortion field” effect that dozens of other companies have tried to emulate over the years, to varying degrees of success. Just like everyone else, Apple has had to adapt to a changing world, one in which everything is mass produced in China, there are only two or three manufacturers of each kind of high-end component, and it costs too much to try and do things on your own. Today, it’s possible to take a small chunk of that Apple experience and use it on your own, outside the confines of the expensive ecosystem built specifically for it. The enjoyment won’t be the same, but the whole point is to expand users’ options and give them the choice.

We’re referring, of course, to running Mac OS X on any ordinary PC, something that the Cupertino giant does not like, endorse or acknowledge in any way. Apple’s desktop OS is finely tuned to work with its own hardware, software and online services: an entire ecosystem. This has the disadvantage of limiting your choices (and budget range) when it comes to buying a new computer, but it has the advantage of eliminating the thousands of variables that tend to make Windows machines slow or unstable. Apple has never expressly allowed other brands to sell machines with OS X preinstalled, so you’ll never find a Mac bogged down with “bloatware” added on by third-party manufacturers, and you won’t have to go hunting for a printer driver when you need one, because it’s already built in.

Be warned, running OS X is a tricky proposition and it’s not endorsed by Apple in any way. You’ll be contravening their end-user license agreement and will not have access to any help or support from them. You also won’t have a Mac-specific keyboard, mouse or trackpad, which will make several shortcuts and gestures impossible to use. This process is not recommended for casual users, or anyone who isn’t familiar with the internal workings of a PC. You run the risk of erasing your hard drive and losing whatever’s on it, so make sure you have backups. Moreover, obtaining a legal copy of Lion, the latest version of OS X, is entirely your responsibility.

The Hackintosh Process

Mack Hack

Installing an operating system on hardware not originally designed for it is a tricky process. Apple is famous for building experiences around tightly integrated hardware and software, so problems are bound to crop up when trying to run OS X on unfamiliar components. It’s not impossible to run OS X on commodity PC hardware, but this isn’t a project to undertake if you’re not 100 percent comfortable with your computer’s inner workings.

As of now, OS X Lion is a bit more difficult to get running than previous versions, Leopard and Snow Leopard. Methods of running these older versions have existed for years now, and a vibrant developer community online is constantly making new drivers available to extend compatibility with all kinds of hardware. With Lion only recently released, the driver database is understandably small, and it’s quite likely that you’ll run into compatibility issu4es and other odd problems. The most frustrating issue we faced was with an incompatible USB keyboard, which caused all sorts of input errors!

Before beginning any experiment, we must emphasize the importance of backing up everything on your computer. Make a list of all hardware and drivers and search online for known problems. Then, if you’re sure you understand all the risks and liabilities, you’re ready to proceed.

 

Once you have downloaded Lion and have all the files ready, you can start the process.

STEP 1

Copy the Lion installation file (InstallESD.dmg) and Kakewalk to the desktop of the Macintosh. Run the Kakewalk utility, and on the main screen, click on ‘Install to a USB stick’.

STEP 2

On the next screen, select the location of the Lion DMG file and choose the USB stick as the destination. Make sure you choose the correct destination (the USB stick), or you’ll end up installing it to the Mac you’re working on. When you’re sure, click the ‘Create’ button.

STEP 3

The Kakewalk utility will do the necessary work in the background. It involves formatting the USB stick, mounting the Lion DMG image, copying the installer files and packages to the USB stick and a lot more. All this is done in the background and may take a while depending on the speed of the pen drive. Your USB stick will also be renamed to ‘Kakewalk’.

STEP 4

After the process is complete, the utility will ask you to start the Kakewalk installation. Click OK to continue and the next screen will ask you to choose your motherboard model number. The exact version is preferable, but a close variant will also do. Make sure you have an Internet connection as Kakewalk will need to download the necessary drivers from its repository. If your motherboard is not listed, you’ll have to choose the closest match. Then carefully select your destination as the USB drive (now renamed as Kakewalk). Click on ‘Start Installation’. After completion, you can safely eject the USB stick and return the Macintosh to its owner, unscathed.

STEP 5

Now plug the USB stick into your PC and turn it on. Go to the BIOS where a few changes need to be made. Change the boot priority to USB HDD. Next, make sure you make the following changes if you have the options in your BIOS: HPET: Enable (64-bit), ACPI Suspend type: S3 (STR) and Hard drive: AHCI enabled. Save and close the BIOS settings. Restart the PC and boot from the USB stick.

STEP 6

When you boot from the USB stick, you will be greeted by Kakewalk’s EFI bootloader. Select the USB stick (Kakewalk) on your screen and press [Enter].

WARNING: The target hard drive will be reformatted and all data on it will be lost. If possible, install Lion on a new, blank hard drive.

STEP 7

After a long process during which you’ll see lines of text characters scrolling continuously, you will land at the Lion installation screen. If you have not reached here, it’s possible that a compatibility issue has been discovered. Note the error lines displayed on screen and search the Internet for a specific solution. You should find specific help on the various forums dedicated to OS X fans. For example, the error ‘DSMOS has arrived’ means that the video card is not compatible.

STEP 8

Follow the steps shown on screen till you arrive at the screen which asks you to choose the destination disk to install the OS to. At this screen, click on ‘Utilities’ and then ‘Disk Utility’. This will start the partition manager for Mac OS X

STEP 9

Using Disk Utility, click on your target hard drive in the left pane and then click on ‘Partition’ on the right pane. From the Volume Scheme, select ‘1 Partition’ and in the ‘Options’ below, select ‘GUID Partition Table’. Then in the Volume Information, type a name for the partition, select the format type as ‘Mac OS Extended (Journaled) and leave the rest untouched. Finally, click on ‘Apply’ and proceed to format the drive. Once done, exit Disk Utility and proceed with the installation of the OS. The installation will take around 30 minutes, at the end of which your computer will reboot. Leave the USB stick plugged in, as there is no bootloader yet.

STEP 10

This time, when the system boots again, choose to boot from the hard drive instead of the USB stick. Once booted, you should be welcomed  to the next steps of the installation. Continue with all the necessary details that are asked on the screen.

STEP 11

Once done, you should arrive at the default Lion desktop. Congratulations, your installation has been successful! But you have still got to install the bootloader to your hard drive so that it can boot up on its own.

STEP 12

Locate your USB stick in the OS X Finder and open it. You will find the application ‘Kakewalk’—double-click and run the utility. Click on the icon that reads ‘Install to Computer’.

STEP 13

This screen will highlight the motherboard model you chose while making the USB stick on the Macintosh. You cannot change anything here, so simply click on ‘Start Installation’. After a few minutes, you will be asked to reboot the machine. Now your bootloader is installed on your system and you can safely boot your PC from the hard drive. Mac OS X Lion is ready to go!

STEP 14

Installing drivers is the biggest headache, but you can do it in a few steps. First, using MultiBeast, you can install basic drivers for audio, network, graphics, and system components. Copy the Multibeast utility to your new desktop and run it. Follow the steps till you reach the ‘Installation Type’ screen. From the drop down list, carefully choose the drivers of your motherboard and graphics card by referring to their respective user manuals. If you are not sure of any of the drivers, simply don’t select it, or else you will cause errors known as Kernel panic, and might need to reinstall Lion all over again. When the process is complete, you’ll need to reboot the PC.

STEP 15

Additional drivers that are not available through Multibeast can be downloaded and installed separately using the KextBeast utility. The drivers are usually in the form of .KEXT files and need to be inserted into certain folders and their permissions set to a particular level. KextBeast does it for you automatically. All you need to do is copy the KEXT files and the KextBeast utility to the desktop and run the utility. It will automatically search for the drivers on the desktop and install them.

The Switcher’s Guide to Lion

1. The dock

Somewhat like your Windows taskbar and Start menu rolled into one, the Dock is where shortcuts to all your favorite applications live. Just like in Windows 7, icons in the Dock might represent programs that are running (indicated by a glowing dock, though this can be turned off) or simply ones that are there for quick access. The right hand side of the dock shows individual program windows that are currently minimized. You’ll also find pinned folders here: Trash, the recycle bin equivalent; Documents, where the files you create are saved by default; and Downloads, a central place for downloaded files, as the name suggests.

2. Program behavior

Here’s where things get very different from Windows. Programs can run even when no windows are open. What that means is that a browser or image viewer, for example, doesn’t stop running when you close all open web pages or images, but you won’t see an “empty” program window either. You can manually quit each program that isn’t required anymore, or let Lion decide when it needs to free up resources. Take a look at the menu bar that’s always on the top of your screen—the name of the running program will be visible, even if no windows are open. New in Lion, most programs will open exactly the way you left them when they were last closed, including any open documents, web pages or other work in progress. For privacy or convenience, you can disable this behavior in ‘System Preferences’.

For reasons unknown, OS X has never allowed windows to be maximized to fill your screen. Instead, the “traffic light” controls in the top left corner let you “zoom” a window till its content fits on screen. New to Lion, a Full Screen mode acts somewhat like maximizing a program, but this doesn’t just affect a window’s size, it can change its look completely.

3. The keyboard

Say goodbye to [Ctrl] and [Alt], you now have to learn to deal with [Control], [Cmd] and [Option]. ([Cmd] maps to the [Win] key on most PC keyboards). Use [Cmd]+[C] or [Z] to copy or undo, but you’ll have to hold down [Option] to select multiple items in a list. If it takes too long to get used to the new keyboard positions, you can remap keys via the ‘Keyboard’ panel in ‘System Preferences’.

4. The Finder

Where Windows has Explorer, OS X has the Finder, the only difference being that a lot more is hidden from the user. You can’t usually browse through protected parts of the hard drive, and as of Lion, top-level folders and hard drives themselves aren’t visible by default. This makes things simpler for beginners, who can simply save documents to ‘Documents’ and find downloads in ‘Downloads’, but it takes time for advanced users to accustomed. Views are also different: iTunes users will recognize Cover Flow, and the multi-column view is handy when digging through deeply nested folders.

5. Spaces and Mission Control

OS X Lion takes virtual desktops mainstream—you can organize your windows across multiple “Spaces”, just like multiple invisible monitors arranged side to side for visual reference. Switch between Spaces with a two-fingered trackpad swipe, or [Control]+[]/[]. Mission Control ([F3] or two-fingered double-tap) lets you see a zoomed-out view of all your Spaces and the programs currently running in each. You can force programs to run only within their own Space, and any app in fullscreen mode is counted as its own Space. Bonus: each Space can have its own background wallpaper.

6. iOS carryovers

All the new features that headlined Lion’s release were in some way inspired by the iPhone and iPad user experience. The first one you’ll notice is “natural scrolling”, exactly the opposite of what we’re used to. Instead of dragging a scrollbar down, you pull a page’s contents up. Text autocorrects itself just like on an iPhone, so beware of the sometimes overenthusiastic substitutions. The entire OS can shut down and resume exactly as you left it, with apps open and documents running. Documents are automatically saved as you work, rendering the ‘Save as…’ command redundant.

7. Time Machine and Versions

Since most people only realize the importance of backups when it’s too late, Apple has tried to make the process as easy as possible. Time Machine is a one-click solution; set it up and you can pull out backups at any time. With Lion, you can also track revisions to individual files and documents. Click the document name a program’s title bar to browse through previous Versions of a document and rescue elements in them that you’ve since deleted, even if you didn’t save different copies as you went along. Lion will save a copy as often as every minute. After two weeks, files are “locked”, and you’ll be prompted when edits will change the current version of a file.

8. Built-in programs

Apart from the well-known iTunes jukebox and Safari web browser, Mac OS X comes with a cool email client and built-in apps for contacts and calendaring. These now look a lot like their iPad counterparts, and are just as capable. If you need to find some additional software, you can now browse through the Mac App Store and buy or download anything that’s available. Every new Mac also comes with iLife, a suite of programs including iPhoto for photo management and basic edits, iMovie, a fun video editing tool, and Garage Band, which pretty much anyone can use to learn and create music.

9. Other cool things

OS X has some of the best accessibility features for disabled users. Check them out via the ‘System Preferences’. There are also built-in parental controls, voice commands and encryption options. There are loads of commands to tweak the interface, known as “defaults write” commands that you can type into the Terminal. Search online for dozens of options, such as changing the look of your dock, or enabling new animations. The Automator is a powerful, but little-known utility for creating scripts to automate repetitive tasks. And Airdrop, in the Finder, is a brilliantly easy way to share files between two Macs via Wi-Fi. Hit [Cmd]+[Space] at any point to bring up Spotlight, the system-wide search tool that finds files, programs, settings, help, and now even dictionary definitions. OS X even has built in spelling, grammar and Wikipedia functions—almost any selectable text can be looked up.

10. Things that behave badly

Lion can’t run programs written for older, non-Intel CPUs. You shouldn’t encounter any such programs today, except in very specialized cases. Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 runs fine, but 2004 won’t work at all. Initial users have also reported trouble with several Adobe apps including Flash Player and most of the Creative Suite products. Users with Time Machine backups on external drives might be out of luck due to new requirements that older drives don’t yet support. Most of these problems will be fixed by updates from the respective vendors, but it’s a good idea to search online for potential pitfalls before installing Lion.