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Build a Mountain Lion Hackintosh w/ Thunderbolt That's Faster Than a Mac Pro -- for Half the Price

10.2.12 @ 4:34PM Tags :

Apple OS X Mountain Lion came out this summer and it supports the latest Intel Ivy Bridge processors — which means it’s time to update our guide to building a Mac out of high-performance, inexpensive PC components. It also happens that you can get a PC motherboard with Thunderbolt ports that work in OS X — and you can’t even get a Thunderbolt Mac Pro! Our old machine (the Hackintosh I built in October 2010) is still running great, but this new machine is much faster than a Mac Pro and is still less than half the price — with the latest nVidia graphics cards also getting native support for great video/3D/pro performance. With Apple CEO Tim Cook noting there’s something new in the works for later next year (2013), it doesn’t look like we’ll be getting a new Mac Pro anytime soon (and when it does come out it’ll likely be much more expensive than this machine) — so here’s a step-by-step guide to building the latest, greatest (fake) Mac money can buy.

Link: How to Build a Hacktinosh (Mountain Lion Update)


We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

Description image 54 COMMENTS

  • Hell. Yes.

  • Just an FYI, the first paragraph of the updated article says you’re running OSX Lion 10.8.2…think you mean Mountain Lion. :) Thanks for the update, this’ll be an interesting read for me.

  • Steve Jobs on 10.2.12 @ 5:26PM


    -Sent from my iPad

  • While I’m a fan of building a Hackintosh (I’ve built two although it’s not my primary machine – I created DCP’s and do digital cinema mastering) – I do think you should point out in significant gotchas with Hackintoshes. While you do point out the technical issue and legality, it should be noted that:

    1. Your software and possible hardware support is likely voided. If you have a motherboard or component failure, you should replicate and report under Windows (or maybe Linux) or else you may have issues with even hardware warranty (doing something “illegal” with your gear. And most tech support lines will turn a deaf ear to any help with balky components. You should have a dual book or at least a live CD for your machine. Yes, there are forums but they don’t help when you’ve got problematic hardware issues.

    2. Choosing a Hackintosh as primary machine for a business or money related project entails a lot of risk especially related to down-time. Sticking to your component list does help but you should have at least one alternate machine that’s fully functional. Backing up is not enough – you need a backup machine.

    3. Getting software support and drivers for items used in video and post (audio interfaces, breakout boxes, monitoring capture devices, software with hardware dongles etc. is often going to be impossible or buggy. Be sure you anticipate well what you will be doing with it otherwise you might be wasting time and money.

    • I say this in the article itself, not in this blurb… “if you have the money, buy a Mac Pro.” And several other disclaimers…

  • Just want to say the original Hackintosh guide was how I first came across Nofilmschool. I used it as a jumping off point to build my own, similar Hackintosh, and it has made my life a lot easier in terms of getting work in as an editor when I couldn’t get a Mac Pro. This guide, and the general community built up around this site, were a big part of me summoning up the guts to go freelance. So I guess I recommend it.

  • For the hackintosh, can you just simply swap the Intel H77 LGA 1155 Motherboard, with the Intel Z77 Dual Thunderbolt ATX Motherboard?

    • I didn’t check that the Z77 supports the CPU that I matched with the H77, but for the most part the parts are interchangeable.

    • If you’ve not built a Hackintosh before, just be careful about thinking “I’ll just swap this for that”. As good as they are, building a Hackintosh can go from straightforward to frustrating very quickly if you don’t pick you components carefully. There are sites like Tonymacx86 you should check regarding compatibility it you’re not going to follow Koo’s list. Though if you’re thinking of the Z77 because it’s got dual Thunderbolt, what do you need dual 10Gb/s for?

      • “Though if you’re thinking of the Z77 because it’s got dual Thunderbolt, what do you need dual 10Gb/s for?”

        I don’t need dual thunderbolt, just one port will do. I’ve never built one and don’t want to deviate from Koo’s list beyond the need for thunderbolt.

  • Speaking of hacking. Here’s an update on the magic lantern 7d situation

  • Ryan can you provide a link to direct download the guide in PDF? :)


  • I just finished building my first hackintosh 2 days ago thanks to recommended build on tonymacx86, and after a little bit of tweaking, everything is working great, i ‘m currently editing a first project with fcp7 and motion (optical flow and stabilisation are FAST!)
    Glad i decide to go the hackintosh way, thank you Ryan for your article that made me realize a few month ago that it was doable!

  • Awesome, Ryan, thanks for sharing and updating this wonderful resource!


  • Andrius Simutis on 10.4.12 @ 3:43PM

    Not to trigger a whole flame war, but one thing you should also point out about cost savings is that in the long run a real Mac will hold more resale value. Don’t know how this will really pencil out in your decision making, but it should be considered.
    If you’re looking at this from a hobby standpoint, then screw it! Jump in with both feet and have fun! I’d just be a little more cautious from a business or economic standpoint when you calculate resale value and potential risk from downtime and support.

    • Not sure how many people would be willing to buy a used hackintosh built by someone else.

      I’ve thought about this, and it would be easy enough to throw a copy of Windows 7 on there after I’m done using the machine. I have 4 bona fide licenses, and would be glad to give one away to sell the machine in the future.

  • If the machine is just for video, and you’re using the Creative Suite and/or Resolve, having access to all of the nvidia cards is a huge plus. Running 2 580s has made my workflow ridiculously fast.

    If you’re a Mac user and plan to do other things with the computer in addition then stick with what you know. I’m assuming that’s most people. But if it’s just a work station, there are some real advantages to going all the way.

    • … and it looks like you can use any of the nvidea cards. My mistake – stick with what you know and like.

    • Andrius Simutis on 10.5.12 @ 1:28PM

      With Lion it’s really not that hard to run the nVidia cards…I’ve got a 570 in my 8core MacPro.

  • I built my Hack December last year, dual boots with Windows 7 and must say it was the best thing I ever did!

    Mine is a i5 2500k, 16GB ram, Nvidia 570 gfx, based on a Gigabyte ga-z68x mobo.

    This cost just over a grand.

    The basic Mac Pro (ok they have a Intel Quad core Xeon cpu) and accepting all basics on the apple site comes to £2349, £300 of that is for 16GB of ram, mine cost me £70, go figure!

    Was running a iMac G5 prior to upgrade, time taking to render a 90 min project approx 8 – 9 hours, with the Hack 50 MINUTES!!!

    Yes, it was a power pc cpu, but still, for just over a grand got essentially 2 computers in the one box.

    (Incidentally I’ve kept the G5, I’m not daft, as previous comments above, you need a backup and I know that the G5 although slow works!)

    • Andrius Simutis on 10.5.12 @ 1:52PM

      Richie, You really can’t compare any modern computer to a G5. How old is that? At least 6 to 8 years old and that’s an eternity in computer age.
      If you want to make a better comparison based purely on the money, you should look at all the options…a new mac with Apple’s Ram is going to be expensive, while a new Mac with third party ram is going to be less so. You could also do what I just did…I bought a used MacPro for cheap and put in an SSD, nVidia 570, and more ram and have a genuine MacPro running really fast for about the same as a hackintosh would have cost. With the upgrades it’s performance is fairly comparable to the latest macs and hackintoshes without the hassles.

      • I’m curious, what Mac pro did you buy? I’m seeing used and refurbished mac pros on ebay for 400-600 dollars. If I got those, could I up the RAM and graphics card or is there a certain thing I should look for?

  • I’m thinking about building a Hack Pro for the purpose of using Resolve 9. That being the case, would I look at Black Magic’s Configuration Guide (the newest one just came out) for PC or Mac?

  • I built the EXACT system no film school recommended and had millions of issues. I think the hackintosh is a total waste of time for any professional. Free tech support goes a long way when you have billable hours to clients.

    Yes, you can build a faster system for half the price, but you WILL waste a week of your life building/testing/fixing it.

  • Thanks for the great site Koo. I just pulled the trigger and purchased your hackintosh config off amazon (hope you get the commission). This is my first hackintosh build so I’m looking forward to the experience–planning to dual boot it with Win8 and eventually with Ubuntu too.
    To start off, I’m a certifiable Apple/Steve Jobs hater. I do however have to recognize that I can no longer isolate myself from the Apple world. More importantly, I can’t let my bias influence my kids when it comes to using computers and I think they should get a taste of all the various flavors of OS’s out there. I figure this build is the ideal system to achieve that–one that’s not limited in resources and power and one that’s affordable as well.
    I do have a couple questions about your configuration and hardware choices however:
    1. The Ivy Bridge has a pretty good HD4000 integrated graphics engine — does that get bypassed or does the nVidia GeForce card work with it and split up graphics tasks? (I’m kind of interested in it’s WIDI functionality)
    2. Your ‘Pro’ build has a mobo with built in wifi and bluetooth — does this not work with mountain lion?
    3. I plan on going the Snow Leopard route initially to get a feel for things and then upgrade to Mountain Lion — will Snow Leopard work on this system or is this only a “bridge” solution to get to Mtn Lion?
    Thanks again for putting up this site and hours of work it must have taken.

    • 1. You can initially try the buil-in graphics but once you switch to the GTX it will be powering 100% of things. The only exception I can think of is DaVinci Resolve, where you might be able to power your monitor from the buil-in port and use the GTX just for processing — but I don’t know if the built-in graphics are even powerful enough to power your monitor with Resolve.

      2. The built-in WiFi is not recognized as an Apple Airport. You want the add-on card. I couldn’t get the built-in bluetooth to work and so I spent the few bucks for the dongle rather than try to find a workaround; YMMV.

  • i’ve been working on this and everything has been great up until turning it on. what kind of monitor do you plug into this? i tried a thunderbolt display and nothing, i tried a hp pavilion monitor and nothing, i also tried the hdmi out into a tv and nothing. any suggestions or did i kill this thing?

    • What happens if you try the built-in display output first, then go through MultiBeast and install the drivers, and then switch to the GTX card (I’m assuming, since I don’t know which mobo/GPU you’re using)?

      • i installed the motherboard GA-Z77X-UP5 TH, EVGA GeForce GTX570 HD 2560MB GDDR5 SLI Ready Graphics Card and the i7-3770k with the cooling systems all installed. i installed the SSD ,optical drive and hard drive. i also have my corsair 32GB of ram all installed. i have power going to everything, i unplugged the sata cables so the drives just have power. i plugged in all the cables from the case except i unplugged the front usb 3.0 just incase they where interfering with anything. when i turn on the computer everything fires up and all the fans spin but if i plug in any monitor in the monitor on the motherboard or try the hdmi to a tv from either the motherboard or the graphics card i get nothing at all… no sign of life at. do i need a special monitor or something?

        • You shouldn’t. Try clearing the CMOS (button around back). Try removing all but one stick of RAM. Is your GPU hooked up to the power supply properly? It could be a number of things, if I fail to help you I’d also post to tonymac as they have more people that can help than just one!

          • still nothing, might be in over my head on this one… thanks for your help! i’ll try the tonymac site.

          • i have it figured out… the outputs from the motherboard where shut off by the graphics card and it does work on the dvi output. thanks again for the help!

        • As I have read on Tonymac, you can only use the Thunderbolt display on the MB thunderbolt connectors. If you want to use the discrete GPU you need to use a Cinema display with mdisplayport instead.

          • thanks ryan and jerry… good stuff and thanks for the time. i’m getting some advice on this and i will let you know what i find out. i really appreciate the replies!

  • Will this configuration fit inside an old G5 case?

  • i gotta say your instructions are great… i had a situation where the card didn’t allow the monitor ports from the card work and that threw me for a little loupe but it turned out awesome! everything works including the thunderbolt ports (not for a monitor but for the hard drives) and i used all your exact settings and suggestions. i’m getting on the 32bit geekbench a score of 12761 so really maybe 13761!!! thanks so much i owe you!

  • Richard Collins on 10.24.12 @ 4:37AM

    Hi Ryan, Great site! Been reading for years.

    I want to ask you a question, how stable/reliable is your Hac Pro?

    I’ve just sold my MacBook Pro and raised enough money to build the exact machine in your article. This will be to run FCPX, Premiere CS6, After Effects and Photoshop.

    Thanks in advance


    • Usually the only problems are with upgrading — if you install a new version of the OS, for example, you may need to re-do the MultiBeast steps. There have been a couple hiccups here and there with Wi-Fi connectivity and eSATA ports but overall after a couple of years of using it I’d say it’s been pretty damn stable. Again, I would NOT recommend this for pro/client work but it’s a nice machine for home/personal/prosumer use.

  • hardbonermac on 10.26.12 @ 3:04PM

    no waste – but one thing more….

    i use 23 hackintoshas and some 4 mac pros and about 12 i7 render pcs.
    i do not see any difference between the pros and the others – just computers.
    and it is 0 and 1 and 1 and 00 and…. so make it.

  • I try to bild hackintosh with GA-X79-UD5 and 3970 processor ,Quadro 5000…What do you think

  • If you run a business, I would think you would be more concerned about running illegal software than saving a few bucks. MacOS X is licensed for Apple hardware only.

  • The motherboard on Kickstarter is amazing. It has all the correct ports and INTEL lan so wake works. Possibly installation over network

  • No individual has EVER been prosecuted for making a computer that runs any Apple OS version, ever.