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Build a Hackintosh with better performance than a Mac Pro — for half the price. A comprehensive, free, step-by-step guide.

Last updated March 2013 with the latest Intel Ivy Bridge processor and motherboard recommendations (which, it’s worth noting, are not available on the out-of-date Mac Pros) and OS X Mountain Lion-native installation instructions. We’ve also refreshed the nVidia GPUs. New in this latest build: Thunderbolt! However, note that to use the Thunderbolt ports on a Hackintosh, you will have to plug in your Thunderbolt device at boot-up; it is not hot-swappable. We also have native nVidia graphics drivers for the best possible video/3D support.

Introduction

What do you do when you need a high-end Mac — for editing video, retouching photos, recording music, animating 3D graphics, or just playing games — but you can’t afford a Mac Pro? Build one out of PC components. Yes, it’s possible to take off-the-shelf PC parts and build a Mac with your bare hands. It takes a D.I.Y attitude and a sense of adventure, but the result — a machine that’s faster than the entry-level Mac Pro, for half the price — is worth it. I wrote this how-to with video editors and other creatives in mind, but this hackintosh will work for anyone looking to get more bang for the buck out of a Mac. I believe this is the most in-depth guide you’ll find online, as I explain a lot of the reasons for choosing certain components, and I also include a full suite of testing utilities to ensure you end up with absolute best hackintosh (less) money can buy. As more folks build this exact machine, the article should get even more comprehensive, thanks to comments and additions.

Creativity shouldn’t be relegated to the upper class. But in the 21st century, many creative pursuits require the latest technology — especially working with video, which requires a lot of processing power and storage space. But when Apple recently announced new Mac Pros for the first time in almost two years, I wondered why they were so expensive, concluding that they were “not a good value proposition.” As far as video editors were concerned, I also wondered why they no longer offered nVidia graphics cards as an option, despite (or because of) the fact that Adobe Creative Suite uses nVidia cards to get drastically higher performance when editing video. So here’s the latest technology at a fraction of the cost — all it requires to build a Hackintosh is some elbow grease and a DIY attitude.

Here’s a screencast (no sound) of my original hackintosh running flawlessly, loading notoriously slow applications like Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Word in a jiffy. You’ll have to full-screen it to read the text:

The new model represented in this article is quite a bit faster.

This isn’t easy. There are literally a million things that can go wrong when trying to build a hackintosh. You need a basic level of technical ability to do this! While I knew from reading the experiences of others that this was possible, I hadn’t seen anyone put together a guide for creating a hackintosh specifically for video editors, animators, and filmmakers, so I exhaustively researched the components and procedures — often ordering more than one component and choosing the best option — and put together this step-by-step hackintosh guide. Then I tested it on a real-life project. Then I tested it some more and replaced a few components. Then I started over and rebuilt it from scratch to ensure it would work for others. Only then was I satisfied that I’d put together the absolute best hackintosh from a price, performance, and reliability standpoint. As such, I would strongly recommend you use the same components and follow the step-by-step guide, because any deviation from the instructions here might result in a hackintosh that doesn’t work perfectly.


One final note for this introduction: like The DSLR Cinematography Guide, very little of this information originated with me. Instructions for how to build a hackintosh are scattered all over the internet, contained in many different forums and web sites. However, no one’s written a guide specifically for video editors and other professional digital creators. Despite their lack of cohesive organization, however, online forums are absolutely incredible resources — and the first thing you should do is bookmark the following forums. I’ll do my best to answer any questions you have while we build a hackintosh, but these forums are also a great resource:

For a comparison of the speed of this Hackintosh and the current Mac Pro, turn the page:

(Apple photo by kyz)

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