Some Apple fans are building their own ‘Hackintoshes’ — Mac computers they build themselves. And they point to a weakness with Apple's computer lineup.

YouTube/Dom Esposito

The only way to get Apple’s MacOS operating system is to buy one of Apple’s own Macs. That’s pretty much the way it’s always been. Or at least, that’s the only official way.

The computer pictured above is running MacOS, but it’s not a Mac. It’s a so-called Hackintosh – a computer built by a hobbyist, made to run MacOS on non-Apple hardware.

You read correctly: You don’t need to buy a Mac to get the Apple experience (or official Apple apps), assuming you’re willing to do the work of building one.

In a way, the reasons to buy, build, or turn your existing computer into a Hackintosh represent some of the less desirable aspects of buying a Mac from Apple – namely, that they’re expensive, hard to customise, and often not exactly what you need.

Check out some of the reasons why people build their own Hackintosh computers instead of buying a Mac from Apple, including some perspectives from tech YouTubers:

With a Hackintosh, you can get the Apple experience for much less money than if you shelled out for a pricey Mac.

YouTube/Snazzy Labs

YouTuber Snazzy Labs made a $US350 Hackintosh that “manages to hang with Apple’s current lineup” as of January 2018, he says.

Building your own Hackintosh also lets you run apps that only run on Macs, like Final Cut Pro X, without paying the premium that Apple’s computers command at retail.

Something to note off the bat: Legally and ethically, building a Hackintosh is kind of a grey area.

To build a Hackintosh, you need a copy of Apple’s MacOS to install on it, or else what’s the point? The problem is that, generally speaking, the only Apple-sanctioned way to get a copy of MacOS is to have it already installed on a Mac.

Most reputable Hackintosh guides advise you to take a Mac you already own, and copy the operating system off of that. But it’s fair to say that this isn’t what Apple had in mind for the MacOS software – and it could violate the terms of service that you agree to when you first got your Mac.

So far, Apple hasn’t taken action one way or another on the Hackintosh community, and has let it be. Just be advised that this may not always be the case.

We’ve reached out to Apple for comment on its stance towards Hackintoshes, and will update if we hear back.

YouTuber Marques Brownlee built a Hackintosh back in 2013 because Apple didn’t have a computer that fit his needs at the time.

Truth be told, Apple doesn’t make a computer that I’d be perfectly satisfied with.

Take my 2016 MacBook Pro, for example. I bought it because I wanted an Apple laptop with a 15-inch display. But the only models in that screen size come with a dedicated graphics chip – a chip with more power than I really need in my everyday life. Still, if I wanted the bigger screen size, I’d have to pay the price for that premium hardware.

The same is true of the rest of Apple’s Mac lineup, too.

Apple might not always release computers with the specs that you need. Or, if a Mac does have the specs you want, it might also come with parts that you don’t need. Apple’s newest iMac Pro, for example, is essentially built into a 5K display – a super-high-end display that contributes heavily to the $US5,000 price tag. If you want the machine, but not the display, then you don’t really have other options…apart from building your own Hackintosh.

It’s part of the reason why the popular tech YouTuber Marques Brownlee built a Hackintosh a while back:

Repairing your own Hackintosh can be a much easier and cheaper experience than getting it fixed by Apple.

If you had the savvy to build your own Hackintosh, chances are you’ll know how to remove a broken part and replace it yourself, rather than bringing it to a tech repair shop. The parts you need to build your own Hackintosh are commonly found at stores like Amazon and Newegg.

For Apple’s own Mac computers, the company uses custom parts that are harder to replace yourself. To get repairs, you’d have to take a broken Mac computer to an Apple store, or at least to an Apple-authorised repair shop.

YouTuber Peter Paul Chato had a broken power supply in his Hackintosh, and he was able to replace it. In his video, Chato said “I was able to pull the damn thing out, go to my local Canada Computer store, get a different [power supply]…plunked it in, and I was back up and running within two hours.” He continued: “There’s no way that has ever happened with any of the Macs that I’ve owned that needed repair. I would take it to a Mac store…and it could be anywhere from three days to a week without a computer.”

The catch, of course, is that any Hackintosh you build will likely not be covered by technical support, anywhere. You’re on your own.

If you’re tired of Apple’s design sensibility, or just plain don’t like it, you can customise your own Hackintosh computer to look just the way you want – you might even be able to use a computer you already have.

You can install macOS on several non-Apple laptops and desktops, and you can even build your own Hackintosh laptop or desktop from the ground up.

Apart from choosing your own PC case, you can get pretty creative with the way your Hackintosh looks. Some cases feature a glass side panel, which bares your parts for all to see, which some might like. There’s also a huge variety of “RGB” parts that can light up in different colours and flash in different patterns, if that’s your thing.

As for laptops, you can get “bare-bones” laptops that come with the essentials like a processor, giving you the opportunity to pick out and install your own hard drive and memory.

You can get an idea of the types of customisation you can do with a Hackintosh by checking out tech YouTuber Dom Esposito’s Hackintosh video:

Sound good? Well, sorry, but there’s a huge catch: Building a Hackintosh is kind of an involved process.

It’s not impossible, but it’s not that easy, either. It usually involves tweaking settings that most people aren’t used to, like a motherboard’s “BIOS” settings. You also need to use some esoteric utilities, created by enthusiasts, to install macOS on a Hackintosh.

Either way, if you’re interested, I’m certainly not going to stop you. If you’re interested, it’s not hard to find resources on the topic.

Another problem: You’re also somewhat limited in what parts you can use.

Before buying parts for a Hackintosh, it’s a good idea to see which parts have been found to be compatible with the process. The Hackintosh community maintains lists of parts that are known to be compatible.

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