After Apple announced that they will switch to their own silicon, it became clear that this marks the beginning of the end for Hackintoshing. However, the question remains: Should you still build a Hackintosh in 2023?
What is Hackintoshing ?
Before we answer the question, let’s first understand what hackintoshing is. Simply put, it means installing Mac OS on non-supported hardware, such as a PC desktop or laptop.
For many years, this was possible because the hardware components used by Apple for their Macs could be bought and installed by regular consumers. These components included those from Intel, Nvidia, and AMD.
However, in 2015, there was a dispute between Nvidia and Apple, resulting in dropped support for Nvidia GPUs in the next versions of Mac OS.
Since then, the Hackintosh community has been limited to using components from Intel and AMD if they want to use newer versions of Mac OS.
Apple Silicon changed the game
Since Apple released the M1 chip with its superior power efficiency and performance, it has become clear that Apple is heading towards a more tightly controlled supply chain for their components, similar to their approach for the iPhone and iPad.
Apple Silicon Macs will receive new macOS releases for a longer period than Intel Macs. Additionally, an increasing number of Mac OS features will be exclusive to newer Apple Silicon Macs as new versions are released.
Apple Silicon Macs are the only models that can run iOS and iPadOS apps. Some features of the October 2021 release of macOS Monterey, such as Portrait mode for FaceTime calls, will only work on Apple Silicon Macs.
However, since the M1 is a custom-made Apple SOC, you cannot simply go to the nearest Micro Center and purchase one.
So, what does this mean for Hackintoshing? Let’s examine two paths: what it means for Intel-based Hackintoshing, and is there a possibility for Arm-based Hackintoshing? Let’s begin with Intel.
The future of Intel-based Hackintoshes
Simply put, the future of Intel-based Hackintoshes will be the same as the future of Intel-based Macs. Apple still offers a few of those in their lineup, mainly the Mac Mini and Mac Pro, which you can purchase from the Apple Store.
This means that Apple will have to provide software updates to support these Macs for several years to come. Based on their track record, I would say that new Mac OS versions will be guaranteed support for 4 or 5 years. In other words, you should not expect any updates for MacOS on Intel Macs after 2026 or 2027.
Of course, it is possible to continue using machines after their OS stops receiving updates. However, expect key applications to stop working within a few years as software developers move away from the old architecture. My estimate is that Intel Macs will remain viable machines until about 2028-2030.
In other words, feel free to build an Intel-based Hackintosh, but understand that it will become obsolete by the end of the decade. The practice of Hackintoshing will likely become obsolete as well.
The possibility of Arm-based Hackintoshes
Although one may argue that Apple Silicon is simply an ARM-based architecture and that it should be possible to install macOS on a supported ARM-based Windows system, this is incorrect.
Given that Apple has never used the term “ARM” in their entire Keynote event, it is highly likely that the tech giant would customize the chip, making it incompatible with other ARM processors. Moreover, it is possible that Apple could set a signed bootloader and security checks on Mac apps to ensure that they don’t run on non-Apple hardware.
Even in the best-case scenario where the user continues to use the current Hackintosh Intel-based setup for years, it is likely that most apps will either stop receiving updates or become significantly slower, considering that Apple has already released a toolkit for developers to recompile apps “optimized for M1.”
Virtualization Could be the Answer
If you didn’t already know, most servers in the world run on some form of virtualization because it’s cost-effective and scalable. There are many kinds of virtualization, such as Type 1 and Type 2. The one that’s most interesting for hackintoshing is Type 1.
Type 1 Hypervisor is a Bare-Metal-Hypervisor. This means that the operating system, in this case Mac OS, will have direct access to the hardware. This translates to no or minimal performance loss compared to other types of virtualization.
And because it separates hardware from the OS, you do not need your OS to support the hardware itself, which is brilliant for compatibility.
You can already install Mac OS on practically any hardware, but with some quirks and limitations. We will have to wait and see what the community will do with this once Mac OS is no longer released for Intel-based Macs.
As they say, “if there is a will, there is a way”.
Should you build a Hackintosh Now?
After exploring the possibilities, you may be wondering: should you build a Hackintosh now? The honest answer is: it depends.
Your decision should be based on your workflow and what you want to do with macOS. For example, if you are a music producer working with thousands of tracks, a Hackintosh can be more powerful and cheaper than a Mac Pro or Mac Studio. In fact, I just received a message from a friend in the music industry who wants to do exactly that. Similarly, if you are doing 3D design or VFX work, a Hackintosh with a powerful GPU like the AMD 6900 XT will serve you well.
However, if you are doing any kind of video editing or image processing, the new M1 Pro or Max comes with dedicated media engines that can handle encoding and decoding video, resulting in faster timeline scrubbing and rendering. If you already own a lot of Apple products, a proper Mac will support many features like Continuity and FaceTime that may not work on a Hackintosh.
App developers may also benefit from building a Hackintosh for faster build times but still require an M1 Mac for compatibility, so they may end up using both machines.
Lastly, there are people like me who use multiple OSes for different purposes on the same machine. I use macOS on my Hackintosh to edit videos and work, while I boot into Windows for gaming and switch to Linux for coding and hacking.
As highlighted in bold, Hackintoshing was never intended for regular consumers. It’s a tight-knit community of nerds and enthusiasts who enjoy doing things the hard way. We’re admittedly a little crazy, so don’t try to follow our lead.
All jokes aside, I still believe that Hackintoshing is a viable option for those who fall into the categories I described, and will continue to be for many years to come. Need proof? There are still people running Hackintoshes inside the 2013 Trash Can Mac Pro.
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