Hackintosh vs. Macintosh

By Jay Alabaster, IDG News Service |  Hardware, Apple

The hyper-active developers on the forums mean that new hardware or versions of OS X are often supported very quickly. In recent months, solutions to run the newest motherboards from Gigabyte and the latest NVIDIA graphics cards were often available only days after the hardware went on sale.

Enthusiasts will point to these trends, and the cheap but powerful builds available online, as well as the endless configurations of high-end machines that can be assembled at a fraction of what it costs to buy from Apple.

But would-be Hackintoshers should remember that they build such computers at their own risk, with no warranty or help line, and steps that are glossed over in the online guides can lead to hours of frustration.

The forums are filled with desperate Hackintoshers gone awry, pleading for help from the more experienced builders. A few recent examples from tonymac's site include "After install complete, now unable to boot," "Grey screen with spinning status wheel," and "Machine continues to ReBoot :/"

Also, Apple's software updates can cause issues with working systems, and often set off a fresh wave of angst among users while they strive to get everything working again.

One other potential turn-off is that creating a Hackintosh may put users on shady legal ground. Early install methods that involved pirated, modified copies of OS X were in clear violation, and have been replaced by those that require users to purchase software directly from Apple, so nothing is stolen outright, but that hasn't resolved all the issues.

Apple wants you to buy its hardware along with its software, and mandates this in its legal requirements (which end-users must agree to when they use Apple's software). As the company states in its license agreement for the latest version of OS X, Mountain Lion:

"The grants set forth in this License do not permit you to, and you agree not to, install, use or run the Apple Software on any non-Apple-branded computer, or to enable others to do so."

In short, users looking to run OS X and save money on a powerful machine, or build in components like graphics cards not offered by the company, may want to consider a Hackintosh. In exchange they'll sacrifice some late nights as they get everything working, and likely end up with a boxy computer far less beautiful than a genuine Apple, which they use on perhaps dubious legal ground.

Those who want the Apple experience and aren't technically inclined, or don't need the advanced hardware, are better off paying the premium for company-built products.

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