Mac OS X on Intel – Part 1. The Right PC

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If you are planning to install Mac OS X for Intel, you should be sure that your PCs hardware is supported. While some hardware support isnt critical, such as sound cards, bluetooth, wireless, and ethernet, other hardware is. Of particular importance is the PCs chipset/processor, followed by the PCs graphics card.

You should have an Intel processor such as a Celeron D or Pentium 4, or compatible processor including AMD. Of particular importance is the instruction sets of the processor. Apple licensed emulation technology from Transitive Corp. in order to run PowerPC application (99.99% of all Mac software) to run on Intels. Apple has branded this as Rosetta. In order to support Rosseta your Intel processor must have certain sets of Instruction called SSE2 and SSE3. Your PCs processor must either support SSE2, or both SSE2 and SSE3.

To check in Windows download CPU-Z and launch the application in Windows. Click on the CPU tab. Verify that the Instructions box contains either SSE2 or SSE3.

If youve already booted up Mac OS X on your PC, then your CPU already features SSE2. To check if you CPU supports SSE3, launch System Profiler (/Applications/Utilities/System Profiler). Under Hardware Overview you will see a list of CPU Features. Check for SSE3.

Both Intel or AMD are great processors as long as they are SSE2 and SSE3 enabled. It is possible to use a processor with just SSE2, however you will need to do some patching to get only some PowerPC applications running, and in general your experience will be slower with just SSE2. If your processor doesnt have SSE2 and you try installing Mac OS X you PC will lock-up while booting into the Mac OS.

Intel processors are a better choice for a few reasons. In terms of affordability, Intels low-end processors (Celerons) have both SSE2 and SSE3, while AMD low-end processors have only SSE2. In terms of support, many problems reported appear to be only happening with non-Intel products. It is probably best to stick to Intel product, including processors, video cards, and sound cards. After all, Apple didnt switch to just any x86 based chip. No, they fully switched to Intel.

For video cards, if you are purchasing a new PC look for the Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 900 which Im very happy with, and is reported to be fully supported. The Intel 900 is sure to support Quartz Extreme and Core Graphics, so while its an integrated video component, its still a great choice. Many other card including Nvidia and Ati cards are reported to work, but only at certain resolutions.

Finally, you must have a USB keyboard and mouse to use Mac OS X.

The best resource for hardware compatibility can be found at the OSX86 Projects Hardware Compatibility List. There you will find a list specific PC models that have been reported to work.

The PC Im using

I installed Mac OS X on an HP Pavilion a1106n with the following hardware:

  • Intel Pentium 4 516 (2.93GHz)
  • 512MB PC2-3200 DDR2 SDRAM
  • 160GB (7200RPM) Serial ATA
  • Dual Layer 16X DVD+/-RW
  • Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 900
  • Intel High Definition Audio sound card

This seems to be a completely supported PC. I have yet experienced one problem with the hardware. The video, sound, ethernet card, firewire and USB buses all work well. Considering this PC cost only $700 CND (about $600 US) Im very impressed by its performance, but will leave that commentary for later.


An anonymous user point out below in the comments a good point that I forgot to address.

Buyer beware

Dont go out to purchase a $1000 dollar PC expecting to be able to run Mac OS X on it. For one, despite the fact that many have reported success in getting the OS to install and boot, your results may vary. The steps require a bit of technical know-how. Youll likely encounter a few roadblocks that require some googling, research, and reading (which evolves time you may not have to spare).

Furthermore, dont expect to have a usable machine for long. You likely wont be able to update the OS to version 10.4.4, install iTunes 6, get Photoshop CS3 working, etc. This mini-series more for developers and Mac enthusiast who during the interim want to test performance and compatibility. Your better off waiting a year to buy an Intel based Mac. Better yet, purchase an iMac G5 which is both affordable and fast, not to mention legal and fully supported.

Finally, using a pirated and unlicensed copy of Mac OS X for more for more than a couple of months will absolutely crash your karma stock.

With that said, for those still interested Part 2. The Simple Installation is a simple guide to installing Mac OS X on a PC.

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8 responses to “Mac OS X on Intel – Part 1. The Right PC”   RSS

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  1. 1 Word to the Wise
    BTW, following the directions here and installing OS X on any machine other than the Apple Developer Transition Kit is prohibited by the licensing terms. If youre an ADC member, doing so can get you banned from ever participating in Apples developer programs, attending WWDC, etc, etc. If youre not an ADC member, then you have no legal license to use the x86 version of Mac OS X in the first place.
  2. 2 Foo Bar
    Why give guidance to install the developer kit? Apple so much has said that OS X for Intel wont run on generic PC hardware, so it seems to me that, seeing that cracks have happened with the dev kits, that they could and would try harder to make sure it wont work with the shipping version, whenever that is.This is just guesswork, and likely to get you some Windows-only PC hardware. Buyer beware.
  3. 3 Alvin
    Hi, Id like to ask if anyone has made this installation work with Nforce4 with a SATA drive?
  4. 4 Andrew
    Check the compatibility list regarding the Nvidia cards. For what its worth, I installed it on sata drives.Word to the Wise,
    Im not suggesting that ADC members should try this. In fact, they shouldnt.Foo Bar,
    Buyer beware indeed -well put. This isnt about buying a PC on the cheap and expecting to run the latest version of Mac OS X and being able to update the system. Youll likely be stuck with a buggy machine, with dated hardware that will never be fully compatible. By the time Intel based Macs ship, Apple will have hopefully put significant effort into preventing Mac OS X from running on PCs. This is more about Mac enthusiasts being able to test performance and software compatibility until they get the real deal (Im hoping to buy an Intel PowerBook by Sept. 2006).
  5. 5 Joe
    Dont be such a mac elitist, there are plenty of pc users who prefer the freedom to build their own machines with better parts than Apple would ever use. Many of us have considerable investments in out machines already, why would we spend another $2600 to have something less than what we have already?Many of us know Mac OS is a much better operating system, if apple would make a PC version available we would be more than willing to shell out the $129(thats peanuts). But until then we dont feel like being under the whim of whatever hardware apple thinks is best for us.Now that apple is using intel chips, you can always expect to see a pc version circulating, apple is smart, but they cant prevent the impossible.

    By the time Intel based Macs ship, Apple will have hopefully put significant effort into preventing Mac OS X from running on PCs. This is more about Mac enthusiasts being able to test performance and software compatibility until they get the real deal

  6. 6 Rob
    Apple is letting us do the work for them, the more we hack the OS the better the security on the OS will be when released. This is the reason they released the x86 version, have the geek community do the work them.
  7. 7 Andrew
    Rob,Your probably right, but Im not worried about that. I just wanted an Intel Mac to test for a few days. Ill be the first inline at the Apple Store Yorkdale for an Intel Mac. January 9th, 2006 maybe?
  8. 8 Andrew

    Post set for deletion

    I have decided to delete these posts on Jan 9th 2006, the day before Intel Macs are expected to be released from Apple. The use of Mac OS X for Intel is legally questionable already, and the case for running it to test compatibility and performance is dead once Apple releases those awesome machines. I know many of you disagree, but I hope you all understand.

    If you have valuable comments you would like to add, email me.