Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Mac OSX 10.6.3 Retail on a Dell Mini 10v - Pt 1.

A while back I became interested in creating a "Hackintosh" ie a PC running Apple's Mac OSX. This became practical when Apple started using Intel hardware rather than their previous architecture, thereby losing one of their USPs and becoming "just another computer". Of course Apple can continue to differentiate itself with its premium priced and quality hardware, and with its operating system Mac OSX. Apple also use a "closed ecosystem" of approved software and hardware to deliver the alleged Mac "it just works" experience.

Of course when you dig into something you find the cracks under the surface. OSX supports a very limited range of hardware and is not without its foibles- for example if you don't set a password then the 'sudo' command to obtain elevated privileges simply doesn't work - no warning or error message, it just returns to the command line without having done anything !

So, onward into the Hackintosh world. A lot of enthusiasts have done a lot of good work and there are many 'how to' guides out there. In my opinion at least 98.5% of the information available is potentially unhelpful, primarily because it is out of date. Much of the material about OSX version 10.6 relates to 10.6.0 and is applicable to the launch of that version, creating a flurry of activity. If you are kind enough to buy a Mac OSX DVD from a retail supplier like Amazon for less than £30 you will get at least version 10.6.3 (at the time of writing - mid 2010) and that won't work with much of the stuff published for earlier versions.

If you want to start with version 10.6.3 then look very hard at the resources you use. Forget anything from 2009 or earlier.

Having learned this lesson the hard way, I decided to document my successes (or otherwise) in providing an OSX operating system on low cost commodity PC hardware. I chose the Dell Mini 10v and Mini 9 and an Advent 4211 as these have the best compatibility with OSX, according to one of the compatibility charts.

I should point out that using OSX on "non-Apple branded hardware" contravenes the OSX licence. The retail DVD comes with some Apple stickers that make your hackintosh "Apple Branded" :-)

So, down to business. I am going to install a "vanilla" retail version of OSX 10.6.3 Snow Leopard using an external DVD drive plugged into a Dell Mini 10v. The approach used is to have a pre-boot environment loaded onto the Dell in order to boot the Mac OSX DVD which is otherwise unbootable.

After a number of dead ends and literally hours work my recipe for success is as follows :-

a) Dell Mini 10v Model 1011 - not the earlier or later models. Try Ebay !
b) External USB DVD / CD drive for example Samsung SES-084C for <£30
c) Apple OSX Snow Leopard Retail DVD for £25 from Comet and other retailers.
d) Bootable Empire EFI pre-boot environment CD v1.085 Generic - download the iso via Prasys' blog or direct Link to zip file with two ISO files - use the normal version.

First steps :

1. Burn the Empire EFI pre-boot environment CD ISO to a CD using any computer / operating system. You could even use the Dell Mini and external drive. If you use Windows you may find Alex Feinman's ISO Recorder handy, it gives you a right mouse "burn image to CD option".

2. Hook up the external CD drive to the Dell and put the CD from step 1 in the drive. Reboot it and as it starts press F12 at the BIOS screen to get a boot menu - select CD/DVD drive and Empire EFI will boot up, you may have to press enter if the screen fills up with progress messages.

3. Empire EFI will show the bootable operating systems on the PC and itself as options to boot. At this stage you need to flip the CD out of the drive, insert the Snow Leopard OSX DVD and wait for a minute.

4. Press F5 to have Empire EFI re-scan available bootable systems, it will include the Max OSX Install DVD. Select this option with the mouse or cursor keys and click or press Enter to start the boot up.

5. The screen will go grey with an Apple logo in the centre of the upper half. In the lower half you will see a rotating wheel for some time as the OSX installer loads.

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