Category Archives: Hackintosh Project Blog Entries

G4 Powermac Hackintosh

Today’s post is especially for blog follower Jim Miller. Sorry I didn’t wait until 11:00 PM, Jim so your email notification would get you up. This is my newest Hackintosh. I actually built this machine last summer and it has been running fast, efficiently, and without a single problem so far. I built it primarily for HD video and photo editing. For those of you who may not know, a Hackintosh is essentially a home built computer made with PC hardware but with software and firmware “hacks” that allow Apple’s Mac operating system, OSX to run on it. Ordinarily a PC would not be able to run OSX, but by selectively choosing various combinations of parts and using hacks found on tonymacx86.com you can build a Hackintosh. Why would you want to do that? The primary reason for me was to save money. It is definitely possible to build a better computer than you could buy for much less money. If Apple even made a computer with these specs, it would carry  a retail pricetag of around $4,000, and that would not include the sound system, monitor, keyboard, or mouse. This computer cost me around $800 including the sound system and peripherals. The second motivator is simply for the fun and challenge. It is not for the faint of heart or for anyone who simply expects to plug in a computer and have it work. Finally, with a little creativity and imagination you can build a unique computer to your own specs that is unlike anyone else’s.

My first Hackintosh was a mini built in a Commodore 64 case and Commodore 1541 floppy case. You can see that one here if you’d like.

Anyway, this one is built in a seriously modified old retro Apple Quicksilver G4 Powermac case. I decided to capitalize on the clear acrylic look of the handles by making the side panel clear, adding a clear pro keyboard and mouse, and a set of acrylic Harmon Kardon soundsticks and subwoofer. A pair of modded-to-function pro speakers will follow at some point too.

Once I saw that the pro mouse had a red LED in it, I also knew I had to make the whole thing have a translucent red “Candy Apple” look.

I did not document the build because there are already a lot of documented G4 mods on the web and I was anxious to get on with it. If anyone has any questions though, I’ll be happy to answer the best I can.

Here is a link to a video of it running…(the first part of the video is very dark because I wanted to demonstrate the red LED lights in the case. It gets lighter part way through. )

Here is the build…
Gigabyte GA-Z68M-D2H motherboard
OCZ 600 Watt PSU
3.4 GHZ Intel i5 quad core processor
OCZ 120 GB solid state drive
3 TB hard drive storage
16 GB RAM
Sony Optiarc slot load CD DVD drive
Dynex Firewire card
EVGA nvidia GeForce 1024 MB video card (1GB)
Apple Pro Mouse and Pro Keyboard
Asus 23″ LCD
Harmon Kardon soundsticks and sub woofer (sound and look awesome – video does not do them justice)
Silenx 120 mm fan with red LEDs
Red LED light strip
Side of chassis cut away and paint removed from acrylic side panel.
The apples on the side of the case are translucent red (candy apple) with a green leaf.
Running OSX Lion via Unibeast and Multibeast … THANKS TONYMAC!

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Commotosh Part 7: It Lives!

ImageLooking at the picture you might conclude that C3PO exploded on the desk. Yes, I realize that it looks like a mess, but the Commotosh has finally roared to life. My friend Jonathan Payne drove down from Columbus (Georgia, not Ohio) to give me an experienced hand with jumping through the various hoops required to get OSX installed. Being a Saturday morning I decided to lug the whole thing up to the school to work on it so I could let the family sleep in. Jonathan met me at 7:30 AM and we got right to work. The fact is I don’t know that I could have pulled it off without his help. At least not in the short amount of time it took for us to do it. I was prepared to go through several unnecessary steps that Jonathan poo-pooed, making the process much less difficult than I was prepared for.

This is basically the way it went down: The first celebration came when I plugged everything in, mashed the power button and no sparks, smoke, or unnatural sounds came from the case.

I easily navigated to the BIOS settings, made the necessary changes, then proceeded to run UniBeast with Chimera from the usb drive. (If you have any questions about what any of that is, I would again direct you to tonymacx86.com) That being completed we installed Lion on the SSD by booting from the thumb drive and installing Lion on the SSD. After the Lion install was complete we rebooted from the USB drive once again, connected to the internet and downloaded and installed MultiBeast, which is a post-installation tool from TonyMac that enables you to boot from the hard drive and get all the important little details like audio, graphics, networks, drivers, bootloaders, config files, and System Utilities files to make everything run like a real Mac.  After that, we went to Gigabyte’s website to identify the motherboard version, then back to TonyMac to download the DSDT for the mobo. Lots of additional box-checking and un-checking took place at this point, all of which is outlined on TonyMac.

After all that was done it was time to restart and boot from the hard drive. If all went well, the computer should start right up and be running OSX Lion like a champ. Lots of finger-crossing happened at that time. “Please work, please work, please work…”

And…

Nope.

The whole thing froze up.

Booting from the thumb drive was no problem, but we ran into trouble when we tried to boot normally from the SSD. The light grey screen would come up, the beautiful white apple would appear, and the OS would get about 15 seconds into booting up and just freeze. Jonathan somehow concluded that it was an issue with loading graphics and we spent the next two hours troubleshooting, scouring the internet for solutions, and retrying. After messing around with various BIOS settings, and even rewriting root directory commands, we decided to wipe everything out and start afresh. We repeated the whole process again, went to crossing fingers and…

Nothing.

Froze up again.

We took a break and headed to Jersey Mike’s for a sandwich, then came back for another shot at it. At just about the time I was getting discouraged, JP got the notion to try an HDMI cable instead of the VGA cable we were using. Unplug the VGA, plug in the HDMI and… (please work, please work, please work)…

…it booted up just like magic! Had we done that to begin with, the whole process would have probably taken less that 30 minutes.

Another celebration! Next we went through a series of software updates, rebooted, and everything ran just like a real Mac. A real mac with a quad core 3.3 GHZ processor, 8 GB of RAM, 2 TB of hard drive space, and a 120 GB solid state drive, that is.

The next step will be to button everything up, ditch the old Dell wired keyboard and mouse (needed initially to get the system going), enable bluetooth, set up the wireless keyboard and mouse, get the Commodore 1541 floppy case set up as a CD/DVD drive and system backup, and migrate Final Cut Pro, Photoshop, Microsoft Office 11, and other essentials from my MacBook Pro. Stay tuned and I’ll let you know how all that goes.

Commotosh Part 6: Final Fitting and Keyboard Decision

ImageAfter considerable measuring, figuring, reasoning, and research I have settled on using an Apple bluetooth keyboard for the Commotosh. A few more case mods were necessary to fit the keyboard, to make room for all the ports in the back, and to get the top and bottom cases to fit together fully closed. Now everything is finally assembled, except for the power button, system reset, and LED lights. There were some open spaces along the side of the case where the old C64 ports were located and in the top case where the original keyboard extended out farther than the Apple keyboard does, You can see in the pics that I constructed some custom vents that match the case pretty well. In fact, I think that they even look like they were there from the factory. These vents, along with the ones that were already in the case should make for good airflow and a cool running machine. The CPU fan sits right under the top vents. Things are finally coming together and I should be ready to begin the hack soon. The initial process has already begun. I bought an 8GB thumb drive, and made a bootable usb drive out of it by created a partition on it, formatting it as Mac OS Extended (Journaled) disc, and installing UniBeast from the tonymac web site. I have purchased a legal copy of OSX Lion and installed it on a thumb drive as well.

Commotosh Project Part 5: Initial Assembly

After unboxing the internal components for the Commotosh project I had a startling discovery. The mini-itx motherboard does not fit very well inside the 1541 case. Dimensionally it s OK, but the problem is that it interferes with the screw holes that keep the case together. After fooling around with modding the internal frame; cutting and grinding and thinking about how to make it work for an hour or so, it hit me to try it in the C64 case. Surprise! It fits beautifully. In fact, all the components fit inside the actual Commodore 64 case. It’s tight, and will require some creative wire routing, and case mods but when all is said and done, I’d rather have it all housed in the C64 case than the 1541 case. I still want to keep the CD/DVD drive in the 1541 case because I just like the idea of feeding the disc in the original slot for floopys. I’ll also put a second 2TB hard drive in the 1541 case to use for backups through Time Machine.

This new discovery has me super excited, but a couple of concerns remain. It looks like I will not have room for a dedicated video card in the C64 case. There is only about an inch and a half clearance from the PCI slot to the inside of the top case. Fortunately the 2500K processor I am using has integrated HD 3000 graphics so hopefully that will be adequate to run the video processing tasks I want to do with this machine. Let me know if anyone has any ideas.

A second concern is with the keyboard. Ever since I first thought of building this computer, my desire has been to use the original keyboard. Obviously there are considerable differences in key mapping between a 30 year old Commodore keyboard and an Apple operating system hacked to run with PC parts. Keyrah might be an option, but I still don’t see a way to make the original keyboard physically fit. Right now the CPU heatsink fan is nearly touching the inside of the top case. The keyboard hangs down a half inch lower than that, so I don’t think it will work. This issue is going to take a little more time to think through. Maybe a smaller heat sink, or a modification to the fan shroud? Or maybe I’ll just fit an Apple Bluetooth keyboard into the case. It’ll be a different look than using the original keyboard, but since I’ll be running OSX, it might be kind of cool to have the keyboard give a hint of what is lurking inside. Maybe I can pop the while key caps off the Apple keyboard and affix the brown C64 keys to make it look at least a little more authentic. We’ll see how this progresses. In the meantime, have a look at some pics of the first phase of assembly:

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I fabbed this metal plate to secure the PSU, hard drive, and solid state drive

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Here are all the parts (sans CPU/heatsink/fan) secured to the bottom case. The motherboard is sitting on ¼ nylon spacers to keep it off the plastic and allow airflow underneath the board. A ground wire runs from a mounting bolt on the motherboard to the metal palate under the drives and PSU.

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Another shot with some wires run.

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And here it is, mostly wired up with the CPU, heatsink and fan in place.

Commotosh Project Part 4: Parts is Parts

Nope, this is not a Wendy’s commercial from the 80’s but this pile of parts will soon be occupying a computer case from the 80’s. Now it’s time to figure out exactly how. Of course I realize now that are a few things I forgot to get, like extra SATA cables, a power/reset switch, LEDs, and various other little parts. Time to get back on Newegg and Amazon.

This is going to be FUN!

Hard to believe that this is all that makes up a computer! Clockwise from top left: Intel Quad Core Snady Bridge i5 3.3 Ghz processor, Gigabyte H67 mini itx motherboard, Athena Power 350 watt PSU, Corsair 8 GB RAM sticks, OCZ Vertex 2 solid state drive, and Sony Optiarc slot load CD/DVD drive. Not shown: 2 TB Hitachi 7200 RPM hard drive, and 23" Asus HD monitor.

Commotosh Project: Part 3 Case Mods

After getting into the guts of the C64 and the 1541 floppy drive, I have come to the conclusion that the floppy drive case is a better choice to build in than the actual C64 case. I just don’t think there is enough room in the C64 case to house everything I want to put in there. I’ll still use it for the keyboard and a backup drive, but the actual computer will reside in the 1541 floppy case. Amazingly, the floppy case seems like it is almost made to house PC parts. Even the floppy bay, with little modification is the perfect size, shape, and in just the right spot to house a slot load CD/DVD drive! Just imagine how cool (in the nerdiest sense of the word) it will be to slip a DVD into the slot where floppys used to go.

Using old parts I had in the garage, I mocked up a prototype of how everything (minus the motherboard , CPU, and CPU cooler) will pack in. The internal case mods are mostly done, but I need to wait until I get the motherboard to finish them up.

Here’s what it looks like so far:

A few more unnecessary pulleys and wheels removed.

Almost ready for the optical disc drive.

Can you say upgrade? A brand new Sony Optiarc slot load optical drive in a nearly 30 year old bay that was once a state of the art floppy drive. Wow. Cool if I do say so myself.

Here we go. A mock-up of what is to come. Notice the DVD sliding into the old floppy slot. Love it!

Here you can see our little stack of hardware. On the very bottom is a 2.5" hard drive (this will be where the solid state drive will reside. On top of that is the CD/DVD drive, and at the very top is a 3.5" hard drive (this will be where the 2TB HDD will reside. A few custom made brackets hold it all in place.

Commotosh Project: Part 2

The idea to build a a Hackintosh first hit me in 2008 when I saw the first build on the internet. Later the idea was revived when my friend built one in 2011. His turned out great and gave me the inspiration I needed to get started.

Anyone interested in undertaking a project like this should be prepared to do a lot of research. You cannot just put any old PC parts together and expect it to run OSX. The best place to start is at a website called called TonyMacX86.com The people on that site have blazed the trail and created all the necessary firmware hacks to do the job right. There are several proven builds listed on the site with detailed instructions that take you from start to finish. Even so. I found it necessary to spend several months reading, researching, and learning how  to make this work. In the process I developed a whole new vocabulary that included terms like KEXT. DSDT, and all sorts of things related to root directory and BIOS settings that I knew nothing about before.

Finally I feel ready to get started. I want this computer to be extremely powerful and capable of handling HD video editing through Final Cut Pro. Since my build will go in a modified 1983 Commodore 64 case, the components will also have to be small. I found the Hack Mini on the TonyMac site to be a good starting point, but I will upgrade many of the parts. My end goal is to have a mini ITX motherboard, a120 GB solid state drive to house the applications, a 2TB hard drive to house the data, 8 GB of RAM, and a 3.3 GHZ Intel Sandy Bridge Quad Core processor.

Next step: Order components and begin case mods. Stay tuned.

The Commotosh Project: The Nerdiest DIY Ever

I am a DIY guy. Home repairs, building bows and arrows, building fly rods, tying flies (for fishing), reloading ammo, building boats, furniture, cars,whatever. If given the choice between buying something or making it myself, hiring someone to do something for me or doing it myself, I am most often going the self-sufficient route. What I lack in skill I make up for in confidence. Sometimes it pays off with a better product than I could have bought, and sometimes I spend twice as much money and end up wishing I had hired someone to do it for me.

Some of my projects have been kind of nerdy, but this one tops the charts. I deserve serious geek cred for this… a hackintosh built in a 1983 Commodore 64 case and 1541 floppy drive. Now if you got to this site by Googling “hacktosh”. “X86”, or “Commodore 64” I don’t need to explain what any of those terms mean. But if you are here as a regular follower you may not have any idea what I am talking about. If you are in the first camp, you may skip the next paragraph, but for those readers who need terms defined, read on.

As you may know, if you want a Windows PC you have many choices: Dell, hp, Sony, Asus, eMachines… the list goes on. But if you want a Mac, you only have one choice: Apple. Apple makes their own operating system and much of their own hardware, so you cannot simply install Apple’s operating system  (OSX) on a PC like you could Windows. That is until Apple began using Intel processors in their computers and nerdy Apple fans around the world began experimenting with ways to hack the system to mke OSX think it was being installed on a Mac. Now adventurous DIY computer builders can make their own Hackintosh computers at a fraction of the cost of buying a Mac. Of course their are many cons to doing this, but enough pros that I have decided to take the plunge.

Imagine a blazing fast computer housed in a classic Commodore case while running all the latest Apple apps in OSX Lion. Yeah, this is going to be sweet.

The first step has been completed. That is acquiring a pristine C64, complete with floppy drive, joysticks, and monitor. After firing it up, loading a few floppies, and taking a walk down 8 bit lane, the deconstruction process begins. Keep visiting back to see the case mods, hardware selection, and Hackintosh build, step by step.

First step: Disassemble the components.

A pristine, working Commodore 64 setup