How to build a P55 Snow Leopard Hackintosh

It’s not quick or easy but is fairly painless

YOU MIGHT ALREADY have read one of the many guides on the net about how to get your PC running OS X. We have come across an approach that makes the whole install process a lot easier and thought we’d share it with you. By a lot we mean that you don’t need a Mac for starters, which should be a huge help to those who own only a PC and want to have a go at building a Hackintosh.

Let’s start with a few prerequisites for this to work, first of all you need to have a P55 motherboard, although it might work on other motherboards and chipsets as well, but we can’t guarantee it. For whatever reason it seems like Gigabyte’s range of P55 motherboards have the highest success rate, but some Asus, Biostar DFI, Intel and MSI boards will also work, just make sure you check which models are known to work by having a look here.

Not all P55 motherboards are compatible, although there doesn’t seem to be any specific reason as to why. The previous link is to a list of what is known as a DSDT (Differentiated System Description Table) file. Using a DSDT file is a sort of workaround that allows your hardware to work properly with OS X. The DSDT contains information about the various bits of hardware inside your system. Each DSDT file is unique for the motherboard, so don’t just try a random one, as it won’t work. The advantage of using a DSDT file is that you can reduce the number of third party “hacked” drivers which might otherwise be needed to get your Hackintosh working, but more on that later.

You also need to make sure your hardware is compatible and this is where we can’t offer a foolproof guide, but in general you’ll have a higher success rate using graphics cards similar to those found in real Macs. In saying that, there are also a fair few solutions to get around this, but it requires that you do some research on your own. It’s also somewhat dependant on the boot loader you’re using and although pretty much all of them these days are based on what is known as Chameleon, there are a few different branches that split and merge as the developers see fit. Netkas seems to be the best choice if you’re using ATI cards, but at the moment he’s a couple of releases behind when it comes to other features.

Ethernet and sound work in a similar manner, although if your motherboard is using an Ethernet controller and audio codec from Realtek, then you have a bigger chance of success. This doesn’t mean you’re out of luck if your motherboard uses other solutions, but it’ll make for a bit more work on your end. As Snow Leopard requires AHCI to be enabled, you’ll also need a SATA optical drive and SATA hard drive. It’s easier to install OS X to an empty hard drive, but it’s possible to do it to a partition, however this requires you to do some extracurricular studies so we won’t cover it here.

Your motherboard must also have a BIOS option for HPET (High Precision Event Timer) and this needs to be set to 64-bit. Apart from that you should also be aware that some hardware that works in Windows might not work in OS X, such as TV-tuners, etc. However, USB keyboards and mice work just fine, as do most if not all Bluetooth dongles and several other USB devices, although not all WiFi dongles.

You’ll also have a higher chance of success if you use a Core i5 750 or the Core i7 860 processor, although the newer Core i3 and Core i5 dual core models will work, but you won’t be able to use the IGP, at least not for the time being. You’ll also need to use a patched kernel to get unsupported CPUs working in OS X. It’s also not recommended to fit more than 4GB of RAM in the system during the install as that’s known to cause the installation to fail.

It really isn’t as hard as it sounds, but we just wanted to make things as clear as possible to avoid disappointment in the end. The actual steps when it comes to installing OS X are really quite easy. To start with you’ll need to download two files. The first one is the Tonymacx86 boot CD ISO image which you can find here and the second is the Tonymac MultiBeast which you should put on a USB key for use during the second stage of the installation. We’re using a basic boot disc in this example, but Tonymac offers several versions, so if the basic one doesn’t work then you might want to try one of the other ISO images offered, especially if you’re using a Radeon HD 4800-series or Nvidia GTX 200-series graphics card.

A couple of reminders before we begin. First, don’t forget that you need a Snow Leopard disc, the cheap $29 upgrade one will do just fine. You also need to burn the Tonymacx86 boot ISO image onto a CD. Once this is done, you’re ready to start the installation procedure.

Presuming you’re using a single, empty hard drive in the system, put the CD in the optical drive and select to boot from CD either in the BIOS or from your motherboard’s quick boot menu. If you haven’t changed the BIOS settings yet, you should do this before you try to boot from the CD. After a few seconds you should be greeted by a screen similar to the one below, although it might look slightly different if you have only a single hard drive in the system.

Eject the CD and replace it with the Snow Leopard DVD. Wait a couple of seconds and press the F5 key which will refresh the drive list. Use the cursor keys to navigate to the Snow Leopard install disc and press enter.

The system will now try to boot from the Snow Leopard disk and you’ll see a lot of text on the screen. Some of this text will be error codes, but as long as the system doesn’t stop at an error message for more than 30 seconds, the install will proceed. It’s possible for something to go wrong at this stage and then you’ll have to try a different boot CD as mentioned earlier. It should take no longer than about a minute to get to the Snow Leopard installer.

Once the Snow Leopard installer appears you need to select your language, click continue, agree and then you should be greeted by a screen that allows you to select which hard drive to install Snow Leopard to. At this stage you need to open up the utilities menu and start the disk manager.

Select your hard drive and format it by selecting Mac OS Extended (Journaled) and name it something clever, like OSX for example. Exit the disk utility once the format is done and select customize. Remove the printer drivers and any languages you don’t need, as this will save up to 10 minutes on the install time. Now you’re ready to click on install. Sit back, relax and wait for Snow Leopard to install on your hard drive.

Depending on the boot disc you used, you might end up with an install failed message after about 20 minutes, but do not fret, Snow Leopard has installed on your system, so reboot and replace the Snow Leopard disc with the Tonymac boot CD again. You might be required to power down your system entirely to be able to do this.

Boot from the CD again, but this time, leave the boot CD in the drive and select to boot from the hard drive (which we named OSX earlier). Again you’ll be greeted by the same text screens as during the first boot, but once this is done you should arrive at the Snow Leopard desktop. Follow the on screen prompts to finalize the install.

However, we’re not quite done yet. Now you need to dig out that USB key that you placed the MultiBeast file on, as it contains the remaining files that you’ll need to get your system up and running. The USB drive should appear as a removable drive on the desktop, so open it and double click on the zip file. This will automatically extract into the download folder. You can find this in the application bar at the bottom of the screen. Open the folder and double clock on MultiBeast.

Click continue until you get to the installation type screen. Now to the tricky part, since you need to select the correct settings here for things to work as intended. Under Chameleon we’d recommend that you go with the RC4 version based on AsereBLN, although there are some other options available here as well if this doesn’t work (this step might be slightly different on future versions of MultiBeast).

Under audio you need to select the corresponding audio solution on your motherboard. If it’s not listed, then you can try VoodooHDA which works with a broad range of onboard audio solutions. When it comes to graphics you normally have to select NVEnabler or ATY_Init for Nvidia and ATI card respectively. The network section only offers support for Realtek Gigabit Ethernet controllers as well as certain Intel ones, for others you need to install the drivers manually at a later stage.

We’d recommend using a DSDT for your specific motherboard and 26 different boards are currently supported by the MultiBeast, although only nine are non-Gigabyte boards. If your motherboard is among the supported models you should be able to remove some of the extra kexts once you’ve checked that your system is working properly. The extras menu holds some additionally important items, because you also need to install a as well as an smbios,plist.

There are a few different ones to choose from and full explanations are provided that should guide you to make the correct choice for your system configuration. You can also chose to install the tonymacx86 theme here which will give you a GUI for the boot sequence, but this is optional. If you’re using an unsupported CPU you also need to patch the kernel to be able to boot into your OS X system. However, we’d wait and do this after the 10.6.2 update has been applied which will be done slightly later during the install.

The standard Snow Leopard kexts menu contains a few drivers that you need to install. Depending on your system, and if you’re using a DSDT or not, some of the files aren’t needed. However, you need to install fakesmc.kext and LegacyAppleRTC.kext no matter what. The JMicronATA.kext enables the JMicron controller that many motherboards use for additional SATA and IDE ports. If you’re not using a DSDT file you also need to install the IOAHCIBlockStorageInjector.kext and the NullCPUPowerManagement.kext, as the former handles the Intel SATA ports and the latter is related to system power management. The EvOreboot should only be installed if you have problems rebooting your system and the VoodooPS2Controller enables the PS2 keyboard and mouse ports.

You can also install the utilities as the Kext Utility will most likely come in handy at a later stage, at least if you’re going to make any changes to your system. You also need to make sure that everything under disk utilities is selected, but this should be done by default. You might have noticed that we skipped the EasyBeast menu and there’s a good reason for it. The EasyBeast is a basic way of getting your Hackintosh working, but with some functionality missing. It’s not the ideal solution and although it’ll make your system bootable and usable, it will require some extra work later on once you figure things out.

Hit continue to commence the install and at this stage you’ll be asked to enter your password as well. The MultiBeast install will take a few minutes to finish and once it’s done you need to reboot your system. Boot from the CD one more time and once you get to the desktop you need to install the OS X 10.6.2 combo update. If you’re using an unsupported CPU you will have to install the patched kernel by using the MultiBeast again, but you only need to select the patched kernel for 10.6.2 and select the disk utilities. Reboot the system and you should be able to boot from your hard drive at this stage if you’ve done everything correctly.

To see if you got full graphics card acceleration in OS X, open up the dashboard and drop a new widget onto it, if you see ripples of the type you get on water, then you have full Quarts Extreme and Core Image acceleration enabled. Otherwise you’ll have to look at using a different solution to enable your graphics card, as there are a few different ways of doing this depending on the card you have. To see if audio is working, go into the sound settings and if you can select between multiple devices here, then sound should be working. Plugging in a pair of headphone in the green socket on the back should also switch the default wording from internal speaker to headphones if everything is set up correctly.

Some things might not still be working, but this is sometimes the nature of a Hackintosh. However, there are a lot of resources out there that should be able to get most things going as long as there’s some sort of support for them. A good place to look for drivers for your Hackintosh is, just make sure you’re using Snow Leopard compatible kexts. Another solution that’s similar to the Tonymac boot CD is called Kakewalk and it supports some P45 and X58 boards, again mostly Gigabyte boards at this stage, but this is also a project under development so it may or may not work with your hardware.

Tonymac offers a wide range of guides on how to move forward from here and the site also has an active forum where you can ask for help. Websites like insaneleymac and infintemac also contain a lot of helpful information. This is also part of the fun of building a hackintosh, as although it’s far less of a challenge today than it used to be, which is very much thanks to a fantastic community of developers, it’s still something of a trial and error process. Thanks for reading this Hackintosh guide and hopefully it’ll get things up and running for you as smoothly as possible.S|A

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