Lion Hackintosh: Impressions

Getting Started

I used this guide from the OSx86 forums over at InsanelyMac.com to get my OSx86 Lion rig up and running, and I suggest that you pay it a visit.  The author of the guide put lots of time and energy into writing it, so let’s give credit where credit is due.

Disclaimer: I’m not writing my impressions on the OSx86 project in this post.  If you’re deciding whether or not to give it a go, I can only tell you that my experience has been intellectually stimulating and substantially rewarding.

Hardware

My hardware configuration was fairly standard until a couple years ago when the Core i_ processors and their respective MB/RAM configurations went mainstream in the (real) Mac architecture road maps (ditto in the OSx86 community).  While a top-of-the-line system built today will likely have a Sandy Bridge 6-core processor with at least 6GB of DDR3 RAM, my rig weighs in with a modest Core 2 Duo and 8GB of DDR2 RAM.  Still plenty fast for me, but not nearly as bleeding-edge as when I built it.

Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3L R2

RAM*: Hyper-X 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM (4 x 2GB sticks) @ 1066MHz

Processor*:  Intel Core 2 Duo E6550 2.33GHz @ 3.11GHz

Hard Disk: 500GB Western Digital 7200RPM SATA 6GB/s  HDD for main OS and recovery OS; 1.5TB Seagate 7200RPM SATA 6GB/s HDD for media; external 1TB HDD for Time Machine

GPU: NVidia GTX 250 512MB PCIe

Networking: Netgear Wireless-N PCI card (will update later with exact model; chipset is Atheros-based)

*overclocked (not running at stock speed)

Overclocking

One of the main benefits of the OSx86 project is the ability to run OS X on overclocked hardware.  The only components that I chose to overclock are my (slow at stock speed) CPU and, accordingly, the memory.  Below is my motherboard BIOS overclock screen to give you an idea of the voltages I’m running:

BIOS OC Screen
The Overclock/Voltages screen for my GA-P35-DS3L BIOS

Installation

After extracting the OS X Lion installer to a USB drive and installing Chameleon 2 RC4 (build 1083) on it, I booted successfully into the Lion installer.  The image below shows my installation of Lion onto my recover partition, which I named “Lioness.”

Lion Installation
OS X Lion Installer with "Lioness" (recovery) partition selected

I always perform my initial installation without any overclocking so as to eliminate the overclock as a source of installation problems; that said, my second installation to the recovery partition (with the machine overclocked) went surprisingly fast (less than 15 minutes) compared to the 20 or so minutes needed for a “stock” installation.

Post-Installation

The first I noticed when I booted up Lion for the first time is that the “Welcome” animation is gone (this has been blogged about extensively and I am not going to bother offering an opinion).  I moved past the introduction/configuration screens without any difficulty and, once I opted not to promise my first-born to Steve Jobs (see “How to skip sending registration information to Apple”), I was greeted by my virgin Lion desktop.

I made the following tweaks right away:

  • Turned off Natural Scrolling in System Preferences– This may feel “natural” with a Magic Track Pad, but Natural Scrolling started giving me unnatural headaches when paired with my Magic Mouse.
  • Turned off “Put hard disks to sleep when possible” checkbox in System Preferences– Consensus within the OSx86 community is that this may be contributing to the “spinning up  a non-existent DVD” sound coming from my DVD drive.  It’s still too soon to tell if this actually worked.
  • Finder hides the main hard disk by default in its left-side navigation pane; added this back immediately.
  • Used Migration Assistant to import my applications from my Time Machine backup disk (no issues because I didn’t have any apps installed that require Rosetta…)
  • Of course, installed Chameleon 2 RC4 on my new boot disk so that I didn’t have to use the installer USB drive to boot my new Lion hard disk
  • Also installed the Chameleon Preference Pane, which makes modifying your com.apple.boot.plist much more manageable than opening up PlistEditor and guessing at the meaning of each Chameleon plist key.
  • Because I maintain multiple OS X installations (such as my recovery partition as well as my old Snow Leopard hard drive), I immediately turned off Spotlight indexing and Time Machine backup on these drives.

Issues

Although my system was (for the most part) operational, I did encounter the following issues (a * denotes an issue that I fixed):

  • Sleep works (and even wakes with a mouse click!) but resets my CMOS when the machine restarts (Fixed!  See new post, Getting Lion to Sleep).  Unacceptable for now since I routinely reboot.  Here is the InsanelyMac forum discussion on the Lion sleep issues.
  • *I could not log into the Mac App store, and upon further inquiry discovered that this was due to my native ethernet interface not being detected by OS X (if properly detected, it must also be listed as en0 in /Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration/NetworkInterfaces.plist in order for the App Store to connect properly; if it’s listed as en1, just delete this plist, remove all network interfaces in Network Preferences, reboot, and then add them in the correct order).  This was strange because my DSDT is custom-built to include the motherboard’s built-in ethernet on the PCI0, LAN0 bus; additionally, this worked perfectly in Snow Leopard.  I tried adding “EthernetBuiltIn=Yes” to the com.apple.boot.plist, but to no avail.  Ultimately, I popped the IONetworkingFamily.kext from 10.6.7 (Snow Leopard) into the /Extra/Extensions library on my Lion disk and it did the trick.  Here is the forum response I posted in the Lion Post-Installation Discussion forum on InsanelyMac.com.
  • CPU Speed-Stepping has never worked for me; I haven’t looked into it yet with the Lion installation.
  • Booting is still slow, as Lion is loading every single kernel extension prior to booting.  There are a couple of InsanelyMac forum threads dedicated to this topic, although I have yet to see any confirmed solutions.  I have read that forcing a kext cache is causing Lion to fail to boot.
I’ll keep working towards finding a solution to these issues, but I haven’t had a lot of time recently.  I’ll update the post if I fix anything.

Backup and Recovery

The OSx86 community insists that backup and replication are the key to preventing a rogue Software Update from bricking your hackintosh.  I backup with Time Machine, but I also keep a small, bootable “Lioness” partition (with Chameleon installed) that allows me to boot in an emergency.

As Far as Apple is Concerned…

When Apple released Snow Leopard, I was finally able to purchase a retail installation disc and extract it to a thumb drive for installation on my x86 machine.  For me, this was monumental, as I had previously relied upon customized versions of the OS X installer (containing patched kernels and kernel extensions out-of-the-box) that were only available to download via torrents.

The OSx86 community has made me a bigger customer of Apple than I would have been without it.  Regardless of where your operating system loyalties lay, everyone should recognize that paying a mere $29.99 for a full operating system is a bargain considering all of the work that goes into writing, building and testing it.  I recognize that one of the reasons that Apple is able to offer OS X at such a discounted rate is that part of Apple’s business model involves subsidizing the cost of the operating system with the revenue generated by marking up Mac hardware; as far as I’m concerned, this should be even greater motivation to purchase a legal copy of OS X to install on your hackintosh.

That said, Apple has made purchasing a legal copy of Lion a little more difficult for the average OSx86 user to accomplish, due to its monumental leap into the physical-media-free OS installation model.  In typical Apple fashion, they’ve adopted a “don’t look back” attitude about it, too: either purchase Lion through the App Store from a Mac running Snow Leopard, or wait a few months until they let you purchase a flash drive copy for $69.

Here’s the problem: hackintoshes can’t upgrade to Lion from the App Store directly.  Luckily, InsanelyMac users have found a way to extract a legal App Store Lion purchase to a bootable image.  Installing a legal copy of Lion is the best way to participate in the OSx86 community by standing by well-written software with your dollars, even if you can’t afford to purchase a Mac.

After a successful hackintosh installation, the App Store will indicate that OS X Lion is “Installed”:

Lion Installed (App Store)
The App Store should indicate the OS X Lion is "Installed"

Note: If you install Lion from the developer Golden Master like I did, you will lose the ability to purchase OS X Lion from the App Store unless you purchase it from a machine running Snow Leopard.

OS X Lion Impressions

There are a gazillion Lion reviews out on the interwebs, so I’m not going to re-invent the root:wheel and write an entire technical review.  Here are a few standout impressions:

  1. Lion’s footprint is smaller than any previous OS X installation.  This is due to the removal of Rosetta, Apple’s PowerPC chip emulator for software written prior to Apple’s explicit adoption of the Intel architecture (the very thing that makes OSx86 possible!).  The entire installation took up less than 4GB on my hard drive.
  2. Apple does try to cram some iOS-inspired “features” down the user’s throat, such as the aforementioned Natural Scrolling (not a fan) and the real-life app metaphors like Address Book and iCal (even less of a fan).  Natural Scrolling can be disabled, but I’m stuck with a calendar application that looks like a cork-board.
  3. Multi-touch is much more integrated into Lion, which is a breath of fresh air for Magic Mouse users like myself.  My favorite addition: swipe left or right with one finger in Safari to move forward or backwards, and the page moves along with your finger to uncover the previous web site.  Very spiffy.
  4. Everything is cleaner.  The UI has a more consistent feel (goodbye Aqua!) and the animations are smooth but succinct.
  5. Spaces is gone and replaced by Mission Control, which allows apps to be moved to different “desktops,” each with their own wallpaper should you choose.  Apple got this right; I find it to be much more usable than Spaces.
  6. One thing that Lion borrows from iOS that I love is the invisible scroll bars.  Windows look altogether leaner and cleaner.
That’s all I have for now.  I’ll maintain this post with more thoughts as they crop up in the ol’ brain.  Until then, I’ll leave you with the two screenshots I teased you with a few weeks ago.
Here’s Lion running on my hackintosh; Migration Assistant is transferring my applications from Time Machine, and the inclusion of SMBIOS.plist in the /Extra folder allows my machine to be recognized as an early 2008 Mac Pro:
Lion
Lion running on my hackintosh
Here’s a screenshot of Mission Control:
Mission Conrol
Mission Control

Many thanks go out to the OSx86 community and the folks over at InsanelyMac.com.  This post isn’t meant to be a how-to guide or an editorial on the OSx86 project; however, both of those topics are discussed frequently over at InsanelyMac.

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7 Comments Add yours

  1. clingmarks says:

    You have exactly the same MB as mine! Very glad to know it works with Lion. I am going to give it try …

  2. clingmarks says:

    After the system is installed, I found I have no sound, no network, and sleep doesn’t work. Any suggestion?

    1. Chris says:

      For sleep, check out the forum I link to in the “Getting Lion to Sleep” post. You will also need to have a working DSDT.aml in order to get Sleep to work at all.

      Re: sound and network, it will all depend on your specific devices. http://wiki.osx86project.org/wiki/index.php/Main_Page has a great wiki that lists every part, adapter and card that people have gotten to work with OSx86.

      Your built-in network card won’t work until you put the 10.6.8 IONetworkInterfaces.kext in your /Extra/Extensions folder.

      1. Chris says:

        Oh, and re: Sound, I haven’t been able to get the native on-board sound to work very well. It’s ALC888 audio and others have been able to get it to work, but I haven’t had much luck. There are a few forum posts dedicated to it on InsanelyMac, but the best I could get is sound out of the “headphones” jack and no surround sound.

  3. clingmarks says:

    Thanks for the information. I finally got the sound and network card working. But still no luck with sleep.

    By patching AppleRTC.kext, it doesn’t sleep at all; by using SleepEnabler, it sleeps fine but doesn’t wake up.

    Still searching solutions …

  4. Martin says:

    And what new FileVault? Can you encrypt whole system disk?

    1. Chris says:

      Haven’t tried it. InsanelyMac forums are the way to go for that

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