By Ian Sherr
One of my favorite nerdy hobbies is ending, whether I want it to or not. And it’s Apple’s fault.
Back in 2016, I was frustrated that Apple hadn’t updated its Mac Mini, iMac or Mac Pro computers in at least a year. The company pumped out new iPhones, iPads, AirPods and MacBooks at a regular pace, and I had at least one of each. But the desktop Macs weren’t getting the same attention.
I wanted a low-cost multipurpose machine I could rely on for work and play for the next several years. But if I plunked down the $499 starting price Apple wanted for its Mac Mini computers at the time, I’d be paying the full amount for a machine whose innards were more than two years old. Not OK.
So I decided to do one of the nerdiest things a techie Apple user can do: I built a PC.
I bought all the parts I needed, including a storage drive, system memory and a graphics card. Next, I put them together in a rather generic-looking case. Then I tricked Apple’s MacOS software into powering it.
The project took about $800, many nights of squinting at computer code, and a couple of frustrated bangs on my keyboard, but eventually I’d done it.
I’d turned my DIY computer into a Hackintosh.
It’s not something Apple supports, and it may be a violation of the MacOS software licensing terms. (Apple declined to comment for this article.) But the result was that I had a desktop Mac computer on my terms. I’d wrestled control away from Apple.
What’s more, I felt like a winner. During the day, I’d move between my MacBook Air and Hackintosh for work, using all the specialized Mac software I’ve come to rely on to track my to-do lists, manage my calendars and find clever GIFs to use in idle banter.
At night, I switched the Hackintosh over to Microsoft’s Windows, which powers more than 73% of the world’s computers. That’s one of the only ways to play well-regarded virtual reality games like Valve’s sci-fi shooter Half-Life: Alyx, which CNET sister site GameSpot just named game of the year for 2020.
And if some component, like the video card, just isn’t doing enough, I’m able to upgrade the machine with little hassle. Nerd paradise.
Sadly, that all changed this past summer when Apple CEO Tim Cook walked onto his company’s virtual, livestreamed stage and said Macs were changing forever. Their microprocessing brains, formerly made by chipmaker Intel, were being replaced with Apple’s custom-designed M1 chips instead. Apple said it was doing this because the technology behind its iPhones and iPads are better-suited for Mac computers than the Intel processors Apple’s been using to power Macs since 2006.
“Advancements of this magnitude only come from making bold changes,” Cook said when announcing Apple’s first M1-powered devices going on sale in November.