Feeds

How to run Mac OS X on a generic PC

No need for hacked software

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Eighteen months ago, if you wanted to run Apple's Mac OS X on a generic Intel box your only option was to fish around on the internet for a hacked version that modified all the relevant low-level calls.

And then hope it worked on your hardware.

EFiX Mac About panel

Not snapped on a Mac

Even if you managed to get it up and running, Apple's frequent operating system updates were to be dreaded and avoided. You needed to stay in touch with the Hackintosh community on sites like Insanely Mac and Hackint0sh for news of specially modified updates and drivers. For those not endowed with a deep understanding of hardware and software it was a perilous path. But rewarding, if you were lucky enough to make it work.

Towards the end of last year the tide began to turn. The key to making a generic Intel Mac that can handle updates lies in the fact that the 'uniqueness' of Apple hardware is really dependent only on the mechanism the Mac substitutes for the venerable Bios (Basic Input/Output System), the firmware interface between the operating system and the hardware. The Bios replacement Apple uses is in fact an open standard, EFI (Extended Firmware Interface), introduced a decade ago by Intel as part of its attempt to get its Itanium chip off the ground.

Calling the Bios and EFI "boot mechanisms" is an over-simplification. The traditional Bios only uses 16-bit drivers, which modern operating systems tend to replace with much richer 32-bit equivalents as soon as they are loaded. So in this sense the Bios is really only used for lift-off, although its original intention was to offer ongoing support to the operating system.

EFI goes much further. In simple terms, it's a small computer with its own operating system, providing a firmware connection between the main operating system and the various hardware components like disks, optical drives, graphics cards and so on. Unlike the BIOS, these drivers can be full featured and may be used passim rather than being discarded after booting. And - crucially - they are totally independent of whatever main operating system is running, as long as the operating system is 'EFI aware' - it understands the various low-level calls that EFI expects. Modern operating systems like Linux, Windows 7 and, of course, Mac OS X all fit that bill.

EFiX unit

This gadget persuades Leopard it's running on a real Mac

Understanding EFI immediately opened up the possibility of a software hack that withstands updates, and the Hackintosh community has latched onto this with an open source initiative called Chameleon. The setup process is described on several sites, for example here. The community has done amazing work, but it's true to say that getting it all up and running still falls into the the 'pretty hairy' category of DIY computing.

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Why has the web gone to hell? Market chaos and HUMAN NATURE
Tim Berners-Lee isn't happy, but we should be
Linux turns 23 and Linus Torvalds celebrates as only he can
No, not with swearing, but by controlling the release cycle
Apple promises to lift Curse of the Drained iPhone 5 Battery
Have you tried turning it off and...? Never mind, here's a replacement
Sin COS to tan Windows? Chinese operating system to debut in autumn – report
Development alliance working on desktop, mobe software
Eat up Martha! Microsoft slings handwriting recog into OneNote on Android
Freehand input on non-Windows kit for the first time
This is how I set about making a fortune with my own startup
Would you leave your well-paid job to chase your dream?
(Not so) Instagram now: Time-shifting Hyperlapse iPhone tool unleashed
Photos app now able to shoot fast-moving videos
prev story

Whitepapers

A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.