Can You Build A Hackintosh For Under $100?

70buckhackintoshBy James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

Build a Hackintosh for less than $100? Turns out it’s possible! Not only that, but it can be faster than a brand new 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. Well, if you’re on a budget and willing to hunt for a deal, it’s possible by looking for a surplus sale at a local college or government website, Craigslist, or eBay. And if you’re really lucky, it’ll include an SSD, to boot! Let’s see how one enterprising techie did it.

“I began this project with one goal … build a Hackintosh with respectable specs that would help do the average person’s every day tasks, and do it for under $100. What I didn’t expect was that I could do it and have it perform as good as a brand new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar.” – Snazzy Labs

While everyone is waiting for the new Mac computers to arrive later this year, it seems that old is new again. We’ve already seen RED’s Jarred Land breathe new life into an old 2010 Mac Pro Tower and make it faster than the current ‘Trash Can Mac Pro.’ And over at Snazzy Labs, Quinn Nelson has taken an old Windows system from a college sale and turned it into a top-of-the line, lightning-fast Hackintosh. But how is it possible with a computer that’s years old?

Well, here’s the unspoken truth: The computer industry has convinced many of us to ignore the fact that processor power hasn’t really advanced over the last four or five years, while GPU and RAM speeds are getting faster with each generation. By offloading the graphic processing onto a newer card, you can easily make an older machine perform like it’s brand new out of the box, for nearly every task.

What’s cool is Snazzy Labs’ Nelson discovered he could edit 4K video on his new Hackintosh, and the total cost to build it was merely $70. Insane! All Nelson did was look for a local college surplus sale, and he discovered that colleges and universities routinely replace their computers every four to five years, and sell the old models to the public. Government auctions do the same thing.

Nelson found an HP 6300 computer that was Hackintosh-ready, which was brand new five years ago and cost the university $1000; he paid only $30. The HP came with an Intel Quad Core i5 CPU at 3.2 GHz, and 4GB of DDR3 RAM. So it’s on the lower end, but with some additional hardware, including an upgraded video card, he brought it up to spec.

After a quick cleaning job to get rid of the dust and replacing the thermal paste joining the processor to the CPU fan, Nelson turned his attention to the hard drive and video card. While on Craigslist, he found a low cost, pre-owned hard drive; since his goal was to spend as little as possible, this makes sense. However, a used hard drive can fail at any minute. But with hard drives so cheap these days, I personally would’ve spent a little more money and just bought a new one.

He also found a “dead” SSD drive on Craigslist, and with a little research, Nelson discovered that Samsung solid state drives can more or less go into a coma and appear to be dead. It’s reasonable to believe it can’t saved, and a user would simply replace them. Nelson was able to bring one back to life by cycling power through it several times until it woke up. The cost of the drive was $5.

Lastly, he looked for a low cost NVIDIA video card and GPU, since the computer’s onboard GPU wouldn’t support macOS Sierra. He didn’t want to go back to El Capitan, so he visited Craigslist again and he lucked out with a cheap, PCI-E powered MSI GTX 750Ti for $35. Not the greatest, but it did the job for the price, performance-wise.

In the end, he ended up with a Hackintosh that could run macOS Sierra and have USB 3 and gigabit Ethernet. Nelson’s computer only had 4GB of RAM though, but even with that, he could still edit a simple video in 4K. But since he was $30 under his original budget, he could still double his RAM to 8GB (especially if you plan to video edit in 4K). Speed tests were excellent, plus he was gaming on the Hackintosh without a problem.

The point is, if your computer has finally died and you don’t want to get a new one until Apple comes out with the updated iMac systems, or the in-development Modular Mac Pro, then with a little research and elbow grease, you can build your own Hackintosh as a stop gap for cheap. And if you do buy a new Mac, that Hackintosh can easily become a server.

And if you’ve all but given up on Apple ever coming out with a new Mac Mini, well, Nelson has built one of those, too. His YouTube Channel is worth subscribing to.

Hat Tip: Loop Insight

About James DeRuvo

James has a multi-faceted career that spans radio, film and publishing. A writer about the technology in the video industry for nearly 20 years, James is also an award winning film director, having garnered a Telly Award for his short film Searching for Inspiration. He's also worked as a producer of many talk radio programs in Los Angeles with topics ranging from entertainment to travel to technology.