Apple M1: The Passing Away of Hackintosh

Anupam Chugh

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Recently, I read an insightful piece where the author shared his first-hand experience in building Hackintosh(a home-built computer that runs macOS).

The article evoked a sense of emotion as the writer walked us through his journey in building a PC to make it run macOS and how the new Apple Mac Mini is snatching that ability with the new ARM-based M1 Chip.

Though the future of Hackintosh looks grim and there’s no doubt that its days are numbered, yet I believe there’s still some steam left. The support for Intel-based Mac won’t disappear abruptly.

Before we get down into the diminishing prospects of DIY Macs with the new Apple Silicon hardware, let’s dig through what a Hackintosh is and how it garnered so much popularity.

What Is A Hackintosh And Why Is It So Popular?

As the name suggests a Hackintosh is a hacked Macintosh. In other words, it’s a computer that runs Apple’s operating system on computer hardware not authorized by Apple.

Sardonically, a Hackintosh was invented by an Apple employee back in 2001. Despite Apple deeming Hackintoshes as illegal since it's a breach of their software licensing agreement, today there’s a whole cult community of tech nerds that love customizing their own mac.

A lot of onus of the Hackintosh's popularity has to do with Apple’s inability to keep up with their pace as a computer manufacturer. With the advent of the Macbook, iPhone, and iPad, Apple took off the foot from the pedal for Mac Mini, iMac, Mac Pro thereby causing slow update cycles for those devices.

This lead to a community of talented developers and power users who’ve built their own DIY mac computers. For most of them, Hackintoshing was a way to use cheap Apple products when they couldn’t afford or justify shelling money on overpriced Apple hardware.

At the same time, a different group of people took pride in tinkering with the specs just to outperform the standard Mac benchmarks(Apple typically underclocks CPUs, so it's easily possible to beat their performance on a customized PC).

Hackintosh certainly gained traction as people could dual boot their systems, upgrade their SSDs cheaply, and leverage the power of macOS for games and commercial software such as Final Cut Pro.

Apple Silicon Spells The End Of Hackintosh Forever

When Apple first revealed its plans to transition from Intel-based Macs towards its own Silicon-designed hardware, the Apple community was left in awe.

While Intel was already concerned about their future, the whole world wondered whether Apple could pull up speed performances that match their x86 Mac lineup.

But now, with Apple M1 Mac Mini receiving great reviews and performance results, it's the Hackintosh community that’s actually worried. For those who don’t know, Hackintosh was possible because people could buy compatible CPUs and GPUs from the market for the macOS.

Yet, the new M1 chip changes the game as it isn’t just a CPU. Instead, it's a System On Chip(SoC) with the CPU, GPU, and Neural Engine all embedded together in one computer chip.

With Apple being Apple, it's highly unlikely that they’ll have a plan to sell their proprietary chips separately and this is what actually puts Hackintosh on a life support.

Basically, as soon as Apple drops their macOS support for Intel-based architecture(it could be by 2025 at the earliest), Hackintosh would be rendered useless.

Though one may argue that Apple Silicon is simply an ARM-based architecture. Hence it should be possible to install macOS on a supported ARM-based Windows system. Right? Wrong.

Knowing Apple and the fact that they’ve never used the term “ARM” in their entire Keynote event, it’s pretty certain that the tech giant would customize the chip thereby making it incompatible with other ARM processors. Also one wouldn’t be surprised if Apple sets a signed bootloader and security checks on Mac apps to ensure they don’t run on non-Apple hardware.

Even in a best-case scenario where the user keeps using the current Hackintosh Intel-based setup for years, it’s likely that most apps would either stop receiving updates or get significantly slower considering Apple has already released a toolkit for developers to recompile apps “Optimized for M1”.

Conclusion

Apple has a history of creating a walled garden where its products complement each other and aren’t fully compatible with external platforms. Since the beginning, they’d built in-house hardware for the iPhone and iPad to ensure no other hardware can run iOS.

Macs were Apple’s Achilles heel as it relied on Intel CPU. Regardless, the new Silicon chip finally closes the ecosystem and promises to end the era of Hackintosh as we knew it.

It’s worth noting that Hackintosh won’t die overnight since Apple already has plans to release Intel-based Macs till the end of 2022. Understandably, they’d support x86 architecture for a few more years after that. But the day Apple puts the curtains on Intel Macs, Hackintosh will be obsolete.

This article was originally published on The Big Tech.

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