Staff Build: Roman’s $2,000(ish) Hackintosh 2020
Hey guys, Roman from 25PC here. For the past few months I’ve been having a blast writing comprehensive computer build guides with fixed budget amounts for you guys, but today I’m excited to bring something a little bit different to the table. As you might have already guessed from the title, today I’ll be bringing you a build guide consisting of the components that make up my own personal hackintosh computer rig. We will talk about component choice, compatibility, and budget considerations like any other guide, but we’ll also cover some special considerations to make for installing the Macintosh High Sierra operating system alongside Windows 10.
Best Hackintosh Build For Gaming 2019
One quick note before we dive in: I’m calling this a “$2,000-ish” guide because that is roughly the value of my current components. Keep in mind that I purchased my last-generation graphics card before the big mining craze (more on that later) and I was able to take advantage of some sales back then too. Your mileage will vary a little bit with this guide, but that’s kind of the beauty of it. Aside from some core components, you can think of my guide as more “suggestion” than “instruction.”
With that out of the way, let’s get to it!
1) Intel i5 8400
When selecting a processor for a hackintosh, there are some important considerations to take into account, namely, compatibility. You will want to familiarize yourself with tonymacx86.com, their comprehensive guides and part lists will be your go-to resource for all things hackintosh.
I chose the Kaby-Lake-based 7600K for my build. Even though I’m using a non-overclocking motherboard (and I generally don’t recommend overclocking on Hackintosh anyway) I picked this particular processor because it had just a little bit of extra horsepower compared to its non-K little brother, the 7600. For an extra $10 (at the time) it seemed worth it. I also decided against the current generation 8600K because of its early-adopters premium fee but mainly because there are no current (or planned) Macintosh products that use the Coffee-Lake architecture found in the 8000-series. This doesn’t mean hackintoshing is impossible on that platform, but your mileage will vary.
Back to the 7600K then. The Intel i5-7600K launched in Quarter 1 of 2017 and currently retails for about $230. It features 4 cores and 4 threads with hyperthreading and runs at a base clock of 3.8GHz, but can turbo up to 4.2GHz. The 7600K does feature onboard Intel 630HD graphics, which is fine if you don’t want to play games or edit video, but we will be adding a discrete GPU later.
Sitting in the LGA1151 socket, the 7600K will occasionally get a bit toasty with its 91 watt TDP, so keep reading to find out how to keep it nice and cool.
2) DeepCool captain 240EX
The i5-7600K does not include a stock heatsink, which is fine, since I wouldn’t use it even if it did. No, instead we’re going to install a DeepCool Captain 240EX White.
I really love the Captain 240EX. The black and white color aesthetic fits perfectly with my motherboard and RAM and I really enjoy the industrial look of the CPU block. It’s a good thing my case doesn’t have a side panel window, because I could just stare at the EX for hours. Aside from its striking looks, the DeepCool Captain 240EX features a 240mm radiator that comes with 2 silent Air-Pressure Optimized DeepCool fans. The EX is what’s known as an “AIO” or “All-In-One,” meaning you won’t have to buy an external pump or run your own tubing. Super convenient for anyone who wants to watercool without the hassle of a custom loop. (i.e. me)
The most recent version of the 240EX comes with a 1-year warranty and is currently on Amazon for just $67.40. That’s a hell of a good deal for a dual-rad.
3) ASRock B250M Pro4
The motherboard is arguably the most important part of hackintoshing. The BIOS has to play nice with sophisticated boot orders and multiple EFIs, so choosing a compatible motherboard is extremely important. Gigabyte and ASUS have a good reputation for hackintoshing but at the moment, ASRock is king. ASRock’s easy-to-use but highly dynamic BIOS, as well as their reliability and unbeatable price led me to choose the ASRock B250M Pro4 motherboard for my rig.
I enjoy the Pro4’s clean white and black aesthetic (even featuring an I/O shroud) but I also like that it packs the full gamut of features despite its reduced mATX size. With 4 DDR4 DIMM slots, 2 M.2 slots, multiple PCIe slots, onboard video out, and onboard Intel LAN.
Now, I happen to use SATA drives for my hackintosh, but what I find really exciting about the ASRock B250M Pro4 is the two M.2 slots. The potential exists to dual-boot from two NvME drives, saving some space in your case and MASSIVELY increasing your speed, even over a standard SATA SSD. Those NvME drives are expensive, but hey, I can dream right?
4) Crucial Ballistix Sport LT 16gb
I won’t say that RAM choice has absolutely no bearing on whether or not you will be able to successfully dual boot Windows and Mac, but you can basically use almost anything. (As long as it is compatible with your motherboard, of course.) I chose 16GB of Crucial Ballistix Sport LT. Well, actually I chose 8 gigabytes, then bought another 8 some months later. (RAM is still really expensive.)
Crucial offers a few color options on their low-profile, bold-yet-not-overly-so heat spreaders and I chose white to match my motherboard and cooler. I took the 2400MHz kit, but Crucial does offer 2666MHz kits as well for a few more bucks.
This RAM is simple yet effective. Depending on what color you choose, this kit will cost between $160-$190.
Components #5, #6, #7, and #8 – Storage
Since we’re dual-booting here, we need at least 2 drives. I took a “SSDs for the OS and SSHDs for the storage” approach and went with two Corsair Force LE 480GB SSDs and two SeaGate FireCuda 2.5” 2TB SSHDs.
Let’s talk about the SSDs first. I chose the Corsair Force LE 480GB for my boot drives because they are crazy, wicked fast. I’m talking 560Mb/ps reads and 530Mb/ps writes. That’s some of the fastest I’ve seen in the SATA form factor. They’re also fairly reasonably priced. I got mine about a year ago on Amazon, and right now they’re listed on the Corsair store for $149.99. Not too bad for a 480GB SSD. The Force LE’s also pack some dynamic error-correction technology and Corsair Toolbox, “a powerful suite of tools for getting the most out of your SSD.” Whatever that means.
For my larger storage needs, I chose the SeaGate FireCuda 2TB SSHDs. If you are not familiar with SSHDs, they are Solid-State-Hybrid-Drives. Drives that use chunks of NAND flash memory to cache and quickly access files held on the spinning disk in the drive. They’re a great compromise between speed and storage size. Something I definitely needed since I have a lot of virtual instruments that take up a lot of space and need to be accessed and loaded quickly. SeaGate’s FireCuda drives are fairly new to the market, and I knew as soon as they launched that I wanted them in my rig. They currently retail in the $90 range for the 2.5” size.
9) Thermaltake Versa H15
I chose the Thermaltake Versa H15 for my hackintosh because it’s a touch smaller than standard ATX mid-towers without sacrificing too much room to build. I’ll admit it does get a bit tight in there with 4 SATA drives, but there is still plenty of room to mount my DeepCool Captain 240EX in the front with fans on each side of the radiator, and I mounted some other LED fans to the top and exhaust mounts. Plenty of airflow here.
If you decide to use M.2 drives, you will find the H15 to be even more spacious.
10) EVGA SuperNOVA G3-1000W 80 Gold Certified
My rig requires about 480 watts of power. I wouldn’t dare try to run it on a 500 watt power supply and I wanted a little more headroom than could be afforded in a 650 watt supply.
So I went with an EVGA – SuperNOVA G3 1000W 80+ Gold Certified Fully-Modular ATX Power Supply.
Yeah, I know. Overkill. I actually bought this power supply because I had an AMD Radeon Fury X GPU at one point, and it required a lot of power. I’ve since replaced that card but kept the power supply. It really doesn’t matter too much what kind of power supply you use for your hackintosh as long as it exceeds the minimum wattage required for all of your components. I’ll tell you a little more about the SuperNOVA G3, though.
The SuperNOVA G3 is rated as 80+ Gold, meaning it is at least 87% efficient at all times, and its fully modular, which means you can plug in only the cables that you need and nothing else. This was a big consideration for me since I chose an mATX motherboard and case. Of course, at 1,000 watts, I’m never going to run out of power either.
Component #11 – The Graphics Card
Here’s the tricky part about GPUs for hackintosh. There is no native support for 1000-series or 900-series Nvidia cards and getting RX 400 and 500-series cards to work properly can be annoying. For a more hassle-free experience, look for something from the 600 or 700-series range of Nvidia cards. Not all hope is lost if you have to buy new, however. Nvidia does release Mac drivers for their newer cards, so if you’ve got that shiny new 1080Ti in your sights, you’re probably okay to pull the trigger.
I have a 980Ti in my build. I traded my Fury X for it sometime in late 2015 and haven’t looked back. If you can find a used one for a reasonable price, I’d say go for it, but otherwise, you should be okay with any 1000-series card.
Components #12 and #13 – Miscellaneous
I purchased a Case Box, sometimes called a “Blank Drawer” or “Blank Drawer Rack” to put in my 5.25” bay for about $10 to store my install USB disks in. It’s very handy for making sure you don’t lose them, since they’re technically inside your computer.
The final items you will need for your hackintosh build are two 16GB flash drives. They will store your Windows 10 install media and your High Sierra installer, as well as the Clover Boot Utility.
How To Setup Hackintosh Build
I’ll briefly sum up the installation process here, but I highly recommend reading the walkthroughs on tonymacx86.com and hackintosher.com. Those guides are far more in-depth than this one and also have useful troubleshooting tips.
To start out, back up your current system configuration. When that’s done, download the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool from Microsoft. Plug in one of those 16GB drives and run the executable. Boom, now you’ve got a Windows 10 install disk. Easy. The Mac side is simple too, the only tricky part is that you need to have access to a Macintosh computer. Log on to the Apple App Store and download High Sierra. While that’s downloading, head over to tonymacx86.com and grab their install tool, UniBeast, and their Post-Install tool, MultiBeast. Use Disk Utility to format the drive to Mac OS Journaled, and be sure to select GUID Partition Map, sometimes abbreviated to GPT. Once everything is downloaded, open UniBeast and follow the instructions to make a bootable Mac USB drive. When this process has completed, copy the MultiBeast folder to the drive.
Now that you have your two install disks, you’re ready to start hackintoshing. Install only your Mac boot SSD into your rig, the other disks can wait for now. Once that is installed, attach the Mac Install Disk that you created earlier and boot into your BIOS. There are a few changes you have to make to prepare your system for two operating systems. For the complete list, see the tonymacx86 guide. When you are finished, select the EFI partition from your USB drive, then save and exit. Don’t be alarmed if you sit at a black screen for a few minutes, or if you see some white text code. This process is a little slow at the beginning. When you arrive at the Clover Drive Select Screen, select your install drive and follow the High Sierra install instructions. Make sure to format your destination drive as Mac OS Journaled with a GUID partition. The system will restart when the install process is finished.
Once you have reached the High Sierra desktop, you can copy the MultiBeast folder from your install flash drive and run it. MultiBeast will help you install your graphics, audio, and LAN drivers.
Now that High Sierra is installed, you can plug in your Windows Boot SSD and installation media. Keep the Mac USB installer somewhere safe. Boot back into your BIOS and select the Windows EFI partition on the flash drive. When you save and exit, the Windows 10 install process will being. Follow the steps and install windows on to the SSD that you just added. If you receive an error, you may need to use DISKPART to format the destination drive. More info on that can be found on hackintosher.com.
Your computer will restart a few times during the Windows installation process but when it it finished you will now have two OS drives. You may or may not need to use the Clover Configuration tool if your system will only allow you to boot to Windows. I didn’t have any trouble with mine.
One both operating systems are up and running, you can the SSHDs into your rig. Format them to NTFS and Mac OS, respectively, and now you’ve got more storage for both halves of your system.
That’s it! You’re done! You can now enjoy the Windows and Mac experience on one computer.
Thanks for reading this guide! Be sure to check out tonymacx86 and hackintosher if you need help along the way, or check out some of our other build guides.
Guide Written By Roman De Simone