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‘Hackintosh’ vs MacPro – Is it Worth Trying To DIY Your Own Mac for Photo/Video Work?

By Anthony Thurston on May 31st 2014

I think just about every creative professional out there has looked at those new MacPro machines and after deciding they look like a trash can, have lusted after them, even a mainly pro PC guy like myself.


Having just spent about $800 (plus parts I already owned) on a new custom editing PC for myself, I started to wonder if building a ‘hackintosh’ could get me similar performance to one of these new MacPros. Just a quick tech lesson, a “Hackintosh” is when you install OSX on a custom built PC. So, I just spent money on that new custom PC, and didn’t have the money to do it myself, so I decided to check out YouTube and see what other individuals results have been.

$1920 Hackintosh vs $2999 Base Late 2013 MacPro

I think it is safe to say here that in the case of the Hackintosh shown above, this user was able to get similar performance for a fraction of the cost. Plus, switch out that Nvidia Titan for something like a Nvidia GTX 770, which is around $300-$400, and you shave another $600-$700 off that final price. So for essentially $1300, you could build a Hackintosh that is capable of matching – in most respects – the $2999 MacPro.

There is a HUGE thing to note here though. The MacPro is a workstation grade machine, and it is filled with workstation grade parts. This Hackintosh, while cheaper, is also made of consumer grade parts. This means that bang for buck and performance may be similar, but in the end, the workstation grade parts are of a higher quality and are more optimized for things like video editing and the like.

[REWIND: My Custom Photo/Editing PC for Under $800]

The other part to this is that you can’t just turn any custom PC into a Hackintosh, parts have to be carefully selected and even then the install can be a real pain in the neck. If you are the type to worry about installing updates to Windows, then this is probably not something you will even want to consider doing on your own.

Her are some more great Hackintosh videos…

My Verdict

So what is the verdict? Well, it is a little complicated. If you are a photographer who only takes stills and edits in Lightroom & Photoshop than I would say this is not really something worth doing. In fact, I would say that both a Hackintosh (at least one like the one in the video) and MacPro are way overkill for those purposes.

But, if you are a photographer that also works video into your services, than this could seriously be something that you might want to consider. Assuming that you feel like you have the tech know how, or at the least can follow detailed instructions via YouTube videos without needing much help. I mean $1300 is much easier to swallow than $2999 – that is money you would put towards a new lens or camera body. Just for example, for $1699 you could buy yourself a brand new Canon 50mm F/1.2L.

The other aspect to consider is that if anything goes wrong, which is notorious on Hackintosh systems, you can’t take it to Apple for support. The buck ends with you, so if anything goes haywire you are the one who needs to fix it. This could be a huge negative for anyone thinking of using a hackintosh for professional purposes.

[poll id=”64″]

*As has been noted in the comments, there is some debate over whether or not this is even legal to do. If you decide to go this route make sure to educate yourself on the issue and come to a conclusion on your own.*


What are your thoughts on the matter? Do you feel that the Hackintosh (the one in this video anyways) is an acceptable alternative to the uberexpensive MacPro? Leave a comment below and let’s discuss!

{video via MW Technology on YouTube}



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Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Uriah Upchurch

    I’m working with a coworker who’s considering a Hackintosh, and at this point, based on his needs it’s a much better option than a the MacPro he was looking at.

    On the subject of the legality of installing OS X on a non Apple device. As far as I can discern from the license agreement, it seems perfectly legal, but the end user shouldn’t expect any support from Apple should it not work as intended. No where in the agreement does it explicitly state that it cannot be installed on non Apple equipment. It states “This License allows you to install and use one copy of the Apple Software on a single Apple-labeled computer at a time.” It also doesn’t define “Apple-labeled”. This is a whole lot of ambiguity around the subject, and ambiguity in a contract always favors the party that didn’t draft it. I think this a clever way for Apple to avoid condoning use of the product on non Apple machinery without losing OS and software sales.

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  2. Rachel

    Something that needs to be considered in this argument as well is, “Are Macs still the same quality they once were?” If they were, then there would be more to be said and more of a lean towards Macs.
    However, out of the MacBook, MBP, and iMacs (in addition to Apple TV, an iPad and iPods all purchased within the last 5 years) ALL have had at least one major malfunction for my husband and I. Now, thankfully my husband used to work for Apple and had a friend that was able to help us fix our major malfunctions. But it has always been clear that since we didn’t purchase Apple Care, these major malfunctions due to no fault of our own (a warped bottom on the MB; the wiring in the screen of the MBP being faulty; and the fans that clunked out in the iMacs) were ALL within the first year of purchase and logically should have fallen under the manufacturer’s warranty. But you better believe Apple didn’t see it that way and the rote answer we received each and every time, “Trade it in and we’ll give you $250 towards a new computer.” And you better believe that its costs them $5 to fix these problems and they turn around and sell your computer/device for top dollar in their refurbished line, all the while also securing money from you for a new computer (minus the generous $250 credit they gave you…). And what happens when Apple Care expires? You’re stuck. But, thats just “good business” on Apple’s part, I suppose…

    Because of this, Apple stocks are dropping. The quality is simply not there anymore. So while some may love the herd mentality of loving their Apple products (as I was once a very strong member of that herd), if we lift our heads up and look around, we would realize that we’re paying top dollar for quality that is no longer there.
    So it makes more sense to just learn and build your own computer, even if its not a Hackintosh. That way, if it malfunctions, at least you are not at anyone’s mercy to fix it. Which I find liberating.

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  3. Shai

    I’ve always toyed with the idea of building myself a Hackintosh.
    But, there is always one thing that holds me back.

    If I was to use this as my main production computer and something goes wrong, then I am put in a very difficult position. I won’t get any Apple support and fixing it could take quite a while as I try to figure out the issues.

    This will equal to a loss of revenue, potential loss of clients and a lot of time wasted.

    I am still thinking of making one as a hobby, but in a professional setting, it might be more trouble than it is worth.

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  4. stephen

    I run a Hackintosh which dual boots to Ubuntu/Mac OS. I used to dual boot between Mac OS and Windows 7, but I rarely used Windows 7, only when a client needed a wmv copy of a video (I’m now doing this on the mac side).

    I primarily work as a motion graphics artist and I can say, after comparing the different platforms, Mac OS and Linux tend to out-perform Windows in render times. By quite a big margin. If I had to go back to Windows, I’d be a very unhappy camper.

    One of the main reasons I run a Hackintosh rather than get a mac pro is the choice of hardware. A lot of the software that I use make use of CUDA for GPU rendering. This just isn’t possible on a Mac Pro.

    Yes, it is a bit of work to keep it up and running, especially with updates, so you have to know what you’re doing. If you’re half way through a project, don’t update, simple. It’s the same with any other software, you lock down the software during a project to avoid breakages.

    So to sum it up, it isn’t all about cost saving.

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    • Anthony Thurston

      What are you editing in Ubuntu with? I have liked Ubuntu for a long time, but the lack of an easy way to get Photoshop/Premiere working (I haven’t tried in some time) has always sent me back to Windows in the end…

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  5. Reid VanVoris

    What Apple only software are you using that makes not buying a cheaper more powerful pc a better option?

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  6. Bokeh Monk

    You’re all mis-guided fools! If you can’t afford a MacPro ( that’s what this really comes down to ) then I suggest you stop going to McDonalds for a year, you’ll have plenty of money to get one and come out healthier !!!

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  7. Adrian S

    I’ve tried to install OS X on my PC, all went well up to 99%. Then it cried for help and contact my vendor. I’ve also tried on other 3 older computers with no luck at all, and ended up using a virtual machine. So if you are not 100% sure of the parts you need there is a slim, to none, chance that it will not work.

    I just needed an OS X to upload apps to App Store, since they made it impossible to submit apps from a PC. And how do they expect me, not to do a little hacking? I have a payed developer account, but I’m not stupid enough to buy a Mac just for this.

    In the end why buy a Mac when you can have a PC, with 6x 2TB HDDs in Raid 10 (that is speed + mirror), for that moment when you can have 6TB at SSD speed and instant backups, in case on HDD fails.

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  8. Rick

    Glad to see at least some get it. It’s illegal due to the violation of the OS X license agreement.

    Having articles such as this on sites where I’m a member is a conflict of interest for me. Hoping it will be pulled.

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    • ThePixelDoc

      I fully agree.

      How ironic and hypocritical that photographers get in an uproar when their pictures are stolen and copyright/licensing laws don’t protect them as they assume they should… and then in the next breath advocate stealing and/or turning a blind eye towards copyrighted/license agreement software.

      Also another pet peeve: regardless of the system you build or purchase, I would like to hear specific thoughts from photographers as to WHY a camera, lens, assorted accessories, etc. should be more expensive and be of more value then your “dark room” equipment/equivalent.

      Just because the production costs, cheap exported labor, and market forces have brought down the “average” price of computers and software over the years, does not IMHO make them worth less. Considering the equal amount of time spent behind both a camera and in the “dark room”, I see no reason to justifiably value one to be acceptably more expensive than the other.

      Also, resale value AND reliability should be added to the list of pros/cons as well.

      I’m a post-production technician and work with companies and individuals that invariably have mixed OS systems. Choosing the right tool (OS/software combo) for the job is as important as choosing the right camera/lens/lighting combo in photography/film/music production…. and you need to be just as confident in the reliability that your choice is the right one for the task at hand as you are in your craft.

      Macs have aided that choice for the majority of my clients 20+ years of doing this, and them relying on me to back up their choice with assistance in that decision. If and when…. and it does… go bad or wrong on a Mac, I can in general have a loaner device ready in a few hours or less and they don’t even know they have a different system sitting in front them. Hardware, software and data. No driver issues, migration headaches, or lost time trying to fix those “little” things that some find amusing and fun to figure out. When servers/data drives, Windows or Linux goes belly up…. it normally takes a bit longer to get things back to way they were (in my experience).

      Anyway… reliability, confidence and value doesn’t come from always “rolling your own”. And a Mac, just like a 1DX or D4s, has far more value than just it’s initial purchase price… IMHO… ;)

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  9. Melvin DelACruz

    the reality is clear. many people are fan-boys, and this is the problem.
    I love apple products but the truth is they are too expensive.
    if you are a realist person and know you know about computer you do a hackintoch.
    I used hackintosh for almost 5 years ago and they are stable as the original mac.
    But you have to know how do it.
    And this is not illegal. only it is illegal to download the program without paying.
    But if you pay for your license is not illegal (this clear).
    I would like the new Macbook 3000 dollars but i will make a hackintoch 3 times better.

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  10. Brian

    Actually, this is illegal. The licensing agreement for any apple OS states that it can only be used on their equipment (which is one of the reasons you have to be so careful when selecting the parts). That being said, no one is really going to go after you for it unless you start selling them, or build a whole fleet of them.

    Now… my thoughts on this:
    I am a diehard PC guy. I don’t mind linux, but I hate Apple (yes… I am aware of the fact that they are both unix… I have my reasons). I started out working in AV, I do photography as a hobby, but my company does video production as one of our services… Therefore I do mostly video editing on our computers instead of photo editing. We have used windows computers for years running Adobe Premier, After Effects, and Sony Vegas. For the amount of money that you would pour into a Mac, you can build a much nicer computer using Windows. Why anyone with half a brain in computers would use a mac is beyond me… As long as you aren’t stupid enough to download malware, a PC can actually out preform a mac of equal specs.

    Just my thoughts on it. ;)

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    • John Cavan

      I, personally, own 14 computers each running one of Windows, Linux, or OS X. There is more to the question than simple performance to price, but I disagree that a Windows machine can outperform on the same specs, assertion isn’t fact and, well, I have them around me to see that this isn’t really true in practice, they’re fairly comparable.

      The simple reason that many people are interested in Macs is that they prefer the experience. People seem to struggle with this idea for some reason, but the working experience is different and for some they prefer one over the other. Choice is nice, nothing wrong with that at all. In any event, the resale value of my Macs are a lot better than the resale value of my PCs, so in the end I’ll probably spend less on a Mac.

      Long story short, “nicer computer” is a subjective thing.

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  11. Jiffer

    Why would you want mac OSX… There are more plug-ins programs, etc… for PC… you can get any screen you want if you go apple or PC.. you can ever hack the apple codex 442LT HD etc…. I think people are becoming smart enough now to understand that Apple and PC are both the same thing, Apple is just more on the hardware side of things… People like Apple cause they are told to… If you have a power house PC.. why would you want to go backwards with Mac OSX on it. FCP….. thing of the past.. Jump on the cloud rookies.

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    • Ryan

      For me it is quality over quantity. The software to do anything I need is generally available for OSX. Maybe a decade ago I ran into issues with not having the software I needed on mac but now in most cases when I am on windows I am frustrated by the lack a decent equivalent on windows. I always find there are 10 windows alternatives but they are almost always sub par in comparison. While they often are very much feature complete their design and user flow often feels like a second thought. (note windows software is slowly getting better)

      Other that ease of use is a huge one, I have to work with both platforms every day and I find that for the most part the Macs just work and require little maintenance, conversely, I find that the windows machines require way more set up and ongoing maintenance which I simply don’t want to have to deal with.

      Time is money. If it was up to me I’d never touch windows again simply because the premium I pay for Apple hardware is a fraction of the cost in time I lose to Windows related headaches.

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  12. Connor

    Or you can always build a windows machine which is 10 times less the hassle in comparison to building a Hackintosh. I say if you don’t want to pay the extra money for an apple than go custom built windows machine simply because you will probably run into far less problems building it. As custom built computer go there are hundreds of part configurations you can achieve with windows and only a few you can achieve with a hackintosh because of OS compatibility.

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  13. Rick

    Sigh. Why promote illegal things?

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    • Charles

      It’s not illegal, to build a hackintosh you will need a copy of OSX PURCHASED from the app store. It’s your copy and you should be able to do anything with it, apart from seeding it of course.

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    • Anthony Thurston

      It’s not Illegal Rick. (Assuming you use a legitimately purchased copy of OSX)

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    • Ryan

      By installing OSX on non-apple hardware you are in breach of the license that you have purchased to use the software. Which, in essence, is no different than if I licensed a photo from you to put on my website then proceeded to put it on the cover of an international magazine.

      Apple sells licenses to their software, you never own it. You are licensed to a specific set of usage as defined by Apple, installing it on third party hardware is not one of those uses which is why all those that make hackintoshes for resale are aggressively prosecuted by Apple.

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    • Stan Rogers

      To be entirely fair, it *used to be* illegal (or, rather, contrary to the provisions of the software license for MacOS). It was entirely forbidden during the 680×0 era; then Apple *briefly* allowed commercial clones during the PowerPC era before changing their minds (due to incompatibilities and more than a few shoddy machines). The license for OS X was locked down for a long time, and it’s only relatively recently that Apple decided that Hackintoshes are going to happen anyway, so they might as well make a buck or two in the bargain. Commercial clones that include the (installed) OS are still verboten.

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    • Brian

      @Stan, you are wrong. See section 2, subsection A:

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    • Anthony Thurston

      There is no specific verbiage there that says you can’t install it on a non-apple “labeled” machine. Only that it CAN be installed on an apple-labeled machine and not installed on more than one computer at a time.

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    • Kurtz

      They are not illegal, you can buy a OSX directly from apple store- its just an alternate- i strongly agree with this article- its up for you to take.

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