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Frankenmac 2017: From BIOS to installed macOS

Today, a look at how my Frankenmac went from the basic hardware BIOS setup screen to a usable (though not yet fully complete or natively bootable) macOS machine. If you’re just tuning in, you may want to catch up…

  • The Beginnings: Resources, parts list, and ordering. (Steps 1 – 3)
  • The build: Turning the parts into something that powers on…but that’s about it. (Steps 4 – 5)
  • The roadblock: A new graphics card and an old case and old power supply do not mix.
  • Transplanted: Frankenmac moves into a new home, with a new power supply, to get around the roadblock.
  • The parts list: A constantly-updated list of the parts I used and the cost of each part.

Now that Frankenmac is functional in its new home—roadblock averted—it’s time to explain how I got to that point from the BIOS boot screen of step five a few days back. It’s a tale filled with drama, dread, doubt, defiance, and in the end, domination. Well, OK, it’s pretty much none of that, but I had a string of “D words” in my head, and had to use them somewhere…

As a reminder, before I hit the roadblock over the weekend, I had been successful in getting the machine to boot to the BIOS screen, using the onboard video. In other words, I hadn’t broken anything while putting the parts together.

So from there, it was time to turn the assembled parts into Frankenmac. I’m not going to go through every step in detail—that’s what The Always Up-to-Date Guide to Building a Hackintosh is for. Seriously, if you’re doing this properly, you’ll wear out that page—and the pages it links to—in your browser. Instead of repeating what they say there, I’ll just point out some of the things I ran into along the way, in hopes it saves you some hassle if you happen to be trying this yourself.

Step 6: Configure the BIOS

The good news is that by picking a motherboard from the approved parts list (you did that, right?) there shouldn’t be much to do here. In the case of my Gigabyte GA-Z170X, I just checked the recommended UEFI settings, and found that I didn’t need to change anything. I did set the X.M.P. Memory Profile to Profile1 (step 3, whatever that is), and that was it—VT-d was already disabled (step 4).

You could change other things here, but there’s no requirement to do so–and if you set something wrong, you won’t be able to boot, so be careful.

Step 7: Install macOS Sierra

In Lifehacker’s guide, this is simply one little “step 2” in the whole process. But it’s a really big step, because it encompasses a number of tasks (including a sixteen-part sub-step). First and foremost, make sure you have a 16GB thumb drive ready to go. I was positive I did, but couldn’t find it, so I made a quick run to the store. As soon as I sat down at my desk again, I noticed the missing 16GB thumb drive sitting over on a corner of the desk. Oh well, nice to have a spare!

You’ll also need some software from tonyx86mac.com (UniBeast and MultiBeast from the downloads page); to download, you’ll need to be logged in to a free account.

You also need a copy of macOS Sierra, which you can download from the Mac App Store. Format your 16GB thumb drive in Disk Utility, then run UniBeast and follow its instructions (and those on the Lifehacker page) to install macOS Sierra on the thumb drive. When that’s done, copy MultiBeast to the thumb drive, eject the thumb drive, and then use it to boot your hackintosh.

This all worked great for me using Lifehacker’s instructions, right up to sub-step 11:

At the Clover boot screen, choose USB and press Enter. If you have trouble reaching the installer, check out step 4 on this page for more information.

My Frankenmac never reached the installer screen. I’d see the Apple logo, but the progress bar would stop after moving only a few pixels. I let it sit for five minutes, rebooted, and tried again, to the same result. Clearly something was crashing the machine, but what? As there’s no visible output, it’s impossible to say. I tried looking at the “Step 4” bit linked from Lifehacker, but it refers to an older method of installing OS X.

To find out why Clover (the program doing all the work to let you install macOS on your homebuilt PC) is crashing, I had to set it to run in verbose mode, as you get when holding ⌘V during boot on a Mac.

Tip: If you can’t get to the installer screen, set Clover to run in verbose mode by adding the -v option to the Boot Args line. This won’t solve the problem, but it should show you where the process gets stuck.

After some searching, I found out how to do that. In case that page vanishes, here’s a condensed version of the how-to: First click the small gear icon you’ll see below the Clover logo and hard drives…

On the next screen, you’ll see an entry for Boot Args; click it to get into typing mode, then—after any existing commands—type a space then add -v, and press Enter when done. Click Return until you’re back a the top level, then continue booting. When you do, it’ll be in verbose mode, and lots of text will go flying up the screen.

In verbose mode, I could see exactly where Clover stopped; the last message onscreen contained these exciting words:

AppleUSBLegacyRoot::init:enabling legacy matching

Web searches weren’t encouraging, with one reporting they’d fixed the problem by swapping their motherboard. Ugh. Because the message was related to USB, I thought I’d try an experiment. When I rebooted, I went back into the Options section, and clicked into PCI devices. In there, the first two entries are related to USB devices, so I checked them both:

And, amazingly—success! On the next boot, I got to the installer. Further experimentation showed that only the first option, USB Ownership, needed to be checked.

Tip: The options you set here only affect booting from the USB stick. After you install macOS, you’ll need to make similar changes in the permanent config file for your macOS setup. More on that in a future post.

Once the installer starts, one key difference is you can’t just tell it to proceed. Instead, you must first format the hard drive you’re going to use for macOS, via the Utilities > Disk Utility entry in the Installer’s menu.

Tip: If you can’t see the hard drive in Disk Utility, check to make sure you connected both the power cable (from the power supply) and the SATA data cable (to the motherboard). Do not ask why I know about this.

After formatting the drive, though, the Installer works just as you’d find on a factory Mac. Answer the questions, wait a while, and you’ll have a fresh macOS install on your hackintosh; here’s the About box on mine, after the installation:

(Sorry for the low quality—I’m doing all my setup on a non-retina 1920×1080 display, so some of the screenshots have been scaled up.)

At this point, I had a somewhat functional Mac. The hardware itself was working nicely: All 32GB of RAM is recognized, all the front panel stuff on the new case (power button, reset button, lights, and USB ports) worked, the Bluetooth/WiFi card worked, etc. But there was still much to do. First and foremost, the hard drive was not yet bootable, even though it had macOS installed (because it’s a default installation, without any of the needed add-ons to make it work in your generic PC). Beyond that, I had to get the graphics card installed and working, and then work on the niggling little details (like audio) that can sometimes be a real pain with a hackintosh.

But all of that will have to wait for future installments, as this one’s already longer than most anyone would care to read.

2 Comments

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  1. Honestly, it was just this kind of ‘ set X.M.P. Memory Profile to Profile1 (step 3, whatever that is)’ nonsense that cured me of the Hackintosh itch after grinding through three iterations.

    I want to get work done on my computer, not work on my computer.

    1. Yep, that’s why (in my opinion) Apple doesn’t really care about stopping any of this: It’s never going to detract from their sales, and could really only help in the long run as people get frustrated with the process and move to real gear.

      (Note in this particular case, that bit was optional. It would’ve ran fine without touching anything. But I completely agree with your statement.)

      -rob.

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