Old School Hackintosh


NOTE TO READERS: this piece was writted some time ago - August 2007. Technology and ‘hackintoshing’ have moved on significantly during the intervening years so please view this more as a bit of nostalgia than a current how-to.

The original hand made mac. Converting an old Sawtooth G4 Powermac from dead, oversized paperweight into a usable computer (and Hackintosh experiment). The parts involved were:   

* Powermac G4 - deceased

* ECS 945GZT-M Motherboard

* Intel E4300 Core2 Duo Processor

* Asus Geforce 7300 GT


Along the way I had to improvise as well and required a few other bits to make things fit:

* Zalman CNPS8000 low profile CPU cooler

* Pioneer DVR-K05 slimline optical drive

The project was divided into two distinct sections - the first being the hardest and the second a breeze. At several points I considered skipping part one entirely and buying a nice, simple micro ATX case. But no, it had to be the Powermac case!

Note - there is nothing groundbreaking here - I'm standing on the shoulders of giants. Look at the links below for previous and better executed examples of this particular exercise. Much credit goes to the following sites and hardware hackers whose guides I pretty much followed verbatim:

* Ritalin's Hackintosh in G4 case

* Aquamac's Winmac PC

* RedDrag0n's PC in a Mac Case

You guys rule!

The metalwork was the hardest part of the project for me. A fair amount is required given that the original G4 Powermac case is not made to fit regular PC components. Main things needed are:

* Holes for additional airflow

* Accomodation for the micro ATX connector panel at the rear

* Cutting of the optical drive caddy and shelf so the case can close

* Removal of original motherboard standoffs

Some of this was done with a drill, some with a hacksaw and steel blade (thanks Olly!) and some with a Dremel. This was a pain in the arse and took a few weeks to do - spending thirty minutes at a time when I could.

As you can see in the pictures to the right, I marked up the case before cutting. A new hole for airflow into the PSU (the outer plastic case ducts air in from the bottom of the unit), a blowhole in the top, and a nibble out of the optical drive holder to make room for the RAM that would otherwise bang into it and prevent the case door from closing.

Some of the cutting changed as I worked through it too - for example, I originally planned to place two 80mm fans in the base. You can see where I marked it up. But I realised before we cut the holes that the bottom of the Powermac case would probably fall off if we cut right across. Hence the change to one 80mm at the front of the base and one at the rear.

I created new standoffs for the micro ATX motherboard using 3mm nuts and bolts. These were secured to the metal case using this cool metal epoxy stuff from B & Q that looks like plastic explosive.

In terms of airflow, I placed two 80mm fans in the base drawing in air from underneath and a larger 120mm fan in the top of the case blowing the warm air out. I used an unused HDD caddy from my MDD Powermac to hold the SATA drive. If I need to house more drives, they can go between the fans.

Oh, and I had another spare fan so I stuck it over the old vent holes halfway up the inside of the case. I figure this will blow air on the fanless Asus 7300GT graphics card but cannot vouch for its effectiveness.

Because of the position of the sockets on the motherboard and the distance to the PSU (bearing in mind the open and shut case), I had to extend both the 24 pin and 4 pin ATX power cables. I just used off-the-shelf cables for this, keeping the hand-crafting to a minimum!

I wasn't going to use the Zalman fanmate for the CPU fan but when I first powered it up I realised it was essential - this so-called quiet fan makes more noise than all the others put together.

I just realised - these pictures don't have the graphics card installed - oh well. I'll have to take some more.

Top picture you can see the blowhole at the top of the case. The 120mm fan is slightly off centre because of the door locking mechanism (seen to the top left of the picture here). This means it isn't fully squared with the hole in the case - not sure how much of a detrimental effect this has on airflow. Another symptom of making things up as I go!

The optical drive has the 'official' Apple firmware on it - bought from Hong Kong via ebay. a £2 adapter converts the connector to standard IDE plus floppy disk power connectors. I used the original Sawtooth Powermac ATA/IDE cable as it was nice and long and I could route it in a reasonably neat manner around the fan in the base. Just a shame that the PSU connector on the micro ATX board is positioned next to the ATA connector.

Bottom picture shows the power switch. This is the last thing I need to sort out as it is rather a bind to have to open the Mac case each time I want to switch the machine on!

Once the build was complete, the software experiment can take place. Clearly for purely research reasons, Mac OS X is installed on the now reanimated Powermac. The installation (Jas 10.4.8) is a breeze and pretty much everything worked without further fiddling. I've subsequently updated through 10.4.9 to 10.4.10. Provided you take a safe copy of the kexts in /system/library/extensions and copy them back (along with the kernel) before the update is allowed to reboot then all is fine. NOTE: This was originally written in 2007. Obviously these days (JULY 2009) I wouldn’t dream of using a pre-patched installer!

Screengrabs here show the results. Something is not quite right with the "About this Mac" dialogue as the RAM shows up as zero MHz... But, you can see that the Intel E4300 Core 2 Duo has been overclocked from its stock 1.8GHz. Unfortunately 2.16GHz seems to be the highest my el cheapo motherboard will allow!

And for the sake of legality, I proceeded to immediately wipe the HDD and install something else (although technically I am licensed given the old G4 had a legitimate copy of OS X!). Right.