Thursday, 27 May 2010

Upgrading the Hackintosh to Snow Leopard

I have spent a number of months deliberating, cogitating, and mulling over the pros and cons of upgrading my Dell Mini 9 netbook, more commonly known as a Hackintosh, from OS X 10.5.8 (Leopard) to OS X 10.6.x (Snow Leopard). Yesterday I found myself at a bit of a loose end, so I decided that enough was enough and action was required. After all, plenty of other people have already been brave enough to take the plunge, and by now the pros were beginning to outweigh the cons.

The Pros:
  • All my other (genuine) Apple computers, namely the iMac and MacBook Pro are happily running OS X 10.6.3, and have been for some time
  • One of the key uses for the Hackintosh is to use Apple Mail when I'm travelling, and the Leopard and Snow Leopard versions use different file formats so upgrading would solve that problem
  • I would only have to worry about one set of software updates which can all be stored in one central location saving loads of disk space
  • Snow Leopard is leaner and faster than its predecessor and thus ideally suited to the netbook
The Cons:
  • If the Hackintosh isn't physically broken, why try and fix it ?
  • Newer releases of Snow Leopard are no longer Atom (the Hackintosh chip) compatible so work arounds are required
  • Things could go horribly wrong and I could break the netbook
  • It might take hours, or days, or weeks or even months to get a working machine again!
So with considerable trepidation, I started to prepare for the task ahead of me. Using the check list I established for the initial Hackintosh build (see my Apple Harvest posting for July 29, 2009) I gathered up all the things I would need including some instructions, spare USB disks, backup tools, copies of the latest versions of NetBookMaker and NetbookInstaller, the Snow Leopard retail disc (10.6.0 Family Pack) and a working MacBook Pro and set to work. For this upgrade I decided to go with the instructions posted on the site (the link will take you to exactly the right place). This only goes as far as OS X 10.6.2, but I felt that was OK. I'd be pretty pleased if I could simply get as far as OS X 10.6.0!

Trusting in my own wisdom, I took a final backup of the 10.5.8 system using Time Machine, and then also created a .dmg image of the RunCore SSD using Carbon Copy Cloner to be on the safe side. I created a bootable copy of the Snow Leopard install DVD on a spare USB external drive as per the instructions, and then simply worked through the instructions step by step. The backup and disk image creation took about an hour and the installation itself took a further hour.

Once the installation was completed I removed all the extraneous paraphernalia and restarted the netbook. I couldn't believe it - everything appeared to work perfectly. It found the wireless network without any prompting, let me connect my Kingston mouse via Bluetooth, it made sounds, and the video was fine. It also recognised my Time Machine disc and let me make a backup immediately. Hyperspaces worked fine. Even MobileMe synchronised after a minor tweak. The only thing that seemed slightly amiss, was that after waking from sleep, although the screen restored itself, I couldn't use the mouse or the trackpad which is a potential cause for concern.

I quickly upgraded some of the key tools I use, in particular ShareTool which connects to the rest of the network here at the Apple Harvest. Still no problems. I shutdown the machine and turned it back on. Still no problems. Finally I created another Time Machine backup and another disk image of the SSD, this time labelled as a Snow Leopard 10.6.0 image. This latter activity took a considerable amount of time - much longer than the 10.5.8 image took to create, which makes me wonder if the USB performance may be compromised, but eventually all the disks were created and safe.

Next step was to perform the software update to bring the Hackintosh fully up to spec and attempt to install OS X 10.6.3. But I'll save that until next time, because I'd like to leave you with the same warm feeling that I had after successfully upgrading my Dell Mini 9 to Snow Leopard!



  1. can u teach me to install mac ox x on my dell mini 10v..
    i having problem that don't have any mac machine to boot the thumb drive..
    will you help me..

  2. Hi Amir,

    I'm sorry but I don't feel qualified to "teach" you and since I don't have a Dell Mini 10 it's not something I've tried. The best I can do is point you to this guide from the same place that I took the instructions I used.

    There are plenty of other resources available if you hunt around on the web

    Good luck,