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Analysis: how to build an OS X-free, expandable Mac

Tested: OS X-free Mac clone vs Apple Mac Pro

Ever thought about building a Mac to your exact requirements? Don't pick up your screwdriver until you've read about our attempt to build a Mac - and the pitfalls we encountered.

A US company called Psystar claims that it's selling a 'generic Mac' for $549 (£225) or $399 (£200) without OS X. While such a move seems to violate Apple's end-user licence agreement, it indicates just how the age-old topic of running the Mac OS on non-Apple hardware has mutated in this modern, Intel-Mac age.

I'm not going to advocate that Apple's users rush out and configure a faux Mac of their very own, but the reality is that Apple's computers are now Intel-based PCs through and through.

The existence of modern Mac clones, whether they come in a complete package from the likes Psystar or in pieces from a variety of computer-parts manufacturers, allows me to ask several questions about Apple's Mac hardware. Yes, it lets me gauge the price and performance of Mac hardware by comparing it with non-Apple hardware.

But it also lets me explore a topic that, prior to Apple's switch to Intel processors, I could only speculate on - the performance of Mac systems that simply don't exist.

While Apple has an excellent selection of laptops, entry-level Macs, and high-end machines, it doesn't offer anything at all in the way of a moderately powerful, expandable tower PC model.

Although the iMac offers good performance, it's an all-in-one machine with limited expandability and a monitor that not everyone may need.

As I don't want or need a machine with a built-in monitor, and I don't need the power of an eight-core Mac Pro, but I'd like my Mac to be faster and more expandable than a Mac mini. I want more than one slot and room for more drives.

Tired of waiting and hoping for the Mac of my dreams to appear, I decided to take the technology into my own hands and build it myself. And thus began my experiment to assemble my very own OS X-running machine.

Note that I'm not planning on diving into the technical details of building your own Mac. Rather, for this article, I'm focusing on the parts I used to make my own computer, the end result of my operations, and how the machine performs. Think of it as me building an off-brand Mac so that you don't have to.

NEXT PAGE: Building my own Mac

  1. OS X-free Mac clone vs Apple Mac Pro
  2. Building my own Mac
  3. Booting up our home-made Mac
  4. How our DIY Mac performed compared to the Mac Pro
  5. The pitfalls of DIY Macs
  6. Mac clone vs Apple Mac: our expert verdict

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