We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message
80,259 News Articles

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.

Booting up our home-made Mac

My machine, which I've named the FrankenMac, doesn't look anything like a Mac from the outside, of course.

FrankenMac

The Antec case is glossy black, with a swing-open door that hides the externally accessible drive bays, along with two USB ports, one eSATA port, and audio jacks on a shiny metallic strip on the front. And if you happen to be sitting in front of it when it starts up, the BIOS loading screen and black-and-white text-based boot loader (which lets me choose between Vista and OS X) is a dead giveaway that this is not your normal Mac.

However, if I were to hide the case and set you down in front of the monitor when the system was already running, you'd be convinced that you were using a 'real' Mac, with one minor exception - if you were to open the 'About This Mac' box, you'd see a big clue that this machine isn't your typical Mac. I don't think Apple's ever shipped an 'unknown' processor!

But close the 'About' box and just start using the machine, and you'll be using a 'real' Mac, one that performs (mostly) just like its factory-approved counterpart.

The FrankenMac runs any OS X program, including PowerPC-based apps, via the Rosetta code-translation system. The CD/DVD burner works with iTunes, iDVD, and iMovie. Even low-level stuff like Sleep mode works, although I have to wake the FrankenMac by touching the power button; the keyboard and mouse are ignored while the machine is sleeping.

(That may be due to the fact that I'm using a wireless Microsoft keyboard and mouse over USB - I haven't tested it with Apple-branded hardware.)

On the hardware front, everything also seems to work fine. The onboard ethernet, audio, USB, eSATA, and FireWire ports all work. I even found an old USB/FireWire PCI card (from a previous generic Windows machine I built), plugged it in, and connected my iSight camera to it with no problems whatsoever. I plugged in my Wacom tablet, installed the drivers, and found that it also works just fine, including handwriting recognition via the Ink System Preferences panel.

Then I took advantage of the fact that I'd built a machine in a case of my choosing: I installed a hot-swap SATA drive bay.

NEXT PAGE: How our DIY Mac performed compared to the Mac Pro

  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

Click here for the latest Mac news


IDG UK Sites

Nexus 6 vs Sony Xperia Z3 comparison: Lollipop phablet takes on KitKat flagship smartphone

IDG UK Sites

Why people aren't upgrading to iOS 8: new features are for power users, not the average Joe

IDG UK Sites

Free rocket & space sounds: NASA launches archive of interstellar audio on SoundCloud

IDG UK Sites

iPad Air 2 review: Insanely fast and alarmingly thin. Speed tests, camera tests, beautiful...