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The Appeal (and Ethics) of Hackintoshing: Should Apple License the Mac OS?

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Writing on Fast Company, Farhad Manjoo says that not long ago, he got his hands on “one of the slowest, ugliest, and least-user-friendly Macintosh laptops the world has ever seen” — and he loves it, since it sports a couple of features that others can’t match. It’s tinier and lighter than Apple’s (s aapl) pricey MacBook Air, and even better, having cost him only about $500, a third of Apple’s tariff for the most inexpensive Air.

This laptop is of course a “Hackintosh” — specifically a 9-inch Dell netbook Farhad has hacked to run Apple’s Mac OS X. He notes that since Apple adapted its elegant OS to run on Intel’s (s intc) processors, hackers have been diligently breaking down the walls between Macs and PCs.
My daughter, a lifelong Mac fanatic, is one of them, having been happily running OS X — currently Leopard — on a 2.6 GHz Pentium 4 desktop box for the past three years and finding it more than satisfactory. I’ve tried out this machine, and it’s impressively fast. However, my daughter is an accomplished computer tech who’s been able to deal with the necessary tweaking and technical tedium of getting OS X up and running reliably on her bargain basement Dell.

Not for the Faint of Heart

Farhad Manjoo notes that, no surprise, Apple doesn’t look kindly on the Hackintosh movement, but this evidently hasn’t slowed the movement’s momentum, and Mac hackers, some on constrained budgets like my daughter, have discovered that they can build precisely the features and products they want into a custom desktop or laptop model of a type and price point Apple doesn’t choose to offer and save a boatload of money in the process.

“We don’t know how to make a $500 computer that’s not a piece of junk, and our DNA will not let us ship that,” CEO Steve Jobs observed last October. That may be all well and good, but there are an awful lot of folks out there these days who want a $500 computer, or indeed in today’s snakebit economy simply can’t afford a higher price of entry, or who really want a netbook-sized laptop, which is one of the market categories Apple has chosen not to serve, at least yet. And its an exaggeration to insist that all sub-$500 computers are necessarily “junk.” Legions of satisfied netbook users contend otherwise.

Manjoo warns, and my daughter’s experience underscores this, that Mac hacking is not for dilettantes or the faint-hearted, and there are plenty of potential technical hurdles and pitfalls to be overcome, but there is support available from the fraternity (and in some instances sorority) of experts populating online forums who’ve probably encountered — and solved — the problems that may be your current stumbling-blocks.

But is it Ethical

There is of course the ethics question. Installing OS X on a non-Apple computer is a direct violation of Apple’s End User Licensing Agreement. My daughter has been encouraging me to get a PC laptop and let her install OS X on it for me, but while I profoundly disagree with the thrust, extent, and spirit of current copyright regulations, especially the execrable and draconian DCMA, it’s still the law, which I personally prefer to stay on the right side of, although I don’t pass any judgment on those who are exercising civil disobedience against what they (and I) consider unjustly excessive intellectual property end user restrictions.

I also understand and appreciate that if Apple were to have a change of heart and authorize the Mac OS for installation on non-Apple PC hardware, it could very well spell the end of Apple-branded computers. This very nearly happened in the mid-’90s with previous Apple CEO Gil Amelio’s near catastrophic experiment with Mac OS licensing to third-party clonemakers. The latter made some very attractive machines. I still have a UMAX SuperMac S-900 that was a formidable piece of work in the context of the era, in many ways outdoing the Apple PowerMac 9500 and 9600 that competed against it at higher prices.

So this is definitely one of those matters where the “be careful what you wish for” axiom applies. It would be neat to be able to buy a Dell (s dell) or Asus laptop, some models of which I personally find quite enticing — and not just because of prices. However, I would hate for the ability of Apple to keep rolling out sublimely elegant and delightful machinery like my unibody MacBook to be compromised because of a bleeding away of Mac OS users and profitability to cheaper PC boxes.

How about you? Do you think Apple should license Mac OS X? How about the ethics of hackintoshing?

101 Responses to “The Appeal (and Ethics) of Hackintoshing: Should Apple License the Mac OS?”

  1. heywood

    No. I hope Apple keeps Mac OS and its hardware tightly knitted and in-house.
    I also like that Macs are sold at a premium price point. I think that causes the Mac community to be a lot more committed and to expect Macs to work flawlessly, which puts a healthy pressure on Apple, and just makes for a much more vibrant community.
    I agree with Kev. It isn’t PCs that are cheap, it’s people who use them who are cheap. I respect that though. Many of my friends are cheap bastards, not poor, just cheap. Like, hey dude, what do you want in life? “I’m not sure, but I’ll go for the cheapest one”. So I don’t mind my friends hackintoshing, just as I don’t mind buying them a beer every now and then either.

  2. The Windows ecosystem is characterized by ‘cheapskates’ – people who want something but are not willing to pay a dime for it. (That’s the whole premise of the Laptop hunter ads is it not?) This has a significant bearing of manufacturers who make hardware for that system. The slim margins they earn make it difficult for them to really innovate and develop something that will make you say ‘wow’. Fortunately that’s not the case with Apple. I don’t begrudge Apple for earning fantastic revenues when they deliver such great products in return. For this reason I believe it will be detrimental for Apple to allow their OS to be sold independently of their hardware – that’s not good for Apple, and believe me, it will not benefit the consumer in the long term either.

  3. Well put Adam Jackson – my thoughts exactly. What a Mac user pays up front may on first sight seem a lot, and what non-Mac users often don’t ‘get’ is the value adding beyond the initial purchase what Mac users buy into (iLife, SL for $29, excellent hardware/software integration that’s a light year beyond the WIndows ecosystem, the pride and care that Mac software developers put into their applications etc). That’s what I willingly pay for. And long may that live on…

  4. TexasYellowDog

    A EULA which attempts to restrict the use of a legally purchased product is invalid under the “First Sale” doctrine. Apple cannot convert a purchased product into a licensed product by through a EULA. Installing a copy of OS X on PC does not violate the DMCA. The process of installing OS X involves copying your DVD image to a USB thumb drive using disk utility, making the thumb drive bootable, then restoring the image to hard disk using disk utility. Some Apple files are replaced on the hard disk with you own, then you boot normally to OS X. No breaking or avoiding encryption, no breaking the DCMA.

    I used one of my five Family Pack licenses to install OS X on my 2.5lbs mini 9, and I am very happy with the result. However you may never find a motherboard which has all drivers for all the devices on the motherboard. The trackpad isn’t fully supported, so I use a bluetooth mouse.

    • JoeJoetheidiotpet

      I agree, what gives Apple the right to tell you what you can and can’t do with the software you buy (Pay them money for the product)? As the consumer you are not selling the product after you buy, nor are you altering the operating system. You could turn around and sell the OS X Operating System as if it was retail since nothing was changed on it.

      All you are doing is installing a third piece of software, a bootloader and some kext files apart from the retail install to make OS X work on your PC.

    • First Sale doctrine isn’t the issue. The issue with OS X is you are agreeing to a set of terms and thus creating a contract between you and Apple. Along the same lines of Gateway’s infamous user agreement where purchasers agreed to arbitration in France. Courts have continued to uphold the concept that software manufactuers can put terms and conditions not only on the box but inside the box, as a consumer it is your right if you do not agree to these terms to simply return the item to the manufacturer for a full refund. But if you do use the software then you are bound by the terms in and on the box.

    • Joe Anonymous

      “A EULA which attempts to restrict the use of a legally purchased product is invalid under the “First Sale” doctrine.”

      That’s what happens when junior high school dropouts try to interpret the law.

      First sale doctrine does not apply – since you’re not buying the OS. You’re licensing it, so it is a copyright/licensing issue, not a sale issue.

      The courts have consistently upheld the rights of software companies to license software under their terms. For example, the courts have consistently upheld Microsoft’s right to sell OEM licenses only with hardware or upgrade versions only to be used on computers with previous versions of the OS. There is absolutely no question about the fact that a software license is valid.

      When you ‘buy’ Mac OS X in a store, you are buying the box and media and licensing the OS. You are free to do whatever you want with the media since you own that. You can use it as a coaster or Frisbee, if you wish. You can even sell the physical media. However, the license to use the software does not transfer with it. If the license gives you the right to transfer it, then you can transfer your rights ONLY under the conditions specified.

      In some countries (particularly in Europe), there remains some question as to whether a license is enforceable if you have to open the box to see it, but Apple’s software licenses are available on the Internet, anyway, so that argument may not hold water (there is no relevant court decision yet). Apple could resolve that problem by simply putting “upgrade” on the box or putting “Computer manufactured by Apple Computer” in the Requirements section on the box.

    • JoeJoetheidiotpet

      “That’s what happens when junior high school dropouts try to interpret the law.”

      Dude, that was too funny, I laughed pretty hard, thanks, I needed that.

  5. I’ve occasionally been tempted by a hackintosh, because I’d like a really light notebook to carry around. I don’t see any ethical issues– the reason i might want a hackintosh is because i already have a mac.

    But I don’t think its worth doing right now. I ran linux for years on a thinkpad 240, I had to spend quite a lot of time mucking about to get things right, and some things never worked. I don’t want getting the OS to run properly to be my hobby– there’s other things I’d rather be doing.

    In terms of cost, sure macs are more expensive, but my new mbp will cost less than 2$ a day over its life. I spend hours a day using it, and I very rarely swear at it. Worth it, imho.

  6. JoeJoetheidiotpet – If you are going to quote me you should at least quote me accurately. I said “…a lack of moral integrity…” not “…no moral integrity..” as you wrote. I stand by what I said. I don’t see how what I do, or don’t do, that is morally questionable affects whether it is unethical to use Apple’s software for a purpose for which it was not sold. If you could prove me to be morally bankrupt, it might make you feel better, but it would not change the ethics of software theft one bit.

    You also seem to think that this has something to do with whether Apple can police breaches of the agreement. You say “It really lies in Apple’s court.” No, it doesn’t. It lies in each of our own courts to abide by what we agree to. If you don’t like the agreement, don’t buy the software. It is simply unethical to deliberately break to terms of the agreement under which you purchased a license to use the OS just because it suits your convenience or pocket book. If the police don’t have the manpower to catch speeding drivers, it doesn’t become legal or ethical to speed.

    I agree, some people will do what suits them, regardless of the law or what they agreed to do. That doesn’t make it ethical, and that was the original question.


    • JoeJoetheidiotpet


      I have conceded the point that it goes against Apple’s rules for people to install OS X on a PC.

      You have to be willing to play by their rules for it to work though.

      Ethical, that is like some magic word that somehow deep down in people they will adhere to this magic word. Having said that, life is full of Unicorns and Rainbows and at the end of these rainbows are pots of gold. :)

      People, and I would say probably 99.9% are going to do what they think is right or benefits them in their eyes. If you doubt this, watch any of the reality shows and you will see what I am talking about when all the people are fighting for just one prize.

      If you are the 1% that lives life without compromising your ethics in any form, then I take my hat off to you, you are probably a better man then me!

  7. I don’t believe Apple has any intention, now or ever, to supply the wide variety of hardware necessary to satisfy everyone. So the question for Apple is what to do about those people who aren’t satisfied by Apple’s lineup. If they were to increase the number of models available they would pull in some new business, but there would be higher costs associated with that leading to reduced profitability. Some customers aren’t worth having because they’re more trouble than they’re worth and because making machines to satisfy them impacts sales of more profitable models.

    Early on Apple simply closed their eyes and pretended nobody was making hackintoshes. That wasn’t a bad decision because it meant people were using OS X instead of something else which increases the presence of the OS, yields some high margin software sales and indirectly leads to hardware purchases from friends and family of the hackintoshers. It was a true win-win situation even if it wasn’t strictly “legal”.

    Then Psystar and others got into the game. They turned hacking into a business and Apple would no longer afford to ignore the phenomenon. While I can understand people wanting to profit from the hackintosh, commercialization has ruined what had been a quiet truce in which both sides were getting something of value.

    I know putting OS X on a PC is against the EULA, but Apple has for many years demonstrated with their actions that they do not want me as a customer unless I’m willing to make significant sacrifices to fit into one of their little customer categories. In the past there was no option except to conform or purchase a used Mac and thus accept lower performance and the risk of hardware failure. Now I have a choice. I can get a machine with the expansion capabilities of a Mac Pro and the performance of a used Mac Pro for the price of a well equipped Mac mini. That’s incredibly appealing because I don’t need any official support from Apple.

    The only reason I’m not running a hackintosh today is because members of my family do not wish to be in a questionable legal position and I love and respect them.

    • JoeJoetheidiotpet

      *** On a side note ***

      Would it not be cool if the people at Fedora and Ubuntu made their Operating Systems so that they could install and run Mac Applications right out of the box?

      Since at the guts they are Apple’s Cousins.

    • Master Chief

      About this: “I know putting OS X on a PC is against the EULA”.

      The Snow Leopard Retail pack I bought for my hack didn’t even include a EULA, simply because it is void to refer to something inside a box – at least where I life – this to protect us consumers.

  8. Master Chief

    Having a hackintosh for me is like working on the old MG in the shed. The one with very little millage on the teller, but hundreds of long hours fun working on it. In short is it a hobby for many (young) people. It’s not about stealing software, because we don’t condone stealing. And many of us do happen to own real Apple hardware, Macs, but these just work. What’s the fun of a working car? To me nothing. And that’s why I also have a hackintosh. Just for the kicks of it.

    @Joe Anonymous: Speaking about Ethics… so she dumped you, and now you want to get back at here. Right. Next!

  9. As long as Apple has such incredible holes in its hardware spectrum, this is going to keep happening. People want middlerange decently priced towers and tiny laptop Macs, too.

  10. Joe Anonymous

    Nice rationalization.

    First, you did not purchase Mac OS X for the purpose you are using it for. A purchase involves a mutually agreed transaction. Apple agreed to one set of terms and you chose another. That’s the same as getting a loaner car from your car dealer while your car is in the shop and instead driving around the country for 3 months. Did they give you permission to do that because they gave you the keys? Of course not.

    It most certainly IS theft. Apple offers you a license to use their OS if you agree to their terms and pay the price on the box. You paid the price on the box, but do not plan to follow through with the other part of the deal. You are paying for an upgrade license (under the EULA terms which state it can only be installed onto an Apple computer) but then using it as a full license. As an example, the upgrade license for Windows is less than half the cost of a full license. If the ratio were the same for Macs, you’re paying half (AT BEST) of what Apple would charge for a full license -even if they wished to do so. You’re stealing their intellectual property because you’re taking it without an agreement from them as to your use of it.

    Further, it’s not about enforcement. The fact that they have chosen not to go after end users doesn’t mean that it’s right. Nor does it mean that they condone it. If they really condone it, why didn’t they put that in the EULA?

    It’s also not a matter of expecting you to change your mind. I realize that some people (a group you and my ex-wife apparently fit into) think that their desires are all that matter. As long as you want something, it’s OK to take it. Sad, very sad.

    • JoeJoetheidiotpet

      “(a group you and my ex-wife apparently fit into)”

      Now that was funny, nice jab.

      Truth, there is no black and white in life, just shades of gray.

      Apple can say all they want, don’t do that with our operating system but until there are consequences for people’s actions people will not follow the rules if they feel there is a better and cheaper way of something.

      It really lies in Apple’s court. They can choose one of two ways to deal with this, and it appears that they have chosen the second.

      1. They can start to try and make examples out of people and go after them. This would leave them with other big problems.


      2. They can just accept, that it is what is! As to date this is what they have chosen to do, and if you ask me it is the wiser of the two choices.

      As far as your wife, it sound like she got tired of the rules and decided to enforce the EULA law on you and move on. :)

  11. JoeJoetheidiotpet


    I felt that was aimed at me since I am responding to people’s threads and take the opposite side of your argument.

    First, Leopard and Snow Leopard on my Hackintosh are retail copies that I purchased from Apple and would not advocate pirating OS X.

    Second, you are right, from the stand point of them making the rules, that their operating system can only be used on their hardware is there right to say that. The question then becomes how do they enforce the rules for us less, “moral integrity people” unlike yourself I am sure, you don’t bend or break any rules in life. What gives us the right to do this, I guess according to Apple’s rules we can’t.

    People, including myself can justify anything, Apple has not been able to close Psystar down yet, how are they going to close down the “less than moral” people in the hackintosh community? Will you some how pointing a finger cause people to have a change of heart, I doubt it?

    If you think that making a statement like, people that do this, “lack of moral integrity” is something out of the ordinary in people, you are not living in the same world that I am living in. I did get a good smile from your observation.

    • No you don’t have “… retail copies that I purchased from Apple…”. What you purchased were licenses to instal the software on Apple hardware and then use it on that hardware, *provided* you followed the conditions set out on the agreement. So, in fact, because you have deliberately breached the conditions of the agreement, you actually are using software that you have no right to use – sounds a lot like piracy to me. The fact that you paid Apple some money does not change the legal situation one whit.

      You say ” The question then becomes how do they enforce the rules for us less, “moral integrity people”…”. I beg to differ. A contract is breached, a law broken, a rule disobeyed regardless of whether the authorities can enforce it or not. That’s like saying it’s ethical to steal as long as I don’t get caught. Maybe that is how you think, for it is how you are behaving. You know Apple won’t bother coming after you, so you can get away with what you do. Still doesn’t make it right or ethical.

      *My* ethics, or lack of, don’t change the facts.


    • JoeJoetheidiotpet

      “*My* ethics, or lack of, don’t change the facts.”

      You are correct, does not change any of the facts, just something to think about.

      Also, I purchased Leopard when it came out and I also purchased Snow Leopard, just FYI.

      I conceded the point that it goes against Apple’s rules. I have no argument against that however, to say that people that do this have “No Moral Integrity” is a huge leap. I would say, ask yourself that question, do you bend or break the rules if you feel something should be different? Have you ever done that? If you answer yes, then does that mean you have “No Moral Integrity”? Just curious?

    • I have 3 Intel Macs at home (and one G4 Mac mini). I could have purchased one copy of Snow Leopard and installed it on all three Macs. Apple would be none the wiser and I would have saved $20. But, that would be a violation of the terms of sale. So … I purchased the Snow Leopard family pack (as I did for Leopard) even though 2 of the licenses are unusable.

  12. Joe Anonymous

    There’s no ethical question at all. Apple sells the OS as an upgrade only for Apple hardware. The EULA says that and even the Apple Store web site says that. Clearly, Apple’s intent is that it is to be installed on Apple hardware – and their price reflects that.

    When you buy something, you are reaching an agreement with the seller (even though the terms are not always spelled out). In this case, Apple is selling you an upgrade for Apple hardware (which they’ve made money on previously). They have NOT given you permission to install it on hardware that you bought elsewhere, nor is there any indication that this is their intent (otherwise, the EULA would permit it).

    The fact that Apple hasn’t prosecuted any end users is a red herring – completely irrelevant. There’s a financial issue involved. Do they want to spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars (and endless bad press, of course) going after an end user – when they MIGHT be able to collect a couple of thousand dollars – max (the price of a real Mac)? Obviously, not. The decision not to prosecute is not some ‘we really think it’s OK so go ahead and do it” (or, once again, the EULA would allow it).

    I’m getting so sick of these people who are too cheap to buy Macs, but think they’re somehow entitled to Macs, so they steal the OS.

    • When dealing with Intellectual Property there is always going to be an ethical question due to the public policy behind the formation of Intellectual Property rights both in the US and Internationally. The problem is developing a delicate balance between society’s optimal use of resources and the optimal impetus for individual creativity.

  13. Just because you want something doesn’t mean you have a right to have it. If you don’t like the rules with which the Mac OS comes – don’t buy it. However, if you do buy it and opened the package, you agree to those rules.
    It is not just a matter of whether it is ethical to instal OS X on anything other than Apple-made hardware, it is a breach of contract. People who do this clearly demonstrate a lack of moral integrity. They buy something on false pretenses, with no intention of complying with the promise they make when they open the package.
    Apple has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in their OS and have the right to sell it in any manner they chose, within the law. You may not like the rules, you may disagree with Apple’s business model, as many of you clearly do, but no-one is forcing you to buy OS X.
    Yes, Apple could come up with a business model that would allow you to install OS X on something other than an Apple computer. But why would or should they? Apple is primarily a *hardware* company – that’s where they make their money. Why on earth would they want to make your experience of using another manufacturer’s hardware more enjoyable or productive by letting you use their software, subsidized as it is by Apple hardware sales, on anything but Apple hardware?


  14. I don’t think Apple is too bothered by Hackintoshes. People often miss the basic fact that the switch to Intel processors is only part of the story– in fact, Apple switched to putting OS X on windows-compatible hardware. Hackintoshes are an unavoidable consequence.

    I think that there’s a bright line that Apple is watching– they won’t bother to try to shut down the possibility of running OS X on non-Apple hardware, but I think they’d get upset if anyone tried to virtualize OS X on a Windows OS. As long as OS X is the host OS (and as long as it’s non-commercial), I don’t believe that Apple minds all that much.

  15. Bill B.

    I lived through the cloning days at Apple and even purchased a Motorola clone. At the time I thought it was a good move for Apple but I was very wrong. The steep decline in market share and predictions of doom for Apple was not conducive to the purchase of an Apple or a clone computer. The timing was all wrong. Todays Apple is a very different company that has even dropped “computer” from it’s name. Computers are fast becoming less important to Apple. The iPhone business will soon eclipse everything else Apple does. That said, the real money is in the operating system. The gross margin on a good operating system, or even Windows, is incredible. The incremental cost of producing an additional copy of the operating system is nil. This is how many of the richest billionaires in the world work for the same company, Microsoft. They print money!

    Apple could sell an “OSX Basic” version of OSX without free software such as iLife. Of course this would not come with the support available at the Apple stores since the computer manufacturer would be required do this support. Apple has been very happy offering high end computers to those that want the best and can afford it. They have said many times that they are not interested in low end commodity computers but many people are interested. Apple has a small share of the total market, but it is the most lucrative share, like Mercedes. Intelligent folks understand that nicer things always cost more, and there will always be users who will buy the better, more expensive product. Have you ever seen a $12,000 new Mercedes offered by that German company? Don’t hold your breath.

    So, Apple could make a huge pile of cash selling (licensing) a basic version of OSX for those that like to buy the cheapest product without considering the total experience. If there is a big need for that, Apple should fill it. This move could the beginning of the end of the Microsoft domination of the OS world. Michael Dell has said he would love to put OSX on his computers.

    I have been a stockholder (part owner) of Apple for 11 years and a proud cult member. ;-)

    • Ben Jones

      Have you seen the price of Snow Leopard? It’s $29 dollars. Where’s the margin on that? Even with their typical $129, they aren’t making ten of millions of dollars on the OS. Also, I believe (along with Apple) that Apple is a hardware based company. Their margin is in the hardware. If everyone had a hackintosh, Apple would have no money. They could raise the OS to the un-Godly prices that MS has, but then they wouldn’t be Apple. Also, Apple will never have a ‘basic’ Mac OS. It creates a skew, and Apple hates skews. In fact, one of the I’m a Mac ads even notes the one version of Mac OS that comes with everything you need as one of the strong points.

    • JoeJoetheidiotpet

      “If everyone had a hackintosh, Apple would have no money.”

      2008 Quarterly Projections.

      “The Company posted revenues of $9.6 billion and net quarterly profit of $1.58 billion”

      Yea, they are going broke with only the computer revenue stream.

    • Ben Jones

      The 9.6 billion dollars are coming from hardware sales. As I said, if EVERYONE had a hackintosh, Apple would have no money. Apple and I have no problem with a few enthusiasts getting them as long as it doesn’t significantly detract from Apple’s bottom line, hardware sales.

    • Ben Jones

      Oops. I have a better way to state my last post:

      I’m not saying that Apple is going broke WITH hardware sales, I’m saying that Apple would be going broke WITHOUT hardware sales. I’m pretty sure that there is a prior example.

  16. Apple should license Mac OS X, but they never will. Apple is one of a kind, I guess.

    I’m a pro hackintosher, but I recently “retired” from the scene, and bought a 2.66GHz uMBP. OS X ran very well on my previous laptop, but there were a few random problems that were just getting annoying. Plus I wanted something faster. The uMBP did cost $1500 more than the laptop did…

  17. Howie Isaacks

    A better question to ask is: “should Apple cut its own throat?”. No. They should not license Mac OS X. Part of what Makes the Mac so great is that the hardware and software are designed to go together. From a support standpoint, customers can deal with only one vendor instead of being bounced around between the OEM, the OS software vendor, etc. The people who want Apple to license Mac OS X are cheap bastards who are more interested in getting what they want at the cheapest price possible without any concern whatsoever what this would do to the quality of the product.

    • JoeJoetheidiotpet

      What is interesting to me, as of writing this article, why does it matter if Apple licenses OS X to run on a PC? There are now so many easy ways to put retail OS X on a PC that this questions is mute.

      “Part of what Makes the Mac so great is that the hardware and software are designed to go together.”

      I agree with you on this one!

      “cheapest price possible without any concern whatsoever what this would do to the quality of the product.”

      For me it is not cheap(okay, who are we kidding, everybody it cheap when they think they can get something for nothing), I just don’t have 3K to spend on a Mac Pro. Especially when I can get pretty much the same set-up in the Hackintosh world for around $800 which I can afford. Yea, from time to time there are a few tweaks here and there, but it is worth it.

      Yea, Apple coffers loose a little bit of money in the grand scheme of things from those that choose to build a hackintosh but what is that percentage, I would say pretty small, do you know the numbers?

  18. “Installing OS X on a non-Apple computer is a direct violation of Apple’s End User Licensing Agreement.”

    Actually, the EULA used to say non Apple-labeled computers and now it says non Apple-branded. If you buy the retail SL DVD, it comes with Apple branding stickers. So if you put those on your Hackintosh it’s unclear whether you’re technically in violation. Also, installed OS X is a lot easier now than it used to be. Not glitch-free depending on your motherboard, but much less painful than prior.

    On the licensing side, the problem for Apple would be dealing with the resulting incompatibilities and the impact on margins for their proprietary hardware. The current status quo works for them and the hackintosh community.

  19. cwinegarden

    They used to license it. In the mid-90s my dad worked at a company called Power Computing that made other computers that ran the Mac OS. Apple was almost dead at the time. If Steve Jobs hadn’t returned to the company and reeled in those licenses Apple wouldn’t be where it is today as a company. The world probably never would have seen the iPod or the iPhone. So I think it’s obviously been better for the company that they don’t license it.

  20. Ashutosh Singh

    No I don’t think that apple should license Mac-OS, the simple reason is Macs great computer not just only because of the OS it’s also because of the hardware on which the MacOS is running, and I also think that this not ethical.

    • JoeJoetheidiotpet

      “I also think that this not ethical.”

      According to the autobiography of “Apple”.

      Was it ethical when Apple took the “Mouse Technology” from “Xerox”?

      Was it ethical when “Bill Gates” stole the GUI from Mac, created the PC behind Steve Jobs back and beat them to the market with the PC?

      I think you are confusing ethics with money?

  21. Gazoobee

    I agree with Adam Jackson above in regards the “spin” on this article. I have seen OS-X run on lots of non-Apple hardware and while it’s a lot of fun, it’s not a “rich” or otherwise good experience on the whole.

    The only way to get OS-X to run as fast or as be as usable as it is on an Apple branded computer is to build a very special machine all of your own, and that tends to cost almost as much money (and time), as buying the Mac does in the first place.

    Also, the main thrust of this article seems to be the ethical point, but that’s just presented at the end as a sort of “what do you think?” question. How does it make sense to write an article saying “well, x is illegal, but what do you think?” and not provide any background or context other than the fact that the authors daughter does it.

    Anyone who has done any research into hackintoshes should know that while the EULA is certainly opposed to this, Apple the computer company has a history of turning a blind eye to the practice (amoung hobyists), and certain Apple employees have helped or even been a part of the hackintosh community from time to time.

    To leave out that detail, or to not even know it, is kind of lame IMO and skews the whole article. To bring up ethics without distinguishing between the hobbyist hackers and groups like Psystar (or to not even mention Psystar in the context of the article), seems purposely confusing as well.

    Finally, to talk about the “ethics of the hackintosh community” at all, without giving us any background on this community (it’s been in existence for many years), or any background on Apple’s reaction to it, can only lead to uninformed responses. You are asking us a complex ethical question, but not giving anyone the background they need to decide one way or the other.

    • JoeJoetheidiotpet

      I will give you some history, OS X comes from and has benefited from the Open Source Community (Some of the same type if not actual people that are responsible for the “Hackintosh”).

      “Apple the computer company has a history of turning a blind eye to the practice (amoung hobyists)”

      Question, what would you have Apple do? Are they to slap the hands of the community that helps them add new technologies to OS X?

      Question, how could Apple do anything other then what they are doing now? If they tired to brick the hackintosh on a update how would they make sure none of the quote “real macs” get affected? Not to mention the PR nightmare that would be?

    • JoeJoetheidiotpet

      Oh yea, forgot this one:

      “it’s not a “rich” or otherwise good experience on the whole.”

      I don’t know which “Hackintosh’s” you have had a chance to use, but mine is really, really stable.

  22. JoeJoetheidiotpet


    Great article, and you make some great points. I too am a lifelong Mac Head. I started with Mac on the very FIRST Mac ever created. It was my neighbors, but I got to use it. :) Then my father bought one of the first Apple Laptops that came out. I too remember when the clones hit the market. I do agree with you about them almost sinking Apple. Anyway here are my thoughts.

    I have a Hackintosh I built and am using for the last 2 years. I am currently running Snow Leopard.

    I don’t think Apple will license a version to run on PC. Like you said, that would probably hurt or worst yet, kill off them building there own Mac Hardware.

    OS X86 community just keeps growing and growing. They have already done the hardest part in that they have created a boot-loader that bridges the gap of installing Mac on a PC.

    Now, I believe this is a catch twenty-two for Apple. If they go back to making their own chip’s or switching to some unknown chip maker they will have the same problem as before, they will always be one to two steps behind Intel and the PC market, as was a huge deciding factor in switching over to intel in the first place in my opinion.

    They can’t shut the OS X86 community down, if they shut down one website, another would come up in it’s place. It is like file sharing, they have not been able to shut that down.

    Last, the ethics of running OS X on a PC, Called “Hackintosh”. Well, I justify it this way even though by their rules, I am breaking the license agreement. Since they built OS X on the open source community, and they took something that was given to the world for free, modified it and then re-packaged it with a new GUI, how can they determine what it is used for? I would say they can if, they didn’t build it on the backs of the open source community. They did not create nor invent the UNIX which is at the Core of Apple. If they had invent ALL the technologies that make OS X work then it would probably be something like “Apple’s OS 9”, and way behind where they are today. To say they have benefited hugely from the same people that have been instrumental in getting the “Hackintosh” working (Some of the same programmers that are involved in Open Source) would be an UNDERSTAMENT!

    These are just my thoughts, if you want to comment feel free.

    • Tom Lawson

      Totally disagree with “Well, I justify it this way even though by their rules, I am breaking the license agreement. Since they built OS X on the open source community, and they took something that was given to the world for free, modified it and then re-packaged it with a new GUI, how can they determine what it is used for?”. This is the logic of a thief. Sure XEROX and (I think) Stanford Univ. labs were the first ones to develop the GUI for Apple and they modified it but if we use your logic, anything can be stolen, based on ‘there’s nothing new under the sun’. The difference between honorable people and dishonorable ones are ‘boundaries’. Honorable ones respect other ‘boundaries’, while knaves don’t. Just because someone ‘can’ do something, does not mean it is morally (another word knaves hate) correct. Apple spent millions of dollars in developing their products and since you and others of your ilk don’t care about their work, and their RIGHT to it, you feel ‘well, they didn’t invent it, so I can do whatever the hell I want with it). Sure, Apple didn’t invent it, but they sure did refine it, over a long period of time. Your statement “they did not create nor invent the UNIX which is at the Core of Apple. If they had (to) invent ALL the technologies that make OS X work then it would probably be something like “Apple’s OS 9″, and way behind where they are today’ is simply a lame excuse for your rationalization to use your arrogance in justifying NO BOUNDARIES.
      Look, just because you ‘can’ doesn’t mean you ‘should’. Our culture is falling apart because of the logic of what’s ‘your’s is mine’ because you didn’t…(fill in the blanks). I say, your arguments are puerile, immoral, unethical and dishonest. Caterpillar didn’t invent the diesel engine, the continuous track, or steel, but that doesn’t mean it is moral, legal or ethical to steal their intellectual property rights that went into creating a world class bulldozer (etc.) and setting up shop next door with the stolen ideas and drive them out of business, which your logic is arguing for.
      In closing, I admit that when I was younger, I stole stuff. As a psychologist, I found out that it hurt my soul to do so. Stealing anything hurts you. Using your conscience, if you have one, will tell you if you are, or not.
      You asked, I replied.

    • Do you understand the BSD license? Let me educate you:

      The BSD license basically says, “you may use this code freely, modify it, distribute it freely or even profit from it”.

      Your basic argument that Apple owes the open source community does not hold water. As you say, ” they built OS X … and they .. modified it and then re-packaged it with a new GUI”. So, they I see it they added value that was not originally present.

      In that light, how does Apple’s use of the BSD license provide for your moral ambiguity?

    • JoeJoetheidiotpet

      “Tom Lawson”

      Thanks for your insight.

      I agree that Apple should be able to sell OS X, I have never said they should not profit from there investment of time and energy.

      I have conceded the point in other posts that according to “Apple’s rules” that they say you are not allowed to use their, “Software” on anything other than official Apple hardware.

      Here is where I differ and what I was trying to convey.

      Is it fair that they can take something that was given to the world freely to use, distribute and modify. Edit it, re-package it, then turn around and to the SAME people (they are part of the world) that buy their new product; Oh yea, by the way, just cause it was given to the world to use, modify and edit, we at Apple tell you that you no longer have that right to do that because, we have claimed it as our own??

      Therefore, fall in line!

      On a personal note, it is interesting to me how so many people throw the word “morality” around as some sort of weapon to invoke a response from people that they feel are in the wrong or on opposite sides of the argument. I guess it works because it has moved me to respond to this word.

      I just wish before people used that word that they examined themselves. Then, if they determined they have measured up,( I tell you a secret, no one measures up in this life) they put a disclaimer stating, “I have examined myself and I am a certified moron, I mean moral person. I am approved to correct based on my morality (all the questionable stuff I do when no one see’s me, well that’s my secret) and what I have determined to be right in my eyes. I will correct you.

    • JoeJoetheidiotpet

      Khürt Williams

      “Your basic argument that Apple owes the open source community does not hold water.”

      That was not the point of my argument. My argument was how can they take something that was freely given and freely allowed to be modified and then tell everyone that since they have added there own GUI to it, that you no longer can do anything with it other than what we say you can?

  23. They should do what they do now. No effort to support it, no worry or objections to anyone that wants to do it.

    Apple is very easy going to deal with, not at all like MSFT who are constantly treating you like a criminal.

    Apple hardware is the best bargain in the computer industry, assuming you are not on food stamps/public assistance. The Dell Adamo is a joke, nearly as funny as the Win7 launch party video.

  24. Michael

    Apple doesn’t have a problem with the Hackintosh community, just those who wish to profit from their R&D and investments. They just don’t make a nice installer for someone to put OSX on their Dell/Lenovo/HP/etc. They don’t offer support if you have it on a Hackintosh already. I think this is all perfectly normal and acceptable. If you want to play with OSX on your non-Apple-branded hardware, no problem, just don’t expect Apple to give support if you have some problem.
    If I install the SONY PS3 OS onto a XBox360, I don’t think SONY would help me if my controllers didn’t function properly. Ya think? Or even Microsoft? Nope.
    As far as the comment..”And its an exaggeration to insist that all sub-$500 computers are necessarily “junk.” Legions of satisfied netbook users contend otherwise.” is erroneous. The “legions” of netbook owners are an increasingly frustrated bunch of users. Many people have purchased these netbooks, thinking they could do everything a “normal” computer could do just at a lower pricepoint have found quite the opposite. Choppy video to unplayable video, one-trick ponies and sluggishness whenever they try to do anything beyond check their e-mail is pretty common. They even advertise these netbooks as “one application at a time”. Now, yes different people have different experiences (There will most likely be someone who will disagree) but they have Atom processors, shared video and an architecture designed for longevity of use, not power of ANY sort…I mean ANY. So these “legions” pruchase because they are cute and cheap, but many users become frustrated when they hit the wall very early on in their computing experience. Hey, I like netbooks…a lot…but you have to know what they are designed for and unfortunately most people purchasing them do not, so the “legions” is a misrepresentation of the validity of these computers.

    • AnotherAdam

      True to a point. I am a MacHead, and I am a Netbook user. My Dell Mini 10v is hackintosh-able, but I’ve not done that b/c it works terrifically as is.

      There are many, MANY, MANY very happy netbook users. Those who are not happy only have themselves to blame for not doing their research before purchase. EOS

  25. No they shouldn’t. OS X works so well because it works with the hardware, Its designed to work with it.

    With Windows you’ll find that due to a thousand hardware manufacturers, it’ll never have the same stability/performance across similar specced systems.

    Should they license it? No, they don’t need to. It’s a simple answer!

  26. Adam Jackson

    Hmm. Well, I’m just a n00b but here’s my take:

    1. I’d like to sit down with the author and have him show me what he does on this netbook. There’s such a thing as objective commentary where you write in a way to prove your point. It’s against journalism practices but doesn’t stop seasoned reporters from doing it. Ah, the freedom of op-ed. Anyway, I’d like to see how he and his daughter use these computers. I doubt that he has a rich experience on a Dell Mini 9. I know because I bought a mini 9 and a 10 before finally just getting a MacBook Air. They’re not “junk” but throwing Mac OS 10 on any Hackintosh is only to save money NOTHING ELSE. You don’t get any more freedom or flexibility and the only reason to have a hackintosh is dollar signs. If there was a $799 Apple computer and a $799 beige box and both are running Mac OS, no one would buy the beige box.

    2. You can purchase a perfectly capable 2Ghz 17″ G5 iMac on eBay for around $500-$750 dollars. It’s going to be nearly as fast as that 2.4Ghz Pentium the girl is running.

    3. You can buy a 1.8Ghz MacBook CoreDuo and it’ll be just as fast as that Dell Mini 9. and will cost the same price and it’ll be able to run Snow Leopard, no hax or no fooling around with drivers.

    4. Licensing the Mac OS won’t be the death of Apple computers but it will offer choice and that’s not what Apple is about. Choice is not what they do at Apple, Inc and they’ve flourished because of it. Furthermore, the sale of Apple computers drives Apple in so many ways. the high profit margins are passed down to the customer every day. Cheap software like iWork, free software like iLife, Mobile Me is a steal at $99 a year and not to mention all of the updates, upgrades, Apple store service and never having to speak to someone who’s native language isn’t english. Apple makes crap loads of money on the sale of Macs and a large percentage of that money helps Apple invest millions in R&D to create awesome products like the iPhone. I’d rather pay the premium and enjoy the benefits of what Apple is delivering to the tech world than put OS X on a Toshiba Satellite.

    5. Finally, I’ve used PCs and own a few of them. I do tech support and server installs and I’m a geek on both sides of the fence. I’m happy with Apple’s hardware. It is a premium. Sony used to compete pretty closely but that’s a thing of the past now. Apple has the best hardware in the industry. If anything, I’d buy an Apple computer just to put windows on it (and I have). My point is, we’re not getting duped here. Yes there’s a high markup and yes Apple kinda whispered that they would be able to charge less for Macs after moving to Intel and that never happened but now that Dell is entering into the “fashion computer” market with Adamo and their new latitude series, it’s clear that Apple isn’t that expensive. Dell’s offerings aren’t even shiny and are costing more than Apple’s laptops. So sure you can buy a notebook for $399 from Dell but their “premium” machines start at $1899 and go upwards of 3K with customizations. Apple isn’t raping us here, they’re giving us what we paid for and I respect that.

    • Mark Crump

      For me, the appeal of the Dell Mini running OS X is this:

      * The form factor: I go to school two nights a week and haul my 13″ MBPro in to take notes. it’d be nice to have a laptop the size of a hardcover

      * Licensing: I have two copies of Leopard and Snow Leopard. While it’s against the EULA, I’m not pirating the OS from a license standpoint. Also, I *believe* the licenses for iWork and Office are “in use on one computer a time” so I feel I’m on the moral road there. Were I to keep it WIndows, I’d need to purchase Windows versions of that software.

      In the end, I decided against it because my MBP gives me almost 6 hours of battery life and the keyboard is a dream to work on.

    • Tom Lawson

      Adam: What a wonderful post which simply says it all. In my estimation, Macinhacker’s feel that STEALING from a company, from individuals, who worked hard to bring Mac’s to life and have worked for over 20 years to continue to envision/create & build the world’s most elegant and useful computers, etc., is OK.
      For me, I’m tired of thieves and their arrogance. I’d much rather pay Apple because quality is long remembered after price is forgotten. We have three computers. A MacMini, a Macbook (aluminum) and a Dell. Two of the three are used daily. The last one has not been used in 18 months. You already know which one.
      Again, thanks. Elegant and valuable post you did.

    • Matt Rix

      A Macbook Air is THIN but not SMALL. It’s too big to be a netbook. There is nothing in the Mac lineup that’s as small as a netbook, so of course people are gonna want them. Anyone who says netbooks are useless doesn’t have to commute on a train or bus to work/school. My Acer Aspire One is the only laptop I have that’s actually usable on a train. I tried using a Macbook Air for a couple weeks to do the same thing, and it was just too BIG.

      Also, to “Tom Lawson”, it’s not STEALING when you’ve bought the OS.

    • JoeJoetheidiotpet

      Tom Lawson ,

      “The last one has not been used in 18 months. You already know which one.”

      You should turn it into a Hackintosh and breath new life into it.

  27. You can get cheaper Macs – refurbs, or used ones on ebay, craigslist, kijiji, etc. A few years ago I picked up a 1 year old used Mac for half the price of new with 2 years of Apple care left. Just have to be a smart shopper.

    • james blecko

      I bought a used g5 for $1400 from a reputable apple reseller and it is an absolute nightmare. A gigantic piece of crap! Everything is breaking. First the graphics card went (it was a nightmare replacing that) and no the machine just shuts down for no reason. Could be the power supply or the mother board. Either way it will cost me more than I want to pay to fix it. I only bought it as a back up machine. I have a friend who made a hackintosh and it works just fine. The same as the other macs we have and i have used macs since 1991.

    • JoeJoetheidiotpet


      That is a tough break! This is another reason why hackintoshes are so appealing. I don’t know what you spent but I am sure it was a pretty penny since you bought from a reputable dealer. I am sure they sold you on the fact that it was a Mac. Did they forget to mention that it had the discontinued Power PC Chip inside or did you already know that?

  28. I think Apple should say, “Looks- if you really want to run our software on your crappy hardware, go ahead. We give you no support, though. You can’t coming whining into an Apple store with tales of how your machine is bricked through a software upgrade. And no selling it to make profit either.”

    Honestly, I think that most people who are interested in OS X are not interested in putting together a machine that is somewhat clunky- it’s geeks and people interested in netbooks that this hacking appeals to. I for one want to build a Hackintosh just so I can say that I have done it.