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Apple may be done with Intel Macs, but Hackintoshes can still use the newest CPUs

Apple may be done with Intel Macs, but Hackintoshes can still use the newest CPUs

 January 11, 2022 at 2:06 pm   |     Author:   |     Technology  

Hackintoshes are PCs that run macOS, which means you can do whatever you want with the design.
Enlarge / Hackintoshes are PCs that run macOS, which means you can do whatever you want with the design.

Apple hasn’t stopped selling Intel Macs just yet, but it’s safe to say that we’ll never see a Mac with one of Intel’s 12th-generation Core processors in it. But that minor detail isn’t stopping the Hackintosh community from supporting new Intel and AMD processors and platforms. The developers behind OpenCore, the most powerful and actively maintained bootloader for loading macOS on standard PC hardware, improved its Alder Lake support in this month’s release, version 0.7.7. In a blog post over the weekend, the developers also detailed their efforts to update OpenCore and its associated software to work with Intel’s Z690 chipset.

The key to building a functional Hackintosh is normally to build a PC that’s as close as possible to actual Intel Mac hardware—most crucially, the CPU, GPU, and chipset. OpenCore’s job is to bridge whatever gap is left between your PC and real Mac hardware so that macOS boots and works properly. It adds support for reading and booting macOS filesystems, loads kernel extensions to support additional hardware, tells macOS how to handle your system’s audio outputs and USB ports, and spoofs hardware to take advantage of macOS’s built-in support (if, for example, your PC has a GPU that is similar to but not-quite-identical to a GPU included in a real Intel Mac).

As OpenCore has developed and matured, it has gotten better at bridging larger and larger gaps between PC hardware and “real” Macs. It can get old versions of macOS like Tiger (10.4) and Snow Leopard (10.6) up and running on old hardware, and it can even be used to run newer macOS versions on real Macs that Apple has dropped from the official support list. It can even run macOS on AMD processors, albeit with some caveats for software that relies on Intel-specific functionality. The still-active Hackintosh Reddit community is full of people running macOS on all kinds of different hardware.

It’s that sort of flexibility that will keep macOS working on 12th-generation Intel CPUs and the Z690 chipset. All of that said, running macOS on newer hardware isn’t for the faint of heart, and some things just aren’t going to work. Trying to use 12th-gen processors’ new efficiency cores (or E-cores) can also cause general slowdowns because macOS doesn’t know how to best distribute work between the different types of cores—macOS doesn’t (and never will) support Intel’s “Thread Director” technology, which needs to be baked into your operating system to get the best performance.

The GPUs from 11th- and 12th-generation Intel processors also won’t work in Hackintoshes because they were never supported in real Macs, so you would need to rely on a dedicated AMD GPU to handle display output and other tasks (in real Intel Macs, even iMacs and MacBook Pros with dedicated GPUs still use the integrated Intel GPUs for video and photo encoding and decoding). Apple is still adding support for newer AMD GPUs in macOS releases, presumably so those cards can work in the Mac Pro—the Radeon RX 6900 series, 6800 series, and RX 6600 XT are all supported—but Apple could easily decide to stop supporting newer GPUs whenever it wants. And Nvidia GPUs aren’t supported at all.

Though I wouldn’t actually recommend running out and buying the parts for a Hackintosh at this point, the ability of OpenCore and its developers to get macOS running on all kinds of x86 hardware is a noteworthy technical achievement. The process could (and likely will) get more difficult to sustain as Intel’s hardware moves even further away from what Apple uses in real Intel Macs. And once Apple decides to stop supporting its Intel Macs altogether, it’s extremely unlikely that macOS will be able to run directly on any non-Apple hardware, Intel or otherwise. But at least for now, the Hackintosh community is still going strong, and your 2022 Hackintosh doesn’t need to be stuck with 2020’s hardware if you don’t want it to be.

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