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I'm not looking for a flame war or anything like that.

I am looking at (once I have some money, the hardest part) buying a iMac. Let's just assume one could build a fully working Hackintosh with one's current hardware.

What would be the advantage of buying a new 21" iMac running the same Mac OS X version vs. building a Hackintosh with better hardware?

The chances of me building a Hackintosh is low as I am, well, lazy. :) Just looking for reasons to buy a new iMac.


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I would say the biggest advantage is it just works out of the box. You don't have to worry about additional kexts, incompatible hardware, etc etc. Just open the box, set it up, and get rolling getting stuff done. – Ryan Wersal Feb 15 '11 at 2:15
which one you did in the end? how did it go? – cregox Jun 7 '11 at 3:21
@RyanWersal I absolutely agree!!!! – daviesgeek Mar 1 '12 at 18:43

12 Answers 12

If your intention of buying a iMac/Hackintosh is to use it for a long term, then go for the iMac (or the Mac Mini/Macbook/Macbook pro with an external monitor). If it is for just playing around, experimenting or learning OSX internals(as @shpokas mentioned), or using for a relatively short term, the hackintosh is just fine.

If you think the iMac is too expensive for you, then hackintosh is definitely not the way to go, IMHO, I do not see any ROI in the hackintosh.

Why would it be better to buy a iMac for long term? – Nathan W Feb 15 '11 at 2:07
@Nathan The biggest benefit in buying an iMac, in my opinion, is that you get the warranty. At the price point of an iMac, the Apple extended warranty will cover every component. Honestly, this is the primary reason I opted for an iMac in my own iMac vs Hackintosh debate. – Ryan Wersal Feb 15 '11 at 2:14
@Ryan very valid point. – Nathan W Feb 15 '11 at 2:31
Also consider the resale value. – Tuan Anh Tran Mar 1 '12 at 5:56
@NathanW things just work. Hackintoshes normally do not like "Software Update" – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Aug 26 '12 at 20:46

If, as you say, you are "lazy", then you will certainly want to go with the iMac. Building and maintaining a hackintosh is not for the faint of heart. The first one I built took me over a month of trial and error and scouring google before I had what I would call a "functioning" system.


The only (as I see it) reasons to build a hackintosh instead of buying an iMac are listed below.

  1. Cost: A hackintosh with the same specs as an iMac will be substantially cheaper.
  2. Expandability: Let's see, an iMac lets you change the HDD/SSD, and the RAM. If you're good, you can swap the optical drive for a disk drive or a SATA port. If you build it yourself, you can put whatever you want in it and change it as often as you want. Note: Yeah, you could buy a Mac Pro, but they start at $2500.
  3. Nerd Cred: Building a computer: +10. Circumventing an operating system and its copy protection: +25.
Cost: Although when thinking about it last night, to get a screen that is that good will cost you about 1.2k anyway. – Nathan W Feb 15 '11 at 2:05
@Nathan W I've got a 24" Dell 1080x1920 nonglossy. It's been great. It cost me $180. – Nathan Greenstein Feb 15 '11 at 2:33
W Unfortunately Nathan G is right, the 1080p 21" iMac model isn't anything special in terms of monitor specs. – Ryan Wersal Feb 15 '11 at 5:56
@Ryan Ok well that rules out that argument. Thinking I might get a lappy instead. – Nathan W Feb 15 '11 at 8:05

Seriously, the most important advantage with Hackintosh will be the knowledge about OS X internal workings which you will get by tinkering with your Hackintosh.

If you do not find messing around your Hack to be exciting then I do not recommend to waste time on it.

And do not expect things working 'out of the box' with some "distribution".


The ability to login to the MAS with your Apple ID and download/install Lion from scratch over the internet without requiring any media/recovery partitions etc, just straight through the EFI firmware. That will never happen on a hackintosh.

We had to wait a year, but finally, a genuine differentiator!

If it's a Mac with Lion pre-installed, that's the only way to re-install and can not be done from local media, according to Apple T/S. On a 3Mb/s connection, that's a 6-hour download. Oh, the d/l failed? Start over again; 6 more hours. That's a pretty darned inconvenient install procedure. – JRobert Mar 1 '12 at 17:12
A good point if true, but it's not true to the best of my testing ability. You can happily turn the initial Lion download into a bootable DVD/USB stick, or do what I do and have it on an external hard drive. So it's a bit like complaining that a laptop needs electricity. – stuffe Mar 1 '12 at 17:18
That's a lot more hopeful if it's so. I asked Apple T/S directly and the tech's answer was that you could only do that on earlier machines that had been upgraded from an earlier OS; that if the machine came with Lion pre-installed on it, re-installs could only be done over the net; and that yes, there's a re-install partition, but it's only able to do the net-download not a self-contained install. – JRobert Mar 1 '12 at 17:27
It's a good thought, I will raise a speculative question, but I swear I have seen it work. – stuffe Mar 1 '12 at 17:29
So far as I just read up, it's not that it doesn't work, it's that you are unable to create an installer disc from a machine with lion preinstalled. If you can get hold of one, it will work fine, but you cannot burn one from the pre-installed image as the recovery partition does not hold a copy. Of course you can easily make any number of other bootable media mechanisms including USB/DVD etc, using Carbon Copy Cloner, Time Machine, Chronosync, SuperDuper etc, and it only takes knowing 1 person who downloaded it to be able to take a copy of the imstaller DMG. – stuffe Mar 1 '12 at 17:35

I own an 2008 iMac, but just recently built a Hackintosh, running 10.7.3 for my girlfriend who couldn't afford a real Mac. I figured if everything doesn't work right, it's no big deal as it will more than likely be used to surf the web, play on facebook, organize photos, etc. What I found out is, the $400 Hackintosh I built runs circles around my $1400 iMac. Granted my iMac is getting old, but the Hackintosh is posting Geekbench scores around 7500, which is the equivalent of a high end 27" 2011 iMac for a quarter of the price (my 2008 iMac scored a 3500 by the way). I've (so far) have had no major problems. I also have working HDMI video out and USB3. It did take some setting up, but now that I know what I'm doing I feel I can confidently build a new one in under 2 hrs, that's building it and installing the software. One side note, the $400 does not include an internal HDD, as I used an old one I had laying around the house. Another thing you will have to add to the price is a monitor and a copy of OSX, if you don't have them. So, when you factor in the price of the monitor and HDD, you could easly double your price.

Also, the argument of a good warranty with the iMac is flawed, in that I get a better warranty on my individual parts. I believe my motherboard alone gets a three year warranty. Also, I can upgrade my computer to future proof it if I need to. It wouldn't take much (time or money) to upgrade the CPU or graphics card compared to buying a new Mac.

I'm going to play around a little more with my girlfriends Hackintosh, including running real software on it, like Adobe Creative Suites and see if I encounter any problems with it over the next few months. If everything works out, I think I'll be building one for myself here soon.

$14,000 for an iMac? You were ripped off. So the $400 doesn't include the HD. So we add another $150 there. Then the monitor, keyboard, mouse. Add another $250 there. Now we are up to $800 vs the $1,099 for the iMac. And we compare not a 2008 iMac, but a modern iMac which gets scores in Geekbench of more that 7000. Let's play fair shall we? – user10355 Mar 1 '12 at 6:50
Also the argument to future proofing is a straw man. With every new chip line comes a new slot type or architectural change. From Penryn to Sandy Bridge. Your 2008 PC is no more upgradable than your 2008 iMac. Not unless you want to replace the motherboard, RAM, and CPU. And you then may have to swap out the PS as well. The only things one can carry forward with any certainty is their hard drives. Everything else moves far too quickly to be salvageable at a reasonable price after a year. It's actually more cost effective to replace PCs after a couple of years than to upgrade components. – user10355 Mar 1 '12 at 6:59
@cksum: I'm guessing the $14k was a typo, I doubt a techie would pay 10x the actual price :-) – houbysoft Aug 20 '12 at 20:56

Some things nobody mentioned: warranty, one of the best cases/constructions money can buy both from a funcional and aesthetical point of view, that sudden peace of mind coming from the realization that you don't need drivers anymore.

os x has drivers. – ConstantineK May 5 '11 at 14:03

If you get an iMac you will be somewhat future proofing yourself in terms of future software compatibility. There's no guarantee that something like MacOS X 10.7 will work on your Hackintosh.

That's not true. Look at the community's track record. They haven't missed an update for OS X yet. – user10355 Mar 1 '12 at 7:02
You have to be willing to accept some downtime if things go wrong. Some people may not be cool with that. – gmoney Mar 1 '12 at 16:45

If you are assuming that you can get (and keep) a hackintosh working properly, the main difference is that the iMac will probably cost you more and looks prettier. The difference is that getting the hackintosh to work will be a massive pain and if it breaks, no one will fix it for you. The iMac will work out of the box and Apple will fix it for you when it breaks. Basically, you pay a bit more money (at least in the 21" case -- the larger screen iMacs are actually pretty cheap for the screen you get) and save a massive amount of time and worry.


One of the unique benefits of buying an iMac is their strong resale value. With a hackintosh, the only practical option would be to sell off the pieces one by one, which is both a larger undertaking and less likely to make you as much money.


We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

Citations and some details are in order to make this a substantial answer. – bmike Mar 1 '12 at 17:26

Another thing to consider is desk space. The amount of space an iMac occupies is minimal compared to a hackintosh (assuming the hackintosh is a tower).


The guy who built the $400 Hackintosh makes some excellent points. When you break it down, its really unbelievable how much people pay for Apple computers. There is nothing special in that box! With an iMac you have an all in 1 with almost zero upgradability. A smart buyer buys a motherboard with a newer chipset so they can upgrade the CPU/ram/video card easily over the next 2-4 years. Everything about Apple is just a ripoff. Another problem with Apple Minis/iMacs and even the Mac Pro: Temperatures. They are high. Apple is incredibly poor at cooling their machines. You will notice in the new Mac Pro literature there is not one peep about real, measured temperatures. Nothing. Because its a cooling disgrace. Higher temps result in far more hardware failures. I just cannot fathom how any thinking person would want to support such a company.

Now we come to resale value of the Hackintosh: Is it not going to be worth far more than the parts if it flawlessly runs OS X? I bet that $400 Hackintosh could be sold for $600! Strange as it may seem, there are people out there not seduced by Apple style, that value functionality and efficiency, and could care less what a metal box looks like; this is, after all, the center of their informational life. I used to sell computer parts and the Apple buyers were consistently the most clueless by far as a demographic. They knew almost nothing about what they should get or why they should get it. It was quite fascinating to witness over and over. As a group I believe you could say they were very poor at general analysis (say about 90%). Sure there were some bright ones but it was very rare.

Today you need the following used parts to build your OS X/Windows/Linux computer:

$50--Motherboard, newer model, full size or smaller ATX, 4 x DDR3 1600mhz ram slots, USB3, built in HDMI/DVI out, 1 or 2 x PCI-Ex16 / 2 x PCI-E / 2-4 PCI slots, from a good manufacturer like Asus, Abit, Gigabyte, MSI or a few others.

$40--CPU Here is where you economize a bit as CPUs drastically devalue once they are a year or 2 old. Use the newest motherboard and an older CPU for maximum value. Today $40 puts you around 3ghz dual core speed. Shipping costs for CPUs are almost nothing as they can be stuffed in an envelope. Insure with Never insure with your shipper! Never put the description of the item on the outside of the box - just an invitation for theft if its valuable.

$30--2 x 2gb DDR3 1600mhz ram.

$15--30gb SSD for your OS and a few programs that need the speed. Or use a mSata if the board has the slot.

$40--1tb Sata drive for everything else.

$20--Power supply, around 500 watts. Without a video card you do not need much power.


$205 total. Get OS X going and you could flip it for $400-500 to someone that sees the inherent problems in something like a Mac Mini.

Oh the monitor: Look at the price now! 24inch used ones are going near $100! But the main thing is you get what you need, not what holy Apple deems you worthy of. Want a triple monitor setup? Want a monitor arm? No problem. Not so with with the iMac. No Vesa bolt holes in the back so you are stuck with their idiotic, zero vertical adjustable stand. All it does is tilt.

You will find that people that know talk in specifics, laying things out in a clear fashion as I hope I have done here.

Now ask yourself: What is the point of using OS X anyway? Its very substandard to Windows and Linux. Its a complete mouse centric OS that often ignores keyboard shortcuts vastly slowing down the user. Its for grandmothers. Very old grandmothers whose idea of technology is a newer design of candle holder and they got that because of the color.

Think and choose well.


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