Hackintosh is (almost) dead

It was a good run, though.

While I knew about and even tried various very early attempts to run macOS on non-Apple hardware, it wasn’t until early 2020 that I’ve built my first proper one. Then I built several more which are still seeing daily use.

I explained my reasoning why it was worthwhile to attempt it. The technology was mostly there thanks to a group of dedicated hackers and timing was just right:

But if ever there was a time to do it, it’s now.
Apple is transitioning to their own CPUs/GPUs over the next two years. Several years from now, I see myself purchasing whatever desktop Apple Silicon-based machine is there.

I also offered a prognosis which turned out partially true:

Many will tell you that buying Intel-based hardware from Apple is buying obsolete models. I don’t really agree with that since it’s a given that those Intel-based Macs will be supported for 7-10 years of future macOS updates.

It’s true that latest macOS 14 (Sonoma) still supports the latest generations of Intel Macs and it’s very likely that at least one or two major versions will still be compatible. But there’s one particular development that is de-facto killing off the Hackintosh scene.

In Sonoma, Apple has completely removed all traces of driver support for their oldest WiFi/Bt cards, namely various Broadcom cards that they last used in 2012/13 iMac / MacBook models. Those Mac models are not supported by macOS for few years now thus it’s not surprising the drivers are being removed. Most likely reason is that Apple is moving drivers away from .kext (Kernel Extensions) to .dext (DriverKit) thus cleaning up obsolete and unused code from macOS. They did the same with Ethernet drivers in Ventura.

Those particular cards were the key ingredient to many fully functional Hackintosh builds for simple reason: they worked out of the box with every single (so-called) iService Apple has: Messages, FaceTime, AirDrop, Continuity, Handoff - you name it. Everything worked. Despite the valiant efforts of OCLP crew to make workarounds, those cards can work in Sonoma only if you seriously downgrade the macOS security.

There was some hope that OpenIntelWireless could replace those cards due to amazing work zxystd did in the last 4 years. I mean, the WiFi speeds in macOS with Intel’s WiFi6 cards are nothing short of spectacular. But Apple’s continued cleanup and rewrite of their driver stack has pretty much killed-off any reliable support for Message and FaceTime despite iCloud sync still working great. zxystd describes the new mountain to climb:

From Sonoma, Apple drops IO80211FamilyLegacy, I build AirportItlwmV2 on the top of IO80211Family, but using some hacks, you can simply interpret it as me implementing a set of IO80211FamilyLegacy myself. This implementation may have side effects such as the iService not working etc. Since IO80211Family uses skywalk API instead of original Ethernet API (Also we can foresee that the Ethernet API will also be dropped in macOS 15), without these hacks we should follow the Apple’s API and rewrite the whole driver, that’s what I would never do.

In 14.4, Apple seem to have made changes in how USB subsystem works too. This was always a tedious challenge but if minor updates can almost brick the build it becomes a headache. Still…USB is a known problem with known solution thus it’s annoying but solvable.

WiFi with iServices is sadly not.

I’ve long held the opinion that it would not be CPU nor GPU changes that kill the Hacks — it would be lack of reliable WiFi drivers. And now, ~4 years later, Hackintosh hits a brick wall of no easy WiFi options available, at all. Given how much of the macOS useful features is dependent on presence of particular WiFi chips — a decision of Apple developers I really can’t understand — I can’t really consider builds without those features to call themselves Mac.

I did not come to this conclusion just by reading the forums.

I have a rag-tag build sitting on my desk for several months now. It was supposed to be a quick proof-of-concept Sonoma build with Intel AX200 WiFi/Bt, AMD CPU and GPU, NVMe SSDs - everything that modern Mac should work with. It’s everything that my current Hackintosh is, with SIP intact, incremental updates working on their own etc — a perfect Mac.

My wannabe Sonoma-compatible Mac

But pretty much since day one I encountered one problem after another. Things were so volatile and random that it was hard to believe, at times. Like —

Hence — Hackintosh is on its death bed. Some things will work for few more months or maybe even years, depending on what you use it for and whether lack of WiFi bothers you or not. But not for me. I can live without AirDrop, Continuity and Handoff but Messages and FaceTime must work. There’re also some other things Sonoma brings that are important to me thus I want to update to it. Coupled with described lack of reliability and fretting if next minor or major update would leave me dry — nah, not worth it.

I don’t really complain. I had a good run which helped me skip over the worst price/performance Mac lineup that I remember. There’re now plenty good choices within the current crop of M1 / M2 / M3 machines and I’ll be following eBay closely for a good used Mac mini / studio models. Or maybe even splurge on something new.

Lest I forget — if macOS Ventura works for you, stay on it! That’s still perfectly stable without a single issue across a variety of build options.

Just to clarify one thing, to preempt someone saying Apple did this on purpose to kill off Hackintosh: they didn’t. Apple never cared about Hackintosh scene, it’s entirely irrelevant to their business. They did what they should be doing, improving the macOS codebase. It’s always a good thing to remove obsolete and deprecated code thus Apple is doing the right thing for their product.