Desktop Computer Build Description (i7-7700 and Radeon RX-550 4GB GDDR5) with Benchmarks

IMG_2466

Over the past two weeks, I built a new desktop computer to replace my i5-based Intel NUC, because I wanted more CPU horsepower and a dedicated graphics card.

The NUC6i5SYH has a soldered i5-6260U CPU. This part has only two CPU cores, which support two threads each for a total of four threads. With this new build, I use a socket-based i7-7700, which has four CPU cores, each of which supports two threads for a total of eight threads. Coupled with a higher, maximum clock rate, this i7 processor can do more work in less time than the i5-6260U CPU in the Intel NUC.

For watching 1080p videos and lower resolution 3D graphics, the i5-6260U’s integrated graphics are more than sufficient. However, I wanted to play some 3D games and use Unreal Engine 4 for a project. The entry-level graphics of AMD Radeon’s RX 550 coupled with a design that does not require a higher-wattage PSU seemed adequate for this particular build.

IMG_2468

My new computer’s specs, sourcing, and pricing are:

Intel i7-7700 (Microcenter, $280)

Gigabyte B250-DS3H mATX Motherboard (Microcenter, $10 on promotion and free after rebate)

Asus Radeon Rx-550 4GB GDDR5 Video Card (Microcenter, $103)

Crucial 8GB 2×4 DDR4-2400 RAM (Microcenter, $75)

ADATA SU800 128GB 3D-NAND 2.5 Inch SATA SSD (Amazon, $56)

EVGA 400 watt PSU (Amazon, $30)

ROSEWILL Micro ATX Mini Tower Computer Case, FBM-01 (Amazon, $25)

Redragon K552-N KUMARA Mechanical Gaming Keyboard (Amazon, $27)

Teknet Gaming Mouse (Amazon, $11)

Microsoft Windows 10 Home USB (Amazon, $110)

Total: $727

With any computer build that I undertake, I am most interested in maintaining access to legacy software and operating systems for my research. While I haven’t tested everything, I have confirmed that Sheepshaver/MacOS 7.5.5 and VirtualBox/Windows 98 are up-and-running.

After this preliminary setup, I ran the following benchmarks to stress test and evaluate the system. The results are included below as a measure for anyone interested in how a system like mine performs.

Performance Test 9, CPU Test

performancetest-cpu

Using the evaluation copy of Performance Test 9, the CPU Test yielded a result of 11,399, which places the system above the average for this CPU and in the 92nd percentile.

Performance Test 9, 3D Graphics Mark Test

performancetest-graphics

I opted for the budget/entry-level RX 550 video card, because only a few games that I play would benefit from a greater investment in this part of the overall build. Nevertheless, I was pleased with the 3,954 3D Graphics Mark result, which places the system in the 71st percentile.

Unigen Heaven Benchmark 4.0

unigen-heaven

My system earned a Heaven Benchmark score of 843 and it sustained an average 33.5 frames per second.

Unigine Heaven Benchmark 4.0

FPS:
33.5
Score:
843
Min FPS:
17.9
Max FPS:
68.6
System

Platform:
Windows NT 6.2 (build 9200) 64bit
CPU model:
Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-7700 CPU @ 3.60GHz (3599MHz) x4
GPU model:
Radeon RX 550 Series 22.19.677.257 (4095MB) x1
Settings

Render:
Direct3D11
Mode:
1920×1080 fullscreen
Preset
Custom
Quality
High
Tessellation: Disabled
Powered by UNIGINE Engine
Unigine Corp. © 2005-2013

Unigen Valley Benchmark 1.0

unigen-valley

In the Valley Benchmark, my system gained a score of 1,415 with an average 33.8 frames per second.

Unigine Valley Benchmark 1.0

FPS:
33.8
Score:
1415
Min FPS:
21.1
Max FPS:
58.3
System

Platform:
Windows 8 (build 9200) 64bit
CPU model:
Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-7700 CPU @ 3.60GHz (3599MHz) x4
GPU model:
Radeon RX 550 Series 22.19.677.257 (4095MB) x1
Settings

Render:
Direct3D11
Mode:
1920×1080 fullscreen
Preset
Custom
Quality
High
Powered by UNIGINE Engine
Unigine Corp. © 2005-2013

Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward Benchmark

heavensward

After creating a character and running the benchmark, my computer earned a score of 8077, Extremely High performance, and it maintained an average 59.933 frames per second.

FINAL FANTASY XIV: Heavensward BenchmarkFINAL FANTASY XIV: Heavensward

BenchmarkTested on: 10/27/2017 10:38:37

PMScore: 8077

Average Frame Rate: 59.933

Performance: Extremely High -Easily capable of running the game on the highest settings.

Loading Times by Scene  Scene #1 1.251 sec  Scene #2 5.183 sec  Scene #3 3.822 sec  Scene #4 3.259 sec  Scene #5 4.570 sec  Scene #6 1.514 secTotal Loading Time 19.600 sec
DAT:s20171027223837.dat
Screen Size: 1280x720Screen Mode: WindowedDirectX Version: 11Graphics Presets: High (Desktop)General-Wet Surface Effects: Enabled-Occlusion Culling: Enabled-LOD on Distant Objects: Disabled-Real-time Reflections: Highest Quality (DirectX 11 Only)-Edge Smoothing (Anti-aliasing): FXAA-Transparent Lighting Quality: High-Grass Quality: High-Background Tessellation: High Quality-Water Tessellation: High QualityShadows-Self: Display-Other NPCs: DisplayShadow Quality-LOD on Shadows: Enabled-Shadow Resolution: High – 2048p-Shadow Cascading: Best-Shadow Softening: StrongTexture Detail-Texture Filtering: Anisotropic-Anisotropic Filtering: x8Movement Physics-Self: Full-Other NPCs: FullEffects-Limb Darkening: Enabled-Radial Blur: Enabled-Screen Space Ambient Occlusion: HBAO+: Standard Quality (DirectX 11 Only)-Glare: NormalCinematic Cutscenes-Depth of Field: Enabled
SystemWindows 10 Home 64-bit (6.2, Build 9200) (15063.rs2_release.170317-1834)Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-7700 CPU @ 3.60GHz8151.770MBRadeon RX 550 Series (VRAM 3072 MB) 22.19.0677.0257
Benchmark results do not provide any guarantee FINAL FANTASY XIV: A Realm Reborn (Windows version) and FINAL FANTASY XIV: Heavensward (Windows version) will run on your system.
FINAL FANTASY XIV: Heavensward Official Website http://na.finalfantasyxiv.com/pr/(C) 2010-2015 SQUARE ENIX CO., LTD. All Rights Reserved.
Share ResultsType 1http://sqex.to/ffxiv_bench_na #FFXIV Score: 8077 1280×720 High (Desktop) DX11 Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-7700 CPU @ 3.60GHz Radeon RX 550 Series Type 2http://sqex.to/ffxiv_bench_na #FFXIV Score: 8077 1280×720 High (Desktop) DirectX11 Windowed Radeon RX 550 Series Type 3http://sqex.to/ffxiv_bench_na #FFXIV 1280×720 High (Desktop) DirectX11 Score: 8077 Extremely High Type 4http://sqex.to/ffxiv_bench_na #FFXIV 1280×720 High (Desktop) DirectX11 Windowed Score: 8077 Full ResultsFINAL FANTASY XIV: Heavensward Benchmark  Score: 8077 Extremely High  1280×720 High (Desktop) DirectX11 Windowed  Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-7700 CPU @ 3.60GHz  Radeon RX 550 Series  http://sqex.to/ffxiv_bench_na #FFXIV

Then, I ran the test again in 1080p resolution in full-screen mode. This resulted in a lower rating of “high” with a numerical score of 4,416.

heavensward-high

 

Final Fantasy XIV Stormblood Benchmark

final-fantasy-stormblood-launch

I ran the Final Fantasy XIV Stormblood benchmark twice–once at 720p in windowed mode (default) and once at 1080p in full screen mode. I imported my created character from Heavensward into Stormblood.

final-fantasy-stormblood

In 720p, windowed mode, my system scored 10,877 (extremely high).

FINAL FANTASY XIV: Stormblood BenchmarkFINAL FANTASY XIV: Stormblood BenchmarkTested on: 10/28/2017 3:58:19 PMScore: 10877Average Frame Rate: 73.707Performance: Extremely High -Easily capable of running the game on the highest settings.Loading Times by Scene  Scene #1 2.109 sec  Scene #2 2.956 sec  Scene #3 2.329 sec  Scene #4 3.194 sec  Scene #5 5.589 sec  Scene #6 1.192 secTotal Loading Time 17.373 sec
DAT:s20171028155819.dat
Screen Size: 1280x720Screen Mode: WindowedDirectX Version: 11Graphics Presets: High (Laptop)General-Wet Surface Effects: Enabled-Occlusion Culling: Enabled-LOD on Distant Objects: Enabled-Real-time Reflections: Off-Edge Smoothing (Anti-aliasing): FXAA-Transparent Lighting Quality: Normal-Grass Quality: Normal-Background Tessellation: High Quality-Water Tessellation: High Quality-Glare: OffShadows-Self: Display-Other NPCs: DisplayShadow Quality-LOD on Shadows: Enabled-Shadow Resolution: Normal – 1024p-Shadow Cascading: Best-Shadow Softening: StrongTexture Detail-Texture Filtering: Anisotropic-Anisotropic Filtering: x4Movement Physics-Self: Full-Other NPCs: FullEffects-Limb Darkening: Enabled-Radial Blur: Enabled-Screen Space Ambient Occlusion: HBAO+: Standard-Glare: NormalCinematic Cutscenes-Depth of Field: Enabled
SystemWindows 10 Home 64-bit (6.2, Build 9200) (15063.rs2_release.170317-1834)Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-7700 CPU @ 3.60GHz8151.770MBRadeon RX 550 Series (VRAM 4044 MB)
This software does not guarantee that your system will run the Windows versions of FINAL FANTASY XIV: A Realm Reborn, FINAL FANTASY XIV: Heavensward, and FINAL FANTASY XIV: Stormblood.
FINAL FANTASY XIV: Stormblood Official Website http://na.finalfantasyxiv.com/pr/(C) 2010-2017 SQUARE ENIX CO., LTD. All Rights Reserved.
Share ResultsType 1http://sqex.to/ffxiv_bench_na #FFXIV Score: 10877 1280×720 High (Laptop) DX11 Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-7700 CPU @ 3.60GHz Radeon RX 550 Series Type 2http://sqex.to/ffxiv_bench_na #FFXIV Score: 10877 1280×720 High (Laptop) DirectX11 Windowed Radeon RX 550 Series Type 3http://sqex.to/ffxiv_bench_na #FFXIV 1280×720 High (Laptop) DirectX11 Score: 10877 Extremely High Type 4http://sqex.to/ffxiv_bench_na #FFXIV 1280×720 High (Laptop) DirectX11 Windowed Score: 10877 Full ResultsFINAL FANTASY XIV: Stormblood Benchmark  Score: 10877 Extremely High  1280×720 High (Laptop) DirectX11 Windowed  Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-7700 CPU @ 3.60GHz  Radeon RX 550 Series  http://sqex.to/ffxiv_bench_na #FFXIV

Next, I ran the benchmark again but in 1080p resolution and in full-screen mode.

final-fantasy-stormblood-1080p

This time, my computer scored only 5,807 (very high). Watching the benchmark demo unfold on my monitor was exciting, and the game looked gorgeous!

FINAL FANTASY XIV: Stormblood BenchmarkFINAL FANTASY XIV: Stormblood BenchmarkTested on: 10/28/2017 4:07:17 PMScore: 5807Average Frame Rate: 39.137Performance: Very High -Easily capable of running the game. Should perform exceptionally well, even at higher resolutions.Loading Times by Scene  Scene #1 2.298 sec  Scene #2 2.920 sec  Scene #3 2.417 sec  Scene #4 3.088 sec  Scene #5 5.725 sec  Scene #6 1.032 secTotal Loading Time 17.484 sec
DAT:s20171028160717.dat
Screen Size: 1920x1080Screen Mode: Full ScreenDirectX Version: 11Graphics Presets: High (Laptop)General-Wet Surface Effects: Enabled-Occlusion Culling: Enabled-LOD on Distant Objects: Enabled-Real-time Reflections: Off-Edge Smoothing (Anti-aliasing): FXAA-Transparent Lighting Quality: Normal-Grass Quality: Normal-Background Tessellation: High Quality-Water Tessellation: High Quality-Glare: OffShadows-Self: Display-Other NPCs: DisplayShadow Quality-LOD on Shadows: Enabled-Shadow Resolution: Normal – 1024p-Shadow Cascading: Best-Shadow Softening: StrongTexture Detail-Texture Filtering: Anisotropic-Anisotropic Filtering: x4Movement Physics-Self: Full-Other NPCs: FullEffects-Limb Darkening: Enabled-Radial Blur: Enabled-Screen Space Ambient Occlusion: HBAO+: Standard-Glare: NormalCinematic Cutscenes-Depth of Field: Enabled
SystemWindows 10 Home 64-bit (6.2, Build 9200) (15063.rs2_release.170317-1834)Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-7700 CPU @ 3.60GHz8151.770MBRadeon RX 550 Series (VRAM 4044 MB)
This software does not guarantee that your system will run the Windows versions of FINAL FANTASY XIV: A Realm Reborn, FINAL FANTASY XIV: Heavensward, and FINAL FANTASY XIV: Stormblood.
FINAL FANTASY XIV: Stormblood Official Website http://na.finalfantasyxiv.com/pr/(C) 2010-2017 SQUARE ENIX CO., LTD. All Rights Reserved.
Share ResultsType 1http://sqex.to/ffxiv_bench_na #FFXIV Score: 5807 1920×1080 High (Laptop) DX11 Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-7700 CPU @ 3.60GHz Radeon RX 550 Series Type 2http://sqex.to/ffxiv_bench_na #FFXIV Score: 5807 1920×1080 High (Laptop) DirectX11 Full Screen Radeon RX 550 Series Type 3http://sqex.to/ffxiv_bench_na #FFXIV 1920×1080 High (Laptop) DirectX11 Score: 5807 Very High Type 4http://sqex.to/ffxiv_bench_na #FFXIV 1920×1080 High (Laptop) DirectX11 Full Screen Score: 5807 Full ResultsFINAL FANTASY XIV: Stormblood Benchmark  Score: 5807 Very High  1920×1080 High (Laptop) DirectX11 Full Screen  Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-7700 CPU @ 3.60GHz  Radeon RX 550 Series  http://sqex.to/ffxiv_bench_na #FFXIV

Conclusion

While I certainly understand choosing components for overclocking, I opted for a build that was stable first and provided performance second.

I am very happy with my system’s stability and performance. If your processing needs outweigh your graphics needs, I recommend building a system similar to this one.

Intel NUC 6I5SYH Hardware Review, BIOS Update, and Fedora 25 Installation Guide

Before Thanksgiving 2016, I purchased an Intel NUC 6I5SYH ($319.99 on sale at Microcenter, late-November 2016) to serve as my new home desktop computer. This review/guide is based on my initial setup of the 6I5SYH.

The Intel NUC 6I5SYH is a small form factor (SFF) bare-bones personal computer from Intel’s “Next Unit of Computing” line.

The 6I5SYH includes an enclosure (approximately 4 1/2″ wide x 4 3/8″ deep x 2″ tall), motherboard with a soldered i5-6260U CPU (Skylake, or 6th-gen architecture–1.9GHz up to 2.8GHz Turbo, Dual Core, 4MB cache, 15W TDP), wall-mount power adapter with multi-country AC plugs, and VESA mount bracket.

The 6I5SYH’s motherboard supports the i5’s integrated Iris 540 graphics over a built-in HDMI 1.4b or Mini DisplayPort 1.2, and it includes 2x USB 3.o ports (back), 2x USB 3.0 ports (front and one supports charging), 2x USB 2.0 headers (on motherboard), IR sensor, Intel 10/100/1000Mbps ethernet, Intel Wireless-AC 8260 M.2 (802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.1, and Intel Wireless Display 6.0), headphone/microphone jack (front, or 7.1 surround sound via HDMI and Mini DisplayPort/back), and SDXC slot with UHS-I support (left side).

The 6I5SYH requires the user to supply a hard drive or SSD, and RAM. For permanent storage, it has internal support for an M.2 SSD card (22×42 or 22×80) and SATA3 2.5″ HDD/SSD (up to 9.5mm thick). For memory, it supports dual-channel DDR4 SODIMMs (1.2V, 2133MHz, 32GB maximum) across two internal slots.

For my 6I5SYH’s RAM, I installed one Crucial 8GB DDR4 2400 BL SODIMM ($44.99 on sale at Micro Center, late-November 2016), and for its SSD, I installed a Silicon Power S60 240GB SATA3 SSD ($67.99 on sale on Amazon, December 2015). Excluding the costs of a monitor, keyboard, and trackball, this system cost $432.97.

After first assembling the 6I5SYH with its RAM and SSD, I booted it and went into the BIOS (press F2 at the boot/Intel screen) to check its BIOS version. Based on everything that I had read about this and past Intel NUCs, it is always advisable to have the most up-to-date BIOS installed. Sure enough, it reported having BIOS 0045, and a newer BIOS had been released (0054) according to the Intel Download Center page for the 6I5SYH.

I downloaded the new BIOS binary file to a FAT-formatted USB flash drive on my Mac, inserted the USB flash drive into a front USB port on the NUC, pressed F7 to update BIOS, and followed the prompts. After confirming the BIOS had updated, I turned the 6I5SYH off by holding down the power button on its top plate.

Next, I used the Fedora Media Writer for Mac OS X to create a bootable USB flash drive of Fedora 25 Workstation using the same flash drive that I had used to flash the 6I5SYH’s BIOS.

After the media creation was completed, I inserted my Fedora 25 bootable USB flash drive into a front USB port of the 6I5SYH, powered it on, pressed F10 for the boot menu, and followed the prompts. If you need an installation guide for Fedora 25 check out the Fedora Documentation here, or if you need a screenshot walkthrough of installing Fedora 25, check out this guide.

After installing Fedora 25 with full disk encryption, I installed updates and began installing additional software. The guides here and here offer great advice (there are others for “what to do after installing fedora 24” that have useful info, too) on what to install and configure after a fresh installation of Fedora. Some that I recommend include Gnome Tweak Tool (available within Software app), Yum Extender (DNF) (available within Software app), VeraCrypt, and VLC. Remember to install RPM Fusion free and nonfree repositories–directions here, too.

So far, Fedora 25 has performed wonderfully on the 6I5SYH! Out of the box, the graphics, WiFi, Bluetooth, USB ports, and SD card reader have worked without error. I am using a Mini DisplayPort to VGA adapter to connect the 6I5SYH to a less expensive VGA-input LCD monitor. I am watching 1080p Rogue One trailers without a hiccup, and I listen to Beastie Boy MP3s while doing work in GIMP or LibreOffice. I have not yet fully tested virtualization or emulation (consoles or vintage computing)–these are my next steps.

The 6I5SYH is snappy about doing work, and it is quiet nearly always except when it first boots up (and the fans spin up high momentarily). For the features, size, and price, I highly recommend the 6I5SYH as a desktop replacement that runs Fedora 25 and common Linux programs quite well!

Followup to Adventures with a CustoMac: Installing Mac OS X Mavericks on Asus P8Z77-V PC

Mavericks installed on CustoMac. NB: MBPr on desk and PowerMacintosh 8500/120 on right.

Mavericks installed on CustoMac. NB: MBPr on desk and PowerMacintosh 8500/120 on right.

Last summer, I wrote about my experiences installing Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion on my Asus P8Z77-V and Intel i7-2700K PC here. What I neglected to say at the time was that an alarming number of creeping instabilities led me to ultimately abandon running Mountain Lion on my PC and return to Windows 7.

I later learned that some of these instabilities were likely linked to a bad PSU and video card–both of which were replaced by the manufacturers under warranty (awesome kudos to Antec and EVGA). With the new PSU and video card, my PC returned to 100% stability under Windows 7. This made me wonder if I could try rolling out a Mavericks installation on my PC.

Also, I wanted to use Mac OS X’s superior file content search technology and other third-party textual analysis tools in my research. I have a MacBook Pro 15″ retina (MBPr), but it lacks the hard drive capacity for my accumulated research files. The comfort that I feel in the MacOS environment and the need for lots of fast storage led me to turn my attention back to turning my PC into a CustoMac (aka “hackintosh”).

This time, I wanted to streamline and simply my setup as much as possible and incorporate components that should work out of the box (OOB). Toward this end, I reduced my hardware configuration from this:

  • ASUS P8Z77-V LGA 1155 Z77 ATX Intel Motherboard (disabled on-board Intel HD 3000 video and Asus Wi-Fi Go! add-on card)
  • Intel Core i7 2700K LGA 1155 Boxed Processor
  • Corsair XMS3 Series 16GB DDR3-1333MHz (PC3-10666) CL 9 Dual Channel Desktop Memory Kit (Four 4GB Memory Modules)
  • evga 01G-P3-1561-KR GeForce GTX 560 Ti 1024MB GDDR5 PCIe 2.0 x16 Video Card
  • Antec High Current Gamer 750W Gamer Power Supply HCG-750
  • Corsair Vengeance C70 Gaming Mid Tower Case Military Green
  • Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus Universal CPU Cooler
  • Samsung 22X DVD±RW Burner with Dual Layer Support – OEM
  • Intel 128 GB SATA SSD
  • Western Digital Caviar Green WD10EARX 1TB IntelliPower 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5″ Internal Hard Drive – Bare Drive
Using on-board video and no ASUS wifi card.

Using on-board video and no ASUS wifi card.

to this:

  • ASUS P8Z77-V LGA 1155 Z77 ATX Intel Motherboard (using on-board Intel HD 3000 video and removing Asus Wi-Fi Go! add-on card)
  • Intel Core i7 2700K LGA 1155 Boxed Processor
  • Corsair XMS3 Series 16GB DDR3-1333MHz (PC3-10666) CL 9 Dual Channel Desktop Memory Kit (Four 4GB Memory Modules)
  • evga 01G-P3-1561-KR GeForce GTX 560 Ti 1024MB GDDR5 PCIe 2.0 x16 Video Card (removed to simply setup and save power–who has time for gaming?)
  • Antec High Current Gamer 750W Gamer Power Supply HCG-750
  • Corsair Vengeance C70 Gaming Mid Tower Case Military Green
  • Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus Universal CPU Cooler
  • Samsung 22X DVD±RW Burner with Dual Layer Support – OEM
  • Intel 128 GB SATA SSD
  • Three Western Digital HDDs for file storage and work space. 
IoGear GBU521 and TP-Link TL-WDN4800 from Microcenter.

IoGear GBU521 and TP-Link TL-WDN4800 from Microcenter.

Also, I added two new components that were recommended from the TonyMacx86 Forums:

  • TP-Link 450Mbpx Wireless N Dual Band PCI Express Adapter (TL-WDN4800). It works in Mavericks OOB.
  • IoGear Bluetooth 4.0 USB Micro Adapter (GBU521). It works in Mavericks OOB.
DSC01487

ASUS’s Wi-Fi Go! card works great in Windows 7, but it caused problems with my Mavericks installation.

As noted above, I physically removed my 560 Ti video card, because I wanted to simply my setup for installation purposes. Also, I removed the ASUS Wi-Fi Go! add-on card, because despite disabling it in BIOS, the Mavericks installer seemed to hang on a wi-fi device while attempting to set its locale (a setting that determines what radio settings to use based on the country that you happen to be in). After I removed the Wi-Fi Go! card, I had a nearly flawless Mavericks installation process (NB: removing the Wi-Fi Go! card required removing the motherboard, turning it over, removing a screw holding in the Wi-Fi Go! card, turning the motherboard over, and unplugging the Wi-Fi Go! card).

These are the steps that I used to install Mavericks on my PC:

  1. Follow TonyMac’s Mavericks installation guide for making an installation USB drive and installing Mavericks.
  2. Following installation of Mavericks, boot from your USB drive, select your new Mavericks installation drive, arrive at the desktop, and run Multibeast.
  3. Select these settings in Multibeast:
    1. Quick Start > DSDT Free (I left all pre-selected options as-is. Below are additional selections that I made.)
    2. Drivers > Audio > Realtek > Without DSDT > ALC892
    3. Drivers > Disk > 3rd Party SATA
    4. Drivers > Graphics > Intel Graphics Patch for Mixed Configurations
    5. Drivers > Misc > Fake SMC
    6. Drivers > Misc > Fake SMC Plugins
    7. Drivers > Misc > Fake SMC HWMonitor App
    8. Drivers > Misc > NullCPUPowerManagement (I don’t want my machine to go to sleep)
    9. Drivers > Misc > USB 3.0 – Universal
    10. Drivers > Network > Intel – hank’s AppleIntelE1000e
    11. Customize > 1080p Display Mode
    12. Build > Install
  4. Repair Permissions on Mavericks drive from /Applications/Utilities/Disk Utility
  5. Reboot
  6. Run Chameleon Wizard (this will fix a problem that you might have with connecting to the App Store)
  7. Click SMBios > Edit > Premade SMBioses > choose MacPro 3,1 > Save
  8. Reboot
  9. CustoMac should now be fully operational!

In order to arrive at the above instructions, I read a lot of first hand experiences and third party suggestions on TonyMac’s forums. I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the amazing community of CustoMac builders who take the time to share their thoughts and lessons and equally so to the tool-builders who create amazing software including UniBeast, Multibeast, and Chameleon Wizard!

I would suggest that you remember that there is not always one path to a successful build. I distilled a lot of posts into my successful build. Your experience with similar hardware might take a different path. Reading others experiences and trying their suggestions experimentally can lead to your own successful discoveries. Thus, I took the time to try out different configurations of hardware until settling on the stripped down approach with on-board video and OOB networking gear. I tried several different installations: a failed Mavericks installation with kernel panics (Wi-Fi Go! card installed and wrong Multibeast configuration), a successful Mountain Lion installation (barebones and correct Multibeast configuration), and a successful Mavericks installation (detailed above).

Obviously, MacOS X can run on a wide range of PC hardware given the correct drivers, configuration information, etc. Apple could do great things if only Tim Cook and others would think differently and move beyond the tightly integrated hardware-software experience. Apple’s engineers could do great things with building better operating systems that adapt to a person’s hardware. Given the chance, they could challenge Microsoft and Google with a new MacOS X that is insanely great for everyone–not just those who can afford to buy new hardware.

Now, back to using some of the tools that I use in my research on a computing platform that I enjoy:

Adventures with a CustoMac: My Instructions for Turning Asus P8Z77-V Based PC into a Screaming-Fast Hackintosh

16 GB Transcend Flash Drive from NOVA in Taipei, Taiwan

16 GB Transcend Flash Drive from NOVA in Taipei, Taiwan

My friend sent me a link to a video by someone who turned an older Core2Duo-based Dell Optiplex into a Hackintosh. The video convinced me to do something that I had been meaning to do for a long time but had never got around to actually doing: removing Windows 7 on my ASUS P8Z77-V/Intel i7-based PC that I built late last year and  installing Mac OS X 10.8.

A Hackintosh, or what some folks call a CustoMac, is a standard PC that runs one of the Intel-based version of Mac OS (this includes 10.4 Tiger, 10.5 Leopard, 10.6 Snow Leopard, 10.7 Lion, and 10.8 Mountain Lion).

Prior to this project, I had purchased Mountain Lion from the MacApp Store for my old MacBook 5,1 (Aluminum Unibody, Late-2008). When my parents gifted me a rMPB, it already had Mountain Lion installed. This gave me the needed components that I needed to setup my flash drive to install Mac OS on my PC: a Mac and a purchased copy of Mountain Lion.

According to the definitive source for creating CustoMacs, TonyMacx86, my hardware isn’t ideally suited for a pain-free installation (If you are beginning from scratch, you should check out TonyMacx86’s excellent buyer’s guide here). Nevertheless, I worked my way through six re-installations before discovering the combination of settings that yielded a reliable and stable Mountain Lion installation.

This is my PC’s hardware configuration:

  • ASUS P8Z77-V LGA 1155 Z77 ATX Intel Motherboard
  • Intel Core i7 2700K LGA 1155 Boxed Processor
  • Corsair XMS3 Series 16GB DDR3-1333MHz (PC3-10666) CL 9 Dual Channel Desktop Memory Kit (Four 4GB Memory Modules)
  • evga 01G-P3-1561-KR GeForce GTX 560 Ti 1024MB GDDR5 PCIe 2.0 x16 Video Card
  • Antec High Current Gamer 750W Gamer Power Supply HCG-750
  • Corsair Vengeance C70 Gaming Mid Tower Case Military Green
  • Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus Universal CPU Cooler
  • Samsung 22X DVD±RW Burner with Dual Layer Support – OEM
  • Intel 128 GB SATA SSD
  • Western Digital Caviar Green WD10EARX 1TB IntelliPower 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5″ Internal Hard Drive – Bare Drive

These are the steps that led to my successful Mountain Lion installation:

  1. Follow TonyMacx86’s UniBeast (the software that prepares your installation media) and Mountain Lion installation guide here. I have modified the instructions below to reflect what I did after creating my bootable flash drive containing the Mountain Lion installer and a folder that I made containing MultiBeast (the software that configures your Mountain Lion installation for your computer’s hardware). (Depending on your needs, you might need other software, including MaciASL, which can create a DSDT file–another kind of configuration file for MultiBeast that gives Mac OS the information that it needs to run well on your hardware. You will need to configure it with sources  from PJALM’s DSDT Patch Repositories. Ultimately, I decided to proceed with a DSDT-free installation.)
  2. Turn on the PC with the flash drive inserted on one of the front mounted USB 3.0 slots.
  3. Press F8 to select bootup device and select the flash drive.
  4. Chimera, the bootloader software, provides you with an option to select the flash drive’s Mac OS installation to boot. If you press the down arrow key on the keyboard, you will be presented with other options including help. If you begin typing, you can enter commands to assist with booting the installer.
  5. On the Chimera boot selection screen, type “PCIRootUID=0”. Press Enter. This ensures that the installer’s Mac OS installation will display video correctly. Without this option, the screen goes dark after the Apple logo over gray screen.
  6. From the Mac OS installer menu bar, select Utilities > Disk Utility > Format your boot drive for Mac OS Extended, Journaled. Close the Disk Utility window to return to the installer. Proceed with installation. Reboot when completed.
  7. Press F8. Select the flash drive. At the Chimera screen, select your internal hard drive’s new Mac OS Mountain Lion installation, type in “PCIRootUID=0”, and press Enter.
  8. Mountain Lion will boot from your hard drive and begin the setup procedure (choosing location, creating your Admin account, etc.).
  9. If you have already downloaded MultiBeast and placed it in a new folder on your flash drive, open your flash drive from the Desktop, navigate to MultiBeast, and launch it.
  10. Proceed to the selection screen and check these things:
    1. UserDSDT or DSDT-Free Installation
    2. Drivers & Bootloaders > Drivers > Audio > Realtek ALC8xx > Without DSDT > ALC892
    3. Drivers & Bootloaders > Drivers > Network > hnak’s AppleIntelE1000e Ethernet
    4. Drivers & Bootloaders > Drivers > Miscellaneous > USB 3.0 – Universal
    5. Drivers & Bootloaders > Drivers > System > Patched AppleIntelCPUPowerManagement > OS X 10.8.x
  11. Complete installation and close MultiBeast.
  12. Navigate to Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility. Select your hard drive and click Repair Permissions. When completed, close Disk Utility, eject your flash drive and remove from the USB port, and reboot.
  13. When back at the Desktop, go to System Preferences > Energy Saver > Disable Computer Sleep by sliding the widget to the far right.
  14. Plug your computer into your router with an ethernet cable if you have not already done so. You can easily get online with the wired connection.
  15. Your installation is complete!
Mac OS X 10.8.4 desktop showing CPU and memory. Everything is running a-okay!

Mac OS X 10.8.4 desktop showing CPU and memory. Everything is running a-okay!

I chose to go this route, because I could not get Mac OS to boot with the DSDTs that I created with MaciASL (using the configuration for the P8Z77-V motherboard and graphics source per PJALM’s instructions). My problems could have been related to the DSDT or due to incompatibilities between its settings and my P8Z77-V’s BIOS ROM version (I was unable to use the motherboard’s BIOS Flashback feature to successfully load one of these hacked BIOS ROMs on this site). Apparently, if you can get the DSDT to install correctly and have the hacked BIOS, you will be able to enjoy power management settings and control. Since I have my computer only on when I am using it, I do not have any problem with this lack of functionality. Since installation, my Hackintosh has been running great. It is snappy, video and sound work great, network connectivity is fine, and Doom 3 plays fantastically at 1080p!

After the installation, I discovered one tremendous problem: FileVault cannot be activated for your boot drive. Apparently, this is due to FileVault needing a real Mac’s EFI environment (or the error message that it generates indicates that it has to do with its inability to re-partition the bootdrive–likely due to the Chimera bootloader). As far as I can tell from reading posts on the TonyMacx86 forums, there is no way around this problem. One option would be to save your files in a TrueCrypt container or fully encrypted drive that is separate from your bootdrive. Another way is to use TrueCrypt full disk encryption as detailed on this helpful blog post from Frugal Computing (FC also has some great articles about building Hackintoshes).

Others in the TonyMacx86 forums have had varying levels of success with the Asus P8Z77-V and Mountain Lion, so I do not want to dissuade you from attempting to get more functionality on your installation. The above is simply a report of what worked for me. It might work for you, and it might give you a beginning for your own Hackintosh project.

13″ MacBook Pro specs leaked, reveal “Thunderbolt” I/O port, from ArsTechnica

Ars Technica posted leaked specs for the next iteration of the Apple MacBook Pro line. It seems that they are switching over to the Intel Sandy Bridge platform. This could be a problem, because Intel recalled their Sandy Bridge chipsets at the beginning of the month [read about it here]. However, the new platform will provide substantial speed and horsepower over my current Core2Duo MacBook. Even if they are shipping the crippled Sandy Bridge chipsets, it should only affect higher SATA ports above 0 and 1. My aluminum unibody MacBook is a bit long in the tooth, so this is exciting news.

13″ MacBook Pro specs leaked, reveal “Thunderbolt” I/O port.

Back to SSD with Intel X25-M 120 GB SATA Drive

 

IMG_6777, originally uploaded by dynamicsubspace.

After getting most of my files sorted out on a 250 GB 2.5″ HDD (hard disk drive, or a traditional drive that uses spinning platters to store data magnetically and moving arms that read/write the data on the fast spinning disks) in my Unibody, Late 2009 MacBook, I switched back to a smaller SDD (solid state drive, or a drive made entirely of memory chips that store your files) for speed. Originally, my MacBook had a 128 GB Samsung SSD drive that I switched out for the larger, albeit significantly slower, HDD by Hitachi so that I could locally work on my collection of files and get it into a more manageable order. With that now done, I decided to shift back into the fast lane with a better class of SSD: the Intel X25-M. This SSD has received a lot of online praises for its speed, reliability, and price, so I chose it over some of the other SSDs available. Instead of using Time Machine to copy my files onto the new drive, I decided to perform a fresh install of MacOS X 10.6 and then apply all the necessary updates. This initial install process took about 30 minutes with the new drive, but it took about an hour on the Hitachi HDD (an undistinguished 5400rpm drive). I haven’t run any tests yet, but it does feel significantly faster when I am loading apps–especially Word, Aperture, and World of Warcraft. I am impressed by the Intel SSD even after only a few days of heavy use.