Previous posts in my blog have show how to install Tiger, and then later Leopard onto your PC. Back in the days of Tiger, it was an extremely painful process that involved a considerable amount of terminal knowledge, hardware tinkering, and frustration. Then Apple switched to Intel chips and made 10.5 Leopard more compatible with standard PC’s. More compatible, but still requiring specialized ‘distro’ disks for the installation of the operating system. Depending on your hardware it might require trying out 1 of half a dozen distros before finding the right software bundle that worked for your system. Or, if you were a more advanced hackintosh user, you could create your own custom distro disk that had exactly what you needed. Needless to say, Leopard was an improvement – but still a hassle.
Then, in August of 2009 Apple released their latest operating system, Snow Leopard. This proved to be a huge improvement for the operating system, introducing native 64 bit computing and many other features. It also helped out hackintosh users who have newer hardware, but left many others behind. If your processor isn’t 64 bit compatible, stop reading now, Snow Leopard is not for you. Other hardware constraints apply, but those will be discussed a little later in this tutorial.
After much researching I have uncovered several relatively painless methods to install Snow Leopard on your PC. These methods were not created by me, but rather by some extremely clever individuals/teams of people devoted to the OSX86 community. I take absolutely no credit for these methods, I only wish to explain them in a manner that everyone can understand and take advantage of. It is my goal to educate my readers on not just the how, but the why of each step in the process of OSX86 conversion. I have always believed that knowledge is power.
Before we get any further, I need to lay down some disclaimers and ground rules:
This is a set of guidelines for installing OS X Snow Leopard onto a PC. What you choose to do with this information is up to you, and I am in no way responsible for whatever happens to your machine.
Now that that’s taken care of, here is the shopping list that you will need in order to follow through with this project:
The things you need for this project are as follows:
- High Speed Internet Connection (Useful if you want the needed software before the end of time)
- Blank CD’s
- 8 GB Thumbdrive
- Potentially a blank DL DVD (if you don’t have a 8 GB thumbdrive handy)
- ISO Recording software
- A copy of the retail Snow Leopard Installation Disk
- Access to a Macintosh (or hackintosh)*
- A computer with the following attributes:
- Intel Core 2, Core i processor (or newer)
- at least 2 GB RAM (4 is preferable)
- at least 12 GB of free disk space
- A DVD drive for installation
- Motherboard with SATA configuration options that allow for AHCI mode**
* Depending on which method you choose, this may be unnecessary
**Some installation options claim to be able to get around this necessity. Personally I haven’t found one that works for my hardware, but maybe you will have better luck
Now, let me outline some of the steps that are taken by software in order to get Snow Leopard purring on your PC. It is impossible to just stick a retail SL disk into your PC and have it install. This is because of built-in chips on Macintosh mother boards that report the authenticity of the hardware the disk is supposed to install to. So it requires some software tom-foolery in order to get the disk to even boot on a PC, much less install its cargo onto your hard drive. The software running on the chips is part of a system called Extensible Firmware Interface, or EFI. As long as Apple insists on being a hardware company this will be a headache for many PC users.
Another roadblock is motherboard compatibility and Snow Leopard’s ability to interface with the heart of your machine. Before an OS can interface with hardware it needs to find the values in the Differentiated System Description Table, or DSDT. In Tiger and Leopard OSX installs you didn’t need to worry about this little detail and it was taken care of. In most of the methods for installing SL that I suggest you still don’t need to worry about it. But depending on your hardware and the route you choose to install, you may need to know about DSDT and how to patch/locate it. I could create an entire post about that, but instead I will leave it to you to research on your own. Here is a great starter page found on the OSX86 Wiki:
Yet another possible roadblock that is new for Snow Leopard is the AHCI SATA setting requirement. Previous OSX86 versions could allow for SATA disk drive operations to be handled in IDE mode, but in SL this was disabled. So far I haven’t been able to locate a properly patched bootloader that has the needed kexts (drivers) to allow for the IDE drive setting. If anyone happens to know of a method for getting around this, please post a comment with a link.
If your motherboard is incompatible with AHCI mode SATA, you may be able to find a patched BIOS that allows it. I DO NOT suggest this route unless you don’t mind throwing the motherboard away in the instance of a bad flashing. This type of software hackery is very dangerous and subject to failure if done in the wrong way. Once again I have to re-iterate that I am not responsible if you end up bricking your machine.
Ok, now that some of the tedious, painful background information has been established, I can get down to the nitty gritty. There are several methods you can use to get the SL disk bootable and installed on your system. The two easiest options are to use a customized boot disk or a thumbdrive. Let me explain:
This method involves using one of several boot disks to enable a temporary bridge of software between the SL disk and your PC. You insert the disk (usually a CD because the iso image is so small) into your computer, boot, and watch it come up to a selection screen. Then you eject the disk (The software it loaded will still be running) and load in your Snow Leopard disk. Since it already bridged the gap, it now loads the appropriate kexts (drivers) from the disk and allows you to boot into the install disk
This method is a bit harder to get started, but once you have the finished ‘hacked’ thumbdrive I kinda prefer this method for its elegance. It involves having access to a macintosh system to begin with, and a bit of knowledge with the Disk Utility that comes with OSX. Here are the basic steps needed for thumbdrive preparation:
- Insert Snow Leopard disk into your mac, and open up Disk Utility
- Go to the top of the menu and hit New Image (while the SL disk is selected), save it to an easily accessible spot
- Insert your 8 GB thumbdrive and format it as Mac OS Extended (Journaled, Case Sensitive). You can name it whatever you like, but to be super classy you should make it SnowLeopard
- Now hit the Restore tab button and drag the thumbdrive into the Destination option text box and locate the snow leopard image that was created in step number 2. Place this into the Source text box.
- Hit Restore (you may need to enter admin credentials)
There you go, you now have translated your SL DVD into a thumbdrive! Now you will need to use one of several patching applications to install the necessary kexts and scripts onto the drive before you can boot it. This process is extremely easy and just involves a few clicks.
Now that you have familiarized yourself with the two easiest and most popular methods, here is a list of sources where the needed disks/software can be found:
I like to call this one a random boot disk: http://www.mediafire.com/?ngznyzmayiv
Empire EFI (My favorite due to Darth Vader graphics): (your local torrent site)
An EP45UD3P specific installer package can be found here
The AMAZING MyHack installer can be found on its homepage at:
My preferred method is the MyHack installer on a thumbdrive. I chose this method because it was the only available method that worked with the hardware I had available. You may prefer another method, and thats ok, whatever works best for you is what you should go with.
If you know of any more loaders, please leave a comment and I’ll edit this post to include them. This list is by no means comprehensive, I am only listing what I have experience with.
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Lets get down to the install process!
If you have a boot CD:
(Using iBoot as an example, but all other ones will work in almost exactly the same way)
If you see this error you have some hardware incompatibilities. Check to make sure that your AHCI mode is turned on. Or it might just be time to look elsewhere for a way to boot the SL disk:
Pretty much all boot CD’s behave in the same way as the iBoot disk. One thing you might want to do is enable a couple of boot flags. The most useful is the -v flag. This stands for verbose, and will start up the boot in text mode. This way if something goes wrong you know exactly how far the kernel got before it crapped out on you. For reference, here is a partial list of the most useful kernel flags:
- -v = verbose (text mode)
- -x = safe mode
- -s = single user mode
- -f = force reload of kexts and kextcache. EXTREMELY important if you edit kexts and then restart. This is a lifesaver
- CPUS=x – change x for 1 and it will only use 1 core of your processor. Useful for less supported processors.
- -legacy – boots in 32 bit mode if its a 64 bit OS
Those are the basic toolkit of flags, the ones i find the most useful. Here is a more complete list for the curious:
If your using the Thumbdrive Method:
My favorite thumbdrive software is the myHack installer. The drawback for some users is that it requires a mac in order to install to the thumbdrive. But, if you have access to a mac (or a hackintosh, perhaps one that you are trying to upgrade?) then this is probably the best bet for you. The developer behind myHack has included kexts for a wide variety of hardware, and in my experience it is the most compatible with various hardware.
Initial MyHack screen:
Your going to want to use the -v boot flag, just hit any button while it is loading and type in -v:
At this stage myHack is loading all of the kexts (drivers) needed to interface with your machine:
As you can see you get quite the wall of text. This is a good thing and lets you know whats going on with your machine. If it fails at a point or hangs up, you can search online for a fix using the last line it outputted:
And now the fun part! After the text flies by you should have booted into the actual Snow Leopard installation! Congradulations! If you encountered an error, please check out the InsanelyMac forums at:
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The following are screen images of the standard Apple install. I’m including them for those of you who are completely new to this process. I always believed that more pictures = more understanding.
Language Selection Screen:
Install Welcome Screen (hit continue):
Agree to the conditions:
Now, we get to a potential roadblock. Notice in the next pic how there isn’t a hard drive to install to? There should only be your thumb drive. If you are upgrading an existing Leopard installation then you should be able to see that drive. You should erase it and then install over it using the steps I’m about to outline.
Hit the Utilities button and go to Disk Utility:
Hopefully off to the left you see the hard drive you want to install to. If you do not, you have a serious problem. Your BIOS might not support AHCI mode, or you may have other hardware issues. If your needed hard drive is not available you cannot go any farther. You may be able to bypass this issue with a different boot method (if you used thumbdrive, try a CD for instance)
Select your drive and select the Erase option. Then under Format choose Mac OSX Extended (Journaled)
Name it something classy. Then hit the Erase button:
Are you sure? (Yep, you are)
Your newly formatted drive should now be available off to the left:
Exit out of the Disk Utility and return to the Install screen. Select your newly formated drive and hit Install:
WOOOOO ITS INSTALLING!
This next step isn’t necessary, but it might be handy if you have any install errors. If you navigate to Window -> Installer log you can view what the installer is doing step-by-step:
Lots of info:
Hopefully at the end of your Installation you see this success message. If not, you’ll have to try installing again:
Your machine will now restart. Because you do not have a boot loader installed yet, you will have to insert the boot CD or leave the thumbdrive in your machine. You will need to use it to kick-start the booting into your freshly installed system. Make sure to select the fresh install instead of the install disk when you do this.
Also, it may be a good idea to use a couple boot flags when booting into the OS. I recommend -v and -f. -v in case something goes wrong and you need to diagnose, and -f to refresh your drivers.
After you kick-start your boot, you should be greeted with this screen (after the boot sequence completes). Select your country:
Select your keyboard:
Import from another mac (probably would be a good idea to skip this step):
Enter your Apple ID. If your ethernet is connected and working properly then this will contact apple to get your contact info:
The following screen would be auto-filled if your ethernet was working. If not, you will need to fill it out manually
A few more questions:
Create your user account:
OH CRAP A BLUE SCREEN! But this is mac right?
Phew, glad that loaded!
Congrats! You now have Snow Leopard running on your PC! But your not quite done yet. Chances are you will need to identify your keyboard:
Your not out of the woods yet though. Some (including myself) think that the most frustrating part is yet to come. Hardware drivers.
Before we get to that though, lets fix the boot loader issue. What issue? You don’t have one. To fix this, either use what came on your CD, or thumbdrive. I used myHack, so that is what I will show you here. On your thumbdrive there should be a myHack installer. Remember using it to format your thumbdrive? And how you had to select the thumbdrive instead of using the default, which was your hard drive? Well this time you will want to let it install on your thumbdrive:
There! Now you should have a fully bootable, (hopefully) somewhat stable Snow Leopard installation! Depending on your hardware you may be fully good-to-go at this point. But if your like me you may need to install some additional kexts in order to get fully compatible hardware.
Here are some common packages that you may find useful:
VooDooPS2 (useful for laptops):
VooDooHDA Audo (a lot of audio devices use this):
OSX86Tools (AMAZING tool. I recommend it for all osx86 users!)
If these don’t help you then you will need to check out the Insanely Mac forum. Or Google, that works well too.
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