Dell Vostro A90 hackintosh

dell_vostro_a90

A friend recently commissioned us to install OSX on a netbook. We advised him to purchase the Dell Vostro A90. It’s essentially a rebadged Dell Mini 9, a model that has been discontinued, but is well suited for OSX. It’s only available with a 1.6GHz Atom processor, 1GB RAM, and 16GB SSD. Depending on what deals are available, it’s $250-$300. We also had him purchase a 2GB stick of RAM which is the upper limit supported by the BIOS.

Having read Gizmodo’s guide earlier, we knew that process would not be too difficult. The install has actually gotten even easier in the last few months. We followed the DellEFI guide hosted on mechdrew without many problems. The only equipment we needed was a retail Leopard disk, a Mac, and our trusty USB/SATA adapter attached to an old 120GB laptop drive. We copied our image of a legitimate 10.5.6 retail disk to the harddrive and then used DellEFIBootMaker to make it bootable. We copied the DellEFI 1.2a5 program and the 10.5.7 cumulative update to the drive as well. With this, the drive had everything we needed to complete the install.

Plugging the drive into the Vostro A90 we dropped into the BIOS setup to turn on USB legacy support so we could boot the drive. We found that we’d often have to go to BIOS first, then exit in order to give the drive time to spin up and appear in the boot menu. After partitioning the laptop drive, the installation is identical to any other Leopard install. The process froze on us on two separate occasions before we got a complete install. It was just a matter of try, try again to get it to work. We think it may have been the fault of the drive we were using. After that completed, we were able to boot our brand new OSX machine and install the 10.5.7 update. We used DellEFI to install the permanent bootloader.

Everything seems to work fine and it’s a lovely little machine. We highly recommend the DellEFI single USB drive method which was Version 3.02 at time of writing.

[Bonus: Hack a Day wallpaper design by John Keppel]

43 thoughts on “Dell Vostro A90 hackintosh

  1. why people feel the urge to use mac OS so much?
    it’s simply awful and has nothing worth, shiny look apart…
    anyway good for you making it work

  2. i have osx dual booted on my acer and i find it fun to work with and it was just fun doing the install and figuring everything out. its a really good project for a weekend or something.

  3. @pod and others who think OSX is worthless. Try using Final Cut Pro. If you’re looking for reasons that it’s better than Premiere, look at CS4 and watch it crash. Why do you think Premiere and Avid both work on PC and Mac, while Final Cut sits pretty on just the mac?

    I am a die-hard PC advocate, but apple does have the upper hand in the video editing market. No denying that.

  4. @society

    OSX does have its ups, as well as its downs. I just prefer the technical aspect of other os’s and being able to tear them apart and make them do whatever you’d like. But that’s just my $.02

    .dok

  5. @joe

    Battery runtime on the Mini 9′s are around 3 – 4 hours. I usually average around 3.5 hours on mine.

  6. To all those who hate OS X, when you say there is an inability to tear it apart and to “technical” things on it… that is just nonsense. These computers (specifically their operating system) can do a host of “technical things”.

    You have a terminal, we have a terminal. (with many of the same commands or equivalents [ie lshw = ioreg])

    linux and OS X are both based on unix (very nice).

    Multiple Desktops.

    Many of the linux/windows programs have OS X releases especially when using Fink.

    Im not discrediting linux or windows, I like both of them, but I like OS X the best for many many reasons.

    Each day, Apple takes a little more of the computer market, and each day, I see something new I can do with my mac due to a technical person being imaginative.

  7. I’m a 15 yr. windows tech & can honestly say that OS-X is a much better OS than either XP, Vista or Windows 7(really just Vista SP3).. OS-X really is much easier to learn if you keep an open mind. I teach a PC/OS-X class at a retirement center & find that most seniors can learn OS-X & get around in it much quicker than XP or Vista. Plus, I have several seniors that bought iMac’s, iBooks & Macbooks that have never had any issues with spyware, botnets or had one virus (yes, I did install ClamXav). To quote one grayhaired gentleman, “I use to call my son-in law every couple of months to fix various software issues on a Sony notebook but since owning an Apple I’ve not had to call him or anyone at all, & we’re going on 16 months”.
    So unless you can honestly say you’ve used OS-X everyday for at least several months I don’t believe you’ve experienced all that OS X Leopard has to offer, or have a right to condemn such a fine OS. Ask ten security experts what’s the safest OS ever produced & they’ll all say Unix. What’s at the core of OS-X, Yep Unix. How can you not want to take advantage of that.??

  8. just to say that osx is the OS that has been made for a specific part of hardware thus it is maximally been optimized for that hardware. therefor it has the speed and simplicity that every OS needs, but on much higher level.

    Today we have somehow 3 major groups of PC users that is normal user (windows user mostly), expert(technical , or advance user) mostly on linux (or dual booting to win or osx) and
    designer that mostly use osx

    and still people that have not worked for a large time on osx say its shit, and i must say it is not, because running photoshop in osx (mac) and PC with same 2GB images is not so same, because mac pc-s do the job somewhere 2x (or even more) than pc on windows / linux!

  9. apple’s hardware sucks hard these days (incredibly poor QA and lack of care for reported defects), but their OS is pretty nice

  10. I recently purchased a new computer for myself. I had a budget of around $5k. $700 went towards the monitors (2x 28″) and another $3k went towards my refurbed Mac Pro 2x Quad Nehalem.

    Now I could have bought any computer or even built anything I had wanted to put together, but I bought a Mac. Now I’ve been a PC user all my life until I started my current job. For the last 5 years I’ve sat in front of a mac everyday at my job. I have to say I’m hooked, but I’m no fan boy.

    The reason I really love OS X is not because of the nice shiney wrapper, but the rock solid core of openBSD on the inside. Windows can’t lay a finger on that.

    The only downside to a mac is lack of native software, but as we speak I’m running win2k in a virtual machine on my desktop.

    There really is no reason to use windows if you don’t have to. If you don’t like mac, try ubuntu. Who knows you might like your computer not crashing, or getting a virus, or one of the other hundred things that plagues windows machines.

  11. Anon – If you’re hitting a lack of native software, either you’re looking in the wrong place, or (and I say this as a die-hard Mac user since 1987) you’ve bought yourself the wrong machine.

    What are you trying to do that you can’t find native software for?

  12. @octelcogopod

    As a MacBook owner, I agree. My power adapter had a short in the cord and melted, my CD/DVD drive stopped writing and barely reads, and I had to replace my keyboard because the top of the casing had started cracking and it is all one piece. Even the replacement is starting to crack. I have had this machine for almost 3 years, but my work Dell D600 is in much better shape and has no hardware issues.

  13. @the mac fanboys

    I love to hear the strident defense of osx in the face of a complimentary ‘how-to’ article on hackaday, because it lets you know right away who is huffing paint. What is even more entertaining is the case the fanboys make, which essentially always comes down to “Yeah, its has no dev community or software market to speak of, but its *great* for video editing” WTF? Are you serious? Thats why Mac Rules? Gezuz Krist.

    If you want to do any serious *work*, you are running Windows. If you want to do serious work and you have a few years of scripting and bash experience, you use Linux. If you want to use Final Cut Pro, get a Mac.

    If all you want to do is surf the net, then pick one and run with it, it does not matter one damn lick. Opera or Firefox or Safari will run on any and all platforms, so just pick one and go check your Yahoo email and shut up.

  14. @mymom

    “If you want to do any serious *work*, you are running Windows. If you want to do serious work and you have a few years of scripting and bash experience, you use Linux.”

    ROTFLMAO

  15. So put a larger SSD in it and run ‘em all, or not.

    what the f ever man, just freakin’ coexist already

    I love the Mini 9/Vostro.

  16. I think the real question should be: Where did that awesome hack a day background come from and where can I get it.

  17. I’ve been using both macs and pcs for years, and I have to say that OSX is a much better os than Vista, XP, etc. However, macs’ hardware is terrible, especially relative to the high cost. However, I’ve been programming in Python, Java, etc. on my mac for years and I’m pretty happy with how its going, though I do have to stay away from .NET otherwise I can only use it on my pc.

  18. Apple hardware blows.

    One of my Uncles started buying Macs around 2005. I think he’s on Mac #3 right now. HDD died in the first one (totally corrupted) when upgrading to a new OS version. (I think it was 10.5?)

    Second one went black one day and wouldn’t start anymore. Apparently the capacitors on the motherboard blew up.

    His third one is going better. No major issues so far. OSX is nice, but only a Mac fanboy would praise Apple hardware.

  19. I dual boot OSX and XPsp3 on my Acer Aspire One. Sometimes you have to use OSX. XCode wont work in windows. it’s really hard to dev for iphone/ipod touch in windows. you don’t have to install putty if you want an ssh client. Crossover for osx sucks. X11 works good though, as does x11 tunneling over ssh. I use windows most of the time but I have OSX for when I need it. and when I’m in osx, 50% of the time, I’m in terminal. I use it for what it is, a flashy gui with BSD.

  20. im on one right now.
    the vostro is a stupid idea.
    its more expensive and has lesser specs.
    Looks pretty rad black through.

    Im on a mini 9
    1.6 ghz
    2gb ram
    16gb ssd

    i used the TWO usb stick method using the install disk in my SD card and the booter on a spare 256mb.

    EASY! took me two hours to get it to run.
    FASTER BOOT THEN MY MACBOOK.

  21. Just a couple points:

    Apple laptops production is contracted out to the exact same Chinese factories that name brand PC laptops are. Now Apple gets the boards & throws them in their milled Al cases for their higher end units. Fighting over which has better quality control is like Consumer Reports giving the Mazda B2000 truck & Ford Ranger different ratings when they came off the same assembly line.

    OSX runs top of Darwin (which you can get for free but doesn’t have the GUI) which uses a modified version of the BSD based Mach kernel. It’s not the same as OpenBSD.

  22. Running Os X 10.5.7 on a Powerbooki, Windows XP and Ubuntu 8.10 on an Asus EeePC 1000He, I can’t see how there is even a discussion on which OS to run.

    Leopard is just smooth, Ubuntu is not ready for prime time and XP is as big a piece of horse droppings as anybody might wish.

    And you can run Windows native (and better) in a Mac environment. Try that with Windows (any flavor)…

  23. r.rydberg your statement about xp does not hold water because XP is used the most by mininotebooks or ebooks. Also what would be the harddrive specs if i wanted to upgrade the drive to something bigger? I installed MAC CRAPSX for one of my friends but she wants a bigger drive. Im in need of help shes killing me.

  24. Has anyone had this problem: connection of vga to computer projection results in lines and white, suggesting some incompatibility. Is there a fix for a Dell Vostro A90 for this? Tried changing mirroring, but no luck. Specific instructions are appreciated.

  25. so.. i was pretty interested in these things, but had some serious problems with ordering them online. they seemed to have a problem with me wanting to ship to an address different from the address on my credit card.

    after numerous failures, i discovered that you can’t buy one of these now unless you’re a business with a federal tax id.

    WTF????

    Dell honestly doesn’t want to sell me a computer.

  26. I recently upgraded my Mac Mini to a larger hd
    Now i have a 160gb 2.5″ hd with OSx (not leopard)
    sitting in a box. Can i install this 2.5″ hd into a netbook like this dell? would it work?
    Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

  27. With regards to Elliot’s post (October 9th ’09) you can easily install the hard disk into a Dell Mini 10v netbook but it would be best to install the Mac OS X from scratch, as you will need to customise as per the Hacintosh installation guides out there.

  28. “EASY! took me two hours to get it to run.
    FASTER BOOT THEN MY MACBOOK.”

    Why is it that people who can learn much more complicated things than SIMPLE English words not understand the major difference between THEN and THAN?

  29. all the osx haters are complete tools. i make nearly 100k a year, at a great job as a sysadmin, managing rhel and solaris boxes, i do quite a bit of coding in perl, and write the occasional sql query, and this is EXACTLY how you learn. you run a variety of hardware, and operating systems, and programming languages, right here in my office i have several PeeCees running various linux distributions, I’ve got three macs, I also got several sun ultra workstations ….I have exactly ONE windows setup. XP. Tried and true, works with every known piece of windows software in the last 10 years. I really think most of you haters need to logoff and get going, you’re going to be late for your mcdonalds shift. I gotta run. I’m headed up to Austin to go shopping at Fry’s. I’ll think of you. Not.

  30. For all of those people that hate osx:
    1. get a mac
    2. get an open mind
    3. use the mac for 1 week
    4. now share your opinion

    I hate how lots of people hate macs, but have used them for a total of 10 minutes. My fried was a really big winblows user. After 5 days of having a macbook, he thought that winblows and mac were equal.

    Sure winblows runs all of your crappy directx games, but crossover, wine, or parallels can run them also. There are a lot of really great games and software for mac, also.

    My mac (which is 3 years old now) does not have any viruses, still boots and logs in in under 33 seconds, and still feels like it came yesterday.

    My winblows xp ( which i reinstalled it 5 months ago due to a magnetic screwdriver) takes about 2 min to boot up, takes 2 virus scanners to keep it safe, and is really slow if i dont defragment its hard drive once every month.

    Now you may think im a jerk and not following my little steps up top, but i am. I have been using winblows for over 8 years, twice as long as my mac usage.

    Mac and linux( and other Unix like systems) are the safest and best oses. Winblows is so bloated, xp was over 1.4 gb and vista was over 14!
    Most full blows linux distros are less than 700 mb, my media pc runs either a 210 mb one(slax) or a 50 mb one(dsn).

  31. @ubuntyou Possibly
    This says no:

    http://gadgets.boingboing.net/2008/12/17/osx-netbook-compatib.html

    And this says only the 1011 version:

    http://www.mymacnetbook.com/compatibility-chart/

    All courtesy of http://www.lmgtfy.com/?q=osx+netbook+compatibility+2010
    The only real problem I have against OSX is the price tag on new Macs.

    Here’s the way I see it: Apple is good where it applies itself.
    -Portable devices – there is a reason iStuff dominates the market
    -Laptops/Notebooks – They tried to create a simple user experience and more or less succeeded, however the hardware side is sometimes flaky
    -Servers – do yourself a favor and don’t even consider buying a server from apple. Biggest. waste. of. money. ever

  32. I don’t get how people “need to run antivirus” in windows. I’ve never had a problem in over 8 years now. It’s simple, don’t click the “OMG YOUR PC IS INFECTED!!!! CLICK HERE TO SCAN!!!” popups, don’t run iffy software. It’s simple.

    If you seriously have a problem getting virii, you shouldn’t be able talking about how bad one is versus the others. I’ve been torrenting for 5 years and still haven’t caught anything.

    If you really need to run a piece of sketchy software, just do it in a VM.

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