Hacked together Mac isn’t a hackintosh


Check out this 20″ iMac. Notice anything peculiar? Look closely at the branding above the Apple logo. The only thing that tips you off that this iMac is a hacked together unit is that Acer logo on the replacement screen.

As we’ve so often been caught doing, [Flippy] was browsing eBay for deals. It’s a dangerous activity because you end up falling into purchases like an Aluminum iMac for $35. That led to the purchase of a very slim LED LCD monitor to use as the display. It fits perfectly behind the iMac’s glass bezel, which has a tiny chip in the upper right corner that doesn’t bother [Flippy]. It’s thin enough that this actually left room for him to add in the guts of a MacBook Pro which he had sitting in his unused parts pile. With all of the main components accounted for the rest is really just logistics like routing all of the cable connectors and adding openings for USB ports. What he ended up with is a high-end computer for a low-end price.

59 thoughts on “Hacked together Mac isn’t a hackintosh

    1. Is the use you have a problem with “It’s thin enough…”?, then you’ve got your usages confused. This is an appropriate abbreviation of “It is”. If it’s something else, sorry about my confusion.

      1. Actually, I should clarify that I’m agreeing with theo that doot doot is wrong . Unless the article’s been edited and fixed – in which case we all look like dicks.

    2. “Its” is possessive, and “it’s” is a contraction for “it is” or “it has”.

      The grammar of “it” is irregular, and the article gets it right. Take care not to fall into the trap of applying rules unthinkingly just because they’re the rules — exceptions abound.

      1. Most everyone that has a clue. That macbook is better in plenty of ways than your $399 Acer special from walmart you are so proud of.

        1. but not better than my $1000 Lenovo T430s. my girlfriend’s similarly specced MBP cost $800 more and is constantly causing trouble. is having all that aluminum, and a color calibrated display really worth all the elitism?

          1. it’s true, if you’re just watching youtube, playing games or using office software a mac is a bit of wasted cash. as a computer-based musician i can say it’s less about aluminum and more about the os. after 10 years of producing and performing on pcs, i made the plunge on a mac. the big hardware bonus was their use of texas instruments firewire hardware, which remains the most reliable for FW audio interfaces. the fine print in some interface manuals even state that TI stuff is the only type supported. on the software side it’s nice to not have to configure much of anything, i can be a recording engineer w/o also being an IT guy. in many ways it seems microsoft just doesn’t care about musicians. for example most audio interfaces use the free 3rd party ASIO4ALL drivers on pc where IOS has core audio. pc users must also use 3rd party software to route MIDI, while IOS has core midi. i’m sure a pc can be configured to be as reliable as a mac, but the “it just works,” factor is a pretty big deal to most creatives, for whom time is often money. i always hated halting a paid recording session to re-install my drivers or troubleshoot, and haven’t had to do so once in 2 years on this machine.

          2. i’m not sure if you read my comment before replying. i’m not talking about the speed an older macpro renders video, but rather the stability IOS offers for live music. i agree that the hardware is unnecessarily spendy. until microsoft gets their act together with audio and midi it’s what most of us in the laptop-on-stage game are stuck with. we shouldn’t have to use buggy 3rd party software to run audio interfaces or route midi, which is currently the situation with windows. if that’s ever fixed i’ll give pc another chance, but i don’t ever want to look at a blue screen of death in front of an audience again.

          3. i’m not sure if you read my comment before replying. i’m not talking about the speed an older macpro renders video, but rather the stability IOS offers for live music. i agree that the hardware is unnecessarily spendy. until microsoft gets their act together with audio and midi it’s what most of us in the laptop-on-stage game are stuck with. we shouldn’t have to use buggy 3rd party software (ASIO4ALL) to run audio interfaces or route midi, which is currently the situation with windows. if that’s ever fixed i’ll give it another chance, but i also don’t ever want to look at a blue screen of death in front of an audience again.

          4. @mellonheadmudic

            BSOD? What where you using, Windows ME? Windows 8?
            I personally use a creative fatal1ty with the front port deck, on windows 7.
            Infact, I’ve never had a BSOD on 7 (cept that time I tried a generic brand midi card)

          5. it’s been a while. i used a pc for music 1999-2010 and during that time had windows 98, xp, and vista. was using vista with a live electronic band when the asio4all drivers decided to quit during a show, crashing ableton and bringing BSOD. it was an easy enough fix when i got home, but that was the end of our show and the end of my band getting booked at that venue. it would be great to go back to pc prices, especially since it’s mostly an OS thing for me, but i’ll have to wait till windows has something like core audio and midi.
            is that creative interface for gaming or music? i’m into the stuff with 8 mic inputs and 10 outputs like focusrite saffire pro 40 or if i need something small i use the scarlett 2i4.

  1. Funnily enough I have 2 macbooks and many other PC laptop spares, I can never really be bothered to do anything with the parts though. Ideas come and go but nothing has really struck me as being worthwhile to do. I quite like what this hack achieves though and loving how much of a close fit the new lcd was. I don’t normally have that kind of luck lol

  2. Do Macs not have an equivalent to Right Click -> Align Icons To Grid? That layout, it’s killing me, otherwise nice a hack.

    1. Yes: Right Click -> Sort By -> Snap to Grid. Apparently the icons are supposed to be a map of Central America, but I just don’t see it. Some people don’t care if their desktop is messy. Others even prefer it that way.

      I agree with you, though. Nothing beats a clean desktop– use it for temporary work, and sort or trash the icons when you’re done your project(s).

        1. Mac always had right click and middle click. you just had to find or hack together a 3 button mouse to fit the bizzare bus they used on the first macs.

          1. I actually did the two button hack years ago for an Apple ADB mouse. Here is the link.


            The trick is that most ADB controllers have an input for a second button included on one of the pins on the chip, so the manufacturer can market the same chip to companies making two button mice. Find the pin, solder a button to it, and you are ready to party like it is 1995!

          2. Bizarre bus? It’s nothing complex. You can speak ADB with a PIC, and Microchip even has an app note for it.

  3. Awesome! I have to say, though, it always bothers me when I see VGA connectors being used with digital monitors. It just doesn’t seem right.

    1. What else would you like them to use? It’s still one of the highest-resolution connection options out there, and it’s usually equipped to the cheaper end of displays.

      1. The monitor had DVI as well. I know there’s no visible quality difference, it just bugs me that we’re still converting to analog with digital displays.

      2. DVI, HDMI, displayport
        VGA is analogue, and the color quality is noticeable next to a proper dvi monitor.
        Although technically VGA has a practically unlimited resolution and refresh rate, the quality would suffer drastically from interference at those speeds. I have never seen a monitor or display that would take more bandwidth than a dual link dvi can handle.Only extremely high quality cables can carry a 60hz, 1080p resolution without much quality loss. Even still, the longer the cable is, the harder it is for the signal to go through free of interference.
        Dvi and other cable types can also in some cases have a much higher bit per pixel, therefore even better colors.

        To reiterate, Digital cables have much higher quality, travel further lengths, and have higher resolutions.

        1. You are aware that coaxial cables are superior to twisted pair in every way, right? As soon as you’re out of the bargain basement cables, a VGA cable of equivalent cost will trivially beat the pants off the DVI cable. Just don’t buy that Belkin crap. Coaxial cables are easy to manufacture longer lengths with better tolerances, leading to lower insertion loss, fewer reflections, and overall higher signal quality. DVI and HDMI work *in spite* of this choice, not because of it.

          The reasons DVI is “better” are because 1- You don’t need a 8+bit 200MHZ+ ADC in the monitor, 2- You don’t need to do synthetic clock recovery so there’s no pixel jitter, and 3- you can use crappy cables for short runs and you won’t notice. But if you want a rant, find a video engineer and get him to complain about video distribution with DVI/HDMI.

          1. Video Distribution via DVI/HDMI is just fine if you have any digital video skills at all and use real gear… It’s the Garbage HDCP that causes problems. Luckily adding a HDFury fixes that.

  4. He has little typo error on his web page:
    “Comments from Coworkers:” should be:
    “Comments from Cow-orkers:”.
    He *really* needs that missing hyphen! ;-)

  5. When I showed this to my wife, she said “Wow, it’s like a computer turducken.” It’s kind of true. Like a turducken, this is awe-inspiring.

    1. Your wife wins for a comment that almost made me spit water at my computer screen from laughing XD and it totally fits too, applause, applause ^_^

  6. I just completely took apart a 1.67Ghz 15″ aluminum PowerBook because its mainboard is defekt. No video on the LCD or out the DVI port, would sometimes make the startup chime but then all it’d do was run the head constantly back and forth on the disc drive.

    If it was anything but a mainboard problem (and those final generation PowerBooks had a lot of them) it would have been worth fixing.

    The insides of it are an engineering nightmare. EVERYTHING not soldered to the main board connects to it with a cable, even when the peripheral end is butted right up against the board. Tons of potential points of failure and many extra connectors it shouldn’t have.

    Most PC laptops mount connectors to the edges of the board so drives and other devices can just plug in. WiFi, Bluetooth and Modem boards go into slots or plug directly to the main board. In the PowerBook it’s all cable connections.

    Then there’s the screws. Tons of screws it wouldn’t need with better design. The metal frame screws to the shell using many threaded posts that are spot welded to the shell. Gluing the frame in would have been faster, stronger and much less expensive. The number of screws could have easily been reduced by half.

    But the sheer number of screws is just part of the problem. Most of the internal screws that only a Mac repair tech and the people who assembled it would ever see are costly fully machined type. They do no better job holding things together than less expensive screws with stamped heads and rolled threads. Save the fancy ones for the exterior. The darkness inside doesn’t care about a lathe turned finish.

    It’s like a computer that would be from Frederik Pohl’s story “The Midas Plague”. Have to use as many screws and connectors as possible because the fusion powered robotic factories keep producing more and more screws and connectors.

    Apple could have easily cut the production cost a lot on these (while improving the quality of the engineering/design), and sold them at the same retail price. They’re doing it on their current line of glued together products, designed to attempt to make them 100% non-repairable. iPhone 5C, lovingly glued together by robot hands!

    Anyone need some PowerBook parts? I’m keeping the 150 gig hard drive. The disc drive tested good in an older Dell laptop. The rest of it should be good but I have no way to test the LCD.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s