Hackit: Are You Running OSX On Your Netbook?


AppleDifferent decided to run some benchmarks on their MSI Wind hackintosh to see how it stacked up to real Apple hardware. It comes in under the MacBook Air in most cases and they conclude that it performs about as well as a four year old G4. Being so small and inexpensive, you can’t really expect much better. As a counterpoint, Obsessable posted a video demoing just how slow a first generation Eee PC can be (embedded below). Boing Boing Gadgets is maintaining an OSX netbook compatibility chart. It shows that the MSI Wind is probably the best case for OSX usability. If we were buying today, we’d probably pick up a Dell Mini 9 even though it requires an SSD upgrade before it will sleep properly.

Are any of you running OSX as the primary OS on your netbooks? What has your experience been?


32 thoughts on “Hackit: Are You Running OSX On Your Netbook?

  1. How well is the graphics card supported? I imagine most of them have a generic Intel chipset with intel embedded graphics. Do most/all of them support core image? I doubt that they’d support quartz extreme.

  2. Geekbench is completely synthetic- it only looks at clockspeed and such to ESTIMATE performance levels. It’s also closed source and developed by a company (Geek Patrol) owned by a computer store interested in upselling people on new computers (Best Buy.)

    Why on earth did the guy only use Geekbench, instead of running Xbench, which is an actual, real benchmark suite?

  3. I found out quickly that I wouldn’t be able to install OSX on my 2133 due to the via chip. :( Oh well. I was only going to use it to make fun of people who actually bought Apple products, not actually because I wanted to use it.

  4. My Wind with OS Leopard is my primary machine these days.
    My desktop is a 733MHz PPC G4, so my netbook is ‘snappy’ compared to it. ;-) I still use the PPC for editing video and encoding DVD, but I am just an average consumer so for day-to-day work the MSI is all I need.

  5. The graphics run fine. Core Image, I believe works. Quartz Extremem is supported. Point me towards something that should not work if Core Image is missing and I’ll let you know what happens. I’ve not run in to anything so far and everything my MacBook does seems to work on my Wind. (Wind cheap, MacBook expensive. No MacBook on commute in case it gets lost/stolen/broken – in case you were wondering why I have both.)

  6. I put Mac OS X on my Samsung NC10, and have been using it at work this week. Apart from swapping the network card, it wasn’t too traumatic – I outlined what I did here: http://semantici.st/archives/49:macbook-mini

    I think the NC10’s a great ‘Mac Book Mini’ choice, especially since it has a great battery life.

    If I was doing it again, though, I think I’d follow this guy’s guide: http://blog.stuart.shelton.me/archives/256

    Installing from an unmodified retail DVD is appealing.

    Mac OS X on the NC10 is pretty awesome. It’s not as good as a ‘real Mac’ – some things don’t ‘just work’ and some things will never work at all, but it’s definitely usable and is a lot nicer to me than using XP or Linux. (My work desktop runs Ubuntu, as does my EeePC 701, so I’m not opposed to Linux, I just prefer Mac OS X.)

    I actually have a 12″ iBook G4 – it would be interesting to run some side-by-side real world comparisons. I suspect the NC10 isn’t as slow as the iBook at all, and it certainly supports QuartzExtreme and Core Image – it has the same graphics card as the last-but-one models of MacBook (Intel GMA 950).

  7. what a timely article, I’ve just spent most of today learning about putting it on my eeepc 901 and am now halfway through the install process.

    I was testing vista on here before and just got sick of it.

  8. You could also take this to the opposite extreme of Apple’s lineup: the MacBook Pros. My Inspiron 1720 is nearly identical to a MacBook Pro 17″ (at that point in time); the motherboard, graphics card, even wireless and bluetooth. All I need to boot a retail Leopard DVD is EFI emulation and the mandatory OSx86 kext to descramble essential parts of the kernel. In this way, I essentially have a MacBook Pro for only half the price. Just shows how much Apple overcharges for their products.

  9. I just bought a Wind U100 two weeks ago, and promptly installed os x on the majority of the drive (leaving room for a Windows 7 dual boot). Certain things don’t work great, or at all, but it’s a spectacular little machine. I use it primarily for note-taking during lectures (my campus is large, so as portable as my MBP 15″ is… it can be a burden on the shoulder. The Wind, meanwhile, isn’t.)

    The camera’s not working at the moment (I believe there’s a hack to fix that… don’t have a need), and the touchpad is a little wonky (looking to buy the nicer Synaptic pad), the wireless isn’t natively supported (ordered a card that was, so I could get rid of the 3rd party utility), and you have to run a script to change from tinny speaker out to headphone jack out and back, but with a second gig of ram in it, it performs spectacularly for what I need — lots of terminal stuff for programming, fairly heavy web browsing (taboholic here), SSH, VLC, and some light XCode usage (really, most of my stuff is VIM + GCC). I’m actually in the process of setting up a more consistent connection for when my laptop is at my Apt., so I can SSH/VLC into it from the campus Wi-Fi as needed.

    So my verdict? I couldn’t use it as a primary machine, but for mobile use, it’s hands-down better than my $3k MBP that’s a year old. If nothing else, it’s less clunky to get out and the battery life is phenomenal — I bought it for not much more than it would’ve cost me to replace my mbp’s battery (1 year, 320 charges, gets 40 minutes to a charge now) and a second charger (which was what I was looking at before I decided to go with the Wind). A little rsync magic to keep files together, and I couldn’t be happier with the result.

    Would buy again! :P

  10. I spent an annoying amount of time comparing and researching netbooks before finally picking up a MSI Wind. By the end of the day I had Leopard on it and its great. Definiatly not a primary machine but for taking notes or looking up something quickly in meetings it cannot be beat. I also intend to use it for lectures where I teach. With the 2MB of RAM its surprisingly snappy. Not killer, but more than “just usable”.

    Cons: Battery life is not fantastic. Booted as windows I dont need to bring my power block. I think it manages sleep power better. Even putting it to sleep in OS X it draws down the battery. Other quirks like wireless driver and headphone out are not really a hinderance to me.

    Overall I still tell my coworkers and fam just to buy a macbook. I explain it to them that the beuty of Apple products is that they nail it on 97% of the use cases. Just lovely to use. There are still some quirks but for the most part, its awesome. OS X on the Wind is like nailing it on 85% of the use cases. As long as you keep that in mind, its perfect for me.

  11. Actually from what I’ve been hearing the Dell Inspiron Mini 9 is far better than the MSI Wind. The Wind still has some issues, and requires a fairly patched together installer DVD. Because of the way it’s set up, you’re also stuck on whatever version of OSX that DVD is.
    The Mini 9 can be installed using an original OSX installer and a (free) boot CD available online. I’m not an expert, though I am running OSX on mine, but I believe it emulates EFI that OSX needs to run and loads up the nonstandard drivers necessary from a directory on the hard drive. This means that you can comfortably autoupdate the OS without it crashing. Every feature on the netbook works, including the camera and wireless (no special software requires) and even sleep. I didn’t even need a USB DVD drive to do it, I was able to image the media required to USB drives (though I had to borrow a friend’s Mac for the Leopard one.)
    The only caveats are that sometimes 0 acts like it’s stuck down after you resume from sleep–just hit Esc to fix that–and the card reader just supports SD/SDHC.
    For reference:

  12. Alvaro, I have had the same experience as you with the Dell Mini 9. It’s hardly worth calling it a hack, running OS X on it, as the folks behind this have made it so easy for the end user to do it. I don’t think there is any other netbook out there that works as well with as much ease for an install. It really does ‘just work’, even when installing it from a USB drive. And the best part is that it doesn’t take a hacked distribution of OSx86, you just use a retail disk and install it after booting off the 132 disk.

  13. It’s true that the Wind’s install process isn’t as clean at the moment as the Dell’s, but there’s a couple different methods of going through it discussed over @ msiwind.net’s forums. You’re not, however, limited to the install DVD’s version — the latest release was Leopard .4, but using software update and then re-installing some kext’s (some people need an external keyboard for this, I didn’t) make everything work in the latest version. I used my friend’s resources (borrowed his DVD+drive), so I was actually using an older hack then updating to the latest. The community for the Wind is great though, and there’s guides for various ways of going about the install. They talk about with an external DVD drive and a retail DVD, with a drive and a pre-hacked DVD, with a USB drive… even a method for installing with no USB media at all (I don’t know the details, I’d assume they’re doing a netboot or a partition built to do the install). There’s options, documentation, and a healthy community of supporters for people who have questions/problems. Having only used the Dell in passing, I can’t really give a good verdict on which is better, but I’m pretty happy with my Wind.

  14. I run OS X (10.5.5) on my Dell Inspiron 1520 with very good performance.

    To me OS X is nothing more than BSD w/X windows and a few add-on’s from Apple.

    Don’t fear the fruit, run OS X on your PC ;)

  15. I got an eee pc 1000ha for christmas and immediately installed leopard on it (after a ram upgrade). It’s been great so far. No major problems. My only complaints are small ones. The sound has to be manually switched between internal speakers and headphones. The mic and line-in don’t work (usb mics work). I can’t upgrade leopard past 10.5.5 yet (i dont think). Other than that I’m really happy with my “Mac Book Nano.”


    Especially read about how PPC vs. Intel scores are calculated – they cannot be compared. Forget Geekbench for not allowing re-compilation (this, for example, kills all in-order PPC (Cell, Xenon) results). Forget Geekbench for being just buggy at some places. Forget Geekbench for having obscure benchmark methods, which are even less reliable than purely synthetic benchmarks.

    Forget geekbench. Use a proper benchmark. A benchmark is more than just timing the runtime of a function.

  17. I’ve been running OS X on my Mini 9 for months and loving it. In the last few weeks the compatability has become essentially perfect, and though the SSD upgrade is pretty much a requirement, the HUGE performance gain from the faster write speeds (4x – 5x better than the OEM drive) make the upgrade more than worth it even for Windows or Linux users.

    ~$250 bare bones Mini 9
    ~ $65 runcore 16GB SSD
    ~ $20 2GB RAM
    Less than $350 for a virtually native Mac OS experience.

  18. @Alvaro: If you get the most recent DellEFI package (assuming you used the DellEFI install method, which it sounds like you did) and update with it, the stuck-“0”-key-on-wake is fixed, along with the annoying bug where the SD card driver will crash if you forget to eject your card before removing it.

  19. I dual boot my Aspire One 150 into OSx86 and XP home. I have it default boot into Apple’s OS, for all my browsing and messaging and video and audio processing and some card games, and if I hit one key during boot I go to XP instead for my World of Goo and my Counter-Strike and my console emulators. Cheers! I also put the SkinGirl “Starry Night” decal set on my (white) 150, and snuck a sparkly gold Apple logo over the moon in the photo. Bonus points. The install wasn’t so bad after a few tries and days of forum crawling. It mostly worked out of the box, just needed a couple tweaks, and of course swapped out WiFi cards. Everything works great currently whee. The dual-boot management was the only super-pain.

  20. am currently running 10.5.2 on my dell e1705 and loving it. it was quite a journey getting everything working, id guess i spent a good 2 weeks trying things and installing over and over. i finally got everything except my wireless card working so i broke down and ordered a broadcom card that i knew had native drivers… now i am happy to say i am running only osx and it runs perfect.

  21. I’m using a mini10V for 2 years now. I have it setup with chameleon and triple booting OSX, W7 and Ubuntu. It’s been AMAZING. Once in a blue moon the OSX boot will hang on a blue screen, but a single user/fsck will fix it up a treat! The thing is the most robust, flexible computer I’ve ever owned. I have a closet full of macs and pcs and this is still my fave. I upgraded to 2GB RAM and I can’t be happier. Obviously, you need to understand that you’re not doing any FCP rendering or HD video on it, but the damned thing outputs 1440×900 VGA!!! I’ve also had fewer kernel panics on this than on my 2.33GHz Macbook Pro. It’s simply amazing. I will definitely ebay for another when this kicks the bucket.

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