While the world focused on Microsoft's launch of Windows 7, Florida-based Psystar quietly launched Rebel EFI, a software product that should worry Apple a lot more than Microsoft's latest operating system. Rebel EFI allows users to run Apple's flagship operating system, Mac OS X Snow Leopard, on non-Apple hardware.
Apple's response to Psystar's encroachment is understandable; the Mac OS has always been tightly coupled to hardware designed by the company. In fact, the end-user licensing agreement or EULA (pdf) for Mac OS X expressly forbids users from installing the operating system on hardware not sold by Apple: "You agree not to install, use or run the Apple Software on any non-Apple-branded computer, or to enable others to do so."
Now Psystar has upped the ante by offering the virtualization technology that powers its Mac clones as a standalone software package called Rebel EFI.
Rebel EFI works by creating a virtualized environment that allows users to install OS X version 10.6 (commonly referred to as Snow Leopard) on a PC with a Core 2 Duo, Quad, i7 or Xeon Nehalem processor. Rebel EFI is available in two forms: a free download with limited support and a full-functioning version for $50.
The free download is a good starting point to test hardware compatibility, but is limited to a two-hour session and does not support any driver downloads. If your hardware checks out and you like how OS X runs on your PC, then you will want to invest in the $50 version, which gives you access to software updates and support from Psystar.
Creating a "Hackintosh"
I wanted to give Rebel EFI a try and see if it lives up to the hype. Armed with a Visa card, I downloaded the $50 version of Rebel EFI from Psystar's online store. That download comes as an ISO file, which you will need to burn onto a CD to create a bootable installation disk. I grabbed my freshly minted Rebel EFI CD and a recently purchased Mac OS X Snow Leopard DVD, and sought out some PCs to create my own "Hackintosh" computer.
I figured that the best way to approach the installation would be to pick two systems: a relatively generic desktop PC and, on the other end of the spectrum, a notebook computer. (One word of caution: you will have to wipe out the hard drive on your system to install Rebel EFI and OS X 10.6, so you may want to back up before proceeding.)
The desktop PC I chose consisted of an Intel DX58S0 motherboard configured with an Intel Nehalem i7-965 CPU and an Intel 80G solid state drive (SSD). I added 4GB of Corsair DDR3 RAM (four 1GB Modules) and an Nvidia Quadro FX1700 display adapter to the mix to create a PC that should meet the performance levels of a higher-end Macintosh and also be able to run Windows 7 well if set up to dual boot.
(You may ask why I would worry about running Windows 7 if I'm building a Mac clone. It all comes down to Rebel EFI's ability to boot up multiple operating systems, something I intend to experiment with in the near future. For now, I wanted to see how well OS X 10.6 would run on the hardware I had.)
I also thought it would be pretty cool to try it on a convertible tablet/notebook computer. For the experiment I chose a Fujitsu T5010, which includes a 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 CPU, 1.3-megapixel webcam, a 13.3-inch WXGA LED backlit display, a 120GB hard drive, a DVD/CD-RW optical drive, a fingerprint scanner, high-definition audio, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, a multitude of ports and an Intel GMA 4500 integrated graphic controller.
One note: Psystar is very light on information and support -- you won't find an installation guide, compatible hardware list or anything of that nature available from the company. I had to rely on a small FAQ document on the Web site to figure out the install procedure. That document only covers the basics -- you will need a bit of PC technical knowledge to pull off an install.