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How to safely apply Apple system and OS updates to a Hackintosh

If you have an Apple Mac, installing minor versions of System updates, Security updates and updates of Apple supplied applications is a generally* trouble free experience. Whilst that’s often also true if you have a Hackintosh, installing updates is not without risk. So the Hackintosh user  has 2 choices.

  1. Never update.
  2. Make sure you have a sensible, defensive update process.

Is never updating an option?

Actually in some specific situations this is a perfectly sensible approach. If you’re using the Hackintosh in a professional setting, it runs what you need perfectly well and it’s not stopping you doing or getting new work, why give yourself any hassle? It works, leave it be. My only caveat to this rule is please, for the love of everything holy, don’t use it for anything financially sensitive. Banking, investing, buying stuff online or any other personally sensitive transactions on a machine that never receives security is just asking for trouble in the long term.

So how can I update my Hackintosh safely?

The process is basically the same as it would be on a normal Mac, with a few significant difference. This assumes that you’ve done a vanilla install using Clover and have all of your .kexts in in the /EFI/ folder

  1. Make a complete cloned backup of the boot System volume to a separate physical “backup” drive. I don’t mean a Time Machine update, I mean a disk clone.
  2. Backup the EFI partition on your main boot drive to the EFI partition on your “backup” drive.
  3. Drop into the BIOS**, change the default boot volume to your backup drive
  4.  Boot up from the cloned drive  to confirm  that you have a working, bootable copy of your main drive.
  5. Install the update onto your cloned drive.
  6. Reboot from the clone drive. If nothing is obviously broken, ‘kick the tyres’ for a few hours until you’re confident that everything works.
  7. If all went well, install the update on your main boot drive.

As you can see, there only a few extra steps compared to performing an upgrade in a sensible, defensive manner on an Apple Mac. But I can’t emphasise enough how important Step 1, 2 and 3 are. The only fundamental software difference between a Hackintosh and normal Mac should be what’s on the EFI partition. But that partition contains all the system specific tweaks for the hardware your Hackintosh needs to run smoothly, on a particular version of Mac OS.

By following Steps 1, 2 and 3 you can be sure that when you startup from your backup drive, Clover is loading from the EFI partition on your backup drive. Thus when you install a software update, you can be confident if it all goes to pot you can simply drop into the BIOS, change the boot drive and be back where you started prior to attempting the update. Then it’s a question of doing a bit of research to suss out what caused the problem, ( or just choosing to do nothing if you don’t currently have time or inclination).

If that sounds terribly complicated, it’s really not. It’s a just a few additional steps assuming you’ve got things setup correctly in the first instance. Without this safely net you risk turning your lovely, stable and fast Hackintosh into a large paperweight – until such time as you get the boot issue sorted.

Need your Hackintosh updated, or a new Hackintosh built?

Please give us a call on 01380 830224 to discuss your requirements, we’d be happy to help. If you’ve a Hackintosh that’s been “bricked” by a System update, don’t panic. All your data will still be intact, we just need to fix whatever conflict there is between the specific OS installation you installed and your Clover configuration.

* Sometimes even Apple Macs get stuffed by OS updates, which is why I would always suggest having a known good bootable clone drive knocking around, regardless of whether you use a Apple Mac or a Hackinotsh.

** Yeah, yeah, I know it’s actually UEFI, but most people know the term BIOS, so let’s not split hairs 🙂

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