27″ iMac Hard Drive Replacement

Recently when I purchased a second hand ‘Late 2013 27″ iMac‘ I had a lot of trouble finding information online relating to certain aspects of the Internal Hard Drive Replacement Process. There seemed to be a lot of grey areas that weren’t definitively covered which was frustrating. So I decided to take a punt and go with what I thought might work. Now I’m going to run you through what I learned.

Topics Covered Include:

  • Alternates to the iFixIt ‘iMac Opening Tool‘ and ‘Plastic Cards
  • Do you need an ‘OWC In-Line Digital Thermal Sensor Cable’?
  • Alternates to the iFixIt ‘iMac Adhesive Strips’

The iMac Model that I will be referencing in this tutorial is the ‘Late 2013 27′ iMac‘. It’s Model Identifier is ‘iMac 14,2’ and it might also be referenced as ‘A1419’ or ‘EMC 2639’. The team at EveryMac give a solid overview of the model here.

While I will be discussing some alternates to the tools that iFixIt recommend, I still 100% support their work. I used the iFixIt Tutorial for this repair and I would have been stuck without it. The points I will be discussing here are more of a DIY approach to what is on offer at iFixIt.

iMac Opening Tool and Plastic Cards

One of the first friction points that I stumbled across is in the very first step, removing the display. On the iFixIt Tutorial it states this warning right from the get go ‘The hub on the iMac Opening Tool will keep you from pushing the wheel in too far. If using a different tool, insert no more than 3/8″ into the display. You risk severing antenna cables and causing serious damage’. What got me curious is the term ‘different tool’, what is a different tool? The only option discussed is the ‘iMac Opening Tool‘. iFixIt doesn’t ship to Australia and their Australian Store didn’t stock the tool, a few cheaper alternates existed on eBay but they were like $20 or required a three week wait for it to be shipped from China, expensive or delayed wasn’t an option.

Basically the tool that iFixIt offers is a pre-cut wheel that is a specific size so that when used like a pizza cutter around the iMac Display will cut just the right amount to remove the adhesive but not damage any internal components. The information that I had was that you couldn’t cut more then ‘3/8 of an Inch’ which equates to ‘9.5mm’, the information that I didn’t have was how thick their cutter was. This could be relatively easily solved by looking at the gap between the iMac Aluminium Chassis and the Display. I decided to put an array of various thickness plastics together and use them instead. I had offcuts from some A4 Laminating that I had done earlier in the week, I had a peek through the recycle bin and cut squares off some scrap plastic, this was in the form of old containers, strawberry punnet boxes, milk bottles, soft drink bottles, etc. The possibilities were endless. I then used a ruler to measure 9mm in from the edges of these plastic offcuts and then ruled them out as lines with permanent marker, this way I’d know how deep I could or couldn’t cut. This worked surprisingly well, you could grab the plastic offcut, stick it in and work it up and down cutting away at the adhesive. The laminating pouch offcuts were quite good particularly for going around the corners. I started with the thinner pieces of plastic and worked my way up to slightly thicker pieces of plastic. I experimented with various different grips, you could pull it up one handed or use a swivel two handed approach to move the plastic cutter, both worked well. Make sure you have a few plastic offcuts on hand as they will weaken the more you cut and may need to be replaced with a fresh bit before you move on to the next section to cut through.

PlasticOffcuts

Plastic Offcuts and Old Credit Cards that I used to remove the iMac Display.

Once you have completed the cutting of the adhesive you use an iFixIt ‘Plastic Card‘ to wedge open the display. I hadn’t seen these cards but my instinct was that an old credit card would do the trick, and so it would. I wound up cutting it in half so I had two sections as the iFixIt Tutorial requires dual ‘Plastic Cards‘ in ‘Step 17’. This credit card also worked well as a slightly thicker plastic cutter compared to the plastic offcuts that I discussed above, perfect for removing any stubborn bits of adhesive. Using some old pieces of plastic that you have lying around the home you can easily save yourself a couple of bucks and complete the first step of your upgrade without a worry.

OWC In-Line Digital Thermal Sensor Cable

There seems to be a lot of talk about whether or not you require the purchase of this Thermal Cable. In some versions of the iMac there is a temperature sensor cable that runs from the Internal HDD to the Motherboard to communicate the temperature of the drive so the system can decide if it should deliver cooling through the internal fans. Many users report that after swapping an Internal Spinning HDD for an SSD in their iMac their internal fans ‘go crazy’ and are wildly going off/on and behaving in all sorts of erratic ways.

There are two solutions to this:

  1. Purchase an ‘OWC In-Line Digital Thermal Sensor Cable’ and fit it while installing the SSD.
  2. Use 3rd Party Software (‘http://www.hddfancontrol.com/’ or ‘http://exirion.net/ssdfanctrl/’ to manually control the fans in your iMac.

I couldn’t find a solid yes or no to the question of ‘do I need this cable?’, some people said yes you definitely need it and others say it isn’t required. I can 100% Confirm that on my model of 27″ iMac that an ‘OWC In-Line Digital Thermal Sensor Cable’ is NOT required. There is no place for it within my iMac, I fitted the SSD and upon completion of my upgrade the iMac is running perfectly with no erratic temperatures or fan cycles. I have been monitoring these metrics in iStat Menus and have had zero issues.

iMacWithHDD

27″ iMac with Left Speaker Removed and HDD unplugged.

The only cable that plugs into the Hard Drive is the SATA Cable which provides both power and data transmission for the drive. The iMac Bracket in which the HDD mounts is depicted below next to the SATA Cable.

HDDArea

iMac Internal HDD Area with No HDD Fitted, SATA Cable to the Left.

Mounting the SSD

The original Hard Drive that was in my 27″ iMac was a 1TB 3.5″ Seagate Barracuda and I chose to replace it with a 500GB 2.5″ Samsung 850 Evo SSD. One important thing to note is that you will require a 3.5″ to 2.5″ HDD Step Down Bracket, these exist in all shapes and forms but it basically turns the 2.5″ Form Factor of your new SSD to the 3.5″ Form Factor that your iMac was designed for. I used a Partlist Metal Step Down Tray which I wouldn’t recommend, the pre drilled holes lined up in the correct position but they had the wrong thread and weren’t compatible with the Internal iMac HDD Screws that are detailed in ‘Step 34’ of the iFixIt Tutorial. This is either because it was a cheap 3.5″ to 2.5″ Bracket or because Apple uses some form of non-standard thread, my inclination based on past experience is that it was the cheap bracket that caused the problem. I managed to get by using the screws to cut a slight new thread in the bracket to get a secure hold. It’s solid enough and definitely works but there are better solutions in terms of Step Down Brackets out there.

SSDMounted

Samsung SSD mounted to a 3.5″ to 2.5″ Step Down Bracket and fitted in my 27″ iMac.

Adhesive Strips

Now that the HDD to SSD swap over was complete, the next step was to seal it all back up. This involves three micro steps to complete the task:

  1. Remove Old Adhesive
  2. Place New Adhesive
  3. Set iMac Display Back Into Place

Before I get too into my alternate solution to the iFixIt Adhesive Strips I just want to alleviate any fears that people may have in terms of actually removing the adhesive that you cut through before. Apple are smart, this isn’t cheap adhesive that requires copious amount of peeling off or chemicals to remove, it simply peels back with absolute ease. The video below shows you how simple that is:

Be sure to remove all adhesive from both the iMac Display and the iMac Chassis. You can use either a spudger or you finger nail to start the peel and once you have a bit which is big enough to grab onto peel away. Lovely!

RemovedAdhesive

Small Piles of the Removed Adhesive.

Now if you follow the iFixIt Tutorial they will advise you to use their iMac Adhesive Strips. Being in Australia the same problem occured, iFixIt doesn’t have it on their store, nor do they ship to Australia and the eBay Versions were either expensive or delayed. So I devised my own solution. The original adhesive that Apple would have used is the industry standard, 3M. Surely you can just buy stock 3M Adhesive? That would be correct, you surely can. I took to eBay and found a 3M 6mm Car Trim Foam Adhesive. It is a thin double sided foam tape very similar to the original adhesive that is used in the iMac. It seems to be unavailable from some online retailers but there seems to be plenty of stock on eBay. I picked a 3 Metre Roll up for $4 delivered, a lot cheaper then the $20-$25 that was the asking price of the 3rd Party iMac Adhesive Strips. The trim section in the iMac where the adhesive is applied measures in at 5mm, the strips that I purchased were 6mm in thickness. This was minor concern that was quickly debunked once put into practice. It’s only a 1mm Overlap which is near un-noticeable, that little overlap still gets picked up by the display later on and provides no downside.

3MAdhesiveTape

3M Foam Adhesive Tape comes in many widths. 6mm was the winner!

I found the tape very easy to apply. Just cut a section of tape that is the appropriate length and then line it up on the iMac Chassis. You do four sections, one at the top, bottom, left and right. If you place it slightly wrong it’s easy to pull back up and start over, just don’t apply too much pressure, once pressure is applied it’ll be near impossible to pull back up and re-position. On the right side of the iMac there are a few extra notches that require adhesive, it’s very easy to see where the adhesive was when you peel it off so you should have a solid idea of where the new adhesive should go.

3MRedAdhesiveApplied

3M 6mm Foam Adhesive applied to iMac Chassis.

The next step is to peel all of red protectors off the double sided adhesive and you will be ready to place the iMac Display back in it’s original position. This part was the hardest of the entire upgrade. You place the display at the bottom of the iMac Chassis closest to the Apple Logo but it needs to be placed close to flat so you can accurately judge the gap between display and chassis while maintaining a straight line and smooth join along the side. Once you have it lined up you place the display down where the adhesive will catch it, it’s a little tricky to pull up at this point if you made a mistake but still doable. I had to re-seat the display 3-4 times before I was happy with it. Then while it is elevated you need to re-connect the display power cable and display data cable as detailed in ‘Step 18 & 19’ of the iFixIt Tutorial. The display is heavy to hold in the correct position and the cables can be slightly tricky to reconnect. Once plugged in you can place the display down to its flat original position, if you are happy with the placement apply pressure around the edges where you placed the adhesive and voila, your upgrade is complete. I enlisted the help of a second person to ensure I could get this step done correctly and it made life much easier, I recommend you do the same should you have another pair of hands available and willing to assist.

3MRedAdhesivePeeledOff

The Red Adhesive Protectors are peeled off and ready to be reunited with the iMac Display.

Upgrade Complete

The final steps of my upgrade involved performing a clean install of macOS Sierra and getting my software and data back on the device. I re-used the iMac’s Original HDD in a Simplecom External USB3 Enclosure which I then drilled a few holes in and mounted to the back of my 2nd Display onto the VESA Mount, a pretty cool and neat way to add 1TB of extra storage to my new rig.

HDDEnclosure01

3.5″ HDD Enclosure Hard Mounted to my 2nd Monitor’s VESA Mount.

HDDEnclosure02

3.5″ HDD Enclosure Hard Mounted to my 2nd Monitor’s VESA Mount.

This process was part of my Home Office Revamp Project where I upgraded my iMac as well as my desk. The specs you can see below:

Old Setup

Early 2009 24″ iMac (iMac 9,1)
2.66GHz Dual Core CPU
8GB 1066MHz RAM
GeForce 9400M 256MB GPU
500GB Crucial MX100 SSD
1920×1200 24″ Display
USB2 and FW800
Worn Standard Office Desk

New Setup

Late 2013 27″ iMac (iMac 14,2)
3.2GHz Quad Core CPU
24GB 1600MHz RAM (2x 8GB, 2x 4GB)
GeForce GT 755M 1024GB GPU
500GB Samsung 850 Evo SSD
1TB 7200RPM Seagate Barracuda via USB3 Enclosure
2560×1440 27″ Display x2
USB3 and Thunderbolt
New Motorised Height Adjustable Standing Desk

HomeOfficeBeforeAndAfter

Before and After Home Office Setup.

While it may not have all the latest technological bells and whistles, my new setup is more then adequate for what it needs to be while only costing a fraction of what the latest and greatest would. As you can see it’s clearly a superior upgrade and I am ecstatic with my new screen real estate and speed.

I hope that many of the lessons that I learnt undergoing this process can be passed onto you, saving you valuable time and money in your DIY iMac Repairs and Upgrades. If you have any questions please feel free to reach out in the comments section below.

Thanks!

DIY Apple Keyboard Repairs

In this post I will show you how I fixed the keyboard mechanism on an Apple Keyboard with a toothpick and a metal twisty tie. I was pretty surprised when I MacGyver’d together this make-shift solution and it actually worked! But before we dive into the nitty gritty I must give you some context.

Scissor vs. Butterfly

The infamous Butterfly Keyboard Mechanism was introduced by Apple in 2015 in the New 12″ MacBook. Apple claimed many benefits of the new mechanism such as increased comfort and responsiveness as well as being thinner with a lower profile. But once it got into the hands of users the complaints started rolling in, mainly centring around keys getting stuck while typing.

This replaced the Traditional Scissor Mechanism which you will find in older Apple Keyboards. In this tutorial I will be dealing with the Scissor Mechanism and two older models of Apple Keyboards.

ScissorVsButterfly

Scissor Mechanism vs. Butterfly Mechanism. Image Courtesy of Apple Inc.

The Two Keyboards

The two keyboards that I will be dealing with in this discussions are as follows:

Apple Wired Keyboard with Numeric Keypad (Model: A1243)

WiredKeyboard

Apple Wireless Keyboard (Model: A1314)

WirelessKeyboard

If you wish to learn more about Apple Keyboards I suggest you take a look through this Wikipedia Article which gives you a very solid outline.

The Story

I recently purchased a 2nd Hand iMac during the eBay 20% Off Tech Sale and managed to snatch up quite a good deal. I was upgrading my Mid-2009 24″ iMac that had been retrofitted with an SSD for a Late-2013 27″ iMac that came with a Wireless Keyboard and Magic Mouse as well and providing specs that trumped my current setup. It wasn’t the newest and fastest setup but it was a significant step up for a reasonable price.

The 2nd Hand iMac came used from a facility that rents out Macs to University’s and then upgrades them for newer models down the line. Part of my process when I purchase any 2nd Hand Item is to give it a through once over when I get it. This iMac was in very good condition, it just needed a solid clean to remove some stains and make it feel new again. So I went over it with a combo of Isopropyl Alcohol, Shellite and Mineral Turps depending on the toughness of cleaning required. When I was doing a pass on the Wireless Keyboard I must have been a bit too rough and I broke the F10 Key, which provides the Mute On/Off Function, an important key in my opinion. I wanted it fixed but knew nothing about repairing a keyboard key so I dived in, got my hands dirty and learned a few things. This is what I discovered.

Lessons Learnt

The best way to remove a key from an Apple Keyboard is with a Plastic Spudger. You can use an expensive one similar to the iFixit Model or you can find numerous cheaper alternatives on eBay. The Plastic Spudger is good because it’s made from a material that won’t cause damage to the aluminium frame of the keyboard or the actual keys themselves. You can always use a thin jewellers screwdriver but the material, often steel, can dint the aluminium frame and damage the keys.

You basically wedge the Plastic Spudger underneath the key and lift it up. The deeper you get under the key the more leverage you will have the easier it will be to pop off.

Each key is made up of three seperate elements:

  • Keyboard Button

KeyboardButton

  • Scissor Mechanism

KeyboardScissor

  • Keyboard Key

KeyboardKey

The goal when removing a Keyboard Key from the Keyboard is to detach only the Keyboard Key with the Plastic Spudger and leave the Scissor Mechanism fixed in place to the metal lock offs on the Keyboard Button.

Once you have removed a key, these image will let you know if you have done it the Good Way or the Bad Way:

Keyboard Key

KeyboardKeyGoodBad

It’s bad when the Scissor Mechanism comes out stuck into the Keyboard Key.

Keyboard Button

KeyboardButtonGoodBad

It’s good when the Scissor Mechanism stays latched into the metal parts of the Keyboard Button.

Once you have successfully or unsuccessfully removed a Keyboard Key you will be able to examine how the actual keys function and understand how each of the elements interconnect with one another. Hopefully these images help to convey a certain level of understanding before you go pulling apart your own keyboard.

To fit the Keyboard Key back onto the Keyboard you first need to make sure the Scissor Mechanism is fitted in the Keyboard Button. If you removed the key in a good way then this is already fully sorted, if you unfortunately removed the key in a bad way, don’t stress as it’s easily fixed. You can remove the Scissor Mechanism from the Keyboard Key and fit it back into the Keyboard Button.

KeyboardButtonMetalScrewdriver

I found that it was best to use a small flathead jewellers screwdriver to lift the right metal flap on the Keyboard Button up (Green Circle – Above), then you can easily fit the Scissor Mechanism back into place. Use the same jewellers screwdriver to flick the winged notches into their respective metal holes (Blue Circles – Above). Then use the jewellers screwdriver to apply downward pressure to the same metal flap on the right that you lifted earlier, this will ensure it locks back into place. Then all you need to do is line the Keyboard Key back up and apply pressure down as if you were pressing a button. You’ll hear two clicks and this means that the key has been locked into place.

Tools and Materials

All I used for the repair of the Keyboard Mechanism was simple items that you could find around the home. They are both listed and depicted below:

Tools:

  • Needle Nose Pliers
  • Wire Cutting Pliers
  • Thick Pliers
  • Red Pin from QBond Set
  • Bench Vice

Materials:

  • Toothpick
  • Metal Twisty Tie
  • Super Glue

TheTools

Just to give you an idea of how small the Keyboard Mechanism is and how finicky it is to undergo such a repair, please see the image below of the part sitting next to my finger:

FingerWithMechanism

DIY Repair

I have a broken F10 Mute Key on my new Wireless Keyboard and a fully functional Wired Keyboard. Upon inspecting the broken F10 Key I discovered that the problem was a damaged Scissor Mechanism. I tired re-assembling it but it would just flick up on a weird angle and detach from the keyboard. No good.

I decided that I’d be using my newer Wireless Keyboard as my main keyboard when I setup my new 27″ iMac, the older Wired Keyboard would be put into storage as a spare. The Wired Keyboard has a bunch of smaller profile keys that matched my broken F10 Key located up the top that don’t get used, this is the F13 Key through to the F19 Key. I removed the F14 Key on my Wired Keyboard and transplanted the Scissor Mechanism from there to my Wireless Keyboard. I then put the F10 Keyboard Key back into place and the Wireless Keyboard was as good as new.

Now the Wired Keyboard was missing an F14 Button which I don’t use anyway, not a big deal but my mild OCD says otherwise. There has to be a way to fix it. You can purchase replacement Scissor Mechanisms from eBay and I’ve read of a few stories online where you could take it into an Apple Store and they’d most likely replace it for you for free, but I wanted results now. I thought the best way to achieve that was to repair my broken Scissor Mechanism from my Wireless Keyboard and fit it to my Wired Keyboard.

This is how a Good Scissor Mechanism should look, it consists of two parts:

ScissorMechanism

The ‘See-Saw’ and the ‘Winged Frame’, two parts that make up the Scissor Mechanism.

My Scissor Mechanism was broken in the two parts outlined below:

ScissorMechanismBroken

The first repair was to the See-Saw Part of the Scissor Mechanism. One of the notches which acts as a pivot point when it is placed in the Winged Frame was broken. It’s quite a small part but I was positive I could fix at least this part. What I ended up doing was using the Red Pin to poke a hole through the See-Saw where it was broken. Penetrating the plastic by hand wasn’t easy but it wasn’t overly tough. Eventually the pin went all the way through and I had a very tiny hole. I used a toothpick and forced it into the hole. The toothpick tapers in size as you get further from the tip, this meant that it wedged into place nicely. I used my Wire Cutting Pliers to trim any overlap that fell into the See-Saw inner circle which is where the button would sit, I also trimmed my new wooden notch to match the size of it’s counterpart. During this notch trimming process I clipped off a bit of thickness from the toothpick so that it would easily fit into the hole on the Winged Frame.

RepairedScissorMechanism

The second repair was to the Winged Frame Part of the Scissor Mechanism. One of the corner notches had snapped right off and could no longer clip into place on the Keyboard Button. It was snapped in a way that a simple toothpick wouldn’t do the trick as it still wouldn’t line up horizontally. I also had the problem of where do I put a hole to act as a mounting point. I ended up putting the Winged Frame into a Standard Bench Vice and using the Red Pin to poke a hole in the plastic vertically. This took a great deal of force but it worked and I managed to do it without damaging the rest of Winged Frame, having it mounted in a vice played a big part in that. Next I had to find something that I could bend to achieve the stretch and notch solution that was required, it also needed to be thin enough to fit in the little pin hole that I just made. It took a little bit of thinking but I decided metal would be the best material to use. A paperclip was too thick, a thin gauge nail was too thick and then genius struck. I’ll use a Metal Twisty Tie, you get them with almost every new cable that you buy or even sometimes with loaves of bread. I used my Wire Cutting Pliers to strip the Metal Twisty Tie of it’s plastic wrapper, I then put a tiny bit of super glue on the tip and threaded it into my pin sized hole being careful not to go too deep so that it overlaps the inside. I then trimmed the length of the metal and used a combo of my Needle Nose Pliers and Thick Pliers to clasp the metal within the Winged Frame and bend it into shape. I was done, I had successfully repaired a broken Scissor Mechanism with miscellaneous bits and pieces I had laying around the house.

I fitted it back into the Keyboard Button on the Wired Keyboard with no worries at all. I placed the F14 Key back on top, clicked it in and I was 100% good to go. The button works, it feels and looks normal. Repair Successful!

RepairedScissorMechanism02

I’m pretty happy with myself as now I have a fully working Wireless Keyboard and a fully working Wired Keyboard. Though the Wired Keyboard does have a DIY Fix to one of the keys, the key still works, it also looks and feels normal, plus it’s a key that never gets used so it’ll never have any negative impact. It’s a total win on the DIY Front.

There was a bunch of literature online about cleaning your keyboard under the keys but not a lot on what to actually do if you need to undergo a finicky repair like this. While I initially thought a replacement part would be required, I certainly proved myself wrong. I hope this guide helps someone out there who wants to do a cheeky little fix to their broken keyboard keys all while embracing their inner guerrilla repairman!

Please Note: All Photos for this Blog Post were taken on an iPhone 7, the quality is reasonable but I have since purchased a Macro Lens Kit for my DLSR so I’ll be able to provide sharper, higher res images for you in the future. Thanks!

Building a Hackintosh for Transcoding

At the start of 2017 it was a sad state of affairs for using a Mac on-set for heavy duty processing. The MacPro dated back to 2013 and the recently re-designed MacBook Pro Models didn’t come equipped with Intel’s latest Kaby Lake Processors nor did they exceed 16GB of RAM which has been a limitation for a long time now. The choice was to buy outdated technology, buy new inadequate technology or find another solution.

I had the privilege to use a Codex Vault XL for an Alexa 65 Job in January and got very well acquainted with the technology. When the Vault landed in Australia DOA (Dead On Arrival) the only option was to pull it open to see if I could get it running. Turns out it was just a connection on the power supply that had come loose in transit, but this process of looking inside made me realise that it was just a giant custom built computer. This got my brain ticking and I began to think outside the box. If a custom built computer can handle one of the most data heavy codecs in the world, 6K ARRIRAW, it can copy it, process it, transcode it. If you take away the proprietary technologies you just have a computer, which you can buy and build yourself which lead me to Hackintosh.

Alexa65_01_L

The inside of a Codex Vault XL, you can see a NVidia Graphics Card, Power Supply, PCIe Cards, Fans, etc.

I started researching and compiling information, delving deep into the Hackintosh World. I’d never even built a computer from scratch before but did have some background knowledge such as pulling apart iPhones and MacBook Pros for DIY Home Repairs. I knew there would be speed humps along the way but I had a vision and wanted to bring a new level of game to the world of on-set transcoding.

Below is my finished rig alongside the documentation that I put together to educate clients about the advantages of using this over a standard data management kit.

PREMIUM DATA KIT

Hackintosh_P1_01

SPEED

Over the past year I have seen requests for on-set transcoding steadily increase. It’s always a tricky service to deliver as the MacBook Pro in every Data Kit just can’t keep up with the workload and results in lots of unnecessary overtime. I see transcoding becoming a standard in the future as camera formats evolve and get more complex, it got me thinking, there has to be a better way to do this.

Designed completely from the ground up, the Premium Data Kit is the complete solution for on-set transcoding. Built specifically with quick turn around times in mind it offers transcoding capabilities up to 10x faster then a Standard MacBook Pro Data Kit.

ARRIRAW

Shoot high quality ARRIRAW and transcode at twice the speed of real time. Often avoided due to large file size and processing times, with transcodes this fast there is no reason not to utilize ARRI’s flagship format on your next production.

Phantom

Phantom .cine Files are anything but edit friendly and always require transcoding. 1 Hour of Phantom Flex 4K Footage can be transcoded in 30 Mins with the Premium Data Kit where as a Standard MacBook Pro Data Kit would do the same work in 5 Hours. Amazing!

ProRes

Shooting 4K or 3.2K ProRes 444XQ? It’s not the easiest codec to edit because of the large file sizes and drive speed limitations. Transcoding can convert your footage to a lower tier HD ProRes 422 to deliver your footage Post-Ready.

RED

RED is still RED and remains the most difficult format to work with. Unless you are equipped with a RED Rocket X Card that is not guaranteed to be future proof with new RED Formats, it’s near impossible to get amazing transcode speeds. That being said, the Premium Data Kit combined with the ‘New On-Set Transcode Workflow’ still offers a modest speed improvement and time saving.

WORKFLOW REINVENTION

Anything to do with processing data, be it transferring or transcoding, you are always at the mercy of the weakest link in the chain. 99% of the time the Achilles’ Heel rests in the hard drives provided for each job. This problem will take years to solve, so in the interim I have devised a solution that will boast faster turnaround times. All I had to do was reinvent the workflow.

Utilizing the Super Fast SSD in the Premium Data Kit I can offload cards to this internal drive very quickly, creating a separate backup of the footage solely for transcoding. I then set off the transcode from the internal drive and start the transfer of the data from the camera card to the client drives simultaneously. By running both in unison you save time, often transcodes are complete before the card is finished being backed up. Due to the high specs of the machine there is no risk of errors while multi-tasking so your data will be completely safe and secure.

TranscodeWorkflow

BUILD

Portability is key for equipment on-set and data equipment is no exception. I drew inspiration from the design of Apple’s MacBook Pro when crafting the Premium Data Kit, I essentially wanted to create a jumbo laptop with the speed of a desktop computer. Constructed around the smallest full sized computer case on the market with custom fitted brackets to mount the screen on the enclosure. It has a wireless keyboard and trackpad where you’d expect and the screen folds down for travel. As you’d expect with any piece of film equipment, it comes with a road case. I enlisted Melbourne’s Aerolyte to construct a custom case made specifically for the unique shape of the Premium Data Kit. This provides rugged protection making it suitable for Air and Road Freight within Australia and Internationally.

Hackintosh_P3_01

Example of the custom hinged bracket that allows the screen to fold down similar to a laptop.

Hackintosh_P3_02

A size comparison to a 15” MacBook Pro.

TECH SPECS

The Premium Data Kit is built upon the Hackintosh Architecture which means that is runs a fully operational version of macOS despite not being an official Apple Computer. This is imperative as we rely on Mac Software, ProRes Codecs and OSX Formatted Drives for all of our daily work. I made this choice so that I could employ the use of technologies not yet adopted by Apple, such as the newest Intel Processors and NVMe SSDs which give me Internal SSD speeds of 2000MB/s comparable to the 110MB/s of a Lacie Rugged Drive. When building the machine only the highest quality parts were selected, no expense spared, the best of the best to ensure maximum speed, reliability and less wasted time. The internals are all modular which enables incremental upgrading, which means I can continue to update the machine as new technologies emerge. This keeps the kit at the forefront of the Data Management/Transcode World, a feat that isn’t possible with a traditional Apple Computer.

Please see below for a full list of tech specs:

  • Quad Core Intel i7 Kaby Lake CPU Overclocked to 4.8GHz
  • 64GB of DDR4 RAM @ 3200MHz
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 Ti – 6GB GDDR Graphics Card
  • 1TB NVMe SSD (Read/Write @ 2000MB/s)
  • 2TB RAID 0 SSD (Read/Write @ 850MB/s)
  • 2x Next Gen Thunderbolt 3 Ports
  • 2x Next Gen USB 3.1 Ports (1x USB-C, 1x USB-A)
  • 5x Current Gen USB 3.0 Ports
  • Highspeed 802.11ac WiFi
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 8x Low Noise Internal Fans
  • 21.5” Full HD Display
  • Silverstack and Shotput Pro Data Management Software
  • DaVinci Resolve, Codex Production Suite, Redcine-X
  • Various Other Data Management Softwares

Hackintosh_P3_03

That pretty much gives an outline to prospective clients of how the system works, why it differs to a normal setup and the advantages that is has to offer. I’ve been field testing this unit on-set the past 5 Months and can now say that it’s 100% reliable. More often then not transcodes are done before I’ve finished backing up the footage to the client drives, the system doesn’t crash any more or less then a normal Mac Computer and the advantages that it can bring to jobs that have quick turnaround times are paramount. Now, with all that being said, the R&D Period, the assembly and most of all the installation of macOS and all the other quirks of this process wasn’t as straight forward as one might think. I’m going to run through my setup process and all of the things that I learned along the way.

BUILDING A HACKINTOSH

First of all your two biggest resources when diving into the Hackintosh World are tonymac and the hackintosh subreddit. There is a wealth of information on the tonymac forums and all throughout reddit history, read long, read deep and you will be able to solve 95% of problems yourself. When you are absolutely stuck, reach out and the community will help, I had a bunch of trouble in the beginning and people were amazing in the troubleshooting process. But try to abide by my golden rule, don’t ask for help unless you’ve exhausted all options within your power. This basically means don’t go hassling people for assistance when you haven’t read the backlogs of forum posts and tried every last potential solution detailed online.

I’m going to start with my final part list so there is context for what I am referencing here on in. My build is as follows:

  • macOS Sierra 10.12.3
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-Z170X-Gaming 5 with BIOS F20
  • CPU: Kaby Lake i7 7700K
  • CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-U9S with Noctua NF-A9 PWM as an Extra Fan
  • RAM: 64GB Corsair Vengeance LED
  • Graphics Card: Gigabyte GeForce GTX 980 Ti
  • NVMe SSD: Samsung 960EVO 1TB
  • SATA SSD: Crucial MX300 1TB SSD x2
  • Extra: Gigabyte GC-ALPINE RIDGE (2x TB3 Ports via PCIe)
  • Case: SilverStone Grandia GD09
  • Power Supply: Corsair RM650i 650W
  • Inlet Fans: Corsair 120mm Fan x2
  • Exhaust Fans: Deep Cool 80mm Fan x2
  • Keyboard: Apple Magic Keyboard
  • Trackpad: Apple Magic Trackpad 2
  • Wifi and Bluetooth: OSX Wifi Card
  • Monitor: BenQ 21.5″ Full HD
  • Various USB-C and TB3 Adaptors
  • Brateck LCM CM (With Custom Modification)
  • 50cm HDMI Cable
  • Custom Y Power Cable
  • Custom Transit Case

Software for Setting Up a Hackintosh

You require certain software when setting up a Hackintosh, I know there is a lot of debate in the community over if you should use UniBeast/MultiBeast or do a clean custom install with Clover and the effectiveness of some of the other tools. Being that I installed macOS on my rig over ten times trying to troubleshoot various problems I found that having all tools readily at your disposal is useful for quickly trying fixes recommended by others online. This is what I have in my essential toolkit:

  • PlistEdit Pro
  • EFI Mounter
  • MultiBeast
  • Clover Configurator
  • IORegisteryExplorer
  • Kext Utility
  • MaciASL
  • Hide/Show Hidden Files (Paste Text from TextEdit into Terminal)

I built my Install USB with UniBeast and used MultiBeast for setup each time. Though based on my readings, if I were to do it again I would use a Custom Clover Install.

My Setup Process

When I completed this build Kaby Lake wasn’t supported in macOS and NVMe was still tricky so it was always going to be an uphill battle. I came across many bottlenecks in my setup process and it felt like an impossible slog at times. If one thing went wrong it’d have a snowball effect and it was often easier to go for a clean reinstall and start my process again then it was to figure out exactly what was causing the issue. Below I’ll share my installation and setup cheat sheet as well as explaining the speed humps that I had to cross.

NVMe on Install USB

As I was installing macOS to my NVMe SSD, I soon discovered that it wasn’t possible without some custom tweaks. Most of the guides online explain how to install macOS on a standard SSD but when NVMe comes into play, it won’t show up by default in the macOS USB Installer. I found that I needed to mount the EFI Partition of my Install USB using EFI Mounter, navigate to /Volumes/EFI/EFI/CLOVER and open my config.plist in PListEdit Pro. Here I would navigate to Root -> KernalAndKextPatches -> KextsToPatch and paste in the complete set of 17 Values for IONVMeFamily Pike R. Alpha Patches as seen below:

NVMe

I found the easiest way is to download my plist, unzip it and open it in PlistEdit Pro, then you select all 17 ‘KextsToPatch’ and then ‘Paste as Child’ on your plist ‘KextsToPatch’, then save and close. You will also need to paste IONVMeFamily.kext to /Volumes/EFI/EFI/COLVER/kexts/Other. Doing this enabled me to use my UniBeast macOS Install USB to boot from nothing into the macOS Installer and install straight to my NVMe SSD.

There are more guides online of cleaner and better ways to get an NVMe SSD working on your system, I tried them and they didn’t work for me, thus is why I reverted back to this method. That doesn’t mean they won’t work for you though so it’s worth looking into other methods and searching and reading about NVMe on Hackintosh.

My Cheat Sheet

*Please note these instructions work flawlessly for the hardware/software combination listed above, any variations of hardware/software could provide different results*

1. Install macOS via Hackintosh USB

2. Upon full install, run MultiBeast and install as follows:

MultiBeast

3. Use PlistEdit Pro to copy ‘KextsToPatch’ 0-15 from config1.plist to config.plist on your Boot Volume EFI. You can use EFI Mounter to mount your Boot Volume EFI Partition and PlistEdit Pro can have multiple plists open at once. While in your Boot Volume config.plist change RtVariables -> CsrActiveConfig to 0x67 and Change Boot -> Timeout to ‘1’.

4. Navigate to /System/Library/Extentions (referred to as SLE in the Hackintosh Community) and find IONVMeFamily.kext and copy it to EFI/Clover/kexts/Other which again is your Boot Volume’s EFI Partition. If you can’t find SLE you can use the ‘Go To Folder’ Command in Finder (Shift+Apple+G) and paste in ‘/System/Library’  and hit go or you can use the text above for Hide/Show Hidden Files to Show Hidden Files and navigate there manually in Finder.

5. Open config.plist from EFI in Clover Configurator and add FakeCPUID: 0x0506E3. This step is to spoof macOS into thinking you aren’t running a Kaby Lake Processor, with newer versions of Sierra and High Sierra you shouldn’t need to spoof the CPUID.

6. Reboot. You should restart and actually boot macOS off your NVMe SSD or SATA SSD this time rather then relying on your Install USB for booting. If you don’t, there is a problem.

SIDE NOTE:
My Kaby Lake 7700K CPU has an Integrated GPU called the Intel® HD Graphics 630. There are many documents detailing how to get this GPU working, I followed them all and every time it cooked my system in the way of a kernal panic and required me to reinstall macOS before anything would function again. I eventually gave up on the iGPU and disabled it in the BIOS and relied solely on my Discrete GPU.

7. Download the newest version of Clover EFI from the Official Clover Site. Update Clover to the newest version via Installer. Make sure to use the ‘Customise Install Option’ and select ‘NVRAM EMU’ kext and ‘RC Scripts’. Once installed open System Prefs -> Clover -> NVRAM and change ‘Save NVRAM Contents to Disk’ to ‘Always’.

8. Check that NVRAM is working via ’sudo nvram MyVar=TestValue’ and ‘nvram -p’. This process is done in Terminal. The command ’sudo nvram MyVar=TestValue’ will create a variable called ‘MyVar’ in your NVRAM and assign it a value of ‘TestValue’. The command ‘nvram -p’ will display everything currently in your NVRAM. After running the first command you should see the Variable and Value in your NVRAM. If you do then reboot and try ‘nvram -p’ again to verify that NVRAM is holding information through the reboot process.

PLEASE NOTE:
NVRAM is not working in BIOS F21 for Gigabyte GA-Z170X-Gaming 5 Motherboard, revert to BIOS F20 for working NVRAM.

8a. Copy FakeSMC.kext from /Library/Extensions/ (often referred to as LE) to your Boot Volume’s EFI/CLOVER/kexts/Other Folder. Delete FakeSMC from /L/E/ and run Kext Utility to rebuild permissions. Kext Utility will automatically rebuild permissions upon opening. Reboot to test system boots up. MultiBeast installs the FakeSMC.kext to /L/E/ by default which many members of the community argue is the wrong place to put it, this process moves it from /L/E/ to your Boot EFI Partition where it should rightfully belong.

8b. Install HWSensors App, Install the App Only.

8c. Copy Hacked ‘FakeSMC.kext’ with PlugIns to your Boot Volume EFI/CLOVER/kexts/Other Folder, Use the ‘Replace’ Option When Prompted by Finder. Right Click -> Show Package Contents of FakeSMC.kext in your EFI, navigate to PlugIns and delete CPUSensors.kext. Reboot to test system boots up.

FakeSMC

8d. Open HWMonitor to verify stats are shown. Install Intel Power Gadget and test that it works.

PLEASE NOTE:
I found that using a Fake CPUID to trick macOS into thinking your Kaby Lake CPU is something else will glitch out the ‘CPUSensors.kext’ within HWMonitor and cause a kernal panic on boot. Basically all sensors work except those relating to the CPU, I couldn’t find a way to get around this except for adding the Intel Power Gadget to the mix. I currently run my rig with iStat Menus which is great, it taps into information from HWMonitors and it’s kexts, but if I need CPU Stats for load and temperature I open Intel Power Gadget. Not perfect but good enough for me.

 

9. Open your Boot Volume EFI config.plist and navigate to ‘System Parameters’ and add ’NvidiaWeb’, BOOL, YES. This is pretty straight forward, alternatively you do it via Clover Configurator.

10. Install NVidia Web Drivers and Reboot.

11. Open System Prefs -> NVidia Driver Manager -> Select NVidia Web Driver and Reboot. Sometimes you won’t need to use this step as NVidia Web Drivers will be selected by default after you install them. The web drivers will work if your NVRAM is working which is why we sorted that out before. If your NVRAM isn’t functioning you’ll default back to Apple’s Drivers which make your High End GPU a slug. NVRAM needs to work for your Discrete GPU to work.

12. Run the ‘iMac 17,1 Black Screen Fix’, Reboot.

13. Use MultiBeast to Update System Definition to iMac 17,1. Check your Boot Volume EFI config.plist in PlistEdit Pro, it’s under Root -> SMBIOS -> ProductName. It should say ‘iMac17,1’.

14. While the config.plist is still open, navigate to ‘System Parameters’ and add ’NoCaches’, String, Yes. Save config.plist and Reboot.

15. Run Kext Utility and Rebuild Caches.

16. Upon completion delete the recently created ‘NoCaches’ Parameter from your Boot Volume EFI config.plist. Reboot.

17. Edit EFI config.plist. Boot -> XMPDetection = YES and SMBIOS -> Trust = YES.

18. Boot into BIOS and Enable XMP Profile. Reboot. Check System Information to ensure RAM is now reading and running at 3200MHz. Shut Down.

19. Remove NVMe SSD or macOS SSD physically from the computer. Install Windows 10 on a Different SSD.

PLEASE NOTE:
Installing Windows is a lot more straight forward then installing macOS on a Hackintosh Setup. It’s vital that you remove your SSD with the macOS Install on it before you install Windows, the two operating systems clash both at install time and afterwards. I initially didn’t know this and had a lot of trouble installing Windows. Once installed, the Windows EFI was present on my macOS SSD rather then the Windows SSD which was messy. Best to remove all other hard drives and just have your Install USB and your intended destination hard drive connected. I’ve done it this way twice now and it’s been flawless.

20. On Windows, install the Gigabyte Thunderbolt Driver. Then install the Gigabyte Thunderbolt FW Update Tool. Navigate to C:\Program Files (x86)\GIGABYTE\flashTBT and run the file “flashTBT_100.exe”. Shutdown your system and then completely pull power for 30 Seconds.

PLEASE NOTE:
I found that I needed to disable the option in my BIOS for ‘TBT USB3.1 Force Power’ in order for both Thunderbolt 3 Ports to work.

22. Test Everything

23. After installation of REDCINE-X  open you Boot Volume EFI config.plist in Clover Configurator and enable the ‘Shutdown Fix’ for proper shutdown. I’m not sure why REDCINE-X messes around with my shutting down procedure, but it did.

Now, I’m sure there are better ways to do what I did above, some of my steps could be redundant, there could be cleaner methods of achieving the same result. But in January 2017 I spent a solid two weeks messing about with my rig trying to get it working. It was stressful and a major pain in the ass. I’ve followed the above steps four times now when doing a clean install on my Hackintosh and haven’t had any issues, so I stick by it for me. For you, I suggest you follow one of the many other guides online but use this as supplemental information in combination with reading lots of forum posts to gather a good array of knowledge to solve any issue that you may come across.

ORIGINAL MOTHERBOARD

My original setup was built using a Gigabyte GA-Z170X-Designare Motherboard based on recommendations from the community. It seemed like the natural successor to the Gigabyte GA-Z170X-UD5 TH Motherboard and had a lot of good features. The main feature for me being at least two Thunderbolt 3 Ports.

I had a lot of issues with this board and ended up canning it, please check out this thread in relation to my woes: GA-Z170X-Designare USB-C Issues

Basically I went through two boards, the first one got RMA’d with faulty TB3/USB-C Ports as detailed above, the second board had similar issues but not quite the same. All of the ports would work as USB-C from both directions, but only one TB3 port would work. I purchased my GC Alpine Ridge Card and tried connecting it to the Motherboard with the TB Header to get 3x TB3 Ports but it didn’t work as that GC Alpine Ridge Card isn’t officially compatible with the GA-Z170X-Designare Motherboard. I ended up returning that Designare MB and got my current Gaming 5 MB which was listed as compatible with the GC Alpine Ridge Card.

There are actually two different TB Headers on the seperate motherboards in this instance, the GC Alpine Ridge Card has both connections but it didn’t work with the Designare TB Header despite everything plugging up correctly. Weird but that’s the way it is. It all works a-okay now with my Gaming 5 MB, it’s great having 2x TB3 Ports.

TESTING

CPU Overclock Tests

I’d never overclocked a CPU before but after doing a fair bit of reading I learned that it isn’t all that hard. So I dived in and ran a bunch of tests to see what I could get out of my CPU with a bit of OC. This is my raw data:

OC.xlsx

In macOS I was using iStat Menus / HWSensors in combo with Intel Power Gadget to monitor my CPU Temperatures. Intel Power Gadget would display the actual CPU Temp and I would verify that with my CPU Heatsink Data in iStat Menus. I was using the Yes CPU Test (Unzip, Open Text File, Copy to Terminal and Press Enter) to run my CPU Stress Tests in macOS. As my CPU was 4 Core with 8 Threads, I need to run the yes command 8 times, one per thread.

In Windows I was running CoreTemp and Real Temp simultaneously to monitor my CPU Temperatures and they were delivering very similar results. I used AIDA64 for my CPU Stress Tests based on various recommendations.

What I discovered is that my CPU seemed to run hotter in macOS then it did in Windows 10, strange. It could be that HWSensors and Intel Power Gadget aren’t providing the most accurate 100% readings of my CPU compared to the various CPU Sensors that I had running on Windows. What intrigued me further is that I would get a solid overclock running in Windows but then I would boot into macOS and it’d crash on boot, the only way I could get macOS to boot would be to increase the Vcore Voltage. So seemingly macOS needs a bit more power to boot up then Windows. So could this justify the hotter temps in macOS over Windows or was it still potentially faulty sensor information? I never got to the bottom of that question, for me, I’d be running macOS 95% of the time, I got a stable overclock at 4.8GHz running at a Vcore Voltage of 1.315V and my CPU Temp usually sits around 83°C – 87°C. A lot of sources online said that you shouldn’t really run your CPU hotter then 80°C as it can degrade its life over time, but the life of a CPU is meant to be around 10 Years, if I’m still using my 4 Core Kaby Lake i7 4.8GHz CPU in 5 Years I’d be very surprised. The shelf life exceeded the use life that was required of the CPU so I was happy to lock in this slightly hot OC on my CPU.

TRANSCODE TESTS

The two systems that I would be comparing here are my new Hackintosh Rig and my 2012 MacBook Pro. Being that a MacBook Pro similar to mine is the golden standard for Data Management here in Australia I opted to use this for transcode tests as it’s pretty representative of what everyone else is using.

The MacBook Pro Specs are as follows:

  • MacBook Pro 10,1 with macOS Sierra 10.12.3
  • CPU: Intel Core i7-3720QM 2.6GHz
  • RAM: 16GB @ 1600MHz
  • Graphics Card: Intel HD Graphics 4000 / NVidia GeForce GT 650M
  • SSD: 256GB SATA

When running the tests I took the exact same source footage direct from a camera card and put it on the fastest internal SSD both the MacBook Pro and the Hackintosh. I’d then open DaVinci Resolve which was operating on the same version between both systems, I’d setup identical projects and setup identical transcodes. I’d run them both, record the data and compare. Here were my findings:

ARRI Alexa Formats

ARRIRAW Open Gate -> ProRes422HQ 1920×1080
MacBook Pro: 5.5fps, 6:55 Mins, No LUT
Hackintosh: 50fps, 46 Secs, With LUT
Notes: Hackintosh CPU at 50%, GPU Processor Maxed Out, GPU Memory at 10%

ARRIRAW 16:9 -> ProRes422HQ 1920×1080
MacBook Pro: 8.5-9fps, 1:31 Mins, No LUT
Hackintosh: 68fps, 12 Secs, With LUT
Notes: Hackintosh CPU at 500% out of 800%, GPU Processor Close to Maxed Out, GPU Memory at 10%

ARRIRAW 4:3 -> ProRes422HQ 1920×1080
MacBook Pro: 6-7fps, 2:54 Mins, No LUT
Hackintosh: 58fps, 20 Secs, With LUT
Notes: Hackintosh CPU at 50%, GPU Processor Maxed Out, GPU Memory at 10%

ProRes 3.2K 444XQ -> ProRes422 Proxy 1920×1080 w/LUT
MacBook Pro: 18fps, 1:25 Mins
Hackintosh: 58-59fps, 26 Secs
Notes: Hackintosh CPU Close to Capping Out, GPU at 50-60%

2.8K ProRes444 -> ProRes 422HQ 1920×1080
MacBook Pro: 16fps – 36 Secs
Hackintosh: 50fps – 13 Secs

3.2K ProRes 444 from Amira -> ProRes 422HQ 1920×1080 w/ LUT
MacBook Pro: 18fps, 3:01 Mins
Hackintosh: 58fps, 56 Secs
Notes: Hackintosh CPU Close to Capping Out, GPU at 50-60%

Phantom Formats

4K Phantom -> ProRes 422HQ 1920×1080
MacBook Pro: 5-5.5fps – 2:13 Mins
Hackintosh: 55fps – 13 Secs
Notes: Hackintosh GPU Capped Out, CPU at 50-60%

RED Formats

RED 8K 5:1 -> ProRes422HQ 1920×1080
MacBook Pro: 2.5fps, 5:51 Mins
Hackintosh: 5fps, 3:31 Mins

R3D 5K 5:1 -> ProRes 422HQ 1920×1080
MacBook Pro: 6-10fps – 10:01 Mins
Hackintosh: 8-12fps – 6:11 Mins
Notes: Hackintosh CPU Capped Out (Not Overclocked, Running at 4.2GHz), Graphics at 10%

Since I ran these tests I have used the rig extensively on-set with constant monitoring of frame rate and transcode times to identify what exactly is causing the bottleneck. Based on these initial findings and my further investigation there is no deadset weak link in the chain.

ARRIRAW and Phantom Formats are heavily GPU reliant, both formats cap out my GPU which would indicate that the GPU is the weak link but transcoding these formats at over 50fps is double realtime and 10x faster then the equivalent on a MacBook Pro which I would hardly consider slow.

The ProRes Codec is CPU heavy for decoding and encoding which is causing the bottleneck here. The GPU is still being utilised but not capping out. ProRes Transcodes run at 3-4x speed compared to the MacBook Pro and can be benefitted further by the ‘New Transcoding Workflow’ that I detailed above.

RED is RED and still to this day sucks unless you have a RED Rocket-X Card or a 28 Core CPU. My CPU is capped out obviously and the GPU is barely utilised. CPU is the weak link in the chain here.

So basically, you get some pretty solid advantages unless you are working with RED. Most jobs these days I find are shooting on ARRI Alexas in either ARRIRAW or 3.2K/2.8K ProRes 444, the Alexa Mini is super common as well as the Alexa XT and SXT. So the lack of speed working with RED isn’t a deal breaker as it doesn’t get utilised all that often. I’ve had 6K Open Gate ARRIRAW from an Alexa 65 on my Hackintosh Rig and it plays back at full res in real time from Resolve no problems. Other transcodes that I’ve thrown at it from 2.8K ProRes to H265 to Phantom .cine Files, it’s performed admirably and facilitated fast workflows that just wouldn’t have been possible before.

ISSUES

Once I got past the initial setup of my Hackintosh there haven’t really been any issues, except one. If you have done your research you’ll know that when using Thunderbolt on a Hackintosh you can not hot swap Thunderbolt devices. On Windows, no worries, on a native Mac, no worries, but 3rd Party Motherboards in combination with macOS won’t allow you to hot swap / hot boot TB devices. This basically means that if you turn your Hackintosh on, boot in macOS and then plug in a TB Hard Drive it won’t show up. It’s not until you reboot the system that the drive will mount and appear on the desktop as normal. One other thing you’ll need to do once the hard drive mounts to the Hackintosh is to Right Click and ‘Get Info’, down the bottom of the window you’ll have permissions, unlock the lock if required and make all permissions ‘Read/Write’, you’ll only need to do this once per drive for the duration of it’s lifetime. For most people this isn’t an issue but it is a pain when using this rig in high pressure environments on-set. Keyword there being pain, it’s annoying but not a deal breaker. You can work around it, most of the time it’s only your hard drives that are connected via Thunderbolt, most card readers are USB3. You only need to connect your hard drives once per day if you’re in one location, that’s one reboot, if you have multiple location moves thats a few reboots but I build in the rebooting procedure into my setup time and it isn’t much of a worry.

Earlier on in the year I had an Alexa 65 Job, I was running the Codex Vault off my Hackintosh Data Rig and all was going well. The Vault interfaces with Hackintosh through a glorified 10G Ethernet to Thunderbolt Convertor in the form of a Myricom PCIe Card in a Sonnet PCIe to Thunderbolt 2 Chassis. This works fine, hook it all up, reboot as normal and I could interface with the Codex Vault. But then I needed to use 2x 10TB Lacie 5big Drives each setup as RAID 0 and this is where the trouble started. I’d hook up both drives daisy chained together through one Thunderbolt Port and the Codex Vault 10Gig Ethernet Network was through the other Thunderbolt Port, I’d then reboot the system and get this:

KernalCrash_01KernalCrash_02

This is what a kernal panic looks like. The system would start to boot into macOS, kernal panic as above and then restart itself. It’d stay stuck in this boot loop and just keep cycling through until you held the power button down and forced it to turn off. Funny thing though, if I leave the Kernal Panic Boot Loop going for say 5 Mins or so, eventually the system will boot as normal with both drives mounted and working perfectly.

Reaching out for help we identified that the kext causing the issue was called ‘com.lacie.driver.mvumi’ which comes from the Lacie RAID Manager software. I never got around to troubleshooting this actual kext as the job was moving too fast and I just dealt with an unpredictable 5-8 minute boot time each time I set the rig up. The problem would be that the RAID Drives won’t mount or be useable without the Lacie Software, though it was the Lacie Software that was causing the problem. The next time that I used the same hard drives with my rig I installed a new version of Lacie RAID Manager after uninstalling the old version and had zero issues, the drives worked flawlessly, hopefully Lacie had issues a fix. I’m yet to test it again in combination with the Codex Vault, we’ll just have to wait and see. If the issue did occur again I’d remove this kext temporarily and see if the system booted up, if it did and the drives were appearing it’d be sweet as, but if not a more serious problem would be at hand and I see no option but to stick with the current prolonged boot method.

THE FUTURE OF THE PREMIUM DATA KIT

One of the biggest bummers about anything to do with computers is the speed in which they get updated. I equipped my rig with a 980 Ti GPU which at the time was the 2nd best GPU that would work with macOS then 3 Months Later NVidia finally released Web Drivers for the 1000 Series GPUs and released the 1080 Ti GPU which would have been a much better candidate for my Data Rig. I’ve looked at upgrading to the 1080 Ti but have decided against it for the time being, the GPU is only capping out ARRIRAW and Phantom Transcodes which still run incredibly fast so until I upgrade my CPU the GPU is going to stay as is.

With recent updates to the iMac and MacBook Pro Line which introduce macOS to Kaby Lake CPUs things will get a lot easier in terms of setup. With new versions of Sierra and High Sierra there will be no need for FakeCPUID or disabling the iGPU which will be nice little bonuses. Which may even allow CPUSensors to work natively and bypassing the Intel Power Gadget Workaround.

The beauty about my Data Rig is that it’s able to be upgraded over time. My current plan is to hold out till the end of the year and see what happens in the Hackintosh Scene when the new iMac Pro comes out. It’s touted as having an 18 Core CPU which if replicated in the Hackintosh World would significantly speed up ProRes Transcodes as well as giving a solid speed boost to dealing with RED. Combo this with a new Graphics Card and it’ll be refreshed and ready to go. Other hot topics include Intel’s Cannonlake Platform which brings 6 Core CPUs to the mainstream. The problem is going to be finding motherboards that can run these new CPUs while having TB3 bundled in, as if you work in the film industry, Thunderbolt is commonplace be it hard drives or card readers. If you don’t have a system equipped with Thunderbolt it really isn’t going to cut it.

All in all, I’ve learnt a heck of a lot from this experience. I learnt how to build a computer from scratch, I learnt about setting up a Hackintosh and all the finesse that is required to iron out issues and lock down a fully working system, I learnt how to overclock, how to test overclocking and all about CPU Temperatures and CPU Cooling, I’ve expanded my transcoding knowledge along with a plethora of other skills.

If you are diving hard and fast into the world of Hackintosh then I hope this information serves you well and best of luck!