Building the imperfect beast, part II: mobo risin’

Hey hey, kids. In case you’ve forgotten or are too lazy to use a scroll wheel and/or Multi-touch Glass Trackpad of Satiny Goodness to look down the page, my last post recounted my initial steps in building a Hackintosh. Nonspecifically, I discussed my impetus for undertaking such a project and my research into finding the easiest—not necessarily the best—way to go about the build. It culminated in the glorious creation of a USB thumb drive with a modded copy of my Snow Leopard install DVD all set to boot on a PC. Except I didn’t yet have the PC. Hence part II.

Before we dive into the joy that was component purchasing and assembly, I’d like to take a few dozen paragraphs and address a couple of the recurring questions that popped up in the comments section of the previous post:

  1. I’m not building this because I think Mac Pros are too expensive for what they are. Some think otherwise, and that’s fine. You don’t have to buy one either. I’m building a Hack because a Mac Pro is too expensive for me at this moment. Also, blog fodder.
  2. If I wanted to build a PC or Linux box I would’ve started a new blog called The WhyAmIBuildingAMachineForWhichIOwnNoSoftwareHole.
  3. This machine will not have the most up-to-date hardware. As you will discover momentarily. That’s called resource constraints. Such is life.

So, with Adam Pash’s hardware list from "How to build a Hackintosh with Snow Leopard, start to finish" firmly, if virtually, in hand, I set about to procure the necessary body parts for my Frankenmac. Believing that "free and better than most" is preferable to "best at any cost," I did the natural thing and harassed The Tech Report’s founding mensch Scott "Damage" "Igor" Wasson to raid his parts bin. Scott kindly proffered a motherboard, video card, and processor, the details of which you can find below. All other bits and pieces were sourced from Amazon. Newegg was very slightly (as in about seven bucks total) cheaper, but I prefer Amazon’s lack of a restocking fee, and I was (and always will be) still using a trail membership to Amazon Prime.

Without further ado about nothing, here are the somethings I purchased or purloined for this endeavor:

Gigabyte X38–DQ6 motherboard. Newest model? No. Cost-effective? Oh yes. Supports quad-core processors and up to 8GB of DDR2 RAM. Which means I’ll have to sell off the RAM and get DDR3 if and when I get a more up-to-date mobo. It’s a trade-off I was willing to make, since I’ll probably use this until DDR27 comes out.

The Gigabyte is one bad mobo. Still in plastic for your protection.

Nvidia GeForce 9800 GTX video card with 512MB of RAM. The ultimate gaming video card? Not so much. But definitely beastly enough for my needs. Also, cost effective.

Warning: The GeForce 9800GTX may cause jaundice.

Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650 CPU. Is it in an i5? No. An i7? No. Was it, say it with me, cost effective? Yes. Four cores at 3GHz (until overclocking, of course). Not exactly slow.

Like Peter Boyle, this heart once belonged to another.

Antec Sonata III 500 case. I seriously considered the Antec Three Hundred, but I decided the silicone hard drive mounts of the Sonata were worth the upgrade.

Naked? Yes. Hot? Not with a 120-mm fan! Thanks, try the veal.

8GB of Corsair 800/1066MHz RAM. I once spent $1,100 on 32MB (yes, megabytes) of RAM for a Power Mac 7500. Getting 8 gigs for around three hundred bucks seemed like a no-brainer.

One 1TB Western Digital Caviar Black hard drive for my main system drive. Mmm, fast.

Three 1.5TB Western Digital Caviar Green hard drives to act as Time Machine, A/V, and A/V backup drives. Overkill? Perhaps. But I was drunk on cheap space.

Syba PCIe FireWire card. Got this for the FireWire 800 connectors that were absent on the mobo.

Samsung DVD-RW supermulti SATA 22X Lightscribe drive. Got this just because the name was so long. Also, couldn’t justify a Blu-ray drive, so there you go.

Drives, RAM, FireWire card, Invisible FailBall.

Zalman CNPS9500A CPU Cooler. This thing looks like it could open a wormhole. Also came with barely enough thermal grease for one application. Thanks.

MacGruber uses this to open stargates.

Once the deluge of boxes arrived (that Newegg box was from Scott), the cursing began in earnest. While assembling PC components together isn’t that difficult in general, some specific bit or four of jackassery usually crops up to slow the process. This time was no exception.

The first bit of trouble came when installing the Zalman cooler. The mounting bracket is meant to go on in such a way that a cutout leaves space for the miniature CPU pry bar to move up and down. Attaching the bracket in this manner was no problem. Attaching the actual cooler and its ginormous clip, however, proved impossible due to Gigabyte’s audacity in installing other components within 18 inches of the CPU socket. Turning the bracket sideways was easy. Attempting to squeeze a bit more thermal grease from the nanotube included with the cooler was another story. One trip to Fry’s and an awkward conversation about silver’s heat conductivity later, and I was back in business.

Until I ran out of Molex connections. Seriously. Four hard drives, a video card and a DVD drive left me with a powerless DVD unit. So, back to Fry’s for some hot Molex-splitter action and assorted employee harassment. ("Umm, no, I wouldn’t like to open a Fry’s credit card to pay for this $2.98 component. Nor do I need a Slap Chop. Fine, I’ll take the Snuggie.") This wasn’t a bad problem, mind you, just really annoying.

Finally, the GeForce card is flippin’ huge. It’s pointy and quite pointy in parts. Trying to snake my phalanx of SATA cables around it was quite delightful. Blood was drawn. Or was that while installing the hard drives onto uncooperative sleds? After my failed attempts at huffing thermal paste, who can say?

Once everything was assembled and, I must say, lookin’ mighty ugly, the moment of truth arrived. In went the DVI cable and USB connections for the keyboard and mouse. On went the UPS. And the Sonata III 500’s power switch was pressed. And lo! I was depressed.

Nothing. Nada. Zip.

Well, nothing good anyway. Just fans cycling on and off. But no POST.


Back to Fry’s.

Not knowing the vintage of the motherboard, I bought a new battery just in case. And wanting to make sure everything was getting the necessary juice, I picked up a cable tester. New battery in and cables checked, and suddenly we’re cookin’ up a big ol’ crock of fail leftovers. Yay.

Grr. Arrg. Okay, at this point I was perturbed. More than usual, even. I had been hoping to avoid taking everything apart just to make sure every single flippin’ connection was correct, but what else could I do? (And if you know what else I could’ve done, keep it to yourself, the pain is still too fresh. However, feel free to send me any good Propofol jokes.) So I tore the mother down and rebuilt everything.

This is the point of the story where I tell you this simple act of reconnecting everything magically solved whatever odd tech gremlins were lurking about my mobo. Except I’m not The Fonz, and slapping every component with my wrist did nothing but get Donny Most to follow me on Twitter. Not cool.

No, still no POST. Repeat the Khan.

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, perhaps one of my memory sticks is bad, I thunk. Granted, having bought name-brand sticks, I wouldn’t expect this to be a problem, but who knows? Out come all four sticks. First stick back in, no POST. Second stick in (by itself), POST! Third stick, POST! Fourth, POST! Well, looks like I’ve got a bad stick, yeah? Well, oddly enough, maybe not. I reinserted all four sticks in a different order and, you guessed it, POST! All 8 gigs test just fine, and we’re off to the BIOS config races. Anyone want to place your bets on what happened next?

Find out next time in part III: sleeping the sleep of the dead. Which will not be quite as dramatic as The Return of the King, but will at least be free of homoerotic hobbit banter. Maybe.



Comments closed
    • bby
    • 10 years ago
    • Zoomer
    • 10 years ago

    You need a PC speaker. Geez. These beeps are not morse, but they do mean something.

    • slash3
    • 10 years ago

    My Gigabite P35 board was very picky about memory. Specifically, memory voltages. It would only boot with four DIMMs populated after I booted with one DIMM, upped the voltage, saved the BIOS setting, powered off, installed the other three DIMMs and then powered up again. If the CMOS was reset during a bad overclocking run, it would once again fail to POST until I’d removed some DIMMs and gone through the motions to bump the memory voltage and reinstalled the other DIMMs.

    I had another uATX G33 series Gigabyte mobo, same behavior. 4x1GB Crucial Ballistix, no POST without voltage shenanigans. 4x2GB G.Skill though, worked fine. Just be careful what your DIMMs require, and compare it against what the board will provide on a recovery/first boot – 1.8v.

    That said, I eventually solved that problem by just getting a DFI.

      • Kulith
      • 10 years ago

      My Abit IP35 Pro does the same. I have to have my ddr2 OCZ at 2.1, which is above the recommended voltage.

    • dpaus
    • 10 years ago

    Jason, buddy, you shoulda taken the Slap Chopper – those things are freakin’ /[

      • highlandr
      • 10 years ago

      Yeah, but they have snuggies for /[

        • Corrado
        • 10 years ago

        My dog has a Snuggie. I however, am not white trash. I have a Slanket. The Cadillac of blankets with sleeves.

    • moshpit
    • 10 years ago

    Kudos for great use of Willy Shatner’s greatest acting moment 😀

    • Bensam123
    • 10 years ago

    Wasn’t fully in.

    I can relate to the thought of waiting a few weeks for replacement parts and the sigh of relief when you get it to boot up after some troubleshooting.

    • d0g_p00p
    • 10 years ago

    When I always build a new system, I put the bare minimum in to make post first. Then add stuff.

    • SubSeven
    • 10 years ago

    I don’t get one thing… $300 bux for 8GB of ddr2? Where the hell are you shopping these days my boy?

    • puppetworx
    • 10 years ago

    Dammit that was a good tease.

    • south side sammy
    • 10 years ago

    Ya’know, there is something called the 21st century………. too much money for “old” scrap.

    • eitje
    • 10 years ago

    Machead tries to build own computer, wishes he’d just bought a Mac instead. Film @ 11.

    (My favorite part is where you avoided taking the time for a teardown and rebuild by driving to Fry’s and purchasing a new BIOS battery.)

      • BlackStar
      • 10 years ago

      Personally, I’m waiting for the “recommendation” to just buy a Mac instead. Wanna bet whether it will come?

      (My bet: something in the effect of, “PCs/Hackintoshes are too unstable and I wouldn’t recommend following my steps. Time is money, so just buy a Mac and save yourself the hassle.” :p)

        • KyleSTL
        • 10 years ago

        Yeah, seriously, wouldn’t you have counted the power plugs available right off the bat to be prepared? And seriously, do you not own a multi-meter to test the battery? Any idiot who’s ever assembled a PC knows the first thing you do on fans-spin-no-POST is single out the memory. Could’ve saved an hour of driving (a WAG on the wasted time). I guess everyone learns on their first build (no matter the OS).

    • fpsduck
    • 10 years ago

    BFG box art sucks.

    But hey, nice article. 🙂

    • Trymor
    • 10 years ago

    I never seat my memory with the tab locks. I press down with 2 fingers even from each other, and even from the ends. The tabs snap in, AND you get a better seat.

    Another good habit to get into, is seating each stick, pulling them back out, then re-seating them. Hopefully this will clear any dust, manufacturing (_____), etc…

    • shank15217
    • 10 years ago

    LoL if your first stick didn’t work by itself then its a sign of trouble to come. Hehe enjoy random instability.

    • The Dark One
    • 10 years ago

    I got some new RAM for Christmas and ran into the same problem. The RAM seemed to be seated properly. The little bracket dealies had clicked into place. The machine just wouldn’t post.

    I took them out, checked for any damage, checked their orientation, checked that I wasn’t somehow trying to insert them into the DDR3 slots on my mobo. I tried putting the old memory back in. Still wouldn’t work.

    Eventually, the machine decided that it had toyed with my emotions enough and has booted up without a hitch ever since. I still don’t know what I did correctly that last time, though.

      • Sargent Duck
      • 10 years ago

      I have a picture of a gremlin up on my work wall. He’s popped up more than enough times…

    • derFunkenstein
    • 10 years ago

    I just love the style and panache with which you write. Will you write a book about Super Bowl ads?

      • Jason_Fox
      • 10 years ago

      Thanks. Been wanting to write a guide to the first year of fatherhood, but the first two years of fatherhood have been taking too much time.

    • Kulith
    • 10 years ago


      • GTVic
      • 10 years ago

      Dude, check the power on your sarcasm detector …

      • Meadows
      • 10 years ago

      The stress is on “other”, not “18 inches”. Read it to yourself again, stressing the word “other” this time.

        • Kulith
        • 10 years ago

        That still doesn’t make any sense to me. How is 18 inches not enough space for that then….

        I thought he was talking about the capacitors right next to the socket, makes more sense.

          • Meadows
          • 10 years ago

          Look dude, you just don’t get humour. Get over it.

      • eitje
      • 10 years ago

      he’s making a joke about how big the cooler is, by implying that gigabyte made a bad design decision.

        • Kulith
        • 10 years ago

        THANK YOU

        now that makes sense.

          • Wireball
          • 10 years ago

          I thought it was pretty funny that he commented that the cooler was hard to install because there were other components within one and a half feet of the CPU socket.

          Having had bad experiences with CPU cooler mounting methods in the past, I can sympathize.

    • grantmeaname
    • 10 years ago

    Best MacHole blog yet.

    Except I’ve been trying for years to forget the homoerotic hobbit banter and succeeded until this morning…

    • indeego
    • 10 years ago

    Almost guarantee it wasn’t fully seated ram, rather than order. I’ve seen the exact same thing happen on an OEM board that had gotten slightly loose during transportg{<.<}g

    • MadManOriginal
    • 10 years ago

    Is the RAM on the mobo QVL list? While in theory DDR2 is DDR2 there is always some funkiness but for systems I build for others I always try to go with QVL memory.

    • thill9
    • 10 years ago

    Yeah, you don’t want to introduce your hackintosh to the bag of hurt known as blu-ray. The great Jobs might hunt you down for that.

      • ImSpartacus
      • 10 years ago

      Yes, it’s actually built into Mac OSX. When the OS senses a Blu Ray Drive it wipes the hard drive right after sending a strongly wored email to Mr. Jobs.

    • Sargent Duck
    • 10 years ago

    Sorry to hear about your hassles. When I built my Core 2 duo system last year, everything went perfect. My Antec Sonata III trays were co-operative, my 4850 with passive cooler didn’t have any pointy edges (no blood, not even a scratch during my whole build) and my heatsink was trouble free. Then again, I paid for everything so maybe this karma slapping you for getting so many things for free!

    Igor? I understand the reference but do we really want our intrepid leader to be known as Igor? Scott “Igor” Wasson? Hmmm……

    • anotherengineer
    • 10 years ago

    I blame the 9800gtx :), need some ATI in there lol

      • ImSpartacus
      • 10 years ago

      Yeah, he probably used that old 9800GTX for compatibility reasons.

      I’m sure even a Mac user would be smart enough to put something like a 5770 into a machine like this.

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