My Dell Mini 9 Hackintosh – The Installation

This is Part One in a series about my journey with my new Dell Mini 9 into Hacktinosh territory…I’ll be talking about my installation process, my impressions of the Mini as a Mac netbook, performance, software, and more.

MacBook Mini 9I was pretty early to jump on the netbook bandwagon.  When I saw the original 7″ Asus Eee PC for the first time, I knew that I had to have it.  I had been lusting after computers like the Sony Picturebook for a long time–something that could fit in my purse and go with me everywhere!  As a writer, having a full computer with me at all times really appealed to me.  As a geek, having a full computer with me at all times appealed to me even MORE!  So, imagine my dismay when, as much as I tried to make it work, my precious Eee PC really didn’t cut the mustard.  The keyboard was too small, the screen was too small and dull, the battery would barely last two hours, and the CPU was underpowered.  I had it tricked out with a nice, stripped down installation of Ubuntu, but even that performed poorly on the Eee PC.  So, what’s a geeky girl to do when she is disappointed with her technology?Well, I sold my Eee PC to a friend who is not quite such a power user…the Eee PC was perfect for her needs.  Part of me wanted to hold on to such a piece of tech history…I mean, the Eee PC is what started it all!  But I knew that if I was going to move on to bigger and better things, I had to clean house a bit.  I was sad to see it go, but happy to know that it went to a good home where it would be appreciated.

With some cash in my pocket, and a nice little quarterly bonus burning a hole in my wallet before I ever received it, I decided to upgrade to a newer netbook.  I was particularly interested in the Dell Mini 9.  I was impressed by the bigger keyboard, better screen, and increased capabilities of the Mini, but what really swayed me was the sheer hackability it offered.  I had heard of people attempting to put OS X on their Eee PCs (even the 7″ models!) which I had discounted as fun, but not useful.  In my mind OS X would likely never be truly usable on a netbook, unless Apple decided to put one out.  In my daily tech travels, I noticed that quite a bit of progress had been made in getting OS X to run on netbooks like the MSI Wind, but it still seemed like it took a lot of trouble for mixed results.

Well, I sure changed my mind fast when I saw Andy Ihnakto’s video of his Dell Mini running OS X…and it was absolutely FLAWLESS.  Everything just worked, and worked well.  Upon closer research, the Mini 9 proved to have hardware that was all pretty much supported out of the box once you got OS X installed.  Plus, you didn’t have to use some wonky download of the software–you could install it directly from the retail DVD by using a simple boot disc.

Dell Mini 9 Hackintosh Test Drive from Andy Ihnatko on Vimeo.

I was sold on the Mini immediately after that, and placed my order as soon as the bonus was in my hands.  I got an Alpine White unit with the 1.3 MP camera upgrade and a 32GB SSD drive.  I already had a 2GB stick of RAM all ready to install as soon as the MIni arrived, and I ordered a Built NY case to stow it in.  I did a lot of research (and drooling) on the MyDellMini forums, with special attention to the Mac OS X subforum.  I was pleased to find that the Mini 9 had a strong community behind it, and a large number of users hacking their machines to run the Mac operating system.

OS X boot screenThree weeks later, I had the Mini in my hands and I was ready to load up OS X.  I was impressed with the small size of the Mini–it was barely bigger than my Eee PC, which I considered to be a great overall size despite its shortcomings, yet the screen and keyboard were SO much better.  The keyboard is practically perfect for me, and it took absolutely no getting used to.  After a cursory boot into Ubuntu, I brought up the installation guide on MyDellMini, plugged in my USB DVD drive, and popped in the boot disc that would allow me to install the OS using the retail DVD.

Once the boot disc had done its thing, I took it out of the DVD drive and put in the Leopard installation DVD.  After briefly crossing my fingers that it would work, I was rewarded by the beautiful sight of the gray Apple boot screen.

I formatted the drive according to the great installation guide that a user on the MyDellMini forums put together, and then started the installation.  After about 15 minutes, I was getting close to the end of the install.

Installation ErrorOnce the install was done, I got to a screen that would be a bit scary and frustrating if I hadn’t been prepared for it.  The installer said it had failed, but thankfully I knew better.  I rebooted using the boot disc and directed it to the SSD drive, and after a moment or two I was able to go through setup and view the OS X startup video, then go to the desktop.  I ran the 10.5.6 combo update immediately upon boot, then I ran the DellEFI utility that was created to adjust some internal files to allow the Dell to boot correctly into OS X.  After a couple more reboots…I had a Mac netbook.

iPhone and Macbook Mini 9To celebrate, I decorated my Mini with a specially ordered chrome Apple logo decal.  It completely fakes people out, especially when I am tapping away at Starbucks.  If you didn’t see the DELL logo under the screen, you might never know that it wasn’t really an Apple product.  It matches my iPhone so well!

Coming up next, my review of the Mini’s performance as a Mac.  But I’ll leave you with this little tidbit…I’ve only used our 17″ Powerbook once since the Mini was delivered into my hot little hands!

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23 Comments on "My Dell Mini 9 Hackintosh – The Installation"

  1. Very nice … can’t wait to read the next part!

  2. I was checking out possibilities of the Lenovo s10 again, and according to this article ( Most everything works now … but check the Dell Mini 9 … as you found, it is *still* the best option available!

  3. thehotrod | June 22, 2009 at 1:17 pm |

    All these Mac posts and a seeing a couple of collegues with Macs…..makes me think and think and think. Should my next laptop be a Mac? I’ll be interested to here the rest of your story. I haven’t used a mac in 11 years. I love Win7, but OSX seems so cool.

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  5. RT @jfritsche: RT @GearDiarySite My Dell Mini 9 Hackintosh – The Installation

  6. I personally love my Mac … I only stopped using them for a while in the 90’s when it was too expensive and too little benefit to do dual-computer. Now that I can dual-boot my Macbook Pro and get the best of both worlds, I never want a single OS life 🙂

  7. Jessica Fritsche | June 22, 2009 at 1:56 pm |

    @thehotrod – I cut my teeth on an Apple ][, so it’s practically in my DNA now. 🙂 I switched full-time (except at work, where I have to use a PC) to Mac about 5 years ago after my Dell laptop crashed and left me with only an old 1999 G3 Mac as my backup. I had purchased it for about $50 to play around with, since I missed working on a Mac as I had in college. Imagine my surprise when it ran better than the much newer PC laptop I had been using! OS X is now my OS of choice, even over things like Win7 and Ubuntu. It’s just so elegant, but with geeky underpinnings. I love it.

    @Michael – The other netbooks get pretty close, but that chart on Boing Boing also helped seal the deal on my Dell purchase. With green checkmarks across the board, how could I say no? 🙂 And really, the installation could not have been easier.

  8. My Dell Mini 9 Hackintosh – The Installation | Gear Diary

  9. thehotrod | June 23, 2009 at 6:21 am |

    So hardware speaking, if I was to get my first mac in 11 years should I get the hardware straight from Apple or make myself a hackintosh. I now I could build it, I’m pretty good compterwise, just no experience with Macs.

    Apple’s hardware just looks sooooo goooood.

  10. It depends on what you are trying to do … if you are going ‘full out’, you would be much better off building a desktop ‘hackintosh’ that you could dual boot to Win 7 and get the best of both worlds for much cheaper than a Mac Pro.

    For myself, in all my years of being laptop-only (and it has been nearly 15 years that my primary computer has *always* been a laptop), no other manufacturer has so consistently done a great job at just making things work than Apple. I have had great laptops from IBM, Toshiba, HP, Dell, etc … but I have also had some crappy ones from each of those folks. So if it was a laptop you wanted, I’d go legit Apple.

  11. thehotrod | June 23, 2009 at 1:13 pm |

    Oh, yeah, sorry I didn’t state it, I’m considering a Macbook Pro or Macbook Air. Probably the Pro, because I want/need about >250gb of storage.

  12. Jessica Fritsche | June 23, 2009 at 1:18 pm |

    @thehotrod – Like Michael, I really love Apple hardware (especially their laptop hardware). While I know people who have had lemons here and there, I have had nothing but positive experiences with Apple hardware. I mean, I still have that G3 from 1998-99 and it runs GREAT. That’s a 10 year old computer! Can’t say that about any PC I have ever owned…they’re all dead. The netbook hackintosh is what I’d call my Mac companion. I am an Apple hardware girl for life.

    However, I must say that my little MacBook Mini has become my main machine for almost everything. I wouldn’t do hardcore processing on it, but for everything else it is FANTASTIC! It proved to me once and for all how much I love the Apple OS, even more than I love the hardware.

  13. I actually have a couple of working PC laptops from the 90’s … my HP Omnibook 300 and 800CT, and my Toshiba Portege 3480CT. I have actually used them from time to time until recently, but still occasionally use the 800CT as a pretty solid DOS machine.

  14. My Dell Mini 9 Hackintosh – The Installation from @iNewsApp

  15. dkedinger | July 3, 2009 at 3:47 pm |

    You helped me make the decision to get the mini 9. I have a Macbook Pro and 30″ Apple Cinema Display, but I wanted something that I can pick up and run out the door with to a coffee shop or meeting. I have to eject, unplug, and pack up the machine to go anywhere. I ended up finding a refurbished one on I hope to dual boot it, but I might have to do a SSD upgrade to fit OS X and a slim XP…we shall see. Thanks for the info!

    BTW where did you find the chrome apple stickers!

  16. Thank you for sharing this info.Please do tell…..where did you get the apple logo?I want one.Again thank you!

  17. dkedinger | July 14, 2009 at 9:36 pm |

    I actually got my decal from!

  18. Jessica Fritsche | July 14, 2009 at 10:03 pm |

    @dkedinger – Sorry I missed your comment before! I was away for the Independence Day weekend and it must have slipped through the cracks. 🙂 I am glad that you could find a Mini 9 and that I could talk you into Hackintoshing it. Are you having good luck with it so far?

    I actually got my chrome stickers through a group buy on the Dell Mini 9 forums @ MyDellMini, but I believe they did actually come from decalplanet. They work pretty darn well! I had hoped to find a rainbow Mac sticker for mine but didn’t have any luck.

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