How To: Build a custom Audio Production Computer

How To: Build a custom Audio Production Computer — Part Three

The Soulware. 🍀

Time to turn our flashy new rig/ into a fully functional Audio Production Computer that runs OS X! On Part Three of this series, we explore the essential steps to create a Hackintosh out of the system we built. This machine will replace our old setup and will sit on our studio for all the heavy lifting—moving projects to and from this beast will be a breeze.

Part Three: The Software

First and foremost, we will need a 16GB USB Drive to create an OS X Base System Install USB which will contain OS X El Capitan plus all the tools that make everything work like magic. We will also need a USB mouse and keyboard plugged into the rear USB 2.0 ports to tweak the BIOS Setup and enter a few commands. Please note that the steps below change from time to time, always check tonymacx86’s site/ for the latest set of instructions.

Now, there is an easy way and a hard way to install OS X on a custom machine, keep in mind there’s no such thing as a retail version of the latest OS X: long gone are the ‘drive to computer store, buy DVD, drive home, install DVD, feel pumped’ days. With a working Mac at hand, it’s all rainbows, sunshine and high-fives as we only need to create the OS X Base System USB and profit. As we said on our first How To/ post, our MBP was completely bricked and set to become a nice TV prop—we ought to take The Road Less Traveled.

Installing Snow Leopard

We will install Snow Leopard first to access the App Store and download the latest version of OS X El Capitan. Having at least a PC with Internet access is necessary to download/buy some of the items below; we will try to simplify these instructions/ as much as possible targeting our setup. If you do have access to a Mac then just skip this section.

1. Get Snow Leopard DVD & a DVD Optical Drive/CD Writer
2. Install Optical Drive (same process as with the SSD/)
3. Download iBoot-Haswell.iso/ for Snow Leopard
4. Burn Boot-Haswell.iso on a CD*
5. Start new machine and enter BIOS Setup (press & hold DELETE key at start)
6. Set Optical Drive to Boot Priority 1 and check SATA is in ACHI Mode
7. Save BIOS Setup & Restart
8. Insert iBoot CD and wait for it to start, then eject CD
9. Inset Snow Leopard DVD and press F5 to refresh iBoot menu
10. Install Snow Leopard on SSD, Update to Snow Leopard 10.6.8
11. Boot from SSD using iBoot CD

*If the PC used to download stuff has no CD burner, we will have to boot Ubuntu from our USB Drive and burn the CD form there:

1. Download Ubuntu/
2. Create a bootable Ubuntu USB with UNetbootin/
3. Copy iBoot-Haswell.iso to USB
4. Boot from Ubuntu USB on the new rig
5. Burn iBoot CD from there

El Capitan Install

Creating OS X Base System Install USB

By now, we have a working Mac at our fingertips and are ready to create the OS X El Capitan Install USB Drive. We are using Clover and the Alternate Post-Installation process since we guarantee it will work with the hardware we picked. Again, we will try to simplify these instructions/ for our setup.

1. Download OS X El Capitan Installer from App Store
2. Plug USB Drive that will serve as OS X Base System Install USB
3. Format to Mac OS Extended (Journaled) with Disk Utility
4. Disable Spotlight for USB Drive on Settings > Spotlight > Privacy
5. Create OS X Base System Install USB with Unibeast/
6. Download/ & Copy to USB: Post Install Tools UEFI, Clover Configurator, Nvidia Web Drivers, CloverALC110 script, USB3 Fix
7. You can try the MultiBeast Post Installation/ as it is now available too

Hooray! One step closer to success—this USB Drive will serve as our Install Disk containing the OS and a bunch of tools developed by the thriving Hackintosh community. Can’t stress this enough: check for updates on these instructions on tonymacx86’s site/ as some might have changed for the latest version of OS X.

Installing OS X El Capitan

We need to tweak some of the options on our Motherboard’s BIOS Setup, it’s highly recommended updating the BIOS firmware/ too before proceeding. Once we have the latest firmware, we need to plug the OS X Base System Install USB and change the following settings on BIOS Setup (press & hold DELETE key at start). These are a simplified version of these instructions/.

1. Load Optimized Defaults
2. Disable VT-d
3. Enable XHCI & EHCI
4. Change Boot priority to USB UEFI
5. Save BIOS Setup & Restart
6. Install OS X El Capitan, skip iCloud setup
7. Eject USB
8. Run Post Install Tools UEFI
9. Run Clover Configurator and load EFI/CLOVER/config.plist
10. Change System Definition to iMac 14,2
11. Restart, enter BIOS Setup
12. Set Boot Priority 1 to SSD UEFI
13. Boot OS X*

*At this point we might experience Kernel Panics while booting due to our Nvidia GPU requiring a driver update. To solve this, enter nv_disable=1 on Clover’s boot flags, boot OS X and install the correct Nvidia Web Driver.

14. Install Nvidia Web Driver & Restart
15. Remove nv_disable=1 boot flag
16. Boot OS X
17. Run CloverALC110 script & Restart
18. Boot OS X, launch Clover Configurator and mount EFI Partition
19. Place FakePCIID.kext & FakePCIID_XHCIMux.kext to EFI/CLOVER/kext/10.10 & 10.11
20. Restart

Aaaand we are done—plug the Bluetooth Micro Adatper and we are set. Time to tweak OS X to our taste, we can also set ‘timeout’ on Clover Configurator > Boot to 0 to skip the Clover boot screen.

DAW Software

Installing Your DAW Software

THIS is why it’s great to have a custom desktop machine sitting in our studio: it will allow us to get the most out of everything we’ve invested in for our Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). The Applications, Plug-Ins, Tools and Hardware we’ve hoarded over the years will work for far longer than if we center our studio around a laptop computer. Faster CPU? Done. Maxed-out RAM? Why not. Two GPUs? Bring it. Audio Interface? Just plug it in. More IO? LOL.

There are a few tips we could share when setting up and working with your DAW, we will leave those for a future How To post.

More How To posts coming soon 😀

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