This is a layman’s guide on how to make a ThinkPad X61 Tablet or regular X61 into a MacBook Air killing Hackintosh. First, a bit of a primer on why I ever went this route anyway.
I first built a “Hackintosh” Thinkpad some years ago when Mac OS X 10.5, Leopard, was current. It was purely a novelty, I already had MacBooks and MacBook Pros and Mac Pros. Those days were rough, things such as DSDT patching and EFI hacks didn’t exist. It was all luck of the draw, either that downloaded, hacked Mac OS X installer worked or it didn’t. Modding a kext, the files that are low-level device driver software for various components such as wi-fi, bluetooth, and the display, were in their early days. Very few people knew enough about Mac OS X internals to make custom kext files, never mind bootstrap a generic PC or create a custom kernel (the core part of the Mac’s operating system.). But the idea caught on like wildfire, a few companies started selling whole systems even, and it hasn’t stopped since. For me, I couldn’t get enough things going so I shelved my little project, and those companies got shut down by Apple’s legal department a long time ago.
When 10.6, Snow Leopard, came around, things were much different. “Vanilla” kernels were the rage, and EFI (It is somewhat analogous to a PC’s BIOS, but it is software on the hard drive, as opposed to firmware of the PC itself.) exploits opened a wider range of opportunities. Then DSDT hacking came about and basically it is impossible *not* to be able to turn just about any standard Intel Core 2 Duo or better machine into a Hackintosh. I have that Thinkpad X61s running Snow Leopard beautifully and I use it everyday. I built it in 2008 to be a MacBook Air killer, and it still delivers. With an SSD (Solid State Drive), it blew away my 15” MacBook Pro even, I just sold it after that, there was no point in having a real Mac when I could make a 300 dollar computer, with another 300 bucks invested in SSD, faster and more functional than any Apple Computer. SD card reader? Check. Verizon WWAN card? Check. Fingerprint reader? It all works, even Apple’s own FireWire standard. Even today in 2012, Apple’s Macs do not have WWAN or fingerprint readers. They are very useful things. My X61s weighs 3 and a half pounds with an 8-cell battery. When parts break, I buy them on eBay for a few dollars from China. It’s the cheapest best computer I’ve ever ran.
Recently I had a ThinkPad X61 Tablet, which is similar in architecture. laying around with no use. I got it for two reasons, foremost the screen. It is a redonkulous 1400x1050 pixels in a 4:3 ratio 12” LCD. Plus it’s a tablet! So yes, it swivels and it has a stylus. (Yes, it works in Mac OS X Lion.) It’s like a giant high-resolution iPad, except it’s real computer. It addressed the one weakness of the X61s, a low resolution screen. (The X61s has a normal 12” 1024x768 screen, and it’s pretty low quality.) I quickly got used to 1024x768, but I have plenty of big monitors at home to plug into when I need it. But having 1400x1050 in the same 12” was too hard to resist. It’s slightly longer and heavier than the 3.5 pound X61s, but at around 4 pounds, definitely on better than any MacBook Pro, even the 13” model, which has a really crummy 1280x800 screen, the worst screen in the whole lineup. It’s not MacBook Air light, but it’s on the edge of sub-compact notebook.
So as it turned out, I really needed a Mac OS X 10.7 Lion machine to run Xcode 4 so I could start making iPhone apps, and I just couldn’t risk redoing my X61s. It was way too hard to get setup to wipe it out. I decided to build out the X61 Tablet with Lion. Man, that was wicked hard. But I’m typing on it now and I love it. The screen is sick, it has about the same number of pixels as a low-end *17”* MacBook Pro. The SSD makes it practically faster too. SSD is a game changer. Don’t buy a new computer, just buy an SSD. It is night and day. It is not even close to the same experience as a computer with traditional hard drive. Literally everything is faster, and most things are near instant. Apple finally has it right with the 11’ and 13” MacBook Air models of 2011, but they are artificially crippled by 4 gigs of RAM. That sucks. Too bad, because they are very affordable. The MacBook Pro line is totally 2000’s in my opinion. The 13” one is vastly inferior to the 13” Air in every way, especially display, except they can take 8 Gigs of RAM. Something has to give, and it’s likely the two lines will kind of meld or attain equilibrium this year. It has to. This is all because the 2008 MacBook Air was a $4000 luxury toy, now it’s the entry level machine. Weird.
Anyway, this is how to do it. Forget endless googling, I’ve done it all and a gazillion reboots.
The first things are physical. Which X61 Tablet? There are scads of different “types” in Lenovo parlance. Mine is a Type 7762-AS1. It doesn’t really matter, 99% of them have 1.6 Ghz Core2Duo CPUs, a few had 1.8’s. It doesn’t matter. What matters is the display. They were “Multiview” and “Superview” and just normal ones. The XGA screens are only 1024x768 pixels. Forget it, might as well get a non-Tablet X61 or X61s, they are lighter and smaller. Yes, you want what I got, a SXGA+, a whopping 1400x1050 pixels of real estate. It really is like have a 19” LCD panel in your laptop. The pixel density is something like 166 pixels per square inch, which is a hell of a lot more than the standard 96 DPI, but this is no ordinary hackintosh. ;) All SXGA+ models “Superview” have a stylus for tablet purposes. It does not work with your finger, sorry. Some of the XGA ones do work (badly) with your finger. They are called “Multiview”. Forget it, this isn’t an iPad. Just get the 1400x1050 screen. Mine doesn’t have Bluetooth surprisingly and that blows. But I can buy it on eBay for 30 bucks with the wiring harness, or buy a 10 dollar USB one. Later, later.
Ok, most professional Lenovo’s come with docking stations or docks. They are nice, Lenovo always made the best ones. Get it, because you’ll occasionally need a DVD drive. Plus it is sweet to dock and have your keyboard, mouse and external monitor all light up instantly. The thing is called “Ultrabase X6” and they are expensive by themselves. You can buy a decent ThinkPad X61 Tablet with the Ultrabase X6 for 300 to 400 bucks I imagine, on eBay. Don’t buy it from a used dealer. Wait for a private seller who has all the manuals, disks, etc. Make *sure* it’s 1400x1050. Assume the battery is shot. They are a little pricey, but you can save money by choosing a good third-party make, like AGPtek. That’s what I have now. The life isn’t great, but other than building your own battery (That is another topic, a dangerous topic.) that’s as good as it gets without paying Lenovo prices, which are stupid expensive. An AGPtek one should be around 75 bucks.
Wifi. You need a new wifi card, because the standard Lenovo one, actually it’s an Intel part, just won’t work in Mac OS X. So go on eBay and search “Lenovo Atheros AR5008”. Should be 30 bucks. No big whoop. You can buy a non-Lenovo Atheros AR5008, but it won’t work unless you change your BIOS on the ThinkPad, more on that later. Anyway, just get a Lenovo one, it’s no big whoop.
RAM. Well, if the bastard was cheap, the machine has 2 Gigs of RAM. Don’t buy that one! Buy one with 4 Gigs, but if you don’t, yes, buy (2) 2 GB DDR2 PC2-5300 SO-DIMMS.
SSD. You most definitely want to get a nice 120 GB or bigger SSD. 200 bucks, are you kidding? No. Absolutely do not even bother reading the rest of this if you don’t get an SSD. I’m using a OCZ Vertex 2, which is a good fit. It’s a “Sandforce” controller, it goes only to SATA-2 (SATA-3 is current.), so this is a good mid-performance model at the right price. SSD’s can die suddenly though, believe it or not, so always backup. There is no such thing as a fail-proof hard drive, not even an SSD. The other choice I would go with is OWC Electra 6G, or their Mercury Extreme Pro 6G, if you want to spend a little more money. OWC is very Mac-centric. They do over-provisioning, which was was a sort of workaround for Apple’s lack of TRIM support, more on that later.
USB keyboard and mouse, a Mac running 10.6.6 or higher and a USB case for the SSD. You’ll need these thing just temporarily, to get your ThinkPad going. A 2.5” SATA USB case is nice to have, plus you can use it later for Time Machine backups. They are like 6-7 bucks at Micro Center. Just get one. Okay, well, you need a Phillips double zero, well maybe a triple zero (00 and 000) screwdriver. It’s like 2 bucks at Micro Center, stop complaining. Hell you can get a kit of 40 made in Taiwan, for 9 bucks. I use German Wiha ones, but whatever, I like nice tools. Just don’t buy shiny ones made in China. The chrome flakes off and the bit is junk after one use.
Lastly, you need Mac OS X Lion, preferably bought from the Mac App Store on the Apple you are borrowing. Buy it, download it, but don’t install it. In fact make a backup copy of it on a flash drive. This is better than buying the USB installer from Apple because it’s the latest version, which at the time of this writing is 10.7.3.
Download my software bundle here on that Mac you are borrowing:
It is a zip file of 4 zip files. I’ll explain what to do with them.
- Middleton BIOS X61 Tablet.zip
- current SLE March 6, 2012.zip
- Post-install X61T.zip
I recommend putting them on a USB stick because you’ll be switching computers.
Before you blow away Windows on your ThinkPad X61 you will probably want to run the Middleton BIOS hack first. It replaces the BIOS. You know that command line looking gibberish before windows comes up? Well it’s important stuff, it tells the operating system what kind of hardware the PC has. It’s what we call an “abstraction layer”, something that is sandwiched between two very different things so they can talk to each other. In this case, software and hardware. On the Mac and Windows to some extant, there are actually more abstraction layers, such as EFI, SMC, ACPI.
Anyway, why this hacked BIOS? As it turns out the X61 line has a curious thing about the hard drive sub-system, it runs in SATA-1 or just SATA, not SATA-2, even though the hardware is capable of it. As you can imagine, it limits the speed of hard drives in there, especially if you have an SSD. So if you have an SSD, you really need to do this. The instructions are pretty clear but there are two ways of doing it. One is to run the included exe file in Windows. It’s pretty damn easy. The other way is to burn the included ISO file to a blank CD, boot off it, and run the BIOS flash that way. By the way, some hacker just made this BIOS by himself. If you need a BIOS for another X61 machine, such as the non-Tablet or X61s, google “Middleton BIOS” and it will come right up. Beautiful.
Ok, you will need to turn off your machine and install the wifi card. It’s not that hard, don’t even google it. Just remove the battery, unscrew all the bottom screws you can find, turn it over, lift the lid and carefully lift the palm rest area and keyboard up. You’ll see one Mini PCI-E cards under the right side of the palm rest area. The other slot is empty unless you have a special order ThinkPad with Verizon WWAN. Carefully disconnect the antennas, undo the two screws, pop it out, and you might find a third one sitting in a plastic sleeve under it. Why? Well the wifi card you are ripping out is only 802.11G. The new one is N! Guess what, real N cards use 3 antennas. So pop the new one in, put the antennas in the same order, the new one goes in the middle if you have it. Put the machine back together. Don’t bollocks it up. Use a egg crate container to hold screws, they are kind of handy. Magnetizing your screwdrivers really really help.
Good job! Are you ready to Hackintosh? Plug the fancy SSD into the USB case, and hook it up to that borrowed Mac. Open Disk Utility and erase the sucker. Call it anything you want, I like “Hackintosh SSD”. Open the Install Mac OS Lion app in the /Applications folder and carefully install it on the SSD, not the hard drive of the system you are running!! Doh! It’s not really clear on how to switch the target of the install, but just click the hard drive icon and it will slide a new screen where you can choose the target drive.
When the installer finishes, you will be asked to reboot. Let it do it’s thing. It then *actually* installs (*headshake*) and then it asks you for you name, login name, password, etc. Choose wisely. If you want to copy stuff from an old Mac, choose the same names.
By the way, there are fancy ways to get the PC booted under the installer and get the whole shooting match going without another Mac, but it’s just not worth it. Besides it’s wicked slow. This way is crash-proof and faster. Your choice.
Now it’s really time to get going. We are going to run stuff in the “ThinkPad X61 Tablet post-install” zip file, so get that ready, along with the “Extra” zip and and the “current SLE March 6, 2012” zip files. You can unzip them all now.
In “Post-install X61T” run “MultiBeast 4.2.1.pkg”. This is a wonderful post-install by http://tonymacx86.com/ These are some of the best people on the bleeding edge of Hackintoshes. They are running 10.8 Mountain Lion systems, for man sakes. I shouldn’t even be distributing this installer, but I wanted a soup to nuts kind of deal for normal people. Please forgive me Tony!
There are a LOT of options for MultiBeast, it’s supposed to be a one-shot deal for many different types of PCs. But we are picking just one and it’s “UserDSDT Install”. It will install the very basic things to get a Hackintosh going. Number one is Chimera, which is a boot manager and EFI firmware hack to get the PC bootstrapped. One of the most difficult challenges in Hackintosh originally was getting around this EFI problem. EFI is largely a replacement for BIOS on Mac and as I said, it’s the first abstraction layer that gets the machine booted in software. In fact, the very first prototype Intel Macs didn’t have EFI, they had normal BIOS. But EFI was a much more dynamic extensible system and after 30 years of BIOS, fine! But since 99% of PC’s still use BIOS, how did we do this? Well, as it turns out, on every Mac, the first 200 megs is a special reserved area for guess what? EFI. It’s quite the coincidence since the hard drive format has nothing to do with EFI, but Apple has to do this because the hard drive format they use, GUID, says that you must set aside 200 Megs for an EFI partition. Since GUID is open-source “UserDSDT Install” also installs a couple of kexts so the thing can basically boot, but never mind that for now, we are going to replace them anyway.
One other thing UserDSDT Install does is make an “Extra” folder on the root level of your SSD. So you should see:
The “Extra” zip is a whole replacement for the entire “Extra” folder. Unzip “Extra.zip”, and replace everything in /Extra with my versions. What in here?
DSDT.aml is yet another hardware abstraction layer. It is more complicated than BIOS or EFI. It is like, for example, what registers and PCI IRQs to use for the Ethernet controller. There are hundreds of DSDT hacks for thousands of different PC components and it is way too much time to mess around with. I just don’t have time to do it. I grabbed the best pre-made one I could find on forums, but more advanced full-time Hackintosh guys will hack their own custom ones. This one here is pretty damn good for the X61 Tablet, it enables the tablet feature on Mac OS X for one thing. org.chameleon.Boot.plist and smbios.plist are a bunch of strings that inform Mac OS X what kind of Mac the operating system is dealing with. In our case, we are lying and saying it’s a MacBook Pro 17” model. No big whoop. Lion is a pain because you didn’t really have to fill all this stuff out when hackintoshing in Snow Leopard and Leopard, now you really do or it gets very unhappy.
Time to shutdown your borrowed Mac. We just have to get the kexts installed and do some post-install installs and you’ll have a pretty sweet Mac for under 600 bucks. By the way, when you shutdown here, the Mac just generally hangs. Just force turn it off, hold the power key for 4 seconds, no big whoop. Disconnect the drive and take it out of the USB case. While you are doing that, boot up the Mac you just borrowed and make sure you let it boot because my girlfriend freaked out when she did just that and her desktop said “You Mac just froze, you wanna report to Apple?” She was totally convinced it was slower which is ridiculous. Just make sure you boot it once, open System Preferences, click Startup Disk and reselect the original drive as the boot drive. It will make booting faster, since it’s still looking for the SSD that’s no longer there. Shut it down after, so it “remembers” that setting. Jeez, she gave me bloody hell for that, she doesn’t believe a word I say about computers ironically.
So you have to rip out the old drive on the Thinkpad and it’s just one screw believe it or not. Well, one to take it out, then there are four screws for the sled after you take the rubber grommets off. No big whoop. Just make a mental note of the orientation of the drive, you don’t want to stick it in there backwards or upside down, doh.
Well, go for it, press the power button. It’s a beautiful moment to cherish your own Mac booting all by itself. Baby grown up. Now put that aside because we got work to do.
You *should* get to the desktop. The keyboard and mouse should *not* work. If you don’t make it to the desktop, well, you are just going to have to re-read this more carefully and start over.
The keyboard and mouse do not work because they are PS2 style unbelievably, which went out of style in like the year 2000. So we need to plug in a USB keyboard and mouse for a moment. So do that.
It’s time for the kext installfest. In the “current SLE March 6, 2012” zip file, there are a list of 18 kexts. They all need to be properly installed in a special folder on the Hackintosh, /System/Library/Extensions, hence SLE. In the “Post-install X61t” zip, there is a utility, KextBeast, which is again by the good folks at http://tonymacx86.com/. Install on the ThinkPad.
To actually use KextBeast, you simply drag the kexts out of “current SLE March 6, 2012” onto your desktop. Then launch KextBeast and hit install, authenticate, and that’s it! You Hackintosh is basically done after a reboot. Exciting! What KextBeast actually does is grab any kext lying on the desktop, puts them in S/L/E with the proper permissions.
After you boot, you should see your glorious 1400x1050 in full res glory, the keyboard and track button should work (Give it a week to get used to the TrackPoint or “UltraNav” or whatever Lenovo calls it. You’ll get used to it.) Don’t be a sissy and use a mouse. If you must, buy the Magic Trackpad from Apple even it’s pricey. It will enable all those useless finger gestures that really only make sense on an iPad. It doesn’t recognize THE finger, so eff that I say.
We can add some polish to our project, and that’s why I included the following in “Post-install X61T” zip.
- iStat Menus Installer.app
- MultiBeast 4.2.1.pkg
- Smart Scroll Installer 3.9.3.app
- tabletmagic settings.rtf
The com.apple plist doesn’t really do anything. It was supposed to disable encrypted virtual memory and help my sleep problems, but it didn’t work. You can put it in /Library/Preferences/ but don’t even bother unless you want to work on the sleep problem.
cpu-x is a cool little app to show you if the CPU is running SpeedStep, which varies the processor speed to save energy and therefore battery. In our case, it doesn’t work. Oh well. You can google and try to solve it, but you risk making your system unbootable, etc. Wait till you get good at this stuff before that.
iStat Menus Installer.app is a menubar item widget and preference pane for geeks who want to know fan speed, CPU temps, network speed, etc. It’s for geeks. The FakeSMC kext I gave you is especially hacked for this. I like to know my CPU temps and fan speeds, because Hackintoshes run hot often, if the power management is not done right in DSDT or with custom kexts. This machine runs like a well-oiled sewing machine, 58 degrees C usually and the fan speed is zero. It’s dead quiet, eerily quiet since SSD doesn’t make noise.
KeyboardRemap4MacBook takes care a bad key. The ~ key or ` key next the 1 is mapped wrong, it types some weird symbol that stand for “section”. So install it, open it in System Preferences and scroll way the hell down to “For International English Keyboard” and click the triangle and finally click “Section() to Backquote(`)” Jeez, what a pain!
MenuCracker.menu is actually for iStat2. Lion doesn’t allow third-party widgets anymore, so this changes it back the way it used to be, the right way, in Snow Leopard and before, so you can have cool menubar widgets like iStat2.
Smart Scroll Installer 3.9.3 is not quite so “must have” but it adds quite a bit of functionality to your otherwise pretty basic TrackPoint. “Auto-Scroll” is the feature I like.
tabletmagic settings.rtf TabletMagic2b18.dmg enable your tablet and tablet digitizer. To be honest, mine loses it’s tablet calibration like every 2 presses, so it’s kind of worthless. It’s so disappointing but true. Whatever you do, DO NOT CLICK the “Enable Digitizer” button under the “TabletPC” tab section of TabletMagic. You will trash the whole system. I did that and had to start from scratch what a pain. All you have to do is click the “enabled” checkbox on top and “Launch at Startup” under the “Extras” tab if you want to. Then you can click “Enable Ink” and you have an “Ink” Preference Pane. Sadly, Ink is damn useless. Windows Tablet Edition is a million times better. Ironic since Apple pioneered handwriting recognition with the Newton. Le sigh.
TRIM-SUPPORT-SSD, this document is important. If you bought an OWC SSD, don’t do it, it will actually slow down the OWC SSD. (They use over-provisioning instead.) I use it on my OCZ Vertex 2. You can check the result by open System Profiler.
TrueSuite_126.96.36.199.dmg well this is the piece de la resistance. It enables the fingerprint reader, and it is damn cool. After years of pshawing them on PC’s, I really like it. It logs me into the Hackintosh itself, and in Lion, it even logs me into websites in Chrome and Safari. Just brilliant and all your Apple fanboi and fangrl friends will twinge with just a hint of “Wah, why don’t I have that!”. Well, they aren’t cool enough to build their own Mac and they are Apple tools.
That’s it. I cannot get sleep working for the life of me and it maybe due to DSDT or maybe it’s the firmware on my OCZ, I just don’t know. I’m tired of hacking this thing. I’m tired of writing this blog post. All I know if you should unclick sleep for the hard drive in Energy Saver since it is an SSD, and you should type this in Terminal, found in your Utilities folder. (To remove the sleep image file.)
sudo rm -rf /var/vm/sleepimage
To disable safe sleep mode: sudo pmset hibernatemode 0
Sleep images aren’t really work much in the days of laptops and SSD. I would love to get sleep going but gotta pick your battles. Maybe you can be the one to figure it out. Luckily Lion has that handle “reopen windows on login” feature. So I just shutdown now. This thing boots so fast anyway.
The SD card slot works, sort of, if you boot with a card in, if you don’t it sometimes freezes the keyboard and mouse. Lion is just a lot harder to hackintosh than Snow Leopard, because this works perfect on other X61 running 10.6. Guess we’ll have to wait for a new kext from voodoolabs. The PC card slot or PCMCIA slot does not work, who cares? The FireWire port is the only thing I’m not quite sure about, last time I checked, it was spewing GUID = 00000000 errors in Console, so some sort of plist fix might be in order. If you solve it, let me know. For now, I just disabled FireWire in the BIOS of the ThinkPad, which is accessed by pressing F1 and Esc repeatedly during power-on. (Why both keys? Because I’m not sure which one and it doesn’t matter.)