10 months ago, I finally got my new Hacintosh built and got it stable enough to switch to. I had written blog posts about it then but saved them until I had a chance to confirm it was all good. And then I forgot about them and there were some tech issues with the blog hosting provider, etc. not to mention still wanting to get Handoff working and the subsequent problem with the Media hard drive. Now, however, I think I can declare complete victory and finally sum it all up.
First, the base computer. I got a refurbished Dell Optiplex 9020 “Mini Tower” from eBay for $625 including shipping. It has an i7-4770 and it arrived with 4 GB of RAM, a 500 GB hard drive, and Windows 8 Pro installed. Good start!
I upgraded the RAM right away. I got a pair of G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series DDR3 1600 DIMMs with 4 GB in each for $81 from NewEgg. That brought the total RAM to 12 GB.
I needed a new primary drive. And I figured I’d go SSD on this main drive. I bought a Samsung 840 EVO 250 GB SSD for $130 from Amazon. I had an old laptop 128 GB SSD hanging around that I planned to use as a secondary drive. If I were to buy the drive refurbished like is essentially being repurposed here, it’d probably run about $40.
From the old Hacintosh, I transferred the Time Machine drive, a 1 TB WD Green drive. As far as this project goes, that drive was “free” but if when I bought it new from MicroCenter, it was $60. And I transferred a 750 GB WD Black drive that was my drive just for “Media” – Music, Pictures, and Movies. As I wrote here recently, that drive recently failed (or did it?) so I replaced that with a 2 TB WD Black drive. The new drive was $130. Since I increased the size of the drive, I’ll consider that expense part of the build tally.
Now how am I going to store 2 SSD and 2 regular hard drives in this 9020 case? I got a bay converter that holds two SSDs in a single traditional hard drive bay. $8 from Amazon. The converter slides into the slot under the optical drives and behind the front panel media connectors. The holes didn’t line up correctly but that was easily solved by placing the converter into the chassis bracket, marking where the holes were with a sharpie, removing the converter and drilling two holes. Then it’s as easy as putting the converter back in place and screwing it in with two screws.
I also filled up both optical drive bays. One has an ASUS BW-12B1ST BluRay burner in it and the other has an ASUS DRW-24B1ST DVD burner in it. The BluRay cost $70 and the DVD cost $20, both from NewEgg.
Now with 6 SATA devices to hook up and only 4 ports on the motherboard, I needed a SATA card to get the extra ports. At first I went with the SYBA SD-PEX40054 for $35 from NewEgg. But I couldn’t get the eSATA ports on the exterior of the card to work so I switched it out for a Silicon Image 3124-based card for $80 from CoolDrives. (Note that even though it is a PCI-X card, it works in the PCI slot when using jumpers.) Even though my total outlay is for both cards, I was able to repurpose the SYBA card and therefore, I am only going to count the Silicon Image card in the total tally.
Then to hook up all 6 of my internal SATA devices, I got pretty translucent blue cables from Nippon Labs (example). Well, the fact that they were pretty blue wasn’t as important as the fact that they were all SATA 3 locking cables in the appropriate lengths with the correct connectors on the ends (i.e. straight vs. 90 degree or -90 degree). The cost for all 6 cables was $24.50.
The last storage related item was a SATA power splitter cable so I could hook up all 6 of these devices. That was under $7 from New Egg.
In addition to the Silicon Image 3124 eSATA/SATA card in the PCI slot, I have cards in two other slots. In the regular PCI-E x4 slot (that looks like an x16 but is only wired as x4; why do they do that?) I have the most recent acquisition, the combo Fenvi WiFi/BT card that I got from Amazon for $60 (no longer available it appears). And for Bluetooth to work, this card is also wired in to a USB header. And I have a SYBA SY-PEX30016 Firewire card installed in the PCI-E x1 slot that has two external 1394b ports and 1 external 1394a port. I bought it at MicroCenter for $40. For this card to supply power to the Firewire ports, it needs to be hooked in to the power supply of the computer via a molex connector. Fortunately, I had a molex adapter already.
To make the monitor connection, I just used the KVM’s DVI cables but I needed DisplayPort adapters to convert from the DisplayPort on the computer to the DVI port for the KVM. And as I discovered the hard way, active adapters are the way to go for the Hacintosh build. An active DP to DVI adapter costs about $25 and I have two of them for a total of $50.
Finally, there’s the Mac serial number I bought. I bought that in the form of a Mac Mini from eBay for $200 that I extracted the serial number from. I did that so I could legitimately use iCloud and iMessage.
Okay, so the total for the computer is the following:
- $625 for base computer
- $81 for 8 GB RAM
- $130 for main drive SSD 250 GB
- $40 for secondary refurbished SSD 128 GB
- $60 for Time Machine drive 1 TB
- $130 for Media drive 2TB
- $8 for drive bay converter
- $70 for BluRay burner
- $20 for DVD burner
- $25 for SATA cables
- $7 for power cable
- $80 for SATA/eSATA card
- $60 for the WiFi/BT card
- $40 for the Firewire card
- $50 for the two active DP to DVI adapters
- $200 for the serial number
That’s a total of… $1626. That’s a lot of coin for a computer these days. Especially considering that doesn’t include the KVM, the monitors, the speakers, the keyboard, the mouse, and the TinyMix. But comparing to a Mac Pro, I’m still way cheaper and I’ve got more flexibility in my build with lots more drives – 4 hard drives and 2 optical drives. In other words, I was successful in building the computer I wanted – one that fits in the Apple product gap between the Mini and the Pro.