My last desktop Hacintosh build was back in 2015 and I’ve been using that computer as my main desktop since then. I built it with macOS Yosemite and it has remained at that release ever since. That’s partly because I’m content with the basic OS features not changing but mostly because I didn’t want to break the Hacintosh install. I don’t know that it would have broken with El Capitan but at some point it would have broken. And since it was otherwise working for me, there was no need to change. However in the subsequent 7 years (!), there’s been a lot of change in MacOS and by now I have a lot of Applications that can’t be upgraded and that aren’t working well. Even Firefox hasn’t been able to be updated in ages – I’m running version 78 and the current release is 105 – so web pages often have weird problems displaying or logging in. In short, I’m way past time to upgrade and since the current version is MacOS Monterey, that’s what I’ll be aiming to upgrade to.
The first decision to make was what hardware to use. I have really liked the Dell Optiplex 9020 that has been my Hacintosh for these 7 years but as a platform that is pushing being a decade old, surely there would be better hardware to use. Except I really like the physical structure of the 9020 chassis – primarily that I can have two optical drives, two 3.5″ hard drives, and two 2.5″ SSD drives (with the modified caddy). And for all of those years, the original power supply is still humming keeping all of that stuff powered. Although the processor in it is old by comparison, the i7-4770 in it is still pretty capable of running a modern OS. So this time, I really just wanted to upgrade the existing computer.
And yet, the idea of taking my main computer out of commission for any length of time to monkey with a Hacintosh build was just too unappealing. Also, I realized that I really wanted all new RAM to max out the memory capacity, I wanted a bigger SSD for the main drive, I wanted bigger HDDs for storage and backup, I wanted a newer optical drive, and I wanted the latest Bluetooth/WiFi card. In other words, I wanted all new stuff other than the chassis, power supply, motherboard, and SATA card. In the end, I decided to just get an additional 9020 MT that matched my existing one.
As long as I had decided to go forward with new hardware, I did briefly look into a newer desktop system. But from what I could tell, the 9020 MT was one of the last chassis that had that kind of internal layout and capacity. Also, the 9020 was a popular computer to use as a Hacintosh which meant there would be decent support for it, even if it wasn’t all the latest. So with that decided, I bought a Dell Optiplex 9020 from eBay and ordered the other parts I would be using from Amazon. Here’s the full chart with prices including sales tax and shipping.
|Dell 9020 MT Desktop i7-4770 (eBay)
|2 * G.Skill F3-1600C9D 2 X 8Gb DDR3 SDRAM (Amazon)
|2 * WD 6TB Blue HDD – 5400 RPM WD60EZAZ (Amazon)
|Samsung – 860 EVO 500GB Internal SATA SSD (Amazon)
|Asus 90DD0200-B20010 Internal Blu-Ray Writer (Amazon)
|Fenvi T919 PCI-E WiFi Adapter 1750Mbps (Amazon)
|IOCrest SATA II 4 x PCI RAID Host Controller Card (Amazon)
|2 * Hard Drive Caddy 0DN8MY DN8MY for DELL OptiPlex (Amazon)
|SilverStone SDP08 3.5 to 2 X 2.5-Inch Bay Converter (Amazon)
|Active DisplayPort to DVI-D Adapter/Video Converter (Amazon)
|DisplayPort to DVI-D Adapter/Video Converter (Amazon)
|Benfei 15 Pin SATA Power Y-Splitter Cable 8 Inches – 2 Pack (Amazon)
|Relper-Lineso 6-pack 18-Inch Right-Angle SATA III Cable (Amazon)
The two 6Tb drives are for holding movie editing and for the Time Machine backup drive. That’s the same setup I have now but those drives are “only” 2 Tb. So the new build will have triple the capacity of the current build.
I had actually bought the 500Gb SSD 3 years ago when I first started thinking about doing this new build. I saw it on sale and figured I should scoop it up then so I could start the new build – which at that point, I was thinking about doing in place on the current hardware. But the fear of taking the main computer out of commission for that long kept me from making any progress – until I was desperate to move forward and realized that I needed a whole lot more new than just the main drive. Apparently the sale was indeed a good price because the price today is the same as it was then, to the penny. Either that or the SSD really has held its value.
I should also point out that I’m going to move over the second SSD from the current computer since I never use it and it is only there as a backup and so that I can boot into Windows on the rare occasion when that is needed or useful. There’s not a lot of value in the second SSD since it was cheap to start and has been repurposed a few times but if you were to want a second drive and didn’t have one, you’d need to add in that cost to the above.
When you look at the total, it’s a lot of money spent on a computer that is an old model, no question. But when you consider that a Mac Mini, which is the cheapest you can get a Mac, starts at $700 and most of the goodies in my list above would need to be added as external devices, it gets to be stupid expensive and you end up with a messy desktop. Also, a Mac Pro, which would have more capacity and capability in the chassis starts at $6000 which is obviously overkill for anything I would be doing. Which means the reason I started doing a Hacintosh for my desktop computer in the first place is still the reason to do it today: Apple doesn’t offer a good solution for somebody who wants basic power but maximum flexibility in storage and peripherals. And the biggest benefit to going this route is that if I do find I want to migrate to a newer motherboard and chassis, I’ll just transfer over my peripherals at that point. And therefore after deducting the 9020 MT computer itself, I’d be transferring over to that new computer $700.49 worth of stuff. So overall, this build feels like the best choice for me for right now.
(And the beauty of publishing this to a blog is that I know that I’ll be able to look back on this in a few years and either pat myself on the back for making the right call or shake my head at my naivete.)
When all of the hardware arrived, putting it together was pretty simple – just loaded up the empty chassis with all of the goodies. The only special case worth noting is about how to handle the 3.5 bay to 2.5 SSD converter. I have posted about this previously, so see that post for details on how to install the bay converter. Now the computer is built and the hardware is done. Time to get working on the MacOS installation.