Is it legal to install Hackintosh?

Home / Technology / Know-How / Hackintosh? Sounds cool, but also kind of illegal ...

This article is the 1st part of the büronerds Hackintosh series. You can find the complete series in our Hackintosh guide.

Apple stands for style, performance and perfect usability. Unfortunately, however, also for prices that are often not in proportion to the performance offered. If you don't want to forego the stability and user-friendliness of a Mac despite a limited budget, you have to dig deep into the technical bag of tricks. With a little preparation and planning, OSX can be installed on many Windows PC platforms. In Part 1 of our Hackintosh series, we explain how to do what you are allowed to do and what not.

What exactly is a Hackintosh anyway?

A hackintosh is a fine thing. You enjoy the benefits and features of the latest Apple operating system. You can put the hardware together (almost) however you want and in the end you even save money. And on top of that, it's not illegal to assemble your own personal hackintosh. Probably at least, because as always when it comes to legal questions, the answer is not that simple ...

But before we clarify the question of whether you "That is allowed at all", let's clarify the question "What that is". A Hackintosh is basically any PC system on which a version of the Apple operating system (currently OSX "El Capitan", 10.11.5) is installed. In general, one can say that the hardware that is built into Windows PCs is also compatible with OSX. Apple uses the same manufacturers for its devices that also produce the components for Windows PCs: Gigabyte supplies the motherboards, Nvidia the graphics cards, Intel the processors and so on ...

The main differences between PCs and Macs are much more in the design and, above all, in the operating system. While Windows 10 or various Linux distributions run on PCs, Apple also uses a special method with its own OS when it comes to software. Conversely, this means: In essence, Macs and PCs are much more similar than meets the eye. From an “anatomical” point of view, the PC and Mac are more or less siblings and, from a “chemical” point of view, they are still cousins.

The legal basis: Can I use OSX independently of an Apple device?

Even if the relationship is only distant overall: PC hardware and Apple software go well together in many combinations. The term “Hackintosh” is not just about technical feasibility. Somehow the whole thing sounds a bit illegal. In fact, by installing OSX on a PC system, you are entering a legal gray area.

What does Apple say about the Hackintosh?

The first question, of course, has to be what Apple has to say about the use of its software. A look at the EULA (End-User-License-Agreement) from OSX will quickly help. It says, among other things:
The Apple software (including Boot ROM code), any third party software, documentation, interfaces, content, fonts and any data accompanying this License whether preinstalled on Apple-branded hardware, on disk, in read only memory, on any other media or in any other form (collectively the "Apple Software") are licensed, not sold, to you by Apple Inc. (“Apple”) for use only under the terms of this License. Apple and / or Apple’s licensors retain ownership of the Apple software itself and reserve all rights not expressly granted to you.
So Apple only grants you the license to use OSX, but you do not own the operating system. It remains the property of the licensor, who according to this logic can also determine what is and what is not covered by the license. Apple doesn't sell you OSX. Apple grants you the license to use the software. That is a small but subtle difference (at least for lawyers). These license and usage conditions are clearly regulated in the OSX EULA:
The grants set forth in this License do not permit you to, and you agree not to, install, use or run the Apple Software on any non-Apple-branded computery, or to enable others to do so.
Apple clearly forbids the use of its software on non-Apple computers - goodbye Hackintosh! That is of course a shame, but it sounds logical. So you are not allowed to install OSX on the PC of your choice. In the following you will therefore read where you can find the cutest kitten videos on the WWW. It was just kidding, fortunately this fact is not that clear after all. Now it is getting complicated, because German and European law also play a role here.

What is the legal situation in Germany?

In general, an EULA is a license agreement that regulates the use of the software in question. Apple only grants you usage rights with its OSX EULA. The software does not become your property, even if (and you should definitely do this) you have bought OSX in the Apple Store. So if Apple had their way, you wouldn't even have the software. From this it follows in turn: You are not allowed to do what you want or can with it! But that would be like "buying" a car and the manufacturer then says: “Sorry, but you don't own the car! You only own the usage rights. By the way, you are not allowed to drive to Holland - and please remove the miracle tree immediately! " Sounds weird? Luckily, German law and the German courts see it the same way. And that's why that's why the Apple Eula is currently not valid in Germany in many respects.

What does the civil code say?

According to the German Civil Code (BGB) and the European Court of Justice (ECJ), the "provision of software for a long time and for a fee means a sales contract" and in such a contract, ownership of an item is transferred from the seller (Apple) to the buyer (you). From a legal point of view, you are not the licensee of OSX, but the buyer and you can do whatever you want with the Macintosh operating system (very exaggerated and abbreviated). In any case, Apple cannot forbid you to install and use OSX on a “non-Apple-branded computer” (the kittens have to wait). So there is not a single case in which Apple calls a private person into the sued the points described here in a German court. Apple knows they probably wouldn't succeed. It looks different in a commercial setting (The best known case is Apple's lawsuit against the Psystar company) ... So you really shouldn't want to make any money with Hackintoshs.

Where do I get a license for OSX from?

This is now relatively easy again: You buy a retail DVD of OSX "Snow Leopard" (10.6.3) in the Apple store. With this you acquire the license to use OSX from Apple and "buy" the operating system according to German law. And now to turn the law upside down and close the subject: Get a license for OSX (by buying the Snow Leopard retail DVD in the Apple Store), do not screw Hackintosh systems together for commercial purposes and limit their use to your home office or the completely private area. The risk that you will then be sued by Apple is very, very low - as is the chances of success of such a lawsuit in a German court.

Hack the Mac? Yes and no!

If you want to delve deeper into these legal questions, we recommend an appropriate degree or the consultation of a specialist lawyer. But for those who find a "yes and no" answer to the question about the legality of a Hackintosh, we will explain in the meantime which hardware components you have the best chances for a stable Hackintosh: We present you the büronerds-Hackintosh !Finally, a statement on our own behalf: Of course, this article does not constitute a legal opinion and does not replace the expertise of a specialist lawyer. Therefore, please do not rely on our expertise in court and write comments diligently if you know better 😉
Childhood in the 80s, youth in the 90s, studies at the beginning of the millennium. Political scientist, career changer in online marketing. Late-calling blogger. For me, the 286 is not a long drink, Milli Vanilli is not an ice cream and the Millennium Bug is not a science fiction film. I love appsthat increase productivity in the office and simplify work processes. On this blog I regularly let you guys into mine Toolbox look 😉
Posted in Know-HowTagged DIY, hackintosh, hardware, productivity, series