3 Jan 2012

Mini Me - OSX on the Dell Mini 9

I wasn't going to write this post as there are plenty of others detailing the experience and procedure, however I'm so happy with the result I felt obliged to spread the love.

Basically (as many others have done) I've turned my Dell Mini into a pocket sized Apple OSX Netbook, and the results are quite surprising. So, here I'll provide an overview of the procedure I used with a few extra comments covering minor glitches I encountered and how to fix them.

Firstly, you'll need a Mini 9 of suitable spec, i.e with a 16GB SSD, 8GB is too small to hold the OS, also if you have 2GB of DDR it will perform MUCH better. You'll also need a retail copy of OSX 10.6 (The OEM version is no use) and an 8GB USB key (I use a hi-speed Patriot Xporter XT).

To kick things off you need to prepare the key, this is done as follows by simply formatting and 'restoring' the OSX DVD image too it.

As shown simply drag the mounted OSX DVD image to 'Source' and your USB key, formatted with 1 MBR partition as Mac OSX Extended (Journaled), to 'Destination', click 'Restore' and let it do its stuff.

Next, download the NetBookBootMaker and install it to your OSX install USB Key.


Before you install OSX to your Mini there are a couple of settings you'll need to check in the BIOS. To access the BIOS hit the '2' key at boot. Make sure 'USB BIOS Legacy Support' is enabled of else you won't be able to boot from USB. Insert the USB key, reboot and hit '0'.

From the boot menu select the USB device, you will boot into the familiar OSX installation screen, select your language but do not begin the installation. We first need to prepare the internal SSD, this is done using the 'Disk Utility', accessed from the top menu, simply select the SSD and format as Mac OSX Extended (Journaled) with the GUID option. Once done you are good to continue with the installation.

Select 'Customize' and de-select all extra options (languages, printer drivers etc), although they are useful there is limited space on the 16GB SSD, as a rule they are invariably unused anyway. Once done proceed with the installation. The system will restart when it is finished and you can input your details as you would with a regular new OSX build.

Ok, we're all good, now to update to 10.6.3. My machine took the OSX 10.6.2 Combo quite happily (always download and use the Combo installs, DO NOT use software update), however 10.6.3 took a bit of tweaking to get sleep functionality working properly. Download 10.6.3 v1.1 from HERE.

You may also want to check and/or upgrade your Mini 9 BIOS. Version A06 seems to be the preferred release and Dell provide a really neat utility for doing so (pictured below), the download page and link for this is HERE.

It's all quite straightforward (although you do need to run it from a Windows PC). Run the utility and 'Install to USB Flash Drive', boot the Mini 9 from it and upgrade the BIOS. Make sure you have the mains power plugged in whilst doing this as if things fail halfway through you could brick your Mini.

Back to 10.6.3 then. Fixing the sleep function took a few mods for me. In the System Preferences under 'Security' disable secure virtual memory, next open Terminal and type the following commands..

sudo pmset -a hibernatemode 0
sudo rm /var/vm/sleepimage

Next I needed to remove one of the kext files, this took some finding out but fixed the lockups I was experiencing when the machine returned (or didn't) from sleep. The file path (and file) I removed was found at the following location..

/System/Library/Extensions/IOATAFamily.kext

Finally I re-ran (Install) the NetBookInstaller (you'll find it in the Applications folder) and rebooted, making sure 'USB Legacy Support' was disabled in the BIOS. For me all was well and sleep/resume functioned perfectly.

An added bonus of NetBookInstaller is the extra TrackPad utility it drops into the System Preferences panel. 

This is really cool and provides options for two finger and horizontal scrolling plus tap and drag, it's the icing on the cake if you're a Mac user.

So, there you have it, the procedure I followed to 'Hackintosh' my trusty Dell Mini 9. I'm still really surprised with the outcome, not only because it was very easy to do but also in how it performs. It boots in around 30 seconds, which is almost twice as quick as my MacBook Pro, itself no slouch with a 2.8GHZ CPU, 8GB Memory and a 500GB Seagate Momentus XT SSD hybrid HD.

Below is a photo of the beast itself. In my opinion a 'Must Have' for every man-bag.





1 comment:

Darren Lee said...

Thank You!!
With this advice, I FINALLY got OSX on my Mini 9, and its awesome

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