Is Hackintosh Illegal?

The quick answer to this is, yes it is illegal. By creating Hackintosh versions of the macOS, you are violating the End User License Agreement (EULA). Whether or not this is technically illegal has sparked quite a bit of debate and there have even been court cases involving it.

My name is Eric and I love to work with computers of all kinds. Right now I have been focusing a lot on Macs and I like to explore many different issues involving them. As I learn new things I enjoy passing the information on to others.

In this article, I will briefly describe what Hackintosh is for those who are not familiar with it. I will then discuss some of the legal issues and questions that often surround it.

If you would like to learn more about Hackintosh and its legality, keep reading and feel free to form your own opinion about it.

What is Hackintosh?

If you are not familiar with Hackintosh or you have heard of it but are not really sure what it is, no worries, I will briefly explain it here.

The Mac’s operating system or macOS as it is known has been designed to work solely on Macintosh computers. If you want to use macOS, then you purchase a Macbook or some other type of Mac. While this is the norm for most people, others don’t want to do this.

Whether it’s because they feel Mac hardware is too expensive or they prefer PC hardware, either way, the goal is to get the macOS to work on a non-Mac computer. Since the OS is designed only for Macs, the macOS must be modified or hacked to make it work.

This is where we get the term Hackintosh. It is a hacked macOS that runs on a PC or other type of non-Mac computer.

As an engineer, getting an operating system to work on a system it was not designed for is an intriguing idea and a challenge that some computer enthusiasts may enjoy along with the benefits of being able to run it on any hardware that they want to.

If those who develop and create Hackintosh machines, get the software legally, make the changes themselves, and use their own hardware, how can it be illegal? There is a lot of debate over this so let’s dive into some of the information and see what you think.

For more information on Hackintosh, check out the video below.

Is It Really Illegal?

The question can be complicated. When you download and use an official macOS you are agreeing to an End User License Agreement. The EULA created by Apple, specifically says that the software is to only be run on hardware designed and produced by Apple.

There are multiple reasons for this and we won’t go into those here, but by creating a Hackintosh machine you are definitely violating the EULA. So, is it illegal to violate the EULA? In most cases, this comes down to a copyright issue.

Think of a similar situation where you take a popular song by a famous artist. You like the music but not the lyrics so you change them. If you are just singing your modified song in the shower, it’s probably not a problem.

If you sing the modified song to an audience, record and produce the modified song or try to profit off of it in any way, then you violate the original artist’s copyright and that is illegal.

In other words, if you are using a Hackintosh machine for personal use only, it’s probably not a big deal. It is still violating the EULA but not the copyright laws. If you are creating Hackintosh machines and trying to sell them, then Apple can come after you with a lawsuit.

This has happened in the past and Apple has won lawsuits and put the companies out of business. You also can’t use the machines for work at a company or business. If they are involved in making you money, then they may come after you.

Remember that most companies get their software licenses and usage audited regularly, so if they were found using a version that violates the EULA, it could put that company at great risk and possibly put them out of business.

So using a Hackintosh at your job is probably a bad idea. As far as using a Hackintosh machine for your own personal use, it may be considered unethical but, Apple is not really going to know and probably not going to waste their time coming after you.

If it’s for personal use only, there is probably no need to worry. The FBI is not going to show up at your door to arrest you for an illegal Hackintosh machine.

Can I Share my Modified macOS Version?

Many may find it interesting and fun to modify a version of macOS to work on a PC and create their own Hackintosh. You’ll probably be safe as long as it is just for your own use, but what if your buddies would like to try the same thing. Can you share your Hackintosh OS?

Sharing your hacked-up version of macOS with your friends can be ok as long as you trust them to keep it for personal use. You’ll just want to be careful to ensure that they know to not use it for anything that might cause concern. Remember you are still in violation of the EULA.

If you were to take it a step further and provide your Hackintosh OS on a public share where multiple users or anyone can download and use it, then you are putting yourself at great risk. You’ll have no way of knowing who is using it and how it will be used.

Also by providing it publicly, you are making it known to the world, including Apple, that you are violating the user agreement. This could trigger them to come after you. While it is unlikely that you would be thrown in jail or anything like that, you could get some type of fine.

Final Words

I hope I have provided you some information on what Hackintosh is and some insight into the legalities of modifying a licensed OS. I am not a lawyer so I can’t give you legal advice or an exact interpretation of what is legal and what is not, but I hope that this can provide some help.

I will let you form your own opinion on whether this is illegal, ethical, and should be done. Please let us know what you think, we would love to hear from you. 

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