How to build the OS X Dell Mini 9 Hackbook – The Easy Way


There are several guides on the Internet on how to install Leopard OS X onto a Dell Mac Mini 9. This setup creates a netbook affectionately known as the MacBook Mini or MacBook Nano. Most of these guides involve the creation of a USB installation drive or the use of an external DVD drive. In today’s tutorial I will explain how to avoid those ponderous steps.

Building the fastest and most responsive Dell Mini 9 Mac for a price less than the stock Dell Mini 9 with the same specs and lower grade components from Dell is really quite simple and should take less than an hour. The one caveat is you will need to have access to a genuine Intel Mac machine.


One of the nicest features of the Dell Mini 9 and OS X is that everything works right out of the box. There is no need to run kexts or other patched code to get things working. All the hardware including the LAN jack, the wireless card, audio and video out works after the installation and upgrade to OS X 10.5.6.

This project should cost around $450-500 if you buy things frugally. The Dell Outlet store is a great place to pick up a base model Mini 9 for around $200 or less if you have a Dell coupon, which appear frequently online. The Dell Vostro A90 is another option as it is the same machine as the Dell Mini 9 and comes with built in bluetooth support. Recently Dell was selling that model for $199, so always keep your eyes out for deals.

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You can pick up the base model which usually has a 4GB SSD (Solid State Drive), Ubuntu for the OS and 512MB of DDR2 memory since we will be replacing all these parts. If you desire to have a webcam then the price will go up slightly.

For the replacement components pick up a 2GB stick of DDR2 PC5300 SODIMM memory for around $10-20 depending on whether you like doing the rebate thing. Next make sure you buy or own a legit copy of Leopard OS X or buy it for $129. Finally grab a RunCore SSD drive which can be found here at My Digital Discount

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The RunCore SSDs are currently the fastest SSDs that fit the Dell Mini 9. They are also great for this type of installation because they have a built in USB connector making the installation of OS X really quite simple. It is recommended to get a 16GB SSD or higher because Leopard takes up around 9 GB.

Next download this file and put it on a spare USB stick to copy onto your OS X install when ready.

One final note for this installation you will need to have access to a genuine Intel Mac. The RunCore drive will connect via the USB connection to the Intel Mac from which we will install OS X.

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An important piece of information is that the USB connector on the RunCore is very delicately soldered onto the SSD card. The USB connector is a micro connector and is moderately hard to connect. In fact my first RunCore drive met with disaster as I snapped the USB connector off the chip. Luckily it still worked using the other installation method for OS X.


For this installation I used a 32 GB RunCore SSD and my MacBook Pro for the installation and upgrade the Mini 9 with 2 GB of Crucial memory.

So here is the recipe for OS X running on the Dell Mini 9 goodness:

1. Insert the Retail Leopard OS X Installation Disc into the genuine Mac. Make sure the RunCore SSD is connected to the Mac via the USB connection. Fire up the Mac and boot from the Install Disc. You can do this by setting the install disc as the default boot device from StartUp under Preferences in the host Mac’s OS X or you can hold down the Option button while booting up the Mac and selecting the CD from the boot selection screen.

2. Next we will want to format the RunCore SSD. Select the Disk Utility from the Utilities column in the menu bar. Go to the Partition tab and create a single Mac OS X Extended (Journaled) partition. Go to Options and select GUID Partition Table. Then hit apply.


3. Now its showtime! Go to the Installer and install OS X to the SSD partition you just created. I highly recommend selecting the custom installation option and removing all Language packs and printer drivers to conserve SSD space. Sit back as the installation process will take about an hour.

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4. Once the machine reboots with the SSD as the boot drive you will go through the set up process. Once you get to the registration screen you can hit command – Q to skip it. No go to the Apple logo on the top left of the screen and click on Software Update. You should have the 10.5.6 update as an upgrade option, install it and follow the directions. An alternative method is to download the 10.5.6 Combo Update from Apple here –


5. Reboot the genuine Mac using the SSD drive as the boot drive and copy the previously downloaded DellEFI file onto the SSD. Execute the file by double clicking on it and select “Custom” and UNCHECK the box about generating a hardware-specific DSDT file. This prevents booting issues on first boot after moving the SSD from the Mac to the Dell. Do not change any other checked selections and leave all the other boxes alone.

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6. Shut down and remove the SSD from the USB port. Turn the Dell Mini 9 over and unscrew the two screws from the larger panel at the base of the machine. Removing the panel will reveal the DDR2 memory and STEC SSD card on the motherboard.

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7. Flip out the tabs on the side of the memory stick to remove the DDR2 512MB stick and replace it with the DDR2 2GB stick.

8. Unscrew the two small screws holding down the STEC SSD in place. Without the screws it should pop up at a 45 degree angle. Now pull it out and replace it with your newly installed OS X RunCore SSD and screw it into place. Replace the panel and reinsert the screws. One more step and you are almost done.

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9. Power up your MacBook Mini 9, if you did everything right you should be greeted by the gray Apple logo and then loading your OS X installation. We will run the DellEFI one more time. Choose “Custom” and hit generate the DSDT file while leaving everything else unchecked. It will ask you to reboot and you are finished!


Congratulations you are now the proud owner of what I like to call a MacBook Mini 9. After this installation everything should work out of the box including the Remote Disc feature found in the MacBook Air.

I highly suggest joining the forums where they have a large volume of information and most every problem encountered has probably been discussed and most likely addressed.

If you want to have a more “authentic” looking Mac with your Mini 9 I suggest you go on eBay and look for vinyl Apple decals to cover up the disfiguring Dell logo on the outside lid.

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Good luck and enjoy your new MacBook Mini 9 experience.

I would like to credit the folks at with providing the resources for this tutorial and Lee Goldstein for helping me with this project.

  66 comments for “How to build the OS X Dell Mini 9 Hackbook – The Easy Way

  1. Adam
    May 4, 2009 at 11:50 am

    Awesome article! I’ve been reading up for a while now on how to install Leopard on Mini 9s and this seems by far the most practical way (with the USB connector on the SSD drive). Do you think this would work with the Dell XPS M1330? They also have SSD drives, so I figure if I upgraded to one with a USB connector, it should work the same way? I’d rather just get the Mini 9, but the 2gb of ram kills it for me 🙁

  2. Tom
    May 4, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    Hey Adam,

    It only works with the Dell Mini 9 because the components are “Mac” compatible. Since Post PPC Macs are intel machines as long as the components have drivers written for them, then OS X should work. Other Dells will not work with this install. Sorry.

  3. Tom
    May 4, 2009 at 2:25 pm

  4. Scott
    May 4, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    My wife is interested in one of these to use with her writing career. Does this machine perform well with Office 2008? If Apple doesn’t release something like this by July, I may pull the trigger on one.

  5. Tom
    May 4, 2009 at 8:35 pm


    Office 2008 works fine with it. I prefer OpenOffice over the latest Microsoft Office package, but that is a matter of choice.

  6. Tom
    May 5, 2009 at 12:59 am

  7. Bayouman
    May 5, 2009 at 3:09 am

    The question bigger than how is why? Why would you put a superior OS on an inferior computer? We’re dumping our Dell’s. They’re crappy boxes that are failing miserably. You get what you pay for. Cheap. And when the replacement parts do come in, they arrive warped? What happened to quality control? Is this what Microsoft is pushing in their ads?

    And lets examine “hackintosh” for a second. Hack. To break. To break into.

    That takes a lot of integrity. It’s not just CEOs that have questionable ethics, obviously. The people are just as guilty!

  8. Lou Cioccio
    May 5, 2009 at 7:15 am

    Good article. I too have a hackintosh tower ASUS P5W running 10.5.6 very stable with dual DVI monitors.

  9. Tom
    May 5, 2009 at 9:22 pm

  10. Tom
    May 5, 2009 at 9:23 pm

  11. Tom
    May 5, 2009 at 9:23 pm

  12. Tom
    May 5, 2009 at 9:24 pm

  13. Tom
    May 5, 2009 at 9:25 pm–the-easy-way-.aspx

  14. Tom
    May 5, 2009 at 9:25 pm

  15. Tom
    May 5, 2009 at 9:26 pm

  16. Tom
    May 5, 2009 at 9:28 pm

  17. Tom
    May 5, 2009 at 9:29 pm

  18. Gerald
    May 9, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    Just followed your instructions with a used base model Mini 9 I got on eBay for $200–works like a charm! I miss, however, the two-finger scrolling on the trackpad of my MacBook Pro. Any way to restore that via software? I seem to recall something long ago that achieved this. In any case THANK YOU for the AWESOME tips. FYI: if you file away the two dimples on the USB cord plug before trying to insert into the SSD, the fit is easy and there’s little chance of snapping the connector.

  19. Tom
    May 10, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    Gerald, great tip about the micro-USB plug!

  20. Mr. Smith
    May 11, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    Hello i am about to hacintosh my dell mini 9 i am doing a little research and ran across this. my only problem is that this guide seems to be more expensive and difficult than just buying the disk and dvd drive and installing the system, what are the advantages and disadvantages to doing it this way and what are the differences between the two? thanks.

  21. Mr. Smith
    May 11, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    OK! i understand everything much better after re-reading the guide i already have a 16gb ssd and DDR2 2gb stick can i just take the 16gb ssd out and put the osx on it and put it back in the mini, and what do i need to do with the DDR2 2gb stick should i leave it in the mini or do i need to put anything on it?

  22. Tom
    May 11, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    The 2GB stick you can install or keep. 2GB is optimal and the largest size RAM that will work in the Dell Mini 9.

    As long as you can mount the SSD via USB then you should be OK with this method. Otherwise you may have to go the other route that was documented on Gizmodo –

  23. Tom
    May 13, 2009 at 2:21 pm

  24. Ken C
    May 13, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    Thanks for this very helpful guide. I am using it with my Runcore 64GB SSD. I just want to ask a clarifying question. It might be obvious but I want to ask about “step 5”.

    In “step 5”, I am running the DellEFI application. I have unchecked the box about generating a hardware-specific DSDT file. I presume after that I would then click “install” to close and finish off with the DellEFI program? Is that the case? You did not say so. So I’m not quite sure.

    With respect to the DellEFI program, can you comment on the seemingly different “versions” that are out there? There seems to be many???

    As well, looks like Apple just came up with OS X 10.5.7 over the last few days. Any comments or issues that might cause? I note that the DellEFI program has a reference to 10.5.5 and 10.5.6 with respect to the keyboard preference pane.

    Thanks again for your guide and your help.


  25. Tom
    May 13, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    Ken C,

    You will need to uncheck installing the DSDT file with the RunCore connected to the Intel Mac. You do not want the authentic Intel Mac’s hardware to be the one the RunCore looks for on boot.

    The run the DSDT file only once the Runcore is installed in the Dell Mini 9 with all the other boxes unchecked.

    There are several versions of the DellEFI program since the people who wrote it are making improvements and tweaks as time goes by. The best way to find out what they are doing is to follow the forums here –

    Here are some reports on the 10.5.7 installation and updates. I personally would keep things at 10.5.6 until further reports come in.

  26. Rene
    May 13, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    Followed the tutorial. Works like a charm. Had some issues with keyboard (didn’t like a small command key) but solved it by swapping the control key with the command key.

    I’ve been using this min macbook for a few days now and have not had any problems. I did run into a problem when upgrading to 10.5.7. The graphics went haywire after the update. I had a feeling it was going to freak out after upgrading but took a chance anyways. The fix was easy. Just pop the SSD drive out and plug it back into the the macbook. Boot using the SSD drive and re-running the DellEFI app selecting all the options selected instep 5 of this tutorial. Reboot then shutdown. Pop the drive back into the dell mini9 and Viola! it works.

  27. Ken C
    May 13, 2009 at 7:45 pm


    Thanks for the quick reply and your additional tips.

    I am still not sure. Sorry if I seem confused by this. But at the end of Step 5, after I have unchecked the DSDT option, do I QUIT the DellEFI program or do I click the “Install” button at the bottom of the window? That is what I am unclear about. In other words, how do I “get out of” the DellEFI program?

    Thanks again.

  28. Drew
    May 13, 2009 at 10:44 pm

    Will the Vostro A90 also work out of the box? (It comes with a 16GB SSD for the same price as the Mini 9)

  29. Dave Perry
    May 17, 2009 at 4:19 am

    I’m really interested in trying this method.
    Will it work in the same way on an Ubuntu Dell Mini 9?
    Is it true that before installing the new SSD with OSX on it that one should power up the Mini 9 as it comes in order for the bluetooth etc. to work properly?
    Advice will be much appreciated.

  30. Tom
    May 18, 2009 at 1:52 am

    The Vostro A90 is the same machine as the Dell Mini 9, just re-branded. Good luck!

    The Ubuntu Mini 9 is the machine I detailed in this tutorial. No new to prepower the machine with Ubuntu, except to make sure that everything works.

    Once the DSDT is unchecked, hit the install button. The install the SSD in the Dell Mini 9 and rerun the DellEFI with only the DSDT checked and then hit install.

  31. Vince
    May 18, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    I have written a step by step guide on how to convert Dell Mini 9 to OS X.
    Check it out here:

    Very useful if you only has 8GB SSD, no Mac available, no external DVD drive…

  32. ricky
    May 23, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    Brilliant!!! An excellent guide….my hackintosh fired up with no problems! Thank you SOOOO much.

  33. ted
    May 24, 2009 at 1:17 am

    Is there a way to make two partitions on the 64GB Run Core SSD so I can boot the Dell Mini 9 using either Mac OS or Ubuntu? How much space should I use for each OS?

  34. indie1776
    June 22, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    Hi. Just started to follow these instructions and have fallen at the first fence. Hope you can offer some advice. I have a 2009 mac mini running 10.5.7 and i also have a family pack of 10.5.4 universal which I have used on my kids PPC macs.

    However when I try and boot from this dvd the mac mini will not start from it. Everything goes quiet for a few minuts with a grey screen and evantually the system restarts.

    Any ideas? I am thinking the dvd may not be a universal one… do you know how to tell if that is the case?

    Or is it an issue with 10.5.7? Not sure I see how – I have tried setting the startup disk to the dvd from settings as well as holding down the C key during boot and the option key.

    Any help gratefully received.


  35. Tom
    June 23, 2009 at 1:00 am

    Hi Indie1776,

    The issue is that the earlier Leopard discs (10.5.4 and lower) do not have the drivers for the newer Mac hardware. Thus the new nvidia graphics card in the Mac Mini is the issue. I think you could install off the disc that came with the Mac Mini onto the SSD drive.

    Otherwise you may need to get an older Intel Mac to install from.

    Good luck, let us know how it goes.

  36. Tom
    June 23, 2009 at 1:01 am

    ted –

    Keep at least 16GB for the OS X. 8GB will require stripping stuff out for a small amount of room.

  37. Alan
    July 2, 2009 at 9:38 am

    Thank you! This worked beautifully. I have also done the install without a RunCore, and this is definitely easier. But the greatest advantage of this, is the RunCore itself. It is FAST! This Hackintosh definitely boots faster than my MacBookAir. It is fast becoming my favorite machine. Many thanks

  38. Vince
    August 15, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    This is what I did for installing OS X on DELL MINI 9 .
    The instruction is good for folks who does not have a MAC and has the default 8GB SSD.
    If you have more than 8 GB SSD, lots of steps can be skipped.
    See here:

  39. Mike
    October 5, 2009 at 3:36 am

    Yeah, we got it Vince. Nice picture.

    I have XP on a partition of the Runcore (64) already. Is there any special steps, or is it basically the same process? How about choosing the partition that boots on start up?

    Thanks for this GREAT guide.

    A90 w/Runcore 64

  40. October 5, 2009 at 3:38 am

    Yeah, we got it Vince. Nice picture.

    I have XP on a partition of the Runcore (64) already. Is there any special steps, or is it basically the same process? How about choosing the partition that boots on start up?

    Thanks for this GREAT guide.

    A90 w/Runcore 64

  41. Dani
    October 11, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    Thank you for this great guide! I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of my Dell Mini 10v–I have big plans for that little machine.

    Have you tried installing Snow Leopard onto the RunCore drive instead of Leopard? It seems to me that the more streamlined OS would be a great choice for a hackbook, but I’m not sure about drivers/kexts, etc.

  42. Dave
    January 9, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    You mentioned that a person needs an Intel Mac for this installation? I am running a iMac G5 Hero with a Power PC processor. Will the Runcore method work with my setup as well?

  43. Sean
    February 5, 2010 at 4:57 am

    Is there away to use Snow Leopard 10.6 instead of OS X Leopard? I was looking to see if the newer OS was possible?? Thanks again for the assistance!

  44. October 13, 2010 at 6:41 am

    Good idea. If it is useful for the Dell mini 10 netbook?

    • December 13, 2010 at 1:50 pm

      This process is totally different with Dell mini 10. But there’s also a way. Try and google it

  45. October 13, 2010 at 6:41 am

    Good idea. If it is useful for the Dell mini 10 netbook?

  46. Andre111663
    May 10, 2012 at 10:04 am


  47. JeffK88
    June 23, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    Does anyone check this still?

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