Hackintosh Catalina Upgrade

Upgrading to Catalina was pretty straightforward but there were a few things that I was very grateful that I had.

  1. An external drive with multiple Time Machine backups.
  2. My original macOS installer with vanilla Clover.
  3. My most recent customised Clover EFI folder on Dropbox.

I used all three of these at least once. My original Mojave Hackintosh had the Kexts installed to /Library/Extensions which turns out to be a bad idea in my opinion. When it comes to upgrading you want your macOS hard drive to be completely unmodified if possible.

If you have everything contained inside Clover then all your really need to do is upgrade your Kexts and Clover to the latest versions and you shouldn’t have any problems. I used Hackintool to help quickly find and download new versions of everything.

After the upgrade the only thing that wasn’t working was Bluetooth. You can get an updated BrcmPatchRAM that works with Catalina from here.

My latest EFI folder that I’m using with Catalina on my Thinkpad X280 is also here if you’re interested.

Pixel Screen Repair

I have an original Pixel phone that hasn’t been used since it was dropped and the LCD stopped working. Other than the screen I was pretty sure that it was still perfectly fine, so when a relative needed a phone, I decided to order a replacement screen and swapt it out.

I hadn’t done a screen replacement before and it turns out to be not quite as simple as it looks in YouTube videos but after some heat and a little bit of force I was able to remove the broken screen. There was quite a lot of gunk to remove from the adhesive, and the new frame sticker to contend with, but eventually I got the new screen connected and stuck down and it actually worked! I’d call that a win.

Dropbox is my Webhost

Dropbox disabled HTML rendering in 2016 (I think) which stopped people from hosting their static websites on Dropbox. I still liked the idea so I started doing some digging and found a few services that kind of still let you do this. I found KISSr, DropPages, and site44. They all seem to work in a similar fashion, you login with your Dropbox account and authorise them to access a certain folder, then they serve the requests for your website by retrieving the files from your Dropbox. Maybe they cache them, maybe they sync your Dropbox folder to their server, not sure.

It’s always more fun to build your own, so I put together a Ruby app to do something similar and that is what is serving this site. When you request a page it requests the corresponding file from Dropbox and delivers it to your browser. It supports images, js, html, css, fonts, pretty much anything that is a static file. I am deliberately not doing any caching or local storage, so every request, everything is requested from Dropbox. The advantage of this method is that the site that you’re browsing now is always exactly what is in my Dropbox folder and any time that I make a change it is instantly reflected here. The disadvantage is the bandwidth and number of downloads which could eventually hit Dropbox’s limits, we’ll just have to see how that goes.

Thinkpad X280 Hackintosh

Introduction

In the 10 months that I’ve owned my Thinkpad X280 I’ve gone back and forth between Windows 10, many different Linux distributions, Chrome OS, and now, MacOS!

I probably should have just bought a MacBook but there are a lot of things that I really like about this laptop, the keyboard for starters, also the overall design, weight and form factor are really nice.

I’ve owned many Macs, and despite having some issues with the desktop, I find it the best overall fit for what I need to do and it’s where I’m most productive. I’ve never tried Hackintoshing before but there is an active and very smart community of enthusiasts out there. https://www.tonymacx86.com is probably the biggest and most well known.

Resources

tonymacx86

Vice article

Bios settings

Creating the installer

The Journey

I could only find one solitary post where anyone mentioned MacOS on the Thinkpad X280 and that was here. The author mentions that he got everything mostly working using an EFI folder from the closest Thinkpad model which is the T480. Some Googling and reading of Reddit threads indicated that the EFI from a user named maemo8086 was the best but unfortunately he’s since removed it from Bitbucket. I was eventually able to find a fork of his repository and download that but I can’t find it again now to link in this article.

Using the EFI from the T480 and Rehabman’s guide to create the installer (Option 1) I created a MacOS Mojave 14.6 bootable USB using my old MacBook Pro. I read the linked Bios settings and ended up disabling Secure Boot and VT-d. With that done I hit F12 to boot from my USB and hoped.

The pleasure of seeing the Apple logo on my Thinkpad and eventually having it boot into the MacOS installer was very satisfying. I’m pretty familiar with the MacOS installer so I opened Disk Utility, formated my drive as APFS and then kicked off the install. Oh boy, here we go, reboot…

Incompatible Hard Disk

It turns out that the X280 has an M.2 NVME SSD hard drive that is not compatible with MacOS. I read a thread by someone with a different laptop with an incompatible SSD that ended up replacing it with a Samsung 970 Evo so I decided to get the same. It turns out that now there is a 970 Evo Plus and all my local stores only carry the Plus which isn’t compatible with MacOS. Even online it was difficult to find the older 970 Evo but eventually I did find and order it. A few days later my new drive turned up and… it was the Plus!! Nooooooo.

Quite a bit of Googling later and I discovered that there is a firmware update for the Plus that allows it to work with MacOS. I downloaded the firware update, copied it to a USB and flashed my drive. Finally I was able to complete the installation and boot into MacOS.

Success

Now I had a working MacOS Mojave on my Thinkpad X280 but there were still a few things that weren’t working.

  1. The battery indicator
  2. Display scaling
  3. Wifi/Bluetooth
  4. Battery life

I eventually got all of these issues resolved and now have a 100% working MacOS install on my Thinkpad. I might cover some of the above fixes in future articles and maybe even a guide.