ASUS Sabertooth X79 + 3930k overclocked to 4.19 Ghz + Mountain Lion 10.8.5
So, my mom's computer died, so I decided it was time for an upgrade. So, I handed off my core 2 duo Snow Leopard hackintosh, overclocked at 4.0 Ghz, maxed out at 8GB, which has served me well for 6 years. Because her computer was in another province, I had to give her the whole thing, so I needed mostly new components.
I wanted to build a new system that would function primarily as a home recording studio computer. I chose the six core processor, because more cores = better performance in the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) world, especially in the new version of Logic Pro and in Ableton Live. Also, the 3930k was $100 off at newegg. I chose mountain lion because I hate Mavericks. I have mountain lion on both of my mac laptops. When I was having trouble with this particular install, I tried Mavericks and it sucked as expected. The most annoying thing being that Finder takes like 3 minutes to load up. I'm also not convinced of the memory pressure thing and prefer to use freememory pro.
1. Antec P183 v3 mid tower case + Antec CP850 - $250 (newegg.ca)
I previously had an Antec Sonata III case with my core 2 duo and liked the way it performed. In that case, I eventually replaced the rear fan with an aftermarket fan from Zantec I think. I also eventually replaced the power supply with a hybrid fanless one from Seasonic (which had this annoying buzz sound anyway). I researched a bit, but it seemed that this one would be among the quietest. It also seemed to have improved features from the Sonata III and, of course, more airflow since it is a larger case.
Ultimately, I'm pretty satisfied. There are Tricool (3 manual speeds) fans at the top and rear, with options to add three more 120mm fans in the front. The two standard fans have manual controls on the back of the case (much more easily accessed than the Sonata III). However, they also respond to the Sabertooth fan speed management. They're each spinning at around 600 RPM right now in light usage. There are 4 standard HDD compartments, 2 SSD/HDD compartments, 1 floppy compartment and 4 cdrom compartments. With each front fan you install you have a choice to lose: the ssd compartments, the hdd compartments or 3/4 of the cdrom compartments. Also, annoyingly, you need special long screws to install SSDs properly and the case only comes with one set. You can purchase another set of screws from antec for too much $. I the SSD with some other screws, but it's pretty lame. You can also mount with converter brackets to the standard HDD bays, but that's another cost again. You can mount an SSD to the floppy drive bay with the bracket that comes with most SSDs, but you have to leave the front cover off (which is what I chose to do for now). The rubber grommets are pretty cool, but are fairly useless with SSDs. But you need them or a compatible washer to keep the screw in place. There's not that much room for cable management under the right panel, but it's manageable with some maneuvering - a little frustrating and took a while though. The panels are made of pretty cheap plastic and are easily scratched, reducing the aesthetic. But, there are lots of open holes for good ventillation and the front drive bay covers all have air filters that are easily removable and seem very easy to clean.
I have no complaints about the CP850 power supply yet and it is also pretty quiet. The CP850 only fits in a few cases, because it's non standard, but the P183v3 is suppose to accommodate standard size power supplies too, if you want to get your own. Getting the included PS was only another $50 though, which seemed like a good deal.
The front panel opens a full 90 degrees and there are 3 usb 3.0 ports and audio jacks (which I don't use).
2. Intel i7 Sandy Bridge (2nd generation) 3930k Six-Core (12 thread) Processor - $490 (newegg.ca)
I really like this processor. It performs very well in Logic Pro X. I ran Evan's benchmark on it and it topped out at 131 tracks at 256 buffer and 44.1 kHz. My core 2 duo could only do around 30 tracks, if I remember correctly. I shouldn't have to worry about dropouts anymore. I haven't extensively tested yet though due to logistical reasons. It's basically 99% free on idle. The multiplier is partially unlocked, but this isn't useable in Mountain Lion.
3. Asus Sabertooth X79 LGA 2011 - $340 (newegg.ca)
I believe this board accommodates both Sandy and Ivy Bridge (but check that out if you're going Ivy). I won't go into all the features, because the product description will tell you. I mainly purchased this board, because it was the only decent one with a legacy PCI slot. I wanted to install my M-Audio Delta 1010 card, which was still holding it's own and still worked with 3rd party drivers (Envy24) under Snow Leopard. Unfortunately, the Envy24 drivers didn't work with this card and Mountain Lion, so I ended up selling the card. So, basically, I could have chosen another board (perhaps cheaper), if I wanted. I think Gigabyte boards work much more easily with Hackintosh's, but this one did the job eventually. This build was challenging, but I'm not sure if it was the board or the video card, but I suspect it was the board. Anyway, it works now. I think the USB 3.0 ports might only work as USB2 in this install, but I have no USB 3.0 devices to test. The "super speed" buses do show up in System Info though, so they might work at spec. Another annoyance in this build is it only has one lead for 2 front usb ports. So, the third port on the front of the case is not used. There are 4 usb 3.0 ports on the back though. All the other onboard features are working in the build as far as I can tell.
It has TUF thermal monitoring, which is actually quite extensive, but the FakeSMC's around don't pick up all the monitors. I did, however, install Windows 7 on another drive, just to verify that all the temps were ok after overclocking. They were. I also wanted to make sure that turbo and speedstep worked in Windows, they did. The heat management on the MB works pretty well, though the Northbridge is a little hot for my liking. Still well WNL.
Of concern was the PCH heatsink + little fan preinstalled on the MB. It is not designed for the fan to be removed. Also, the back panel includes an odd heatsink with an "option" to install a fan. I was worried that not installing the fan would make this heatsink do more harm than good since it offer much less ventilation on the back panel than a standard MB would, but the temps seem ok. Needless to say, I didn't install that little fan. As this is a DAW, I try to minimize the number of fans and fan speed. Which leads into the next component...
4. Enzotech CNB-SI Forged Copper 1100 Heatsink - $17.00 (newegg.ca)
I bought this to replace the heatsink on the southbridge. Since the fan on the stock heatsink is pretty well impossible to remove from the heatsink (and the heatsink would probably be pretty bad without the fan anyway), I hoped to remove it and install this heatsink. I wasn't sure if I could do this or not - in fact, I didn't even realize that this fan was on the board when I bought it (it's been 7 years since I researched computer components). It seemed by spec it would fit though - and it did. The PCH heatsink / fan was pretty easy to remove. I think the screws came off from the underside of the board and then you just unhook a little power lead. The heatsink fan uninstalls all in one piece and can be easily put back on for resale. I slapped some thermal paste on (arctic silver 5) with the dot method and it fit on nicely, even with this little cushion that fits around the chip. The push pins snapped on nice and snug. The PCH sensor reports a nice low temp. So, no little fans on the board.
5. Noctua NH-D14 - $90 (NCIX.ca)
Pretty well the all around highest rated heatsink / fan for the LGA2011. It also had enough ram clearance. There was a coolermaster one that seemed a little better, but didn't have the clearance and I had already ordered the ram. Installs easily. VERY quiet. Comes with sweet thermal paste. I had to install the middle fan a bit lower than the middle to fit into the case, but still covers the whole heatsink.
6. Arctic Silver 5 ($10), Noctua NT-H1 (inc w/ NH-D14), Arctic Silver Arcticlean Thermal Material Remover & Surface Purifier ($7.50).
I find installing thermal paste a little... worrisome. You do it, don't get to see it and hope you did it right. Here's my current temps for the 6 cores overclocked to 4.19 GHz (by baseclock / strap):
Notice, they're a 10 degree differential between cores 1 and 4. It may be due to slight bowing of the chip, according to forums. I thought about underclocking the hotter cores, but under full load they still stay a little under 70 degrees, which seems pretty safe to me, especially since my Macbook Pro's core 2 duo tends to run hotter than that. My core 2 duo ran in the low 40s when idle and overclocked to 4.0 Ghz and never went past 60 degrees, so I was hoping this would be cooler.
I originally used the Arctic Silver 5. I bought it, because again, I was unaware that the NT-H1 was included. It has a pretty thick consistency. After installing it, I was not satisfied with the temps and read that it doesn't spread as well and the NT-H1 and that the NT-H1 was as good with temps. So, I took it off and installed again with the NT-H1. It did seem to have a better consistency. I think the temps probably went down around 1 degree, so pretty pointless. I used the dot method for both, though the Noctua manual says to use the line method with the 3930k. However, upon extensive forum research, it seemed to make little difference and everyone just argued about it. I had already installed the Arctic Silver 5 on the PCH heatsink and wasn't worried about it. I tinted the heatsink as directed, but I doubt it made much difference. I didn't tint the NH-D14.
The remover and purifier works very well, so I definitely recommend that set.
5. G.Skill Ripjaws Z Series 32 GB (4x8) DDR3 2400 Quad Channel - $403 (newegg.ca)
First of all, I wanted quad channel. I also chose the set of 4 instead of 8 for expansion purposes. The board is quad channel, with 8 slots and takes up to 64 GB. So, I can add another 32GB set later, if I want. I chose the 2400, because I didn't know any better, but lower ram MAY have done the trick. Also, poor research struck again. The Sabertooth X79 was spec'd at 1866 max and the 3930k at 1600. However, looks like the bios on the board was updated for the higher ram speeds. I could have also clocked lower and tightened timings. I figured that, really, faster ram is faster ram. By benchmarks, it seems that anything past 1866 has ++ diminishing returns. However, with the baseclock overclock, it may have actually been the right decision. I clocked them at 2096, which oddly shows up at 1600 in About This Mac. But, I was able to do this at max recommended voltage 1.65 v and SPD timings 10-12-12-31. If, I pushed it to 2444, I had to overvolt, which concerned me. And I figured there wasn't much point anyway. I got like a 5% increase in geekbench score with the higher setting, but I'd rather be safe, especially since I've probably got excess power anyway. I chose the Ripjaws Z, because apparently that line was designed for Sandy Bridge. The ram came with two dual fan attachments, but there wasn't room under the Noctua, didn't seem necessary anyway.
6. HIS iSilence 5 FANLESS Radeon HD 6670 - $85 (newegg.ca)
So, this was a little of a non-conventional choice. However, I believe a good one for a DAW. I'm not really much of a gamer. And when I do play, I'd rather lie on the couch and fire up the playstation. Previously, I had heard the pitch - if you get the a fanless video card, the other fans will have to work harder to cool the case and it will be louder overall. However, while that may be true for gamers, it has not been the case for me. I had purchased a video card in the past with a nice big coolermaster fan, but it was still the loudest fan in the system. Then, I switched to a fanless card and had the system damn near silent. So, I opted for the same setup and this card was a reasonable card on sale for a good price. It also seemed to have better specs than some of the other fanless cards in the same price range.
I have to say, I think this card had a fair hand in making this build challenging. I don't think the mountain lion install liked it very much (as you'll read below). However, in the end, it worked just fine, with graphic acceleration. Good quality picture and good video performance when I'm watching NHL Gamecenter (which is basically the most I put it through). In short, I recommend fanless for a DAW, but there may be a better choice for a Hackintosh - a card better supported.
7. OCZ Vertex4 128GB SSD (already owned)
I like the OCZ drives, seem to be among the best performing. Blackmagic gives me around 210/470 MB/s read/write. I use this as my OSX drive. I think 128GB is a good size for a system drive. On the DAW, I choose to delegate functions to separate drives, which seems to be the norm and it works for me. Runs at 6 GB/s
8. OCZ Vertex4 64GB SSD (already owned)
I used to run my Snow Leopard OSX on this one. Can't test on blackmagic right now, because I have Windows 7 on this. But I know it's slower than the 128GB (as smaller SSDs usually are). If memory serves, it was around 160/350 or so. I found the 64GB size difficult to manage as the Snow Leopard system drive, so I chose to switch during this install. Good to have a faster drive for system too. I plan to remove Windows 7 - I only installed it to verify the MB temps. I plan on using this as my audio recording drive.
9. Kingston HyperX 3K 240GB - $180 (newegg.ca)
This was selling at the best value on newegg at the time. It did give me some trouble when I was dual booting with windows 8. I think it had to do with UEFI. Anyway, everytime I'd boot, it would say the partition was unreadable, even when formatted to GUID/Journaled. There was a convoluted command line to recover the partition without reformatting, but you had to do it on every boot. Anyway, when I switched to Windows 7 and changed the bios UEFI to "other OS", it held it's format. Blackmagic checks in at 264/516. I'm using this as my samples drive, since it's the biggest SSD I have and has the best read speed, which is much more important with a samples drive. However, I'm probably going to spring for another drive to use more samples, maybe a 512GB. I'm thinking it would be good to use different drives for drums and keys, since they're active at the same time. Anyway, I keep a samples archive right now and push used samples to this drive, which works for now. Incidentally, another DAW specific point: many virtual instruments demand to be installed on the System Drive. Once installed, I move these to the samples drive in terminal and use symbolic links, so the plugin thinks its in the right location. In fact, I use this technique for lots of things, mostly to my big standard HDD for things like documents, downloads and media.
10. Western Digital WD20EARS 2TB Green (already owned)
An oldie, but still serving it's function. It's actually pretty quiet for a standard HDD, but I still unmount it when recording vocals and classical guitar, since it's actually louder than the fans when working. I think the RPM is dynamic with power saving modes. Blackmagic clocks in at 65/60 on second run - I guess it takes a second to fire up. Pretty slow and a little annoying when copying files to and from the SSDs, but I rarely do this. I just use this as my storage / archive.
11. ASUS BT211 Bluetooth Dongle (already owned)
Despite rumours to the contrary, this works in Mountain Lion (it also worked in Snow Leopard). It took a little fiddling around for the right Kext combination, but it's solid now. It loses its connection once in a blue moon for a few seconds, but it really isn't an issue for me. It didn't work until after install though.
12. Apple Wireless Keyboard - (already owned)
13. Logitech LX8 Laser mouse- (already owned)
I really like this mouse. Good weight and comfortable for my hand, so I didn't want to buy a new one. It also moves quite well in Mountain Lion without any Logitech drivers. I had to buy Steermouse ($20) to get the back, forward and scroll buttons to work though. Well, they did work with the Logitech drivers, but there were these weird boot up errors that I wasn't comfortable with, though I didn't notice any negative practical effect.
14. Microsoft Comfort Curve 3000 Keyboard - $25 (staples)
So, the sabertooth didn't like my little compact wired usb keyboard (designed for windows). So, after much frustration (it actually took me a while to realize it was the keyboard and not the build), I dropped up to staples and picked up the cheapest keyboard they had. It's actually quite a comfortable keyboard and the windows key works as the apple command key. I use it for bios management, windows and also used it during install and fiddling to get the bluetooth dongle working.
15. Apogee Duet 2 (already owned)
This is a sweet USB 2.0 audio interface. Probably overpriced, but super slick with good preamps. I like that it is powered by the USB without an adapter. It includes an adapter for heavy loads though, which I've never had to use. It has two quarter inch balanced outputs and two XLR inputs. It also has a headphone out which can be mapped separately. I use it as an extra two outs (unbalanced) with an insert cable and a ground loop remover. It comes with a breakout cable for the ins and outs, but you can buy a breakout box separately if you want for $100.
16. Steinberg MR816X Firewire - $700 (sweetwater.com)
I haven't actually purchased this yet, but this seems to be the best mid range card. It's a little more expensive than it's competitors, but the preamps are apparently a class above. Looking forward to firing this up. Has 8 analog ins/outs with discrete preamps.
17. Korg Nanokontrol 2 - (already owned)
I just wanted something compact to sit next to the keyboard so I could adjust mixer and plugin settings more fluently. It does the job. You can configure it to do what you want and set up modes in Logic Pro, but it's time intensive. It will only automap to mixer and transport function, so you have to map the control surface driver to bogus midi ports and configure it manually. It automaps well to Ableton Live plugin settings though.
18. Samsung 2493HM - (already owned)
Great monitor, but doesn't matter in terms of build success. I liked it because it rotates vertical, but I never actually use that feature: a little harder on the eyes. When I color calibrate it, it looks wonderful. However, a thunderbolt display, monoprice's high res monitor, or that other one that people compare to thunderbolt and is much cheaper (available on newegg) I think are good options.
OK, on to the guide:
- On another mac, download Mountain Lion 10.8.5 from the App Store, leave it in applications
- Download #####
- Format 8GB USB stick as Mac Journaled and MBR
- Run ##### and make INSTALLER
- Go to http://rampagedev.wo...loads/asus-x79/ and download the X79 DSDT.dmg and put on another USB stick (you might be able to put it on the same one, but I didn't, just to avoid any possible hassle). Also, download the latest Mountain Lion ##### and put it on the USB stick. As well, go to http://forum.osxlatitude.com/index.php?/topic/2925-bluetooth-firmware-uploader/ and download BTFirmwareUploader.kext (I got the stable, not the beta).
- Open bios (hold delete), go to advanced more and set to optimized defaults. Change Secure boot to other os.
- unplug all but one SATA drive
- unplug all usb devices except wired keyboard and wired/wireless mouse and USB INSTALLER
- there was only the PCIE video card installed, but that was the only card I had anyway, so I didn't have to remove other cards for install
- boot from USB stick (hold F8) and choose the USB stick in the second boot menu as well
- Enter the following kernel flags: cpus=1, PCIRootUID=0, GraphicsEnabler=No npci=0x2000 -v
- When USB stick boots up the screen may be blank with a moveable mouse cursor (it was for me, perhaps due to my video card). If so, press the power button to put the computer to sleep. If not, skip to 13.
- Wait about 10 seconds (I waited for the fans to stop spinning), then press the space bar on the keyboard to turn the computer back on. The installer should now be visible (might need to press another key to get the monitor to turn on)
- Use Disk Utility and format the hard drive that hooked up to MAC Journaled and GUID
- Follow instructions to install OSX
- Restart and hold F8 again to boot from USB stick. This time choose the hard drive that you installed OSX on in the second boot menu and boot with the same kernel flags as before.
- Follow directions on rampagedev's X79 DSDT.dmg. Ensure to check the options from the picture file in the kexts folder in the install for chameleon. Also, download the ALC892 driver that's linked from the KEXTS folder.
- Run ##### and install NullCPUPowerManagement from Drivers/Misc (that's the only thing to install for now, leave all other options unchecked).
- Edit org.chameleon.Boot.plist in /Extra and add these two kernel flags under the kernel flags key: PCIRootUID = 0 and -v. Check to make sure that GraphicsEnabler is set to No, if not, add that to either the kernal flags or its own key/string. Then add key:SMcputype and string: 1281 in the same format as the other elements. Add the same SMcputype code to the smbios.plist file under /Extra as well, under the board product key/string.
- Reboot and this time choose the SATA drive in BOTH boot menus (you don't need to install stick now, unless you have the other stuff on that same stick). See if everything boots fine. If so, we can start adding in all the other features.
- I tested each feature one at a time with a reboot, but that may not be necessary. Also, if you install the kexts properly, you can enable UseKernelCache in org.chameleon.Boot.plist to speed things up.
- Run ##### again and install the components outlined in the following steps.
- 3rdPartySATA - this makes internal drives appear internal. (the secondary controller drives are likely appearing external at this point). However, this disables the hot swap feature apparently, which I don't use anyway. Alternatively, you could install 3rdPartyESATA and make them all external / hot swappable (I think).
- USB3.0 Universal: i believe this makes 3.0 usb ports work as 2.1. In any case, I used it to make my front case ports work that come off the board lead, because they didn't. I have no USB3 devices, so i don't know if it works or not. The super speed buses still show in system info.
- HWMonitor. Don't install FakeSMC or the plugins, we already have them and the ones in ##### won't work for us. However, I like HWMonitor. Although, you could probably use any sensor reporting app.
- Don't install TRIM unless your SSDs don't have their own trash collection. All my SSDs had cleanup built in.
- To get the Radeon HD 6670 video card to work with graphics acceleration you just need to alter org.chameleon.Boot.plist. Add two keys/strings. AtiConfig=Pithecia and AtiPorts=3. And change GraphicsEnabler to YES.
- Install the BTFirmwareUploader to get the BT211 dongle to work.
- To a fix a delay in bluetooth (with BT211 anyway) when starting up we need to edit a binary file. This will turn off a wait for commandWakeup() because the dongle can't send it. Download HexFiend. In S/L/E/IOBluetoothFamily.kext/Plugins drag out a copy of IOBluetoothHostControllerUSBTransport.kext. Edit the binary under MacOS inside the kext with HexFiend. Find 0000010f85de000000 and replace it with 0000010f84de000000. Save it and reinstall the kext.
- Download and install Steermouse (requires registration) to configure extra mouse buttons in Logitech mouse. Use Button 6 and 7 for the horizontal scroll. You can use Control Center instead (free), but too many boot up errors for my taste.
- Install the colour profile for your monitor in /Library/ColorSync/Profiles if you've already made one in a previous build. Otherwise, I suggest using the built in utility in display preference to make one, it really makes the image shine and look more like a native mac. However, if you have a mac monitor, you might not need it, but I don't know.
- Reboot. Check system info to ensure all the hardware is working. Set up the bluetooth keyboard in keyboard preferences. Check in System Info to ensure all SATA drives are appropriately internal / external and negotiated at the appropriate speed. USB 2 devices will all show in high speed buses (unsure what USB 3.0 devices will do).
- Important: open HWMonitor and make sure it detects the temps and the cpu multiplier and speed. Ensure that there is at least one step-down speed. Should be jumping between 12x and 32x.
- In order to over clock, we need to change the cpu strap and base clock. This mackintosh will not recognized the multiplier change or turbo speed, or any more than one speedstep down for that matter. But, the fact that it drops down to 12x intermittently gives me some peace of mind. The base multiplier has a maximum of 32 (at least on this board), so increasing the multiplier manually activates turbo, only affects turbo and mountain lion doesn't use turbo.
- Bios Settings: Multiplier 32 (manually set), baseclock 131, cpu strap 125. Disable turbo, enable speedstep, keep c states auto.
- CPU voltage 1.35. VCSSA 1.1, VTCPU 1.1 (these two should be the same). Dram - I recommend spec settings. mine are: V-1.65, timings 10-12-12-31, speed whatever is in between 2000 and 2400 frequency. Load line calibration High, Current capacity 130%. VCCSA LLC Regular. VCCSA current capacity 120%. both spread spectrums disabled. power phase controls optimized for cpu and ram. dram cc 120%. antisurge protection disabled. I have fan warnings all at 200 rpm and profiles at silent. I really want it quiet, and it will adjust up as needed. I figure if the fan stops working, it will go below 200 rpm anyway. I was getting fan warnings at higher RPM minimums on bootup, as the fans can run pretty slow.
- We should be at 4.19 Ghz. Save and Reset. The frequency and ram speed should be as we set them on post.
- Hopefully all is good. If there's a kernel panic, lower the ram frequency.
I really hope this guide helps some folks. I had to piece together multiple guides and forum posts to get this to work correctly, so I hope I made it easier for some. Geekbench as ~20,500.