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Are Mac Clone Laptops Reliable and Compatible?

written by: •edited by: Amy Carson•updated: 10/25/2010

There are different types of Mac clones, from old OS 7 desktops to modern unofficial OS X "Hackintosh" devices.But are they reliable ?

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    What is a Mac Clone?

    Mac clone laptops - eeepc Hackintosh Everyone loves a Mac; even hardcore Windows users will grudgingly accept the polished user interface and hardware design.

    However the price of a Mac can be a considerable stumbling block – while a Mac Mini might be affordable at a few hundred dollars, the same cannot be said of the high-end iMacs and MacBooks, the purchase price of which can run into thousands.

    As a result of this high cost and obvious consumer demand for Apple computer products, several companies have offered their own Apple-style products, notably Mac clone laptops.

    However, these aren’t necessarily products you might want to purchase. Before we find out why, let’s take a quick look at the history of Mac clones.

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    History of Mac Clones

    Manufacturers other than Apple have been producing Mac-compatible computers – Mac “clones" - for several years, particularly during the late 1980s and mid-to-late 1990s. There were several reasons for this, most notably, according to Apple chief Steve Jobs, “institutional guilt" over the loss of market share to IBM in the wake of its own platform being reverse engineered and cloned, which was the birth of the PC as we know it today.

    After ceding and allowing legal clones, Apple eventually ended all contracts to allow third parties to develop clones of their computers when they released Mac OS 8 and purchased the PowerPC business Power Computing for $100 million in stock. Prior to this, Power Computing had reached revenues of $400 million a year, outselling not only Apple but also several major IBM PC suppliers.

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    Psystar Mac Clone Computers

    Mac clone desktop More recently in 2008, Psystar Corporation announced the OpenComputer, an x86 (Intel) powered Mac clone, news of which came as something of a surprise all round, not just to Apple. Many thought that the OpenComputer was a hoax, as images were initially hard to come by. In truth, however, Psystar was under heavy pressure from Apple, and eventually the company was found by a US court to be in violation of Apple’s copyright.

    Psystar’s planned Mac clone laptop was shelved, although the desktop sold for a quarter of the price of an iMac.

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    Dangers of Mac Clone Laptops

    Unwary internet shoppers have found the hard way that Mac clone laptops are hard to come by. Chinese-built Mac clones have been popping up on some online retailers and in stores, but many of these are in fact PCs running Windows XP!

    The fact is, even if you successfully “Hackintosh" your Windows laptop (install a customized version of OS X onto an Intel CPU powered laptop) you’re leaving yourself open to several problems:

    • There is no warranty from Apple

    • Compatibility can be compromised

    • Software Update can brick your Mac clone laptop

    As a result, Mac clones are best avoided.

    (All article images by author)