Continued from Part 5: How to decide if you should install the Mac OS on a PC netbook

You’ll know you’re ready to Mac-ify your netbook once you:

  • Read through the step-by-step process on mac-ifying a netbook, like this (fairly simple) one. You don’t need to be a programmer (I’m not) but you do need to be comfortable with following technical instructions. If these instructions feel overwhelming, a Mac netbook probably isn’t for you.
  • Make a short list of netbooks that appeal to you in terms of size, price and performance, if you are buying a new netbook. I cared most about the keyboard size, but other people care more about screen size, weight or hard drive capacity. A site like CNET can tell you which netbooks to consider (setting aside the Mac question for now); then visit Best Buy or Future Shop to try out the most promising models and see what feels comfortable. Comfort is a much bigger factor with netbooks since you won’t appreciate the difference between an 85% and a 92%-size keyboard until you try typing.
  • Look up the how-to instructions for mac-ifying your current or preferred netbook(s). There are two reasons for this: (1) to see which features do and don’t work on the model you’ve selected, and (2) to see whether you feel up to following the how-to instructions on converting your specific netbook to a mac. Depending on the model you buy, it may be easier or harder to Mac-ify, and the process may be well or poorly documented.  To figure out what is feasible, Google the word “hackintosh” plus the name of the computer you are thinking of purchasing (e.g. “HP Mini 1000). And bear in mind that since Snow Leopard is only a few weeks old, hackers may yet find ways to fix any missing features — for example, it’s taken a few weeks for people to post a way of resolving the sleep problem on my Mini
  • Back up your netbook. Even if it’s fresh out of the box, make sure you have a back up of your netbook’s original operating system and files. If you’ve got your original system disks, all you need to do is back up your files and applications; if your netbook (like mine) came without system disks, you’ll need to back up your system for later re-installation (in case you want to sell it).
  • Get ready to trouble-shoot. If you’re experienced in the art of extracting information from the likes of Macfixit or the Apple discussion forum, you’ll be able to manage any little hiccups that pop up along the way (like when I restarted before “update extensions” had finished). If you’re better at cooking than troubleshooting, find a geeky friend who is prepared to offer help in return for homemade lasagna.
  • Pick a slow weekend. It took about two hours to get Snow Leopard running from an external hard drive (most of that was the time it took to run the Snow Leopard installer from the DVD onto the drive). It took about six hours to figure out how to do a crappy backup of my Ubuntu & Windows partitions, largely because I couldn’t get Windows to recognize any external USB devices. It took about two hours to get Snow Leopard up and running on the netbook’s hard drive, and a few more hours to do all the migration. Again, most of this was passive time — waiting for files to copy — but it’s a lot easier to finish the process in one day than to set it aside and remember where to pick up.
  • Pick a slow week. Choose a week when you can live without your netbook. That way, if you totally screw up the process, you haven’t screwed up your work. Even if everything goes smoothly (it should!) you may find that you don’t like your netbook, or its feature limitations (like the lack of sleep on mine) are a huge problem. And if it does go well, you’ll want to spend most of the week in cafés, enjoying the opportunity to say, why yes, this netbook IS running the Mac OS.

And one last, HUGE shout-out to Mike (aka drfyzziks) without whom I would still be cursing at my HP Mini’s Windows interface and saving my pennies for a Macbook Air.