The Best Hackintosh / Linux Wireless WiFi PCI NIC Card – an Apple Airport.
**UPDATE 2**: Since writing this document, a better solution has come onto the market. For an internal hackintosh WiFi card, use the Broadcom BCM94360CD or BCM94331CD with a mini-PCI Express adapter of some sort. These cards are from 2011 iMacs and are 802.11AC. They can be found on eBay for $15 – $30 and then you would need an additional adapter for the card. For a turnkey solution, purchase a product from OSXwifi.com
**UPDATE**: Since writing this document, a new product has come onto the market. The BearExtender Turbo is a new 802.11ac USB WiFi card for $80, which should be perfect for Hackintoshes. It is USB 3.0 which is of course backwards compatible with USB 2.0. As of release, this should be a better option than an Airport Extreme / Express. However an Airport is still a great “out of the closet” solution.
One of the challenges of building a desktop Hackintosh or Linux (a home-built PC that runs Mac OS X) is finding a compatible wireless PCI card. However, with a little out-side the box thinking – the endeavor can be much easier and more practical than originally thought.
An issue with the concept of wireless PCI cards for Mac is that real Macs have already come standard with Airport Wireless cards for years. Therefore, the third-party market for Mac wireless cards is nearly non-exsistant.
Currently, one Wireless N PCI chipset has had drivers made for 32-bit OS X – the Ralink RT3062. This chipset was used in two wireless cards speicially marketed towards Macs – the Edimax EW-7722ln, and the Sonnet Aria Extreme N PCI, both sold at MacSales.com. However, both of these N chipsets were from the “Draft N” era, and only supported half-speed 144 Mbps “N”. Additionally, the price-consious Edimax EW-7722ln card only has two antennas, greatly degrading its range and speed from full-N capabilities.
The more recent Mac Ralink chipset driver can be found here. It’s listed as only supporting up to 10.5 – but I have ran the driver in 10.6 with 32-bit kernel enabled just fine.
The issue now, however, is that these two wireless N cards only have 32-bit drivers released. The last release of OS X to support a 32-bit kernel was 10.6 Snow Leopard. In later versions of 10.6, 64-bit became default, and the user had to manually configure their hackintosh to run in 32-bit mode for wireless card compatibility. 32-bit mode choked off any RAM above 4 GB the Hackntosh might have, so basically your machine had to run with less than 4GB RAM to have internet.
Another option I’ve read about, is to buy a Atheros AR9380 PCI Wireless card, and change your Hackintosh’s DSDT and kernel extensions for compatibility. The Atheros card uses a chipset which Apple used, meaning it’s natively supported by built-in Airport drivers and theoretically 100% compatible. However the Aetheros card still requires tweaking special OS and BIOS files for operability. The types of tweaks needed for this card typically need to be reapplied with every minor OS X update.
Luckily, there’s an easier way to have wireless internet for your Hackintosh: An Apple Airport Express or Extreme in bridge mode via Ethernet!
With an Apple Airport in bridge mode – there’s no worrying about driver compatibilities, hacking, etc. That’s because the Airport will feed your wireless internet through Ethernet to your Hackintosh. Ethernet is typically 100% supported across Hackintosh builds, making this tip possible for most Hakintosh enthusiasts. Simply configure the Airport to connect to your existing wireless network in Bridge mode, then connect your Hackintosh Desktop via Ethernet to the Airport.
NOTE: In older Airports (Airport Utility 5.6 and below), in the Internet tab, you will need to turn Connection Sharing “off” with “Connect Using” set to “Wireless”.
The Airport Extreme is currently 802.11ac which is much faster than it’s 802.11n Express brethren. However, I think most people will find the Express much more within their budget for a hackintosh NIC card.
The disadvantage to having an Airport be your wireless NIC card is that you won’t get any signal strength indicators. However for a desktop machine this is OK – as a desktop does not change location, and your connection speed will stay constant with whatever room you choose to have your desktop Hackintosh in.