The big project this weekend was setting up my wife’s “couch computer” (netbook). Â After about a month of waiting the Dell Mini 9 finally arrived. I spent most of the day Saturday working on it. I also videotaped much of the process and made you this lovely video:
Watch it in HD over at vimeo. It’s much better in HD. Vimeo won’t let me embed HD without paying.
Overall I would say that the process was easy but is not for the weak. While I edited around it on the video, I made a few mistakes along the way – which is why it took all day to do. If I were to do it again it would go much quicker. Below I’ve listed links to the instructions and tools. I’ve also explained all of the pitfalls and how to avoid them, and what works and what doesn’t.
I gotta say we love this mini mac. I’m using it right now to write this post. While the Atom is a slower single-core proc, everything runs snappy and I haven’t noticed any slowness yet. Really the only bummer is the weird keyboard layout (which I’ll explain later). I wish Apple would make a mini like this. It’s clearly a hole in their product lineup.
I also need to make it clear that this is not MY process. I simply followed instructions found on various sites, and called on a buddy for help a few times along the way. Thanks to everyone who made this possible and shared the information for free. Â Here are my notes after my install:
- The InsanelyMac Forum has posted instructions on how to do the install, as does this wiki. If you want to do it go there and read up on it, then look over my pitfall notes. There are two camps with slighty different methods. Â Type11’s method has something to do with EFI bootloader which is over my head – but nonetheless that’s not the method I used. Â I went with Darkten’sÂ original method.
- The install takes a while – at least a few hours – and your mini might crash a few times in the process. It’s not a big deal, but just don’t expect it to be like having a real mac. Â It’s not.
- Download the Mini9-132EZ.img, then burn it to a CD with Toast or something similar.Â
- Try to avoid booting into the pre-installed OS. Â Early during boot hit 0 (zero) on the keyboard to jump into the boot options screen. Â Not being a windows person I missed it the first few boots – even though it says it right on the screen.
- Once you get into the Leopard installer use Disk Utility to reformat the SSD. As shown in my video you have to choose the drive (14.3 GB STEC PATA 16GB) – not the partition, then click on the ‘Partition’ tab, then change ‘Custom’ to ‘1 partition’, click on ‘Options…’ and change it to GUID, then enter the name, hit apply, and the the ‘Partition’ button. Â Without making it GUID Leopard won’t install.
- You have to Customize your install and turn everything off. Â Initially I forgot to do this and when my install was finished I only had about 1GB free. Â This wasn’t enough space to do the 10.5.5 updates – which required 5.5 GB. So I started over and by turning off the customize options saved an additional 5GB. The custom install also completed about an hour faster.
- The time remaining estimation can be way off. Â Towards the end each ‘minute’ took several.
- The install ‘Failure’ is a known part of the process. Â When that happens reboot and hit 0 again for boot options, choose to boot off of CD, hit enter on the first “boot:” prompt but this time enter in device 80 (the SSD), and at the next “boot:” prompt use the “-f” and enter.
- After this each time you boot the computer you will first see the “boot:” prompt and just hit enter. Then it will boot into Leopard.
- To finish the job you need to install Chameleon and the audio drivers (ALC268). These are zipped on the Then you can do software updates to get to 10.5.5.
- You should also install Darkten’s mini9 prefs pane, and his Chromatophore app – you’ll need them for this:
- After installing everything I had no audio. What I did to fix it was to use the mini9 prefs pane to reinstall audio drivers.. then I also reinstalled them via the ALC268 installer, then I rebooted. Audio works fine now.
- To get the ‘About This Mac’ to show the correct processor info I installed this app.
- Most everything works: Volume up and down function keys, “dellSight” camera, iChat AV, WiFi, Software Update… it works just like a mac.
- Headphones jack – Unlike a real mac, the headphones jack is unaware of when you plug in headphones and doesn’t auto-switch to that output. To remedy that install THIS FREE APP which places an audio output selector in the menu bar.
- I have not tested the VGA out or the bluetooth – but hear they work.
- The SD card slot does not work in Leopard. This is a hardware issue.
- The keyboard layout is weird. (See jRin’s review.) On a normal keyboard the quote key is between ; and Enter, but on this one it is down next to the space. Â It does slow down typing. Â I’ll be looking for ways to remedy this.
- The big one – sleep mode doesn’t work. I’m still playing around with it. The workaround is to not have it sleep. It hasn’t been a big problem yet. I’ll have to report later. There is a fix which is to use a different (and larger) SSD, but it’s another $100 and is currently backordered. So that’ll have to wait.
- Not sure if it’s related to the sleep issue, but sometimes on shutdown I get the grey screen of death.
On Sunday I pulled it away from my wife long enough to shoot this video of the finished install. Â Again this embedded video is low quality. Jump to youtube and watch it in high quality. Â Look out for my creepy smile.
But this is absolutely one of the coolest little computers I’ve ever seen. I’ll be upgrading the RAM and maybe eventually putting in a better SSD. Â As I do any customizations I’ll post them here as well.
68 thoughts on “Dell Mini 9 Leopard Install”
How cool is that thing, provided Mac can survive / thrive with a PC host. Showed this to two differenct people and love how you take some of the guess work out of it for us dummies in 3 minutes! As always U rok.
coolnesss! I want one now!
Ok even for a non-techie like me, I get how cool that is!! I especially liked the speed/slow camera work based on the dramatic tone…and I give high credits for the song choice. I can dance to it…Michael, you are a gentleman and a scholar!
So there are some people who don’t understand why you would want to do this. I am a Mac enthusiast. We are early adopters and evangelists. However, my pc needs are quite simple. My “couch computer” is for email, social networking/internet, creative writing and home media. (mostly iTunes and pics)
I don’t think those needs merit the expense of a Mac book. And- quite frankly- Mac’s laptops are too large and heavy. The “Hacintosh” answered all of my needs. I now have a small, light weight machine that runs Leopard. (for less than $500) This is a computer that I will take with me- even on business trips because it’s so tiny. We’ve been waiting for Apple to offer a similar product offering at a similar price.
Michael sent me a Black Friday email today. Looks like the Dell Mini 9 will be on sale. M- you should post that here somewhere, if you haven’t already.
posting the ad now..
I love little Mari running around in the background….
Oh and the video was pretty cool too.. 🙂
I thought of a solution that might work for sleeping. What if you disable safe sleep?
I don't know if it will work or not, but if the problem relates to the SSD, there's a *chance* it will work.
I need to get in there and try some things. Once I got it set up and gave it to my wife it's been hard to pry it out of her hands.. 🙂
Thanks for the tip MacTipper and welcome to my site.
To change the keyboard layout to something custom use this great little app :
i stumbled across your site and was wondering what the song title is for the background music you used ? in this video walk through……and i think for black friday im picking up a dell mini to try this out. =)
rachel dreams, map, san francisco in the 90's
Thanks so much for the good instructions. I am getting one of these little mini-9 computers from Dell around Christmas, and I hope to make it work with OSX.
I was able to order one with 32GB SSD. Hope that does not make your instructions incorrect for my machine, but I should think that the larger drive would not make a difference.
the 32 gb does not change things. Makes it better. Keep an eye on mydellmini.com and the InsanelyMac forum… they'll probably be discussing it. I've been hoping that it will make the sleep work.
Hi Michael. Love the instructions and I'm getting ready to do this to my mini 9. I'm trying to use my 360 elite that I have plugged into my home theater. Do I need to disconnect everything from the 360 to get it to work. When I put the ISO image disk in it, then start my mini, select option 0, then choose CD/DVD etc., it just boots into Windows. What am I doing wrong here?
What to get this installed this weekend if possible, but it's not looking good right now.
Thanks again for all your help. Really appreciate your comments. I was very, very apprehensive about doing this, but after reading your instructions and follow-on comments I am confident.
One last (I hope) question: Could you please elaborate a little on the functions of the "mini9 prefs pane" and the "Chromatosphore" items and the need thereof?
I have read Darkten's comments over, and over; but I fear that he assumes more of a Mac background than I have. So, I didn't get much from his description.
I have to admit that I installed them and have never touched them since. I think it's probably good to have them installed. I'm not sure what Chromatosphore does but I think it watches to see if something in your boot folders has changed so that you know. It was explained to me as being for people who change up their system a lot. The Dell Mini 9 prefs pane allows you to change boot options, and it allows you to reinstall audio, and networking fixes, etc. I think these things get messed up when you do a software update. I'll see if I can get darkten to answer it better.
From Darkten: if the user for some reason adds extensions, the chameleon will notice it and thusly properly prep the extensions folder to use them by fixing the perms and making a new .mkext so that said changes will actually work when you reboot. The prefpane pretty much does what it says. For all I know these methods are dated by now.
From me: I think that last sentence means that there might be newer, better, methods to hacking a dell mini 9. Although for my taste this method has worked quite well and has been fairly worry free. However, we haven't gone through a OS update yet. We'll see what happens when 10.5.6 comes out.
Just viewed your video on VIMEO. Great work! Thank you !
Near the end you didn't have audio and had to download two additional utilities to finish the job. I also noted that you had earlier installed a "Custom" version of OSX, deleting several items from the install in order to save disk space and time.
I note that Darkten did not do this extra procedure to get audio. In fact, he stated, "If you'd like at this point, you can also copy off the ALC268_Installer1.zip and install that as well." . . . implying that the ALC268 was an option.
Could your "Custom" install to save disk space have been the problem with the audio at then end of the install?
Thanks for any help you can provide. I am fairly new to Mac, although I own a new iMac and a mac-mini.
The two utilities you mention I left out of the video, basically, because the song was running out in my edit and I realized that the 'proof of OS X' had been done by that point. I felt the video would getting boring if I added those steps to it. It's the producer/editor in me that left them out.
The two utilities to install are on the mini-9-132-ez.iso disc… Chameleon and the audio drivers (ALC268). I just noticed that above in my notes I botched that explanation – and have now fixed it. After you're booted into OS X you put the ISO back in and then it just mounts on the leopard desktop. Unzip and run the utilities then boot with the -f, then run the OS X updates, then reboot again (just like you would on a mac). I think at first I was missing audio and had to rerun the utilities AGAIN after updating OS X. Updating OS X can knock these things out and you might have to reinstall the audio drivers.
But I had audio from the very first day. And we still use this 'mac.' My wife's using it right now.
The custom install is not the problem with the audio. All the custom install does is not install a bunch of other languages and things that you don't really need. On a 16GB without the custom install you won't have enough space left over to do a software update. I actually did this the first time and found that out the hard way, then redid the whole process. I left that mishap out of the video.
The audio problem is because it's not a mac. That's why you have to install audio drivers that support the audio hardware in the Dell.
Remember, I didn't come up with this method. I just did it and thought it was cool – so I blogged about it.
Thanks for the comments. Sorry it took me so long to respond. Was christmas shopping all day.
OK.. so by 360 elite you mean the black xbox 360 right? But do you have the HD DVD add on drive for the Xbox? That's what I was using. It has to be attached via USB and plugged into power. The mini-9-132-ex.iso disc needs to be burned first onto a CD and inside the xbox drive. You can also use most any other USB cd drive.
I'd guess you have 1 of 2 possible problems:
1) Something is wrong with your CD DVD drive or how it's connected. Maybe you're trying to use the xbox some how instead of the xbox add on hd dvd drive?
2) Something is wrong with your 132 boot disc. Did you download the ISO and burn it to a CD? Are you trying to boot directly into the leopard DVD? Maybe you burned the ISO the wrong way?
Clearly the computer's not seeing a valid boot CD available and just defaulting back into booting off the hard drive, which contains windows. So either it's not seeing a CD DVD drive or it's not seeing a valid boot disc in that drive.
Hope that helps. Again, sorry I didn't see your comment earlier. Let us know what happens.
OK… my mistake on the Xbox drive. I'm now using a Sony external DVD/CD RW drive. I can get it to load the Mini9-132EZ.img. I then put in my OS X Leopard install disk and hit enter 3 times and it freezes… The cursor just stays there. It doesn't spin like it shows in your video or anything. When I do this it says that the two digit code is 80 for first HD, 81 for second HD. The default showing is 9f. Do I need to let it sit for a while or should it start immediately? Any suggestions?
For my install I hit enter 3 times. Yours might be different. 9f should be the code for the usb cd/dvd drive.
I think my next question is where'd you get the leopard disc? Is it a new boxed leopard disc or one that you downloaded from somewhere? If the latter I'd guess that there's something wrong with that disc image or the way it was burned.
Or are you trying to use the one that came with a mac – cause those typically only work on that one computer? Example – if you have a mac pro, the system disc that came with that mac pro won't install OS on a macbook pro. Those Apple guys are sneaky like that. 🙂
It's a retail version of the leopard disc. Drive doesn't seem to want to spin up with leopard disk in and get it going. Letting it sit for a bit to see what happens. Would rather not have to get another drive to get it to work.
Thanks for the help and any other suggestions you may have.
Sorry. I don't know what else to say. I didn't have any of those problems. Possibly it has something to do with the 9f selection, but I'm not sure. Like I've said before, I didn't come up with this method I just tried it and it worked for me. YMMV.. I'd get on the dellmini9 forum or insanely mac (links above) and see if anyone there can help.
Thanks very much, Michael. It sounds as if I will not need either of these utilities if I just follow your install process. I'll let you know how it turns out when I actually get my hands on the new mini-9 . . . hopefully by Christmas.
They video you posted on Vimeo is no longer available. Is it posted anywhere else?
It works now. Sorry all
For the record.. it's posted at youtube and Vimeo. The embedded ones above are youtube.
Thanks. I have one supposedly being delivered on the 24th along with a RunCore drive that will allow sleep. So Santa (me) only has about 12 hrs to get it up and running for my wife's "couch computer." Thanks for saving me time.
OSX 10.5.6 is the current upgrade on the Apple site. OSX 10.5.6 appears to be a pretty extensive modification.
It seems possible that attempting to upgrade to 10.5.6 might break the Darkten type of OSX install on the mini-9.
If you attempt the upgrade to 10.5.6, please post the results.
Unfortunately, the I don't have the couch computer with me. My wife has it out of town. I won't be able to try out the update until Sunday night. Expect news on Monday…
You have been REALLY helpful, and I am grateful for your support. I look forward to your comments next week.
Best Regards, and a Merry Christmas to you and your Family.
Any luck on getting the SD slot working in Leopard? That's the only thing holding me back from doing this. Thanks!
Why would that hold you back? Honestly. A real mac doesn't have that port. Buy a Dynex card reader for $15 from best buy.
I can think of several legit things to hold you back:
1. It's not a real mac – so not very future proof
2. SSD is a bit small.
3. you're not enough of a hacker to figure out how to do it
4. Apple will probably come out with a netbook early 09
5. Apples version will be better than Dell's.
Reasons TO do it:
1. you want a cheap leopard netbook now
2. you're enough of a hacker to figure it out and enjoy the process
3. you enjoy showing off – it is a fun toy to show off
4. you feel the advantages outweigh the limitations
Sorry guys, with all the family Christmas celebrations I actually forgot to do the upgrade and report back. Here I was trying to come up with blog posts this week and there was a simple one right in front of me. I'll do it over the break.
spaceemeperor.. Thanks for the nice words.
Sound source is the FREE APP listed above for handling audio input and output. You should be able to get it here:
The OS does not know when you plug in headphones, so it won't automatically switch the sound out to the headphone jack. It also won't switch it back. SoundSource sits in your menu bar and gives you an easy way to switch it without having to go into system preferences. It's a must on a dell hacintosh.
Thanks for the SoundSource explanation. Found it and downloaded it.
I will be loading my mini9 on Friday or Saturday using your video and the explanations above. I will report results here.
Thanks again . . . . JLW
I just want to say I am happily running 10.5.6 after starting at 10.5 with a factory install disc. No fancy dancing needed, I just used software update. I lost my wireless and sound for a bit, but the standard solutions Michael posted above worked ok. But I did need soundsource. After reading all the posts and blogs about this porcess I have to say the youtube video was the most effective lesson!
So, the standard Darkten process did survive the 10.5.6 uprade! Great news. Thanks.
Not sure what you mean: "I did need soundsource." Can you elaborate, please.
I just couldnt get the sound to work until I installed soundsource. It seemed to wake it from its deep slumber.
FYI, I just installed Leopard using this method, then used software update to go to 10.5.6. The update installed then when I rebooted, I got the apple then it rebooted a second time.
Just rebooted a 2nd and 3rd time with no problems.
Seems to work OK!
This is a mini 9 fresh out of the box as of yesterday with the original STEC drive.
Hey Jason…the same thing happened to me! I booted up after the install and I just got the apple, with no spinning wheel. Then the 2nd time it was there…AND I STARTED TO BREATHE AGAIN. 🙂
was this with an original drive or did you replace it? i got a RunCore 32 GB drive instead. the install goes ok
What I meant above is that after the update, it "crashed" upon reboot, then subsequent reboots were OK.
when i upgraded to 10.5.6 several things didn't work
video (these drivers worked for me: http://forums.msiwind.net/mac/new-gma950-drivers-…
audio (turns out i just needed to switch to speaker output)
ethernet doesn't really work properly… when i unplug it says unknown state, and i have to boot with the cable plugged in for it to work)
wireless: had to do the script again, and go to network perf pane.
other than that i think everything works. (haven't tested sleep)
johnnypoulet . .
Did you have problem with mouse pref panel?
oh, just realized… sound quality is awful, it's as if the driver is outputting too loud. any fix for this? (lowering the volume doesn't help, it sounds distorted with the speakers and through headphones out)
ok i just noticed a small annoyance with 10.5.6. no mouse pref pane! but u can change teh setting is u have an external mouse. I saw a fix at insanelymac, but why bother.
has anyone tried to install with this method using one of the RunCore SSDs? i can get the install to run, then boot into leopard, install the chameleon package, but i can't reboot.
gets to the apple logo with the spinning animation, but never boots into the OS.
if anyone knows what me be going wrong, please let me know.
Anyone else using mini-9/osx 10.5.6/Darkten method: Are you having trouble with the mouse pref panel?
DISASTER ! Got my new 32GB mini9 yesterday and attempted the Darkten install. All went well until I installed Camelion and attempted to reboot. All I got was a line that said, "Cannot find operating system." Rebooted . . . . same results . . .again and again.
Started over. This time, after inserting the mini9-132-EZ disk and getting the "Boot:" line, I inserted the retail OSX disk. It never boots. I get a line that reads,
"EBIOS read error: Device timeout"
:Block 0 Sectors 64."
Dead in the water.
Can someone please suggest a solution?
Follow -up . . . . . .
I was able to use the Dell Ubuntu recovery disk to get the machine back to square 1. Now I can start over.
In my first attempt to load OSX I think I made a mistake at the "Failed to Install" point.
I clicked on "Restart" BEFORE removing the Apple retail OSX DVD and loading the mini132 CD. I think I should have removed the Apple disk and inserted the mini132 CD BEFORE I clicked on "Restart" at the bottom of the screen.
Can some, please, confirm?
My only thoughts are #1. are you using a retail version of leopard? #2. as i remember you have to reboot that first time with a -f before you can boot normally into leopard. That -f is something you do when your configuration changes – but i don't REALLY know what it does.
Like Jason says below.. I'd recommend going on the mydellmini.com forum or the one at insanelymac.com and asking them – however most of them are using the type11 method. I don't know anything about that method because I used the Darkten method. Not that one is better or worse than the other, but that the type11 method community might be more current as darkten has moved on to other exploits.
hey guys, just to give encouragement to anyone trying this method, i switched to the Type11 method and everything works, even sleep (i did upgrade the SSD). but there are even reports of fixes that allow the STEC original SSDs to sleep and wake as well.
there is tons of info at mydellmini.com.
the Type11 method has no weird crashes and everything seems to work a lot smoother. it's just as easy as this method. it just sounds harder. it's not.
I looked at the Type11 process, and it is simple . . . . UNTIL you get to step 8 where you "run the script Miniscript" No details. Probably fine for one versed in UNIX, but I haven't a clue about how to "run the script." Can you provide a little detail?
it's easy. the instructions make it sound more difficult that it is. i was expecting to mount the image from the command line, but after reading it about 10 times i realized he (or she) meant to boot up from the CD then choose the 80 disk (boot: -f) and THEN mount the image from within leopard. it's really that easy. when i first did it, my machine crashed upon shutdown and after updates it crashed after i ran the miniscript again, but since then it's been fine. i think if you run the miniscript, don't reboot using their button, just choose NOPE and reboot from mac os. i made sure i got it all running before i did the updates to save time, but you can do it either way. good luck.
Thanks for the quick response. Sorry I am so SW dense; my degree is in electronics engineering . . . . never did any programming.
When you commented, ". . . mount the image from within leopard" I presume you mean the "INSTALL.DMG" Do I have to do anything with any of the other files on the 123 CD?
Thanks again for your help.
that's it. it's really straightforward. you mount that INSTALL.DMG by double clicking it from the CD while leopard is running. then double click the miniscript.
My thanks again, Jason. I'm on the road today, but I hope to try the Type11 install in the next week. I'll post results here.
Re-reading the Type11 instruction set, I note that he does not state that the mini9 SSD should be reformatted with 1 partition as does the instruction set from Darkten. Did you use the 1 partition option when erasing and reformatting the SSD?
Also, I note that AFTER the 11 steps in Type11's instructions there is a lot of discussion about using the terminal. Are the terminal instructions just additional information, or is that part of the process?
Not being a Mac expert, I am reluctant to go into the terminal.
Again, thanks for your help.
Finally ! Got home from long trip and opened my new Dell Mini9
Set-up to install OSX using the Darkten method above. Found that the Vimeo hi-res video no longer plays.
Anyone know if this is temporary . . . . etc.
I just checked and it's up now.
Hey everyone…I noticed a recent, and hopefully harmless bug…everytime i shut my min9 down it gives me the multilingual "you must restart your computer off by holding down the power button"…i do this and it shuts off..anyone gettign this running 10.5.6?
Mine is still on 10.5.5 because I've been too busy and too lazy to update it. But it crashes almost every time we shut it down. But it's never really been a problem. We just power it off anyway.
We totally use it only as a netbook – don't story any irreplaceable data on it. So there's no risk of losing data.
The same for me. If I go to "About this mac" "More info" "Graphic/Displays" the system crash. Strange, not?
sorry for my English, but i'm italian.
Thanks guys for your job. With Leopard on my Mini i'm an happy man.
Can you use an old mac that is running osx 10 (when it first came out) to make the USB stuff to load up everything needed, since you were talking you needed a mac to do these things when installing from USB flash drives.
The new and best OS X install method that will have EVERTHING working, even the SD slots, is the "DellEFI Method":
There's different install methods using all Windows or Mac formated USB flash drives and/or external DVD drives. Really anyone that has a computer can install OS X in the Dell Mini 9.
"Hackintosh-friendly Dell Mini 9 Discontinued" –
maybe time to find another platform or get one while you still can
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