EFi- X USB V1 Reviewed

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EFiX5

Many hackers and geeks became quite excited at the prospect of getting of running the OS X operating system on a standard PC when Steve Jobs introduced the first Intel based Mac machines back in 2005. It did not take long for several Apple enthusiast communities to figure out how to get OS X onto standard PC hardware. Unfortunately, this process is not as straightforward as inserting OS X Tiger or Leopard into the PC’s disc drive and running the installer. There are certain patches that need to be implemented to get the OS X kernel to operate on an x86 machine. In addition, only certain motherboards and graphics cards will work with these setups.

Apple’s decision to use EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface) instead of the legacy BIOS currently used on x86 Motherboards is one of the main reasons for the difficulty in installing and running OS X on standard x86 architecture. The EFI is an interface that allows communication between the operation system and platform’s firmware. Some advantages of EFI over the legacy BIOS can be seen with Disk Support and Boot Management.

Getting a stock x86 machine to be recognized as running EFI is the Holy Grail of running OS X on a standard PC. If this could be accomplished, then a purchased authentic copy of OS X can be installed on a PC without any need for hacks or patches. Until recently, the only way to get the Mac experience on a standard PC was to hunt down patches to use with a purchased OS X install disc or a patched OS X version. Finding these usually meant going to torrent sites or other less savory parts of the net.

That is until now; a company called Art Studios Entertainment has created a Boot Processing Unit (BPU) called the EFi-X USB V1. This device attaches onto an internal USB header on the PC’s motherboard.

It works by running a version of EFI that lets OS X function on the PC architecture. The EFi- X is composed of an embedded CPU with several gigs of onboard memory, and a USB connector. It features its own firmware, which is constantly being upgraded by the creators to improve features and address any discovered hardware issues.

With the EFi-X USB V1 in place you can install your store bought copy of Mac OS X Leopard onto a PC. However, there is one big caveat; there is a list of compatible hardware that will work with the EFi-X USB V1. According to the folks at Art Studios Entertainment, the main reason for the current hardware support is those manufacturers provided access to their R&D teams to the EFi-X staff, which allowed them to incorporate the necessary code into the EFi-X chip to run that hardware with numerous OSes. This can be seen with the support for ALC889A, Nvidia 9800 class cards and X48 motherboards.

With their ability to update the EFI firmware, Art Studio Entertainment can allow support for HPT RAID cards that are not natively supported by some OSes such as OS X. In the future, there should be support for Intel i7 chip support and X58 motherboard, which is quite exciting.

It is important to note; the EFi-X USB V1 only works with the Leopard version of OS X.


Here is a video of the unboxing of the EFi- X USB V1.

EFiX1 EFiX2 EFiX3 EFiX4 EFiX5 EFiX6 EFiX7

Specifications:
EFi-X USB V1

Revolutionize your digital lifestyle easily and securely.

BPU on USB internal 10-1 pin (with extended size)
Online updates of EFi- X™ firmware
Interactive system boot selector
Easy selection of HD or DVD or Flash based media
Update your system with official Updates
ESD and EMI Protection (With Proper Grounding)

The EFi- X™ USB device is the ultimate device for all those who dream about a flawless multi-OS environment on PC. It bridges the gap between the OS worlds. Also, it provides the unique ability to recognize all the components of your PC and select your favorite operating system directly from a graphical, intuitive boot screen.

Don´t change your habits and your life for a computer – this should never be the case. Instead, let the EFi- X™ USB device adapt the functionality of your PC to improve the quality of your work and life.

EFi- X™ BPU Exclusive Features

Interactive System Boot Selector With Settings Functionality:

Featuring a quick, multifunctional boot selector that provides interactive system boot choice and an easy method to install and start your legally obtained OS.

Online Updates of EFi- X™ Firmware:

Simply update the Firmware and enjoy the new features.

The EFi- X™ Update tool is a user-friendly Firmware update utility. Using this tool you can update the Firmware directly from any OS you are using. You can update your Firmware in only a few clicks without enduring any complicated steps.

EFi- X™ Firmware Selector:

Simply select a new Firmware from the list when changing or upgrading your mainboard.

Install From An Original DVD:
Insert an original OS DVD in to your DVD-ROM and click the DVD-ROM icon in boot selector to start installation.

Run enhanced-from-boot operating systems on your overclocked PC:

Boost your creativity, your dreams and daily tasks in a fully new multi-boot dimension. Start to experience what users have always dreamed of, UNIX stability, unique security protection, no viruses, and the power of your custom turbo charged computer!

Other Features
Fail-Proof Firmware Update:
Special algorithm protects against update failure.
The EFi- X™ Anti-Failure algorithm prevents corruption of Firmware.
This algorithm saves users the cost and hassle of EFi- X™ hardware replacement due to an improper flash.
Industry Standard
ESD & EMI Protection:
EFi- X™ is designed to provide maximum protection to avoid failures or destruction through Electrostatic discharge and Electromagnetic Interference. Please note that you must have appropriate grounding of your system.
CE and FCC Compliance
EFi- X™ fully complies with the strictest safety and security standards.

Before purchasing or installing the EFi-X USB V1, you will need to go to the EFi-X website and verify that you have the compatible hardware. Otherwise, you may end up with either a PC that will not run OS X or with some components not functioning correctly.

Installation of the EFi-X USB V1 is quite simple; access your PC’s motherboard and plug the device into the 1st USB header. The EFi-X USB V1 is not an external USB connector, but the USB header, which has nine pins on it. EFi-X America includes an extension cable and a 3M adhesive pad; in case there are wires or other devices in the way of the USB header.

EFiX8 EFiX9 EFiX10 EFiX11 EFiX12 EFiX13 EFiX14

For this review, I used an

Intel E2140 (1.6 GHz)
Gigabyte GA-G33M-DS2R motherboard
OCZ DDR2 4GB
Maxtor 500 GB
eVGA GeForce 7600GT
Antec Earth Watts 500W PSU
LG 20X DVD +/- RW

Once the EFi-X USB V1 is installed, power on the PC and enter the BIOS. Here, you will need to modify several settings so the EFi-X USB V1’s EFI can function properly with OS X. Settings that need to be changed include disabling the IDE (PATA) drives, setting the USB HDD as the boot drive, making the EFi-X the first boot device, disabling the serial and parallel ports. During the installation, AHCI should be disabled, but you may enable it after installation.

EFiX15 EFiX16 EFiX17 EFiX18 EFiX19 EFiX20

Once these settings are implemented, save the changes to the BIOS, insert the OS X Leopard Install Disc and reboot the PC. Now you should see a DOS type screen with “EFi-X : Loading Please Wait”, followed by a graphical bootloader interface which will show an OS or hard drive icon and a SATA-DVD ROM icon; choose the DVD icon and the Leopard installation should begin.

EFiX21

Now the OS X install process will be exactly the same as the installation of Leopard onto an authentic Apple machine. This process usually takes a half hour to forty-five minutes. Once Leopard is installed, you are able to run the software updates from Apple without needing patches to keep your machine from becoming inoperable.

EFiX22

Here are some screen shots of the build after the initial installation. The machine is recognized as a Core 2 Duo 1.6 GHz processor with 4GB of DDR2 800 Mhz and two cores on the processor. Leopard identifies the PC as a Mac Pro model, even though this is using one of the lowest end Intel Dual Core Processors available. If you want to match the power of a true Mac Pro, then you will need to get a Quad Core Intel processor, which will still cost much less than the authentic Mac Pro.

EFiX23 EFiX24 EFiX25

Since the EFi-X USB V1 reviewed featured the most recent firmware – 3.4.6, I was able to upgrade to OS X 10.5.6 without any problems. For testing, I benched this machine against a iMac Core 2 Duo with a 2.4 GHz processor and 4 GB of DDR2 with bus speed of 800MHz and a MacBook Pro which is also a 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo and has 2GB of DDR at 800MHz.

Naturally, these two machines had the better processor, but an EFi-X USB V1 enabled machine does have a few tricks up its sleeve. Please bear in mind; the benchmarking with Apple Macs is to see if the EFi-X unit has any effect on performance of the OS. The creators of the device do not sell their product with any intention of taking market share away from other companies.

EFiX28 EFiX26 EFiX27

Since the EFi-X USB V1 machine is built on an x86 platform, I was able to overclock it, thus getting “more bang for the buck” from the CPU. Also remember, that the Intel e2140 has an L2 cache of 1 MB, while the other two machines have 4 MB L2 cache. In testing, I ran the EFiX machine at stock speeds of 1.6 (200 x 8), and with an overclock of 2.0 (250×8) and 2.08 (260×8). These overclocks only involved changing the frequency and there was no increase in the voltage for the CPU or memory.

EFiX29

Here are the results. As you can see this fairly inexpensive machine can hold its own against the iMac and MacBook Pro, especially once over clocked to match the Apple machine’s processor speeds. Unfortunately, I did not have a spare Quad Core to test with the EFiX, but it is readily apparent, as the quality of the components used with the EFi-X USB V1 improves, so will the benchmarks.

EFiX31 EFiX30

 

Booting into OS X from the EFi-X USB V1 build does take a little longer than starting up a regular Mac, since the machine must first boot into the EFi-X bootloader and then into OS X.

Using the EFiX built PC was indistinguishable from an Apple Mac and worked almost flawlessly. The only thing I did notice is sometimes when connecting to other machines on my network, there was a few second delay before the other machines are recognized. That issue is being addressed, but can be easily corrected by installing a cheap PCI gigabit card such as the Netgear GA311.

With the latest firmware revision the EFiX has the capability to dual boot from the graphical bootloader into the following operating systems: Vista 32, Vista 64, Ubuntu, Red Hat Linux, Suse Linux and FreeBSD. You can also dual boot Windows XP, but that drive must be formatted in FAT32. Each operating system must be installed on a separate hard drive, not a partition. To install an additional operating system, it is recommended to remove the EFiX BPU and remove the Leopard installed hard drive. Once the new OS is installed, then you can reinsert the EFiX and OS X hard drive in conjunction with the second hard drive containing the non OS X OS. If the OS is not seen on the EFiX bootloader, you can always hit F12 during the standard BIOS load screen and select the drive as the boot drive from the BIOS.

EFiX32 EFiX33 EFiX34

Since Windows 7 Beta was released this past weekend, I decided to see if the EFiX can dual boot a machine with both Leopard and Windows 7. Installation was simple, following the directions above and I was able to choose Windows 7 or OS X from the graphical EFiX bootloader screen.<

EFiX35

With the recent lawsuit against an Apple clone maker, people may wonder about the legality of this product. The maker of EFiX assures that the device is perfectly legal. It is a BPU (Boot Processing Unit) and can be used in conjunction with several different operating systems. They do not sell or ever intend to sell machines preloaded with the EFi-X chip and any OS now or in the future. In fact, the makers state they will sue any manufacturer that sells the EFi-X BPU installed in any PC violating another company’s terms of use.


EFiX8 EFiX3 EFiX9 EFiX11

Conclusion:

I have had the opportunity of reviewing a multitude of items over the past two years and the EFiX is one of the most unique and exciting products that I have encountered. It works as advertised and could not be any simpler to install and setup. Using a store bought copy of Leopard, I was able to get up and running in under an hour. By using recommended hardware from the hardware compatibility list the user can build a Mac as powerful as even the highest end Mac Pro models.

The EFi-X USB V1 seems to be an evolving product as the makers add new features with each subsequent firmware upgrade. If you want to build a machine capable of running OS X, Windows and Linux on one platform, then the EFi-X USB V1 is the solution.

Pros:
Plug and play simple
Works as advertised
Firmware being constantly improved by makers
Obviates the need for hacks when installing OS X on a x86 system
Can triple boot OS X/Windows/Linux environments

Cons:
Works with only certain hardware

Grades:  
Overall score-10-10
Design score-10-10
Performance score-10-10
  • kristofer

    http://www.osnews.com/story/20779/Review_EFi-X_USB_v1

  • Tom

    http://www.macsurfer.com/?thead=382563

  • Tom

    http://www.hardocp.com/news.html?news=MzcyOTYsLCxoZW50aHVzaWFzdCwsLDE=

  • eric

    Any problems with sleep/resume?

  • David

    Laptop support?

  • Tom

    I don’t keep my machine in sleep mode, so I can’t answer that at the moment. I did notice I had to hit power to resume from standby when I did not initially change the system preferences for Energy Saver.

    There is no laptop support.

  • lolz

    Seriously? Laptop support? You think you can stick something vertically out of your mobo headers and have it fit in a laptop case?

  • John Warwick

    As someone who has been using an EFIX based Hackintosh for the past few months, there are some important things to consider that aren’t covered in this review.

    1. So far, every single firmware update that has been released has fixed some issues, and introduced new ones. Up until a month ago when they released their “October” update (yes, in December), on-board audio was troublesome, with crackling and popping noises aplenty. When they released the milestone firmware update it introduced a new batch of networking issues – breaking Bonjour in the process. (Not to mention breaking sleep functionality.) Bonjour remains an issue to this day.
    2. Everything that you get with EFIX can be done with free, open source software. Do some research on the InsanelyMac forum. Read up on boot123. When a update causes issues for Hackintosh users, there’s usually a solution within 24 hours. With EFIX you’ll be waiting a long time for a firmware update.
    3. Don’t be fooled into thinking that installing an EFIX will turn your PC into a fully fledged Mac. Even EFIX’s own forum staff aren’t brave enough to install an OS X update without letting other forum users report their success first.

  • Tom

    “As someone who has been using an EFIX based Hackintosh for the past few months, there are some important things to consider that aren’t covered in this review.”

    First, the machine with the EFiX is not a “Hackintosh” as it does not use any patches or hacks to get OS X on the machine.

    “1. So far, every single firmware update that has been released has fixed some issues, and introduced new ones. Up until a month ago when they released their “October” update (yes, in December), on-board audio was troublesome, with crackling and popping noises aplenty. When they released the milestone firmware update it introduced a new batch of networking issues – breaking Bonjour in the process. (Not to mention breaking sleep functionality.) Bonjour remains an issue to this day.”

    As someone who has used the EFiX BPU for a relatively short time, thank you for the information. You have some insight that I did not have for this review. Remember, if you are not using the hardware from the HCL, then you are more likely to have issues. Also remember, you are still running OS X on a machine that it was not originally intended to run on, so there will be bumps in the road.

    “2. Everything that you get with EFIX can be done with free, open source software. Do some research on the InsanelyMac forum. Read up on boot123. When a update causes issues for Hackintosh users, there’s usually a solution within 24 hours. With EFIX you’ll be waiting a long time for a firmware update.”

    Yes, it can. Of course, you will also have to enter linux/unix commands through the terminal and some other hoops to get up and running. Not quite as simple as inserting the EFiX onto the USB header, but certainly cheaper.

    The Hackintosh community does tend to fix these issues sooner, but they have a much larger pool of people who work on it. Plus, EFiX must test any code to make sure it does not cause a catastrophic issue with other OSes, etc. Remember the EFiX is not JUST an way to install OS X on a PC. It can also be used in conjunction with Linux, Windows, ETC.

    “3. Don’t be fooled into thinking that installing an EFIX will turn your PC into a fully fledged Mac. Even EFIX’s own forum staff aren’t brave enough to install an OS X update without letting other forum users report their success first.”

    Thank you for the comments. If you want the true Mac experience without worrying about these types of issues, please check out this site – Apple.com

  • Tom

    http://www.applelinks.com/index.php/more/applelinks_tech_web_reader_friday_january_16_2009/

  • eric

    “I don’t keep my machine in sleep mode” — seriously? It’s hard for me to imagine using a mac or any os without sleep working perfectly. Leaving a machine on is like leaving a couple lightbulbs on for no purpose, just doesn’t sit well with the cheapo in me.

  • Tom

    http://www.geek.com/articles/chips/efi-x-usb-v1-lets-you-turn-your-pc-into-a-mac-20090116/

  • Tom

    Well, to be honest, the EFiX machine is not on unless I am using it. I have an iMac that stays on 24/7 and does go to sleep after an hour or two. :)

  • Matt P

    “2. Everything that you get with EFIX can be done with free, open source software. Do some research on the InsanelyMac forum. Read up on boot123. When a update causes issues for Hackintosh users, there’s usually a solution within 24 hours. With EFIX you’ll be waiting a long time for a firmware update.”

    In my opinion, here are are the reasons that everyone isn’t running a Hackintosh and the mothership is still in business:

    Most people do not want to do command-line unix commands to keep their machine going. And most people interested in doing this simply do not want to go hunt down hack software updates when their “Mac” breaks. While I admire the people who do run these Hackintosh (which this EFI-X system is not and requires no “hacks” to make it run) machines, the level of geekiness required to put one together, the level of research to find out how to do it, is beyond the desire of 95% of Mac users or “switchers” out there. God Bless You if you like to screw around with command lines and want to go read..and read…and READ…and research…and research…and READ some more…to build a Hackintosh. Most people simply won’t do it. But plugging in the EFI-X and changing a few simple Bios settings, and following 10 minute instructions to get an OS-X capable machine that’s nearly as fast as a Mac Pro (and I would have liked to seen some more current speedy hardware in this review as Robert Mohns reviewed at macintouch..and I think comparing a machine like this with an iMac isn’t really a good indicator…many other factors to be positively considered, i.e. the upgradability of a Gigabyte mainboard for one)….YOU BET people will jump on this about 1000 times faster then they would ever even THINK of doing all the research and hacking necessary to make a Hackintosh.

    Your suggestions are valid…for the geeky among us I’m sure you could just run right out and find the software updates for the hack software. And have your machine be broken for that 24 hours. EFI-X may have some minor issues…but it’s been well-tested and WILL just work when you plug it in and will work with multiple OS boots on the same machine.

    I would question the sound issues as being related to the EFI-X *BOOT HARDWARE* and without some valid test results I would blame those issues more on the motherboard being used than I would on the EFI-X. I’d like to see some hardcore comparison results that would prove that it’s the EFI-X’s fault if there’s a sound issue before I jump and just believe you.

    Sleep functionality was supposedly rectified with the latest firmware update. I would qualify this by saying that I’ve been using Macs almost since the beginning, and a fair amount of Macs have had sleep issues since day one, thru all the different releases of the Mac OS, and I have known numerous people with sleep issues on the Mac, myself included. It’s not unique to the EFI-X, and I am happy their firmware update corrected this in 10.5.6.

    “3. Don’t be fooled into thinking that installing an EFIX will turn your PC into a fully fledged Mac. Even EFIX’s own forum staff aren’t brave enough to install an OS X update without letting other forum users report their success first.

    I don’t think anyone is being “fooled” here. If you’re willing to put together the hardware that the EFI-X works on to create a bootable Mac on “non-Mac” hardware, you certainly aren’t a fool. I can appreciate that you are a proponent of the Hackintosh community, but I would say don’t be fooled into thinking that because Hackintosh software is free that it’s easier or more desirable to do. You’re gonna spend more time, research, and possibility of screwing something up than you will with this EFI-X, that’s very plain to see.

    Did you personally talk to the EFI-X staff? Or maybe it was just those rude guys on efixusa’s site saying that? Because I got an email from one of their staff who told me he owned a Mac Pro for quite awhile and put one of these together and actually likes it better. He wasn’t specific why, maybe that was a bit of a sales pitch, but he certainly didn’t lack any “bravery” in doing it. You wanna talk bravery…go make a Hackintosh machine and hack the OS. You wanna talk illegal changing of the Mac OS…go build a Hackintosh.

    You wanna run the risk of using your own RETAIL DVD without needing to Hack the installation of it at all or see a command line or hunt down a bunch of hack software and follow pages of instructions, and simply put the DVD in and use it after making some minor hardware settings, then get an EFI-X.

    I’m excited about this piece of hardware. It allows me to create something for myself to fill the gap Apple has blindly (or not so blindly) chosen to ignore..the gap that faithful Apple users have been clamoring about for years…the desire of the community to have a good, speedy, mid-range mac without being raped on the price. Apple just will not make this machine. And I for one simply am not gonna give them ~$3k for a Pro when I can create one of these with very close to the same performance…WITHOUT the use of software hacks…for HALF that price. And one that is much more expandable, and one that I can use a Video card in that ISN’T over 2 years old…which is the most “current” one available from Apple! Now THAT is a pathetic situation and Apple is not paying attention to what its users want. And even if you do do the upgrade to the 512 video card in a Mac Pro, they want about twice as much for that too than you can just go out and get the same card for yourself!

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  • Jubal

    Mr. Ratas,

    Regarding this paragraph in your review:

    “Using the EFiX built PC was indistinguishable from an Apple Mac and worked almost flawlessly. The only thing I did notice is sometimes when connecting to other machines on my network, there was a few second delay before the other machines are recognized. That issue is being addressed, but can be easily corrected by installing a cheap PCI gigabit card such as the Netgear GA311.”

    Would you mind explaining the following points:

    1. “connecting to other machines on my network” — what do you mean by this? Are you using AFP or SMB (file-sharing protocols), or are you doing something else, like `ssh` or starting Mail.app?

    2. “That issue is being addressed” — who is addressing this? The manufacturers of EFi-X? Someone else?

    3. Why does a cheap PCI gigabit card resolve this problem? Is this a link-layer (network-card-, Ethernet-wire-, etc. level) problem? Or is it something else entirely?

    Your overall review is commendably thorough, but for this particular paragraph, I would appreciate as much technical clarification as you would mind providing. Thank you.

  • Tom

    Hi Jubal, thanks for commenting.

    1. First off, I run a mixed network of Windows and Mac machines at home. So I use SMB and AFB protocols. When I am on the EFiX built machine and try and log on either one of these types of networked machines, there is a 2-3 second delay before the machine is connected in finder. Not a big deal, but something I did not notice.


    2. In my communications with Davide Rutigliano, the CEO of Art Studios Entertainment, he mentioned that this is a known issue and is going to be addressed shortly in a firmware update. Plus I am using a Gigabyte Motherboard that is in the testing stage for their Hardware certification, so that may be the issue with the networking problem.


    3. That question, you would have to take up with the folks at EFiX, Davide mentioned that as a short term solution, I could use the GA311. I assume it may be something in the EFI code. I am just guessing about that. The forums (http://forum.efi-x.com/viewforum.php?f=1) over at the EFI website is full of helpful folks who could offer you more detailed answers about this product and any further questions you may have.

  • kristofer

    http://macworld.idg.se/2.1038/1.205880/sa-latt-kan-du-kora-os-x-pa-din-pc

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  • Antonio Valinas

    Mr. Tom I thinkl that you work for Efi-X

    I think that the solution is great, but Mr John Warwick comments are very interesting and ithink that you must not reply him trying to make him appear as a “what are you doing here guy”.

    Good Review, not completly honest but good.

    Thanks

  • King Pastis

    Does anybody have experience with an Efi-X system working on Leopard OS with Final Cut Pro, Adobe Master Suite CS4, AJA Kona or Matrox video cards?

    I’m curious for editing film/ video on one of these systems. Any glitches with software, any glitches with hardware, any glitches with firewire 400 or firewire 800 ports or memory card readers?

    Thanks for the info

    ‘Stis

  • Jack Knows Best

    It’s a usb stick with Chameleon/Boot123-like software on it for goodness sake! You might as well make one yourself with open source software.

    Nothing special to it.

    Go to insanelymac.com and read up on other, cheaper, faster ways (considering you need to have EFI-X shipped to you!), to boot a retail OS X disc.

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  • Anton

    I have used a boot 123 hackintosh. It did work well.
    Last week I changed for a EFI-X system. It was much more easy to install leopard.
    But on both systems I am able to run all kind of software like Final Cut, all Adobe CS4 software, logic pro, Word…
    The only problem i see in EFI-X is that it takes long to the firmware updates re to come out. But in general it does not make much diference ( I can wait to update my mac). And the information about what a new firmware is capable of is also poor.
    But if you dont want to spend a lot of time building a Hackintosh this is the way to go. The only reasl diference I can notice between my hackintosh and my real mac is the boot time. Real macs stil boots faster, But I can use the sleep mode that is as fast as a real mac.

  • Shaoxuan

    Anyone happen to become interested in EFI-X has to read to following post before making your decision.
    Exclusive Report: EFI-X Mac Booter, A Scam?
    http://www.tomshardware.com/news/asem-efix-mac-chameleon,8617.html
    Prepare to be amazed by how a technically “professional” SCAM can be.

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  • Cathren Bin

    EFI-X is a simple plug-and-play unit for installing most operating systems on a custom-built computer. Please note that notebooks and Laptops are not compatible with EFIX.

    • http://www.professionalthesiswriters.com/ professional thesis writers

      That’s exactly what I was going to ask. It’s such a pity it can’t be run on laptops

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