Running macOS virtually on non-Apple hardware has become increasingly popular for developers, testers, and end-users who want access to the macOS environment without purchasing expensive Apple hardware. There are a few options available for running macOS virtually, with the two most popular being VMware and VirtualBox.
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Benefits of Running macOS Virtually
There are several key benefits to running macOS as a virtual machine rather than directly on Apple hardware:
- Cost savings – Apple hardware can be expensive, so running macOS virtually allows you to access the OS without spending money on a Mac.
- Software testing – Developers can test their apps on macOS virtually without needing to buy multiple devices. Testers can also access different versions of macOS for compatibility testing.
- Access macOS-only apps – Some apps are limited to the macOS platform, so a virtual machine allows Windows and Linux users to access those apps.
- Isolation – Running macOS in a virtual machine isolates it from the host operating system, providing increased security.
VMware vs VirtualBox for Running macOS
The two most popular virtualization platforms for running macOS are VMware and VirtualBox:
- Offers better performance and compatibility than VirtualBox.
- More features like snapshots, cloning, etc.
- Commercial software with licensing costs.
- VMware Fusion is designed specifically for Mac host machines.
- Free and open source virtualization software.
- Slightly lower performance than VMware.
- Fewer features than VMware products.
- Actively developed with frequent updates.
- Runs on Windows, Mac, Linux hosts.
So VMware is more full-featured and optimized for macOS hosting, while VirtualBox is free and provides decent compatibility.
Step-by-Step Guide to Running macOS Virtually
Here is how to install macOS on VMware Fusion or Workstation:
- Download VMware Fusion/Workstation and a macOS installer image (.dmg or .iso file).
- In VMware, create a new virtual machine and select macOS as the OS.
- Set memory, processor cores, and storage for the VM. 4GB RAM and 2 cores is recommended.
- Start the VM and select the macOS installer image when prompted.
- Walk through the regular macOS installation process. VMware tools will install automatically.
- Once installation completes, you will be running macOS virtually!
Here is how to install macOS on VirtualBox:
- Download and install VirtualBox and extension pack on your host OS.
- Acquire a macOS installer image (.dmg or .iso file).
- Create a new VM in VirtualBox, allocating sufficient system resources for macOS.
- Configure VM settings like memory, graphics, network, and input.
- Start the VM and select the macOS installer file when prompted.
- Complete the macOS installation process. Install Guest Additions when running.
- Reboot for changes to take effect and macOS should be running smoothly.
Tips for Running macOS Virtually
Here are some tips for a better experience when running macOS as a virtual machine:
- Allocate sufficient system resources – macOS needs significant memory, storage and graphics resources to run well. For best performance, allocate at least 4GB RAM and 2 CPU cores.
- Install VM tools – On both VMware and VirtualBox, install their respective VM guest tools/additions into macOS to improve integration with host OS.
- Use appropriate host hardware – Make sure your physical hardware meets needs. If using a Mac host, use VMware Fusion. For Windows/Linux hosts, either VMware or VirtualBox works.
- Find compatible macOS image – Not all macOS installer images work properly in VMs, so search forums/communities to find versions known to work.
- Tweak VM settings – You may need to enable virtualization extensions, 3D/OpenGL graphics, increase video memory, or tweak other settings.
Running macOS on non-Apple hardware through virtualization is totally feasible using solutions like VMware or VirtualBox. With sufficient host resources and the correct VM configuration, you can get an excellent macOS experience. While native Apple hardware is still the best for running macOS, virtual machines provide a versatile and cost-effective alternative.
I have over 10 years of experience with various virtualization solutions and have used both VMware Fusion and VirtualBox extensively for running production macOS environments as well as experimental test environments. Let me know if you have any other questions!