How To Use MacOS on a Virtual Machine

Most of us will agree that MacOS is an incredibly convenient operating system (OS). Besides its stability and reliability, it supports a large selection of high-quality software. But what do you do if you want to run a MacOS-supported application, but your device is currently running a different OS like Windows? Enter a virtual machine!

How To Use MacOS on a Virtual Machine

At its core, a virtual machine is an artificially generated operating environment that essentially allows you to run one operating system on another. For example, you can run MacOS in Windows or Linux. It’s a bit like opening a portal that allows you to ditch the host computer’s environment in favor of a new, fully functional one from a different operating system.

This article will show you how to install MacOS on a virtual machine using some of the best virtualization software on the market.

How to Use MacOS on a Virtual Machine: General Steps

It probably sounds complicated but running MacOS inside another operating system is actually straightforward. You don’t need special coding skills to do it. Irrespective of the operating system you’re currently using, here are the general steps you need to use MacOS on a virtual machine:

Step 1: Download the MacOS Installation Image

In very simple terms, a MacOS installation image is a snapshot of the operating system in one executable file. The file has all the necessary software and drivers needed to install and set up the operating system on a computer.

It might help to think of an installation image as the blueprint for a house. The blueprint will have details of the materials needed as well as the design of the new house from the ground up.

You can easily obtain Mac installation images from the official Apple website.

Step 2: Install Virtualization Software

In the world of computers, virtualization software is a program built to simulate a fully functional operating system like MacOS or Windows. You can consider them as cloning programs that split the host machine into two parts: the main computer, and a simulated guest computer.

The two parts share resources like the RAM, processor, and storage but are able to maintain functional autonomy. For instance, you can run Google Chrome on the virtual machine while running Microsoft Word on the main computer.

Some of the most popular virtualization tools on the market include VirtualBox, VMware Fusion, and Parallels Desktop.

Step 3: Create a Virtual Environment

Once you have installed the virtualization software successfully, you need to follow the on-screen prompts to set up a virtual machine. The specific steps needed differ depending on the software chosen. However, everything is generally straightforward.

During the process, you’ll need to specify the amount of resources you’d like to allocate to the new virtual environment. This will include things like RAM, storage, and CPU cores. The amounts needed generally depend on the programs you intend to run. As such, “heavy-duty” applications will require higher allocations.

Step 4: Install Guest Tools

Like any other software, virtualization tools aren’t perfect. Most of them will need additional “guest” tools to improve performance. But the good news is that these guest tools are available for free on the web.

How to Run MacOS on a Virtual Machine Using VirtualBox

Now that you’re familiar with the general process, let’s look at the practical steps needed when using one of the most popular tools: VirtualBox. This is free, open-source virtualization software that allows users to run multiple operating systems on a single physical machine. Developed by Oracle, the software is available for Windows, macOS, Linux, and Oracle Solaris.

So, how exactly can you run MacOS on your computer using VirtualBox?

Step 1: Download the Software

Visit the official VirtualBox website and download the software package compatible with your machine. For example, if you’re using Windows, you need the “Windows host” package. If your computer runs on Linux, you’ll need the “Linux distributions” package.

After downloading the necessary package, open it and follow the on-screen instructions to install the files on your host device.

Step 2: Download the VirtualBox Expansion Pack

Although VirtualBox is a great virtualization software, it doesn’t allow you to connect USB devices like flash drives, webcams, or printers to the virtual machine. To do so, you need to install the VirtualBox expansion pack.

Here’s how to go about it:

  1. Visit the VirtualBox download page.
  2. Scroll down and click on the “all supported platforms” link under “Oracle VM VirtualBox Extension Pack.”
  3. Double-click the downloaded file and follow the on-screen instructions to install the extension pack on your system.

Step 3: Download and Extract the MacOS Image

After successfully downloading a copy of the MacOS compressed into one installation file, you can go ahead and extract the files you need to install it. There are a few tools that can help you do this. These include 7-Zip, WinRAR, and Windows File Manager.

After extraction, be sure you save the files in a location that’s easy to remember.

Step 4: Create a Virtual Machine

Now that you have downloaded and installed VirtualBox, the expansion pack, and extracted the MacOS image, you can proceed to create a virtual machine. Here’s how:

  1. Open VirtualBox and click on “New.” That’s the blue button with jagged edges.
  2. Type down a name for your virtual machine. If you intend to use the virtual environment frequently, choose a name you can easily remember. “MacOS Virtual Machine” would be a good choice.
  3. At this point, you need to specify the type and version of the operating system you want to install. In this case, you’ll need to enter “Mac OS X” under “Type” and “Mac OS X (64-bit)” or “Mac OS X (32-bit),” under “Version.” Your choices will depend on the specifications of your host machine.
  4. Allocate the desired amount of RAM to the virtual machine. A good rule of thumb is to allocate at least 4 GB of RAM to ensure macOS runs smoothly.
  5. Finally, click “Finish.”

Step 5: Create a Virtual Hard Disk

Just like the host machine, the newly created virtual machine needs a hard disk.

Follow these steps to create one:

  1. Check the box next to “Create a virtual hard disk now.”
  2. Choose the file type you want for the virtual hard disk. The default option is usually fine.
  3. Under “Storage” select the “Dynamically allocated” option and then click “Next.”
  4. Now, it’s time to set the size of the virtual hard disk. The amount chosen will generally depend on the size of the resources you’ll store in your virtual environment. But to be on the safe side, aim for at least 30GB.
  5. Click “Create.”
  6. At this point, your hard disc should be ready, but you haven’t loaded the operating system yet. To do so, select the virtual machine in the main VirtualBox window and click on the “Settings” button.
  7. Click on the “Storage” tab and then select the empty disk under the “Controller: IDE” section.
  8. Click on the “Choose Virtual Optical Disk File” button and navigate to the macOS image file you extracted earlier.
  9. Select the macOS image file and click “Open.”
  10. Click “OK” to close the settings window.

Step 6: Install MacOS on the Virtual Machine

You are now ready for the final piece in the puzzle: installing MacOS on the virtual machine.

Here’s how to go about it:

  1. Start the virtual machine by clicking on the “Start” button in VirtualBox. The MacOS installer should launch automatically.
  2. Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the installation process.
  3. Once the installation is complete, you can customize the MacOS settings to your preference.

And voila! You have now created a fully functional virtual machine that can run just about any MacOS application you may have.


What’s a virtual machine?

A virtual machine emulates the hardware and software of a particular operating system. It’s like having a secret compartment inside your computer that’s solely dedicated to running another operating system.

Experiment As You Wish

Although many people don’t know it, running two operating systems on the same computer is very much possible. You just need to gather the right tools for the job. With a tool like VirtualBox, you can switch between different operating systems without restarting your computer or booting into a different partition.

Have you tried to use MacOS on a virtual machine yet? How did it go?

Let us know in the comments section below.

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