Mac VM Software

Another one of my older Macs has now departed the world, which since retirement has been used simply to test apps and code on older OS versions. Instead of buying a second hand machine that may suffer from the safe fate, I’m considering VM software again.

I’d like to know what VM software people use and why?
How easy is it to set up VMs for 10.13, 10.14, 10.15, 10.16 and maybe even a 10.17 VM next year.
How reliable are they?
Can they access the Mac App Store?

I use Parallels which is very good and pretty fast. Running an older macOS version in VM just works as running natively so Appstore will work the same too.

But sadly it cannot do macOS 11 on a Apple Silicon device running macOS 12.

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I’ve used Virtualbox, VMWare Fusion and Parallels a lot over the past couple of years on various Intel Macs. This is what I think:

• Linux Guest OS
All 3 worked well

• MS-Windows Guest OS
Parallels appears to be the best with VMWare being second best.

• macOS Guest OS
Parallels appears to be the best with VMWare being second best.

VMs running in Parallels seemed to run more smoothly than VMWare and also seemed to use less resources on the host. I also found that the Parallels shared folder feature was much faster than VMWare. This is important for me as I sometimes have 2 or 3 VMs running at the same time on my 32GB Ram Intel MacBook Pro.

so… What am I using the VMs for?

  1. One of our main projects is still on Xojo 2014r2.1 (which won’t run on Big Sur) so we use it for Xojo development. Our SVN repository is on the Mac host so we share the project files to the guest rather than having multiple copies of the repository.

  2. We have Windows 10 and Ubuntu VMs to test our desktop and console apps. This is either the compiled apps or remote debugging from the Mac host running Xojo 2021 or the Xojo 2014 VM.

  3. We test new OS versions (for example, macOS Monterey and Windows 11)

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I forgot to mention that the macOS VM for Xojo 2014 development is running macOS 10.11

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I use VMware and Parallels.
I think it is more a question of taste and what you are used to.

VMWare allows you to move to non Apple hardware. But Parallelste can run VM already on M1.

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Are you sure? It sadly cannot run macOS 11 on a macOS 12 installed Appel Silicon device.

I only have a windows and Linux VM.

I use both as well. With the latest Windows 10 LTSC (November 2021) I couldn’t get Parallels to install it but VMWare worked fine. Seems like since Corel bought Parallels it’s not as solid as it once was.

With Fusion, I have Mac VMs all the way back to Lion. I’m not quite sure why. :slight_smile:

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Fusion is the best when you need to connect to external hardwares
with M1 coming, you may take a look at crossover which will have better compatibility than any other.
if your xojo app works inside crossover, it will surely works on any windows hardware.

Because I switch to a MacBook with M1, as soon as Apple can deliver it, I stopped using Parallels. I used it from the beginning of introducing Intel processors and it worked most time fine. For testing, I need a real Windows and Linux. And this works no more with Parallels and M1. You can install Windows or Linux for ARM. But this is not the same as the real OS, my users use. I also checked QEMU, but it is very slow.

My solution is now an Intel Barebone with Windows 11 and Virtual Box for Linux. With RDP, I have access to this machine. In the result it works most like Parallels, but with a second hardware. The testing is working with nearly the same speed.

Well, in Parallels I just installed macOS 12 as VM

Works well. You only need to click plus and pick macOS from free systems.

Yes, that works but macOS 11 cannot be installed (for some odd reason)

It’s pretty good.
I found a couple of oddities so far in my 32bit windows Xojo app though…
Some unicode characters don’t render properly.
Centred text in a text field starts at the centre point rather than being centred around the middle.
Struggle to paste an image from clipboard
But some utils I like from Windows are working well.

Quite right, although Big Sur can be installed as a guest OS on an Intel Mac running Parallels. Which may be adequate for most OS API testing(?)

The following screenshot is from my 2018 Mac mini with Catalina. I haven’t installed Parallels yet on my M1 MacBook Air (still running BS).

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Does anyone have a good tutorial for setting up MacOS VMs? I’ve tried Googling how to set up a High Sierra VM, but people there appear to be talking about how to upgrade from 10.10 to 10.13.

Here’s what I usually do:

After installing the Parallels Desktop software, create a dedicated folder to put your VM’s into, e.g., /Users/scott/Virtual Machines

Place your guest OS installer, e.g., “Install macOS High”, in /Users/scott/Downloads

Fire up Parallels Desktop, then click on the “File” > “New…” menu. It will show the setup wizard:

Click “Continue”

As long as your Install app is in the Downloads folder, Parallels should find it automatically.

Click “Continue” again and follow the default prompts from there.

Let Parallels do all the work up to until you have to start the regular macOS setup steps, then do as you would normally, like default language, keyboard, Apple ID (or not), etc.

When your macOS VM opens the first time in Parallels, Parallels should automatically try to install “Parallels Tools”. If Parallels does not do this, click on the “Actions” > “Install Parallels Tools” menu.

Note: Parallels Tools and Parallels Toolbox are two different things:

1.) - Parallels Tools is a collection of driver software that runs inside your guest OS that helps your OS interact with the virtual & real hardware environment that the Parallels software provides.

2.) - Parallels Toolbox is a collection of small apps that run outside of your VM that are only really meant to be helpful to a user in general. Technically, your VM does not require anything from the Toolbox in order to run. I don’t actually have Parallels Toolbox installed on my Mac at all.

Once Parallels Tools is installed and you’ve done at least one reboot of the VM, then shutdown your VM (from inside the VM, via the Apple menu) and configure your VM for Memory, Storage size, Networking or other features like folder sharing between your host (your main Mac) and the guest OS (your VM).

To configure your VM, ensure the “Control Center” is open (“Window” > “Control Center” menu). Display the expanded view, and click the gear icon for your VM.

After things are configured, you should be good to go.

Note: Some settings can be changed when the VM is running, but most need you to reboot for changes, so I always make my configuration changes when the VM is shutdown.

Also note, I typically always do a cold boot and complete shutdown (from inside the VM) before and after using a VM. I never use the sleep feature. I’ve had corruption of VM in the past from sleeping or hibernation and sometimes find the recovering from sleep mode can be slow and problematic in general.

I hope this is what you were looking for. Good luck!

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Sorry, I never answered this question earlier.

Originally I was a MS Windows developer so have used VMWare from way back. And still do with my employer.

But since adopting Macs for all my personal machines for the past 8 years or so, I’ve now used both VMWare Fusion and Parallels (and switched back and forth twice now), and have finally settled on Parallels as my preferred choice.

I generally find Parallels more stable and performs better than VMWare. Although there is always a bit of compromise in performance when using any Virtual Machine system.

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Thanks Scott for a detailed tutorial. I’m on day 2 of my 14 day trial as of yet, I haven’t been able to get a single VM working, and I’m getting to a point, where this is becoming an incredibly frustrating experience. I don’t get much time in front of the computer nowadays.

  • Getting installers that Parallels will accept has been a downright horrible experience. Apple offers downloads of El Cap ~ 10.7, but I can not get Parallels to do anything with those.
  • I can’t download macOS 10.13 or newer because I’m running Monterey, all the links I find up, end up into Software update, which refuses to older OS versions.
  • I was finally able to an older machine to download the High Sierra installer, I extracted the installer DMG and Parallels refuses it.
  • I’ve just finished creating a bootable USB stick and Parallels won’t accept it.
  • I will try copying the “installer application” from the older Mac to a USB drive to see if I can do it that way.

Edit: Dropping the High Sierra installer into the window worked, thanks Scott :slight_smile:

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