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How can I run a single Mac app inside a virtual machine without installing Mac OS X?

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You can't. You simply cannot run just a Mac app in a VM without installing OS X. Installing OS X in a VM is also against the Mac OS X Software License Agreement where it is stated:

"you are granted a limited non-exclusive license to install, use and run one (1) copy of the Apple Software on a single Apple-branded computer at a time.

Which rules out VMs. You could of course try to find a cross-platform alternative and use that.

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He never actually said he was on a non-Apple branded computer. You can install Windows as the base OS on an Intel based Apple box. – Fambida Feb 6 '12 at 22:29
@Fambida: Obviously you can install Windows. But you can't install OS X on VMs – Wuffers Feb 6 '12 at 22:38

You almost certainly need the operating system installed for your application to work. It has to make at least some kind of system calls to do even the most basic I/O, let alone all the layers of frameworks and system services required to make a GUI app function.

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However, you might want to look into OS X's support for application sandboxing:

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