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I'd love to be able to try Mac OS X in a VM, preferable on something shiny and new like KVM for linux.

I'm a Linux and Windows person, but I would like to try out Mac OS X without investing in the expensive hardware or accumulating yet another box to fit somewhere under my desk (read: no, I don't want to get a Mac Mini).

Is this possible? Legal? If so, what are the drawbacks and tricks?

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migrated from Apr 22 '15 at 21:23

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I was experimenting with this over the weekend and I have it working in an HP i7 Processor. I used VMWare workstartion 7.1 with the Darwin .iso. More info can be found at…. Please note the word experimental because this is not legal to do so and is not a substitute to a mac experience. – VoodooChild Jun 7 '10 at 2:42
Screw Apple's caveats. They were paid for the software, so they have nothing to say about what I use it with, just as it's not their affair if I Bootcamp or otherwise employ Windows OS. And yes, I own both Apple and other brands of Intel computers. The biggest problem I've had is getting the drivers to work on my laptop. – SpectreWriter Nov 15 '10 at 1:36
EULA legality is greatly in doubt, whatever Apple, Microsoft and others may wish you to believe. A software vendor's ability to dictate how you will use their software is particularly in doubt. In most court cases (including some famous, precedent-setting ones from previous decades, such as Step Saver vs. Wyse), EULAs have been tossed out entirely, on the grounds of being contracts of adhesion, unconscionable, and/or unacceptable pursuant to the U.C.C.. This is not, at all, a discussion of "breaking the law" - there is, at most, a tenuous civil claim to consider. – David W Aug 27 '12 at 15:42
I would further argue that we all have a civic duty to assert our rights frequently and publicly, lest others become even more commonly confused about whether a vendor can tell you what to do with software or hardware that you paid for and own. – David W Aug 27 '12 at 15:44
I'm commenting on this 5 years later, and I have to say that using a MAC OS X virtual machine on a windows host has become quite popular, really stable und is used in highly professional environments for testing. – Sliq Sep 28 '13 at 15:21

14 Answers 14

Is this possible? Legal? If so, what are the drawbacks and tricks

As of OS X Lion 10.7, the EULA permits you to use the OS in two virtual machines, on Apple hardware:

(iii) to install, use and run up to two (2) additional copies or instances of the Apple Software within virtual operating system environments on each Mac Computer you own or control that is already running the Apple Software.

This was first allowed with OS X Server 10.5, and both VMWare Fusion and Parallels Desktop allow you to easily setup an OS X guest machine, as does VirtualBox

An OS X guest on non-Apple hardware is possible with some fiddling, but is in violation of the software's EULA (i.e doing so is of questionable legality..)

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can you Install VMWare Fusion in Windows (x86)? and then virtualise OSX in it? Am I understanding this correctly? – VoodooChild May 31 '10 at 20:54
@VoodooChild Isn't VMWare Fusion is for OS X only? VMWare Workstation is the Windows equivalent, and that cannot virtualise OS X Server (at least, not trivially) – dbr Jun 1 '10 at 9:37
Note: Virtualization is legal only on Apple hardware. – Eonil Jun 24 '11 at 16:46
Eonil: false. It’s against a paragraph in the EULA, which depending on your country may be void. It’s pretty surely void in at least Germany and India, but IANAL. – flying sheep Jul 8 '14 at 12:33
@flyingsheep Good point. I agree. – Eonil Dec 6 '14 at 3:13

For the matter of legality, please check on your locality's legislation. In many places in the world the OS X EULA is not legally binding or enforceable.

There are methods to emulate the EFI firmware on Macs which allow for retail versions of Leopard to run on PCs, however I am not sure whether they work within a VM environment.

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Exactly. When people ask this question over and over, they confuse the term "legal", who's the law holder, Apple or the local legislation? As such, one might infringe on Apple, but not any actual law. – Christian Sep 1 '10 at 7:40
@Christian To clarify, one might infringe on Apple's wishes of how the software is to be used, but not any actual law. – iamnotmaynard Apr 23 '15 at 22:00

There's a rather well written guide here at the OS X 86's wiki:

If it proves challenging, there are prepackaged virtual machines (with OS X already installed) floating around.

On the legal side however, I recall reading somewhere about the EULA stating that OS X can only be installed on an "Apple branded" computer.

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As of 10.5, the Server version can be run in a VM. – eyelidlessness Oct 25 '08 at 3:33
Legally, that is. – eyelidlessness Oct 25 '08 at 3:34
You know those Apple logo stickers that come with iPhones and iPods? Stick one on a computer. EULA solved. – Nathan Garabedian Jan 7 '11 at 17:00
I gotta get me one of those stickers! :) – jjxtra Feb 1 '11 at 22:02

On a Mac, yes, use VirtualBox (Fusion/Parallels only support OS X Server). The new virtual machine wizard has a Snow Leopard option--just put your Snow Leopard disk in the drive follow the steps. I picked the 64-bit OS X option, as Snow Leopard is 64-bit.

When you get to pick a disk for installation you won't see one because the disk image VirtualBox creates is unformatted. Open disk utility from the utilities menu inside the virtual machine, select the only drive you see on the left, click the partition tab, and format (called erase here) button.

You can then run the installer as you normally would.

This works on VirtualBox 3.2.0 running under OS X 10.6.3. It probably wouldn't work if your host PC was running Windows/Linux. The virtual machine responds rather, ahem, leisurely, though... I suspect it's something to do with a lack of direct GPU access.

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The question does specify the host operating system is either windows or linux. – Tass Feb 27 '14 at 16:09

The only version of OS X you can virtualize legally is OS X Leopard Server and only if the host OS is OS X.

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Not legally, but in accordance to the EULA. Those are different things, as not everything a country wants you to is actually legal, enforcable, and/or valid. I’m pretty sure this section is void in Germany and India, others say even in the US and whole EU. – flying sheep Jul 8 '14 at 12:37

The other answers were not clear enough:


Just to put a fine point on it.

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They (and apple fanboys) might say so, but that does not mean it is true. At least under US and EU law, a consumer may use a product wherever s/he wants to and cannot be subject to vendor lockin, as Apple thinks it is doing. – Christian Sep 1 '10 at 7:37
It's not illegal, it does however violate the terms of use. Those are very different things. – Andrew Lewis Mar 11 '11 at 17:03
Roger, where the prove can be found? – Sergei Mar 18 '13 at 14:52
Please cite a relevant law. – Alastair Jan 26 '14 at 18:37

I was experimenting with this over the weekend and I have it working in an HP i7 Processor. I used VMWare workstartion 7.1 with the Darwin .iso. More info can be found at this link. Please note the word experimental because this is not legal to do so and is not a substitute to a mac experience.

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Possible and illegal. MacOs and its Network work fine on VMWare, XCode - almost fine (connected IPhone will not be visible), you may face to some "mouse driver" issues so if you run MacOs on VMWare do not update it otherwise you will need to restore previous mouse driver. In addition I would just add one "partly legal" link to how to run MacOs Lion on VMWare :)… – Art Apr 28 '12 at 23:22

Drawbacks are the performance is awful.

I've found that as long as you throw enough RAM at it, it seems to perform ok. Many VMs will allocate 128-512, which is on the lower end of what I'd consider useful.

To me, a bigger drawback is that it is unsupported. Vendor supplied updates will kill the installation.

As for legality, it is Legal to run OS X Server (Leopard) in a virtualised form, but only on Apple hardware. You cannot even run OS X Client in VMWare Fusion or Parallels, legally. Nor can you run any version of OS X on VMWare Server, or similar on other machines.

Interestingly, you may be able to legally run OS X Server virtualised on Apple hardware, even if the guest OS is not OS X. However, it would likely be subject to the same caveats as above: it would require a "fixed" version of the OS. And by "fixed", I mean like my cat is "fixed".

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It's definitely possible. This fellow did it:

I can confirm that his technique does work. And it's actually usable.

Whether it's legal is for others to decide.

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"Starting with version 3.2, VirtualBox has experimental support for Mac OS X Server guests." --

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According to the EULA, you can only use Mac OS X in a Mac machine.

Now, I don't know if you can run a Mac OS X VM in a Mac machine.

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I believe the EULA specifically prohibits running any Mac OS X client version in a virtualised environment, although I do remember there were some changes to the rules not too long ago. Unfortunately, I can no longer find the original article I read, so it would be a question for Apple themselves...

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It isn't possible to run Leopard (the desktop edition) in any VM at the moment, as far as I know. I've tried it in VirtualBox, Qemu and VMWare, and it doesn't work.

PearPC emulates a PowerPC machine and is able to run Mac OS X 10.3.9, and some people manage to get Tiger to run, but I hear it's a hassle. 10.3.9 should work without any hacks or tricks. The project community is active but noone is really working on the code anymore, so updates, like Leopard support or Intel versions, will probably never come. Note that this is illegal in most countries.

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Please, take a look at the Apple page Hardware & Software Product Agreements. You will find a SLA and EULA for Mac OS X.

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This links to the up-to-date documents, which is useful as this question ages. – Zugwalt Mar 3 '15 at 14:37

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