There are many reasons to test macOS in a virtual machine. For example, if you want to try out a program that makes deep changes to the system in a safe environment, using a VM is a proven way. Also, for testing beta versions of macOS, a virtual environment is definitely better than a production system. In the form of VirtualBox, there is an excellent and also free solution to install virtual machines quickly and easily. Theoretically, VirtualBox also works with macOS, but in practice it usually looks different. The reason: Apple’s operating system can only be installed on official Apple hardware, i.e. iMacs, MacBooks and Co. without special adaptations.
macOS as VM
When trying to install a macOS image in VirtualBox, the system only gives an error message and aborts the installation. Nevertheless: In Mac forums, crafty Apple fans always find ways and means with which macOS works in VirtualBox. However, these are not only complex to implement, since they require manipulating system files, they often only have a short half-life. Apple regularly releases security updates for macOS, which also brute force an installation of the Mac operating system in a virtual machine. In practice, every small change in macOS requires a special adaptation of the system. The possibility of simply keeping the virtual macOS up to date via the Mac App Store is thus eliminated. Of course, macOS usually runs quite smoothly without updates, but you should only work with an unpatched system in a virtual machine in exceptional cases.
An impression of how complex the installation of macOS in VirtualBox is can be found in the forum of InsanelyMac.
Parallels Desktop Introduction
But there is a glimmer of hope for people who want to run macOS in a virtual machine. The catch: Unfortunately, this requires a Mac. But if you have one, setting up a virtual macOS is not only easy, but also completely free of charge during a trial period. Parallels provides the solution: The virtualization specialists have integrated the option to set up macOS as a virtual machine in a few clicks in Parallels Desktop. This not only works in the commercial version, but also in the free version of Parallels Desktop.
Note: Parallels offers a fully functional free 14-day trial version, after which it is automatically extended to a paid subscription. You should cancel this in good time.
Parallels Desktop allows you to install macOS in a virtual machine. ×
For this purpose, the program accesses the data of the recovery partition, which is available on every Mac. From this, the tool pulls the data it needs to pack macOS into a VM. With the Lite version, you have to download the macOS files manually, but this is done quickly. Either way, the effort can be worth it for Mac users: With a virtual version of the system, they can safely test beta software, for example, or even use a second user account with completely custom settings and programs in parallel.
How to Create Monterey Virtual Machine on Mac Using Parallels Desktop
1. install the latest version of Parallels Desktop from the Mac App Store. The good news is that if you only need the virtual machine for a short time, you can take advantage of a free trial period from Parallels. However, if you need the virtual machine for a longer period of time, you’ll need to sign up for a paid subscription. In addition to various Linux distributions, both versions also support the setup of a virtual macOS – and officially, without work-arounds. You can find the version at this link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/parallels-desktop-lite/id1085114709?mt=12.
2. download the latest version of macOS. To do this, visit the Mac App Store and search for the latest version (High Sierra in our case). Click on "Download."
3. the download of the macOS version then takes place via the System Preferences. There you need to confirm the download once again, then the selected macOS version will be downloaded to your Applications folder.
4. start Parallels and click on "Install Windows or another OS from DVD or image file". Here macOS should already show up as an option that you click. If it doesn’t, click on "image file" > "select a file" and in the dialog that pops up, open macOS’s Applications folder. Here you will find the macOS installation file you just downloaded, which you select.
In the next step, choose where on your Mac you want to save the virtual machine. Of course, you can also outsource it to an external hard drive. Click "Next" and follow the steps to install macOS in the virtual machine. At the first startup, select the "Install macOS" item and follow the instructions of the system.
After the installation of macOS in the virtual machine, the system Setup Wizard will start. Here, among other things, you need to set the language and time zone, which macOS cannot automatically determine in the virtual environment. Simply follow the instructions of the macOS installation wizard step by step. At the end, you will land on the desktop of your virtual macOS.
7. to make a virtual machine run really smoothly inside Parallels, you should still install Parallels Tools. To do this, click the small yellow warning triangle in the upper right corner of the macOS VM window and select the "Install Parallels Tools" command. Then open the Finder inside the virtual machine and click "Parallels Tools" under "Devices" on the left. Now double-click "Install" to start the installation of the tools, during which you will need to enter your user password once.
After installing macOS in a virtual machine, you can try out the operating system as you like. In the virtual environment, most of the functions are available that you can also use on a real Mac. You can also exchange files between the real and virtual macOS. The easiest way to do this is to drag the relevant data into the Parallels window with the mouse.
Here, a virtual macOS is running in the window.