Installing macOS on VirtualBox: Step-by-Step Guide

install macos on virtualbox

Exploring the macOS environment without investing in Apple hardware is now accessible more than ever, thanks to virtualization technologies like VirtualBox. This guide illuminates the process to install macOS on VirtualBox, offering a cost-effective and flexible solution for users on Windows platforms. Unlike the complex Hackintosh setup, installing macOS on VirtualBox is straightforward, requiring no specific hardware. This article will cover the essential requirements, detailed installation steps, and address frequently asked questions to ensure a seamless experience.

Requirements for Installing macOS on VirtualBox

Before embarking on the journey to install macOS on VirtualBox, ensuring you have the necessary components is crucial for a successful setup. Here’s what you need:

  • VirtualBox and Extension Pack: VirtualBox, a free and open-source hosted hypervisor for x86 virtualization, is fundamental for this process. Download the latest version of VirtualBox and the VirtualBox Extension Pack to enable additional functionalities such as USB 2.0 and 3.0 support. These tools are essential for running macOS smoothly on a virtual machine.
  • macOS ISO File: The macOS ISO file is the installation media required to install macOS within VirtualBox. Obtaining the latest version of the macOS ISO file is vital for compatibility and performance. While Apple does not officially provide macOS as an ISO file, several online resources guide how to create an ISO file from macOS installation files available from the Mac App Store.
  • System Specifications: To ensure macOS runs efficiently on VirtualBox, your system should meet certain specifications. A minimum of 8GB RAM is recommended, though 16GB or more is preferable for optimal performance. Additionally, a processor with at least four cores and sufficient free disk space (at least 50GB) is necessary to handle the demands of the macOS operating system. Ensuring your hardware meets these requirements will provide a smoother virtualization experience.
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Step-by-Step Installation Guide

Installing VirtualBox and Extension Pack

To begin, download the latest version of VirtualBox from the official website. Follow the installation prompts to install VirtualBox on your Windows system. After installation, download the VirtualBox Extension Pack, which provides additional functionality. Open VirtualBox, navigate to File > Preferences > Extensions, and add the downloaded Extension Pack by clicking on the plus icon and selecting the file.

Creating a New Virtual Machine

Once VirtualBox and the Extension Pack are installed, it’s time to create a new virtual machine (VM) for macOS:

  1. Open VirtualBox and click on “New” to start the creation process.
  2. In the “Name and operating system” window, enter a name for your VM, such as “macOS Big Sur”. Ensure the “Type” is set to “Mac OS X” and the version matches the macOS ISO you have.
  3. Click “Next” to proceed.

Configuring the Virtual Machine

Proper configuration of your VM is crucial for performance:

  • Memory Size: Allocate memory to your VM. It’s recommended to allocate at least 4GB (4096 MB) of RAM, but more is better if your system can afford it.
  • Hard Disk: Create a virtual hard disk. Select “Create a virtual hard disk now” and choose “VDI (VirtualBox Disk Image)” as the file type. Set the storage on the physical hard disk to “Dynamically allocated” for efficiency. A minimum of 50GB is recommended for the macOS installation, but more may be necessary depending on your usage plans.
  • Processor and Video Memory: Go to your VM settings, select “System”, and allocate at least two CPU cores under the “Processor” tab. Then, under “Display”, maximize the video memory slider for improved graphical performance.

Setting Up the macOS ISO

With your VM configured, the next step is to mount the macOS ISO file:

  1. In the VirtualBox Manager, select your macOS VM and click on “Settings”.
  2. Navigate to “Storage” > “Controller: SATA” and click on the “Empty” disk icon.
  3. Next to “Optical Drive”, click the disk icon and select “Choose a disk file”. Locate and select your macOS ISO file.
  4. Confirm your settings by clicking “OK”.
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Adjusting Screen Resolution

After installing macOS, you might find the default screen resolution unsatisfactory. To adjust it:

  1. Shut down your macOS VM.
  2. Open Command Prompt as an administrator on your Windows system.
  3. Use the following commands, replacing “YourVMName” with the name of your macOS VM and “ResolutionValue” with your desired resolution (e.g., “1920×1080”).
   VBoxManage setextradata "YourVMName" "VBoxInternal2/EfiGraphicsResolution" "ResolutionValue"
  1. Restart your VM, and macOS should now use the new screen resolution.

This comprehensive guide outlines the steps to install macOS on VirtualBox, from initial setup to fine-tuning the installation for optimal performance. Following these instructions will help you create a virtual macOS environment on your Windows machine, allowing you to explore macOS or develop for it without needing a Mac.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Installation Errors

If you encounter errors during the macOS installation on VirtualBox, consider the following tips:

  • Ensure your VirtualBox and Extension Pack are up to date.
  • Verify that the macOS ISO file is not corrupted and is compatible with your VirtualBox version.
  • Check your VM settings to ensure they match the recommended configurations, especially the system type and version.

Performance Optimization

To enhance the performance of macOS running on VirtualBox:

  • Allocate more RAM and CPU cores to your VM if your system resources allow.
  • Increase the video memory to the maximum supported by VirtualBox.
  • Ensure your host system is optimized for performance, closing unnecessary applications and services.


Can I install any version of macOS on VirtualBox?

Yes, you can install most versions of macOS on VirtualBox, provided you have the correct ISO file for the version you wish to install.

How do I update macOS installed on VirtualBox?

Updating macOS on VirtualBox is similar to updating on a real Mac. Open “System Settings” > “General” > “Software Update” and follow the prompts to install any available updates.

Why is my macOS virtual machine running slowly, and how can I improve its performance?

Performance issues can often be resolved by allocating more system resources (RAM, CPU cores) to your VM, updating VirtualBox and the VM’s macOS to the latest versions, and optimizing your host system’s performance.

Is it legal to install macOS on VirtualBox on a Windows PC?

The legality of installing macOS on non-Apple hardware is a gray area and may violate Apple’s End User License Agreement (EULA). It’s recommended to review the EULA and local laws before proceeding.

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