What I want to do is create a Catalina OS (VirtualBox) on my MacBook. I can't find anywhere how to do it.

I figured that having a Mac, it would be easier to download the ISO file and then create the virtual machine.

But still, I managed to download an ISO, but it is becoming impossible to create the virtual machine.

When I load the ISO, the message I get is this:

enter image description here

What I have seen is that to create the virtual machine of Mac OS, in Windows or in Linux, it requires writing a series of commands in the CMD or Terminal respectively.

Maybe that's it but I don't know.

  • What is your MacBook host OS? What is your guest OS? It’s not clear if Catalina runs on the mac and Catalina in the container or some other end state is desired. Also if you show your research on “ What I have seen is that to create the virtual machine” we might point out a better resource.
    – bmike
    Jun 23 '20 at 1:44
  • 1
    RE: "I figured that having a Mac, it would be easier to download the ISO file and then create the virtual machine." -- Apple does not release macOS as an ISO image! If you actually downloaded an ISO image I would not trust a bootlegged ISO image of macOS! Jun 23 '20 at 2:00
  • Where did you download a Catalina ISO file? It was my understanding that you need to create the ISO file from the Install macOS Catalina application. Jun 23 '20 at 6:26

This is gonna be an overview of the process which I completed a few months ago. It doesn't require spending money on commercial software just a bit of fiddling.

I haven't investigated recently but last I looked VirtualBox doesn't support APFS or booting from APFS. So that is part of the problem. Maybe it has been fixed in the last few months, I don't really know.

Download a (free) copy of VMware's virtualization software Fusion. It's free to use for 30 days. No worries there as this procedure will take a lot less time than that.

There are a number of "Making a macOS VM in VMware Fusion" web pages out there so I'm not going to go into all of that, but there are some non-obvious settings you will need to find to make this work. I used this. There are others.

Once you have macOS Mojave working in VMware Fusion you create a second virtual drive and using Disk Utility on the just created VM, reformat virtual drive 2 as HFS+. This is important as it's APFS by default. It needs to be HFS+ to work with VirtualBox.

Once formatted you can use a backup program like SuperDuper! or CCC to clone the working installation to Virtual Drive 2. If you prefer you could just install Mojave onto Virtual Drive 2 (HFS+). However you do it, you will end up with a VMware Fusion VM with macOS Mojave bootable on two virtual drives. One formatted as APFS and one formatted as HFS+.

Now set Fusion to boot off of the HFS+ virtual disk and boot from it. Then you just delete the original (APFS) virtual disk from within Fusion. Actually delete it from disk don't just remove it from inventory.

Then you open the Fusion virtual machine file like you would an .app package (right-click > Show Package Contents...) and copy all the files out of the package into a location you want to use for VirtualBox VMs.

VirtualBox will then open the VMware Fusion VM.

It is a bit of a PITA but the trick is using Fusion as a stepping stone to VirtualBox via an HFS+ bootable drive image.

I don't think this will work with Catalina as the guest VM. That pretty much requires APFS and Mojave does not.

Oh and you can trash VMware Fusion now...

  • 1
    VMware Fusion is the best for beginners and experts in my recent experience. +1 for a superb answer to a mostly vague question.
    – bmike
    Jun 23 '20 at 1:45
  • The current version of VirtualBox supports booting from APFS volumes. Jun 23 '20 at 4:27
  • @user3439894 Don't think so as I was able to do that procedure and STILL have a virtualbox VM running Mojave on HFS+ Jun 23 '20 at 13:39
  • By default macOS Mojave automatically upgrades the HFS+ startup disk during its install, which is what I meant by requiring it; however, cloning to an HFS+ volume from an APFS is a workaround. That said, I wouldn't waste the time and rigamarole to use VirtualBox, and instead just use VMware Fusion as it's a far superior product in comparison. Jun 23 '20 at 15:14

First I should mention this question was already asked and answered back in February. See Installing Catalina OS in VirtualBox? The comments and accepted answer read like a historical record of all the problems encountered with previous versions of VirtualBox. However, most of these problems have been fixed.

The current version of VirtualBox is 6.1.8 r137981 (Qt5.6.3). The version will work with Catalina (macOS 10.15.5). However, the Guest Additions (drivers) software will not work with macOS versions that boot from APFS volumes. An image of the About This Mac window on my example host computer is shown below.

The About VirtualBox VM window is shown below.

A desktop image of a VirtualBox virtual machine running Catalina is shown below. Note the screen resolution is limited to 1024 x 768.

Installation did not require entering any commands in a Terminal application window. When asked for the operating system version, I selected macOS 10.13 High Sierra (64-bit), which is the highest version of macOS that currently appears in the list. Also, I made the following changes to the default settings. I do not know if all of these changes are required.

  • The drive was increased from 30 GB to at least 100 GB.
  • The memory was increased from 2048 MB to 4096 MB.
  • The number of processors was increased from 1 CPU to 2 CPUs.
  • The video memory was increased from 16 MB to 128 MB.

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