On an Intel Mac it was possible and legal to run a "Mac-on-Mac" VM, i.e. to run macOS within a virtual machine hypervisor running on macOS. Does any product or demonstration exist for the same on an Apple Silicon (M1) Mac?

For its part, VMWare's most recent public update included a bullet point

macOS VMs are not in scope in the short term. There are challenges there which will require Apple to work with us to resolve.

with no further explanation to be found in the remainder of their blog post. Has their competitor Parallels had better luck? Or, if the "challenges" are more of the contractual or simply "polished user experience" sort, perhaps a more independent hobbyist or hacker has overcome them at least in a proof-of-concept fashion?

To be clear in this question I am not specifically asking if it's possible to run an older Intel version of macOS on an ARM processor (which admittedly would fulfill similar purposes but likely in a less-performant way), but mostly whether there is currently any way to run an Apple Silicon macOS guest under an Apple Silicon macOS host?

  • You link to parallels pages - have you read their home page? It headlines the answer
    – mmmmmm
    May 13 '21 at 11:27
  • When I load their homepage, the headline is "Run Windows On Mac […] The fastest, easiest and most powerful application for running Windows on Mac (including the new Apple M1 chip)". Hooray for Windows on Mac. However, this question is: can I run Mac on Mac, if my Mac is an M1 Mac?
    – natevw
    May 13 '21 at 17:05

The macOS guest on top of macOS host running ARM hardware is supported officially by parallels with Monterey v12.

Previously on Big Sur, there were five OS guest options with Parallels:

  1. Windows 10 on ARM Insider Preview
  2. Ubuntu 20.10, 20.04
  3. Fedora Workstation 33-1.2
  4. Debian GNU/Linux 10.7
  5. Kali Linux 2021.1

Of those, Windows and Linux ARM OS ran on Apple Silicon (M1).

The VMware Fusion hypervisor doesn’t officially support Apple Silicon (M1) guest yet.

  • Parallesl does support macOS as a guest OS download.parallels.com/desktop/v16/docs/en_US/… and several other places
    – mmmmmm
    May 13 '21 at 18:22
  • 1
    I don’t read that in the same manner as you @mmmmmm I appreciate your making sure I double check. I read their info as only Intel Macs allow it. Does my edit shoring we are discussing ARM hardware help clarify the question I think is being asked here?
    – bmike
    May 13 '21 at 18:24
  • In the first link, it would probably have been better on Parallels part where it says "Only ARM versions of operating systems are supported" ... it really should say... Only the following ARM versions of operating systems are supported, as macOS Big Sur on an M1 is an ARM version operating system. :) May 13 '21 at 18:37
  • 1
    Thanks @bmike for the list. The lack of macOS support from Parallels is also confirmed by a footnote on their 2021 April 14 post <parallels.com/blogs/parallels-desktop-m1> — "macOS Big Sur in a VM is a feature that Parallels hopes to add support for in Parallels Desktop later this year." Which I take as a polite way of them saying "no support now". (Since my question's already been closed as off-topic 🙃 I've just accepted your answer since it covers the knowable stuff well enough.)
    – natevw
    May 13 '21 at 19:33
  • Oh, just for a bit more completeness: VirtualBox® by Oracle®® is the main other "casual-grade" VM software I'm aware of that was macOS-compatible but apparently it is a very x86-focused platform and has never publicly dabbled with any other CPU architectures afaict. So if it has yet to even host ARM Linux from ARM Linux then it's incredibly doubtful it will be an Apple Silicon–relevant contender in the foreseeable future.
    – natevw
    May 13 '21 at 19:38

The Apple Silicon M1 processor was released alongside macOS 11 Big Sur, but I never found any product or technique claiming to support that macOS version.

The VMware Fusion team described the situation early on as:

macOS VMs are not in scope in the short term. There are challenges there which will require Apple to work with us to resolve.

A contributor to the open source macOS/iOS UTM app described the [/one?] challenge as:

there is no [option to present M1 hardware directly to the VM] available in macOS Big Sur. It is coming in the next release of macOS, Monterey, later this year

And indeed with Monterey, the ARM-based macOS VM story has been changing:

  1. An open-source proof of concept appeared for an M1 guest on an M1 host (step-by-step walkthrough at e.g. https://mrmacintosh.com/you-can-now-virtualize-macos-on-an-m1-mac-with-macos-monterey/).
  2. Parallels now has a knowledge base article ("Last Review: Oct 22, 2021") covering how to Install macOS Monterey 12 virtual machine on a Mac with Apple M1 chip.
  3. The developers of the UTM app have hinted that they are working on support for M1 macOS virtualization in an unreleased dev-monterey branch of their codebase.
  4. However, as of writing still no mention of Monterey guest support in VMware Fusion's latest blog posts. (My personal assumption is they intend to remain competitive with Parallels and will announce something as soon as their PR lawyers sign off on their presumed parallel progress on this front…)
  5. But Oracle® VM VirtualBox™ seems unlikely to support this. The verdict among moderators of its forum is that an ARM port would be completely unpossible; and another moderator of the VirtualBox forums closed this ticket with "VirtualBox is an x86 emulator. I don't think that an ARM port (or a PowerPC, or a Sparc, or a <InsertFavoriteArchitectureHere>) will ever happen." So my impression is that the team has never been interested in any other CPU architectures and will continue that tradition for Apple Silicon as well.

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