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I am struggling to create a Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) virtual machine on macOS 10.15 (Catalina). How can I use Snow Leopard in VirtualBox on macOS Catalina?

Here is what I have:

  • macOS 10.15.7 (19H1217)
    • Running on a MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2014)
  • VirtualBox version 6.1.22 r144080 (Qt5.6.3)
  • Max OS X 10.6 install ISO file

After initial setup, VirtualBox gets here and no further: enter image description here

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    What model/year Mac is being used as the host? Jul 20 at 21:09
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    Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard is not licensed to run in a VM. You need Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Server. Jul 20 at 22:26
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    I don't suppose Apple will come pounding on your door, but be aware that Snow Leopard (non-server) is not licensed to run in a virtual machine. I don't know whether Virtual Box enforces this - VMware and Parallels do.
    – Gilby
    Jul 20 at 22:28
  • user3439894 and @Gilby that might be the crux of my problem. Thanks for that info.
    – Dillon
    Jul 20 at 22:34
  • I am not using Snow Leopard server. I was able to boot Snow Leopard on my 2013 iMac, but with some reservations. See my updated answer. Jul 21 at 14:15
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You are correct. I am using an iMac (21.5 inch, Late 2013) with Catalina 10.15.7 and the same version of Virtual Box. I solved your problem by have the firmware boot from z file. I chose to boot from FS1:\System\Library\CoreServices\boot.efi.

The simple solution is to enter the following at the Shell> prompt.

FS1:\System\Library\CoreServices\boot.efi

I used a Snow Leopard ISO file created from a Snow Leopard OS X 10.6 DVD purchased from Apple. For more information, see this answer.

I needed to set the "Audio Controller" to ICH AC97, otherwise Snow Leopard would not boot after the installation completed. This change results in a Snow Leopard without sound.

After installing, I immediately upgraded to OS X 10.6.8 by downloading Mac OS X 10.6.8 Update Combo v1.1 to the host, transferring to the virtual machine and installing.

I enabled the 64 bit kernel by entering the following command, then restarting.

sudo systemsetup -setkernelbootarchitecture x86_64

Guest Additions failed to install with the following popup message.


I had no problems installing Snow Leopard on a iMac (21.5-inch, Mid 2011) with High Sierra 10.13.6 and Virtual Box version 6.1.12 r139181 (Qt5.6.3). In other words, I did not need to change the "Audio Controller". I was able to upgrade to OS X 10.6.8 and enable the 64 bit kernel. However, Guest Additions failed to install with the following popup message.

I assume Guest Additions would have installed, if an older version of VirtualBox was being used.

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I remember doing something similar to this a while back and ran into the same issues. I see the virtualbox people have not fixed that issue yet.

The best way to do this is to create a VM in VMWare Fusion. You can download it and use it for this for free. And as long as you are virtualizing macOS on an actual, physical, Apple branded Macintosh it should work.

VMWare will boot and install macOS on a VM on a Mac running macOS out of the box with no complaints or problems. I did this with macOS Mojave but it should be simpler with an earlier version of macOS as long as you have the installer from Apple.

If you follow the instructions here, that should get you a working install of a macOS that you can use. These instructions involve Mojave but should work for earlier versions of macOS.

I'm not going to quote the whole blog post here but you set up a VM in Fusion for the version of macOS you want and then create an ISO/DMG using a a few easy terminal commands then select that image as your bootable install media in VMWare Fusion and away you go with the standard macOS install procedure.

The trick here is that Virtualbox can directly use a VM created in Fusion, so when you are done with the install and have a bootable macOS VM in Fusion, you can delete Fusion and use Virtualbox.

There are a number of tutorials out there that can help with this. the one on my blog linked to the blog post linked above but there are others. Google is your friend. The trick is using VMWare Fusion to create the VM and then you can run it in Virtualbox.

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  • I thought VMware Fusion Player will reject Snow Leopard unless you have the server edition. Also, why do you need VMware Fusion Player when the OP already has the Snow Leopard ISO file? Jul 20 at 21:50
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    @DavidAnderson Yes. Snow Leopard (non-server) is not licensed by Apple to run in a virtual machine and VMware honours that. So either need Snow Leopard Server or go through some hacks to get VMware to accept non-server version.
    – Gilby
    Jul 20 at 22:24
  • @Gilby: I disagree. I can find no evidence provided by Apple stating running Snow Leopard in a Virtual Machine on Mac hardware violates the Apple license. Jul 21 at 14:21

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